Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In retrospect...

The year is 1996.

Three years after college graduation, married, out of my parents' home, I FINALLY get to start pursuing what interests me.  Using my own money, I am immersed in and outrageously passionate about sewing, creating, imagining, and designing clothing.  Devouring the FIT library shelves on a regular basis, I spend hours after my day job thinking, planning, sketching, dreaming...

I keep a detailed journal with clippings from magazines and newpapers,  writing notes on all I discover, copying articles, beautiful pictures... - Oscar Versolato design
article written by Ruth La Ferla
Direct quote: "Before you make clothes, you have to know technique" - Oscar Versolato

Side note: We've been having a discussion recently about Parsons discontinuing sewing classes for design students. The above quote, I'm sure, will add to that discussion.

Sandra Bullock, in a gown that looks like something stolen directly from my dreams.

Learning to draw hands - Fashion Art course book 1996 

My sketching pretty much plateaued around here... This was for a "plus" sized figure.

My little happy secret is that I can also watch the videos of classes I am not taking, and learn far more than even the classes I've paid for will teach me.  The FIT's library resources are vast, and the classes give me the opportunity to talk to other students about so many things I don't know.  Some of my classmates are professionals in the industry already, while some are as green as I am.

One night, sobbing as I sketch in Fashion Art class... (Yes, literally.) I question whether I can ever sketch garments that effectively convey what I'm dreaming of...

A ridiculously talented classmate gently taps me on the shoulder and says, "Don't worry; you just have to get what's in here (points to his head, and then his heart) to come through here (rubs his fingers together)."  It echos in my head even today.

Truer words were never spoken.

Problem is, I can't find a path.  Where will those jobs/experiences/mentors come from?

I have studied how to drape, develop a pattern, sketch, sew - using my hands, head and heart... how do I apply them in the fashion world?

Now, it is 2013.

Since then, I have worked for quite a few fashion companies, tried, triumphed and failed at many creative endeavors, and in this moment... wouldn't trade any of it for a thing. In the past year alone, I've had the benefit of consulting with a CFDA design firm to help find sample-making talent, worked personally with a very talented billionaire to realize creative visions of her own, written for a national sewing publication, made clothing for very special private clients, done wildly creative work for a trend forecasting company, and even managed a tiny bit of creating for myself and my own family.  Better than what I could have dreamt of back then.

So, maybe now you are the one worried about where to start.  I am often struck by how many students and creatives have no idea where or how to shop for sewing supplies, what various fabrics and supplies are called, how to negotiate the quantities they need, how to get a first pattern made and graded, how to get even the smallest quantity of items produced...

That is one of the reasons why I am here.  I can point you in the right direction. You may even want to come along on a Speakeasy tour!

Got questions or comments?  I'm here!

A bit of publishing news...

I've written a piece in the current Vogue Patterns Magazine's "Sew Biz" section about MOKUBA Ribbons. The magazine has a fresh outlook, under the leadership of a new editor, and I'm sure you will thoroughly enjoy its new look.  Buy a copy for yourself, and support a great publication/company!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Radio Silence...

I've been quiet for a bit, but soon it will be obvious why.  Everything I have done in the past two weeks has required me to keep my mouth zipped shut. Believe me, that's hard to do! Stay tuned for a series of important, researched posts coming up over the next few days!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Aspiring designers...

Thinking of starting a fashion line?

Don't know where to start?

Listen to/read this NPR article, to get inspired, and then... know that...

Cherie Bixler will help you. I have personally seen her work, and I know that she personally helps newcomers step into the business world and avoid the common pitfalls when starting their own line. You may not know the vocabulary, you may not be sure if your plan is feasible... but she will consult, and advise before you proceed.

9am to 4pm -201-944-2886
After 4pm - 201–944-2885

The following video is part of a recorded presentation she recently made at the TexWord USA show at the Javitz Center.  How generous of them to allow the world to see the presentation videos online. Oh, and she's no slouch, by the way... she also wrote a book!

