Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Robot Story

Spandex House was alive and buzzing with activity. Floor to ceiling colors, patterns, sparkles.  Staffers running frantically to and fro, phones ringing, bolts busily unfurled across cutting tables, and then... I heard it.

I ignored it at first.  Just a blogger doing my due diligence, checking to make sure they also own Elastic Wonder before I blog about it.  And they do.  Feeling like an addict, I needed to get out of there, with my wallet still intact.

"Come here." it commanded.  A deep, electronic voice. Like an army sergeant.  An authoritative, confident robot.

"Stop it,"  I said. "I'm not a child."

"Yes, you are." the fabric said to me.  You always have been. "You need a hoodie. You need athletic mesh, me, a gunmetal zipper, a drawstring with gunmetal stops, create an interior iPod breast pocket, and go for a run.  Or go to the supermarket. Just make it, slip it on, and go wherever you go. And make a similar version for your son."

"Shut up," I said.  "I've got other things to do."

"Sure, don't we all?" He winked at me. "Just take a swatch.  Go home, and think about what you're missin'.  Hey, stop off at one of those big stores and try to buy a RTW one like what I can do for you.  Good luck with that. I'll line the hood, give the body and interesting band of detail..." 

I took a swatch.

"I'm just $11 a yard.  A yard is more than you need."

"Shut up." I said.

"You'll be back..."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Same name, but different...

The garment district is a highly incestuous place. What do I mean by that?  Well, some of the stores will tell you that if you want to see more of something, a broader color range, for example, to stop into their other store on 8th Avenue, or another street, or around the back, etc.  What does it all mean?  I'm not sure, but I'm sure that there is some complicated real estate/landlord stuff happening there, some space/storage issues, and some partnership/friendship/back-scratching stuff, too.  One thing I do know, is that you will find many similar or identical things offered at drastically different prices from store to store.  Prices can seem arbitrary at times.  If you just do a bit of comparison shopping, you'll see that you can find very similar goods at a wide range of prices.  Because I spend so much time in the district, my eyes light up when I see something unique, or touch or manipulate something that feels special.  Because I've been shopping in the district so long, I can wholeheartedly recommend the vendors I have come to know and trust. While it is all a matter of personal taste and preference, I try to steer you to places with unique and/or quality offerings whenever possible. Having said that...

There are two garment district stores named Butterfly. The one I am about to tell you about is different than  the other one I told you about.  Get it?

Butterfly Fabrics, Inc. / Bazar Fabrics,  Inc.
256 West 39th Street
New York, NY 10018
(212) 575-4744

I bring this up specifically because this Butterfly is different, according to the man behind the counter (don't wanna confuse you), and their offerings really don't compete in the same categories.  While they do have a business card giving Butterfly associated websites, those printed links are incorrect, and similar ones are vague about the company's location.  For that reason, this is a place you are better off going to in person. The main reason to go to this Butterfly, in my opinion, is just one particular grouping of fabrics I  love.

My own clumsy and inadvertent detective work led me to discover that both Butterfly locations (this one, and the 35th Street one) lead you to what seems to be the same generic and vague website.  So, yeah, something's up, folks.  I don't know what... but something's up...

So, I can't get a good photo in the store, because the print is just too big, and the rolls are heavy and awkward.  Think home dec, but who knows what other creative ideas  you may have in mind...

The fabrics are prints of some old-timey newspaper articles, western and movie star types, super-big, and printed on an off-white canvas-like fabric.  Curious? Wanna see? Go visit them, and then visit again in the 3rd week of September or so, when another shipment of more prints in this family will come in. 

Or, so I was told...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Different name, but the same...

Walking along 38th Street, you'll notice  a new sign.

Elastic Wonder, Inc.
247 West 38th Street
NY, NY 10018

(212) 997-7779

For just three weeks now, Elastic Wonder has been open to the public.  I was greeted warmly by the proprietor and shown around, while they continue to work on stocking the floor. It looks new and unfinished, with a casual, no-nonsense group of fabrics, in an array of happy colors. Selling fun spandex prints, plenty of powernet, and other stuff that stretches, Elastic Wonder appears to be new on the scene.

A delightfully colorful velvety spandex fabric, better experienced in person than in a quick iPhone pic.

But are they?


Here's the challenge of NY Real Estate.  Let's say you get a 10 year lease on a great space, but no longer have a tenant?  You occupy that space yourself, because breaking a 10 year lease is ridiculously expensive in NYC.  Who owns Elastic Wonder?  None other than Spandex House.  Same prices and quality, too.  So, there ya go.

Another way to look at it...

Wanna get your powernet without climbing three flights of stairs?  At the same price?  Here ya go.

Run! Don't walk... to Paron

Note: Paron has since closed...

Their big sale is almost over.  Not a gimmick.  This is for real.  I went into the store on Saturday (yup, they have Saturday hours), and was grateful for the bench in the middle of the store, because I just had to sit down. Sweaty-palmed, hyperventilating, I encountered some luscious stuff. But my pockets aren't deep enough to buy everything I lusted after. So...That's where you come in...

