Thursday, April 30, 2015

Overheard in the Garment District

Yesterday, I was in a store I have mentioned here on the blog a few times.  A fun store, historically tightly packed with goods, but yesterday, noticeably lighter, roomier, more navigable...

I overheard a long conversation the owner was having with a business patron, but this was only overheard, so I have no permission to share it here...

I contemplated a piece of leather for a bit, priced higher than a finished bag made of the same quality leather would cost, and changed my mind. I would buy the leather if reasonably priced, of course, but I am unwilling to also donate to the rent fund.

The district is definitely pushing these small stores out.  These businesses can't afford the rents anymore, and the landlords won't bend.  They can't afford to move elsewhere, because there are no better deals in places they hope to find customers. It's business, of course, and sad... but true. For this particular business, it sounds like they are reaching the end of their run, as no further negotiations will be entertained by their landlord.

As I eavesdropped on a conversation between the owner and the professional designer customer (who works from his home studio after being pushed out of an industrial space due to rising rents), I heard some real specifics about how the landlords are absolutely unwilling to entertain any consideration for the length of time they have been good tenants, occupying the same spot, etc. I have to say, though, I get it.  There is no incentive for the landlords to allow them to stay, when so many people with deeper pockets are clamoring for those spots. It hurts, but it's true.

How is this showing up in the fabric stores?  For those at street level, far more mediocre goods at higher prices, stores going out of business, and pushier sales staff. The pluckier business owners it seems, can make a good run after moving "up" in the buildings. There are rent affordability challenges on every level, though. Yes, they lose foot traffic, but then, many of my favorite places aren't at street level.

So here's the good news.  The best places are still knocking it outta the park with what they have to offer.  It just seems that only the strongest will survive in this environment, and what we get as customers is fantastic quality goods from the places who really know how to bring the best quality to us.

Yesterday in the Garment District - Butterfly Fabrics (A+ on customer service)

This lace...
Let's start with the eye candy. You may not be able to appreciate it from this photo, but this is a very heavy, drapey lace, that would make a great sweatshirt or hoodie.  (Of course, I'd wear a flesh-toned tank top underneath).

Yes, you heard me correctly...  

It just calls out to be a hoodie, and to work with white denim pants or shorts.  To quote Bruno Mars, "Don't believe me?  Just watch!"

Changes are afoot in the garment district, to be sure.  It seems that the district is losing its taste for the messy, casual Mom-and-Pop style stores that we love, and has pushed many of them to upgrade, or risk sleeker establishments taking their place.  Is this a good thing?  Jury's still out on that one for me...

The fabric pictured above, I spotted at Butterfly Fabrics, which is now a very organized, neat arrangement of interesting and eclectic fabrics. Bargains are few, and the prices are generally affordable, but you are less inclined to simply snatch something up, unless you have extra cash burning a hole in your pocket.  The service is patient and professional.  Other fabrics I found there are below.

Silk patchwork.  Cool for home dec, or maybe a coat lining???

This is just the coolest silk fabric ever.  You'd have to see it in person to fully appreciate it.

I am noticing now that the more sophisticated appearance of the stores are making customers more inclined to ask for specific help beyond what you would normally ask a fabric store to do.  A woman entered the Butterfly while I was there, bellowing from the doorway, "Turquoise lining!" (and not in a nice way)

Did they help her?  Yes, and guided her through appropriate choices for her project. Frankly, I was impressed.

Another woman came in and said she was making a kimono for a man, and asked how many yards to buy.  Rather than just announcing some large quantity, the staffer patiently asked, "Well, how tall is he?"

Nice work, Butterfly...

Butterfly Fabrics
237 West 35th Street

Monday, April 20, 2015

Clothes are more than just fabric... they are communication...

We are always changing and evolving.  Our tastes and needs are always changing and evolving, too.

Lately, I've been getting requests from people who are looking for all different kinds of things.  They want fabric to dance in, to decorate something, for certain kinds of parties... I think people are looking for feelings, more than "definitions" of fabric types.  So, what i end up doing, if pointing them at stores they might like to look.  And I try to give a few choices in different price ranges, so they can determine for themselves which is best for their needs.  The stores all have different personalities.  Some stores are really tough to shop if you cannot name what you are looking for.

So today, I offer food for thought.  If you are like me, clothing is a way to express yourself, to communicate, to enhance your appearance and personal expression, to dance to beat of your own drummer!  Old or young, spry, feeble, or graceful, you can create what agrees with what you (or the intended user) want to wear/carry/have.  After all, isn't that the beauty of being able to create? 

Oh, and what a thrill it must be to have your own husband design for you (see video below)! For a beautiful fabric like the kind her dress is made of, I would look at Elliott Berman, Rosen & Chadick, NY Elegant, or Metro Textiles.

Now for a completely different take on a unique way of dressing...

Note: The following video takes you to some touchy subjects, depending on your point of view, so be forewarned if you aren't comfortable with issues surrounding an honest account of a human being's discoveries and introspective questioning surrounding her own sexuality and appearance.

