Monday, October 8, 2012

Overheard in the Garment District...

Many fashion companies, new designers, students and startups send out scrambling groups of interns in the garment district to find, source and buy a wide variety of fabrics, notions and other supplies.  In my experience, lately, there is a fairly significant (and growing) customer service problem in the district.

Just recently, in a notions store I frequent, one nervous, young intern, obviously pressed from time, scrambled up to the counter, gripping a zipper in her hands, breathlessly exclaiming, "I was told to get a red, non-separating, invisible zipper... Is this right?" The cashier smiled, and repeated back to her in heavily- accented English, "Non-separating, Non-invisible.  We have...", and motioned at the intern to hand over the zipper, so she could ring it up.  She wasn't even looking at the zipper. Maybe the answer was yes, but it was pretty clear she didn't care to actually look, or even indicate to the intern how she might identify such a zipper. I didn't have the heart to look at what the intern was buying, because I didn't know how else to handle it but to violently snatch the zipper from the cashier's hands, and guide the intern to where she needed to be, and show her what the identifying features were.  Okay, so let's say that isn't their job, but really, can't we just care a little bit?  The store wasn't even crowded. Sigh...

One of the things my Shop the Garment District Tour has inspired, and frankly, it has become a bit of a mission for me... is to encourage sewers not seek advice from some of the employees of some of the businesses where they shop.  Some of them are very interested in what you buy and how you will use it, and some... and, folks, I really completely understand why.... will tell you whatever results in you adding money to their cash register.  Questions like "Is this difficult to sew?" or "Is this fabric double-faced?" or "Is this washable?" have clear answers, and will probably govern your buying decision and/or yardage requirements.  Additional bits of advice, like "This fabric is a directional print" or "This fabric has a nap" or "This fabric is narrower than most" matters  a great deal, and will help you make the yardage decisions you need to make.

The second tour I am leading is fast approaching, and I would love to see you on November 2.  The trip is a definite "go", and you will benefit from being led to some beautiful fabric and notions shops and my great relationships with business owners who CARE.

Itinerary below:

10AM - 2PM - Shopping (Will include several very special fabric stores with a wide variety of offerings suitable for many different purposes/types of garments.)

2PM-3PM - Lunch (included in your fee)

3PM - 5PM armed with your "Secret Map", you may visit more garment district stores if you wish, and give unique codes (that you'll get from me) to vendors who will give special assistance/discounts.

The cost of this guided, efficient tour is $75 per person. If you use this trip to shop and participate in what NYC has to offer, you will save at least as much as you are paying, and probably far more.

Wanna come?  Click below, send payment, and the details on meeting time/place will be provided. From outta town? If you need hotel and/or travel help, I will advise some of the BEST NYC secrets I know! Also, you can click on hotels above (this page - to your right) for the most standard and convenient choices. Payment is only accepted via PayPal (you do not need a Paypal account), credit or debit card. No cash, personal checks, or additional payments will be accepted on the day of the tour. The trip will involve a good amount of walking, so come prepared, and healthy.


  1. Let me guess: Sil Thread? ;)

    The best place for beginners IMO, is Fashion Design Books at 250 W 27th. They carry a lot of notions and know how to handle basic questions. They're not perfect, but you can get more help there than at the big notions stores.

    1. I won't name names here, Peter! Yes, there are places helpful to beginners, but interns are often told where to go by someone who already knows what they need. I've had to actually call stores when I've sent my own wonderful, occasional assistant on errands, to explain where an item can be found IN THEIR OWN STORE.

    2. I was thinking Sil Thread, too. :-) In fairness, an intern for a fashion company ought to know what an invisible zipper looks like, that's pretty basic. Or why not bring in a photo of what you need? There is something called the Internet. I've done it.

      I needed silk buttonhole twist and the thread at Sil and many other places either is not labeled or departs from what appear to have been the traditional classifications for such thread.

      The woman behind the counter at Sil did try to answer my question, but I still wasn't sure. Fortunately, I ended up buying the right thing.

      One reason I buy so many things from Amazon is that if there's a mistake, even my own, returning a product is never a problem. With Garment District stores, you breathe on it you own it.

    3. Seriously, folks, while we all know stores who offer virtually no customer assistance, this is not about SIL Thread, but about a general district problem. SIL Thread is great at what they do well, I must say!

      So yes, an educated customer is ideal, but think of other places you shop. Any general auto supplies store will help you choose the best products for your needs, Home Depot will help you find the right tools and supplies for your projects, the butcher will suggest the right cuts of meat... We can all use some education, I'm sure, but store employees should be able to answer basic questions.

  2. It sure helps to do your homework (product research & store website browsing) before hitting the District streets. I know there are mega-dollar wholesale deals going on while I'm looking for my little bit of stuff, and if I have to wait to have a question answered, so be it. On the other hand, if I need a simple price on something & nobody will give me the time of day, then I tend to make a mental note of that.

    I've encountered the entire gamut of hospitality in District stores, from surprisingly surly to remarkably warm & friendly. It is what it is (thank goodness), and you quickly learn which stores to frequent, which ones to stroll by, and how much craziness you're willing to tolerate to get what you came for.

    I'm hoping that intern got the right zipper. I can imagine that an unhappy boss could dish it out even worse than any District store clerk.

  3. I'm don't see why the cashier's accent was mentioned in this story. I don't think that bad service is related to a person's nationality and the subtext suggests that.
    Jenn, NYC

    1. I mentioned the accent because it is a quote. It wouldn't make sense as an answer without knowing that the person likely speaks another language, although I can see why you thought that, Jenn.

  4. Why did the intern not know what kind of zipper was required? Sorry I don't feel sorry for the kid. It wasn't that long ago (2004) I was once an intern too and there was no excuse for being a representative of company and looking unprepared. AND this was before having a smart phone; the intern couldn't have google image searched invisible zippers on the way to the store?

    1. You are SO right. It was my instinct to feel sorry for her, but you make a great point!


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