Friday, February 8, 2013

After the DG Expo...

Frankly, the biggest surprise that came out of my trip to the DG Expo this week, was how affordable so many of the wonderful things I discovered are!  And the low minimums are surprisingly manageable!  And the prices were generally awesome! My big revelation, after meeting, greeting, and viewing all of these fabulous fabrics and notions, was simply this: There is more fascinating stuff out there than you can possibly imagine.  There were many vendors located elsewhere in the country, but many of them also have representatives right here in Manhattan.  Some were in Manhattan, and some have taken a recent jump over to Jersey, but are still very quickly commutable.  True to the title of this blog, I will direct you to the garment district companies on this blog, while my dressmaking Facebook page will feature some of the others.

I'll be gentle with you, featuring one business at a time, mentioning the ones who made the biggest impression on me, and had the most interesting offerings. I am particularly excited about sharing with you, the stuff I didn't think I could find at the retail or low minimum level.  I am extremely jazzed about that!

And while I'm rambling...

Oh, and have any of you seen the shoe exhibit yet - well, today is your first opportunity, I guess! Apparently between 12-3 only!  If you see it today, you are a rock star, to be sure, and tell me, tell me all about it!  I'm in blizzard mode, and can't/won't go anywhere today!

And folks, if I can just give a bratty "Told ya so" for a moment, there is a good reason why I scheduled no Speakeasy tours for February.  See what a Fashion Week rescheduling mess this blizzard is causing?  Hmph... think I'll make a cup of tea now.

Monday, February 4, 2013

NYC Notion store review: Archer Zippers & Trim

Note: June 16, 2014 - While in the garment district today, I wanted to check in on Archer Zippers.  Guess what?  Gone.  Checked phone #, no answer.  Looked up website. Nothing.  Looks like they're gone.  If you know something different, let me know!

Sometimes, you simply have to actually look up in the garment district to find something great.  Walking along 39th street, headed elsewhere, I noticed very bold, basic signs in the 2nd floor windows of the building 244. The large yellow signs in the window indicate that you that you can get YKK zippers and labels there - wholesale or retail, but you just have to take a step of faith inside to discover this place.  If you've been following me a while now, you know I generally have no problem doing that, so I entered the lobby, and stepped right into the elevator.  An energetic man jumped in quickly after me, authoritatively asking "What floor?".  "Two!" I shout back, startled at his arrival.  He pushes the button quickly, and says, "I'd tell you to tell them I said hello, but they probably won't remember me. " I smile, not sure what to respond. "Good people in there."  Okay.  "I'll tell them that someone they probably won't remember says hello." I give a quick nod, and the elevator reaches the second floor.

I have no idea what he actually meant. After all, I've never been "there" or met "them". Completely unsolicited, but reassuring endorsement.

I arrive on the second floor and walk into the space.

If the world "amazeballs" is not in your garment district lexicon, it sure should be after visiting this place.  Not because it is such a visual delight; the setting is extremely industrial. But yes, you can buy retail!  One zipper or 1,000, you can get them there! "No frills" is probably the best way to describe the environment. The business cards convey that sentiment as well, don't they?

Organized and brightly lit, they have lots and lots of zippers, as you would expect.  Plenty of colors and sizes.  Sure.  They will also repair zippers, which is good to know.  Covered, sew-through, and rigilene boning, spiral steel boning, horsehair braid hem stiffening in a variety of widths, and all sorts of magical notions and things people who make things need. Lots and lots and lots of thread (on large spools), lots of pins of different types, great scissors, those cool bent U-shaped cleavage boning things I love, all sorts of bra cups and underwires, ready made labels, custom labels, and most wonderful of all... wait for it... lots of factory stuff, not readily available in retail stores for people who make occasional or custom garments. You can only get those kinds of things from places who buy excess inventory.