If you've walked along the streets of the garment district, maybe someone has handed you this flyer.  I know I've taken one, and turned down about three more in my travels since.  So, lotsa people know, but not everyone is a customer, of course.  

Let this give you an idea of what they've got:

Look at this luscious lame. (with an accent - which I can't remember how to insert right now...)

Oh, yes...

Oilcloth... really! Perry Ellis, folks.  Try to find that elsewhere... good luck!

A wonderful eyelet jacquard.  Heavenly.
So just go.  You won't regret it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer reading, viewing, stories, and food for thought...

Summer may be over for many of you, with your kids already back to their school routines, and thoughts of fall in the air... But if you're in New York City, school won't begin again until Sept 9 (public school, anyway), and the summer weather and feeling is still with us. For those reasons, the lucky ones among us may have some "lazy days" left, so I share these thoughts with you, while we all prepare to make the gradual climb out of summer malaise, and into full swing again.

Mollie Makes Magazine

Click through for a sample.

A fun magazine, recommended to me by my fabric-loving friend, Cindy, Mollie Makes offers inspiring ideas, great photographs, and articles I never quite actually get around to reading.  Great pre-nap reading and dream inspiration.  Seriously.

Girl in Translation

Definitely a great read.  This story gives a really heartbreaking view of the tough issues an immigrant mom and daughter face while working in NYC's garment industry. Read my post about this book by clicking through this link.  Fiction, but inspired by a real life story.

The Man Who Wanted to Buy a Heart

A beautiful collection of short stories, as described in my blog post about the author.  Again, fiction, told by a man who is a garment industry veteran.

Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: 
Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan

Did she make the greatest mistake of her life? Like many girls, she came with dreams of a better future. Yes, the pay was better than in China, but at what price? Would the high pressure of 15-hour quota-driven days of tedious, mind and finger-numbing work get to her? Or would the greedy floor monitors, and scam-artists preying on lonely, naive women rob her not just of her income, but of her innocence as well? At every turn, there were wolves ahead and tigers behind that threatened her dreams of happiness. Could she learn Saipan's secret factory system and get ahead before she lost it all? Could she save money, save face, and return to China better off? Would she even want to, given the real reason she left China in the first place?

It hurts to read this story.  Yes. Hurts.  But boy, does it open your eyes to the sacrifices some will make just to earn a decent living and have a better life.  "Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin" is a Chinese expression referring to the waste/useless stuff left over when cooking.  This one is NOT fiction.

If you read any of these, or are intrigued by the subject (whether in China, the US, or anywhere else), I'm sure you will see that this is not simply about the garment industry, but really about WORK, and what it requires of you, steals from you, provides for you, and/or drives you to do.  This compelling TED talk will whet your appetite for more information.


A bit more than a month from now, you could be in fabric wonderland...

Will you be coming on the October 4 Speakeasy tour?  

Itinerary below: 

10AM - 1PM - 

Shopping (Will include several very special fabric and trimming stores with a wide variety of offerings suitable for many different purposes/types of garments.)


Lunch (included in your fee)

2PM - until end of business day

Armed with your "Secret Map" and your own interest in or desire to visit the many other stores you see or have learned about, 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 above "Buy Now" link to register.  Meeting place details will be provided upon receipt of payment.

My suggestions:

  • If you are a tourist, bring an extra suitcase (or a less than full one) , or plan to ship fabric back to yourself. 
  • Bring a bottle of water.  Bring any patterns you may be thinking of using, so you will know what fabric quantities you need. 
  • Bring a tissue to dry your tears after some of the beautiful things the garment district has to offer.  
  • Bring your appetite for a delicious lunch
  • Bring your imagination, which will be cranked up a level by the creative energy of the others you will meet on this trip.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fabrics and Fabrics (and fabrics and fabrics...) and "Pretty Little Liars"...

Sometimes you just can't convey what you are TRYING to do until you do it. I cannot count the number of times I have walked into a fabric store, where a helpful salesperson tries to guide and assist me, and I just can't put it all into words.

Having visited so many fabric stores in the district now, I knew where I could find various fabrics, but I didn't want to get anything in a store where I couldn't find ALL the required components under one roof.  Enter FABRICS & FABRICS.

Have you ever heard the poem of the blind men who grope at an elephant, each one trying to figure out how to describe what he is touching?  One of them, feeling the side, surmises that it is a large wall.  Another, feeling the tail, decides that the object is a rope.  Another, after touching the tusk, decided he had encountered a spear. Turns out, I can't effectively explain just what I need the fabric to do until I show them.

All this tulle?  Will it be a tutu?

This deep poly red?  Will it be a shiny red nightie?

This smooth black fabric?  Will it be a tuxedo?

Red stitches? Will it be a roadmap?

What's under there?

Oh... could it be a parachute, perhaps?

Or the dream dress of a lovely 16 year old, who loves to watch "Pretty Little Liars"?

Just an indication... Not pressed, and the wearer is a different size/proportions than the dress form, but I've been promised pictures after the event! Special shout-out to Mandi Line who designed the original!