What kind of people shop in there?  Based on my visit, a quick, steady rush of busy, serious designer-types who have no time to waste and already know what they want.  I didn't get the impression that "browsers" would get much attention, but you can certainly call out for a staffer if you have questions.  They seem extremely busy in there, so don't expect a chat. While certainly polite and professional, they are all business.

They have a website, but a visit to the store quickly reveals that they have a whole lot more to offer than the website displays.  I can't say that I know what everything they have is used for, so I would suggest a visit to see for yourself, if you're in the area.  You'll be glad you went!

Wanna find more places like this?  Need a sherpa?  If you want to find fun places to shop in the garment district, sharing the creative energy of a group, come along on a Speakeasy tour!

Friday, February 1, 2013

NYC Fabric Store Review: Fabrics Garden

Recently, I was told about this store by a professional friend, who considers it to be one of her favorites.  At times, I feel as if I have developed garment district "blinders" that keep me from noticing things that have been directly in front of me for years. Despite walking right past this store a likely three billion times over the past few years, I have never set even a single foot inside.  I' not sure why I never felt moved to enter; it may have been something as simple as the very small staircase in front, the uninspiring name, or that the glance from outside gives the impression that they sell only formal fabrics.  Well, whatever it was, I'm glad I finally stepped inside.

Front window, as seen from the street.
While  lots of African laces, flamboyant costume, look-at-me novelty and over-the-top formal fabrics crowd the front of the store, a patient breath and a few steps forward will reveal that there is a lot more to behold.  The curation of this store's offerings is interesting, compared to many of the others in the district.  The colors are a bit more vibrant, and the palette more deliberately "foreign", but exciting, in a way I can't quite define.  Some unexpected patchworked fabrics tickled my fancy, and some of the African waxcloths folded and stacked neatly on a table were done in great colors.

Cool, right?  Who does a black/grey patchwork? (Fabric is  actually darker than the photo appears.)

One thing I was very happy to find, was the inexpensive fabric perfect for the pants I make for one of my regular clients.  Just the right weight, plenty of it, and at just the right price! My old source for this fabric had run out, and I hadn't been able to find more of it recently! Fabrics Garden had lots of sueded fabrics and nice corduroys.  A world of printed cottons and novelty fabrics, and some very interesting knits lined the walls, too.

What kind of customer was inside?  From my visit, I saw design students getting fabrics for class projects, and highly creative costume/designer-types, for whom budget was the major consideration.  There is a lot to choose from, to absolutely suit the impulse buyer, too, since the prices were all pretty low.  Keep in mind though, that these are no high-end goods, so I would suggest buying extra, and doing an appropriate wash/dry test with whatever you choose.

The staff was very helpful and friendly, without hovering.  One of my personal pet-peeves, although I must say, it only bothers me when the prices disappoint - is when you have to ask the price of everything, and there seems to be a bit of hemming and hawing over what the actual price is, and what you will actually pay.  You know they are gauging your excitement when determining what to charge, and that doesn't feel good. While you can pay with a credit or debit card, in theory, cash is king here, and they will not hesitate to tell you so.  In this economy, I certainly understand, but it needed to be said...

By the way, the owners of this store own a few others, located on 8th Avenue, so just know that they have access to quite a quantity/array of goods.
The words "double knit" have always sounded icky to me, but this a double knit I loved the texture of.  This fabric is actually inky black.  When I asked about fiber content, the salesperson was nice enough to remind me (if I were to buy some) to do a wash/dry test for shrinkage before use, to spare me any disappointment.
And this fabric (extremely affordable) left the store with me. I love its energy, and it will be something fun!
249 West 39th Street
Bet 7th & 8th Ave
New York
NY 10018
Tel : 212 354 6193
Fax : 212 354 6241

email :

Mon-Fri : 9.30am - 7.30 pm
Sat : 10.30am - 6.30 pm
Sun : 12.00pm - 5.00pm

*Notice that they have nearly full weekend hours, which many fabric stores do not!
*Notice that they have online ordering available also!  See their offerings here.