Having said that, will you take a moment to appreciate the wild patchwork of fabric that makes up her ensemble? To mimic this in any way at all, I would go to Spandex House for the pants fabric, NY Elegant for the shirt fabric, someplace like Chic Fabrics for the main jacket fabric, and someplace like Paron or TruMart for the scarf fabric.

And then, although this is the outfit of my dreams (below), I'd need the attitude, legs and courage to wear it... but then I'd have nowhere to go in it. 


The chainmail, if you're thinking about it for yourself,  can be found at B&J Fabrics, though, and then, of course, used in countless other ways...

Any of the stores mentioned above can be found on the where to shop list here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Did the tailor sneak out of the garment district?

**Update: The answer, thank you to Rosen & Chadick, who can see the action from their own front window... is that the statue is on a 4 month "vacation" while some work is being done in the area.  Our worker will be back!

The Judith Weller statue, "The Garment Worker"

Unable to find an answer to this question, I pose it to you, my dear readers...

A friend sent me these pictures this weekend... Who took our beloved tailor?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Spring Artisanal Speakeasy

Update!  One month away!  If you are confirmed and did not receive an email from me this morning, just let me know!

Oh... Springtime... I can't wait for you to come!  Just a reminder that the artisanal speakeasy approacheth!

*Note: This tour definitely has enough reserved to make it a definite "go", and I am REALLY looking forward to it!  It will be fantastic!

For quite some time now, I have been crafting a very special Speakeasy, where participants will get to see creative workshops and technicians in the garment district to who make magical things happen to fabric.  Through surveys, conversations, consultations, and experiences, I have curated a truly exciting combination of experiences and learning opportunities for a unique group of Speakeasy participants.

After careful planning, I am finally ready to tell you the dates.  This tour is a "go" no matter how few attend, since I know some of you are "in" already.  There is limited space, though.  While I would like to invite the whole wide world, more than 20 people would make this unmanageable. (Note: - As of this writing, I have 11 9 two fewer than before confirmed spots reserved - 3/30/15)

This will be a 2-day event. The dates will be May 8th and May 9th, 2015.  For those of you who were participating in our exploratory "Group Me" discussions regarding this event, I will share precise details with that group, or with anyone who inquires individually.  This particular adventure is as "Speakeasy" as it gets... so don't expect to get your details here...

To reserve your space, a $50 deposit (refundable if cancelled no later than 30 days before the event) will be required. Balance payment will be due by April 8, 2015.  The cost of this speakeasy is $250.  This includes our events, and lunches for the group on both days (with consideration for any special dietary needs/restrictions addressed in advance). I am holding the funds in a special account specifically designated for tour expenses, which I will incur as the date draws nearer, so please do not make full payment unless your plans are set to participate.  The deposit reserves your spot.

Who will want to participate in this Speakeasy?

Someone who is a creative sewer
Someone who is a creative designer/small manufacturer
Someone who loves to learn, loves history, appreciates fine skill
Someone who loves stories and creative adventures
Someone who enjoys both old and new

*If you are someone who has spoken with me at length about this, and know you are already committed, feel free to submit a deposit to reserve your space, or submit full payment if so inclined.  In the event of my illness or unforeseen calamity, the tour will still take place with a replacement guide.

I know some of you will call, email or text me with questions.  I'll answer many of them, but, I assure you, I'm being secretive ON PURPOSE.  There are some HUGE surprises on this one!

Payment options are below:

Payment options

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spare me the details...

* I love making/redesigning/altering things, and while I enjoy reading blogs that explore the making process in excruciating detail, here I'll simply share results/photos for inspiration, and guidance regarding where to buy the materials/instructions/supplies, when relevant.  If you have any specific questions regarding the HOW aspect of anything I show here, feel free to ask, and I'll answer!

After putting on her newly altered dress, she admired herself in the mirror... "Why don't they make dresses like this anymore?" she sighed.

The back of the pretty vintage dress.

Pictured above, is the back of a beautiful dress, owned by a vintage-loving client of mine, made of a dreamy metallic brocade.  Since it was made for a broader figure than hers, it needed to be altered it significantly to fit her figure, which I achieved by changing the seaming (adding a princess seams where there were none on the original dress), reshaping the bust and armholes, and added some side boning to give it a smoother look. My client will use it for a choral performance on Easter Sunday.

The dress itself, looks similar to the center view of the dress below, with a natural neckline, rather than the square neckline pictured.

This dress pattern, for sale on Patterns of the Past

The original dress was handmade, using two layers of fabric together as one.  There was no separate lining layer, and large seam allowances and perfectly pinked raw edges made this dress a dream to alter. The precisely cut organza layer had the perfect resilience and crispness to smoothly fortify the shape. 

"Well, THEY don't... but someone can!" I thought.  Fabrics & Fabrics has a particularly spectacular selection of brocades, and there, you can find a beautiful gold metallic brocade like this one, as well as wonderful organza to use as lining.

Now... let's say I were to make a similar dress for myself... all I need is a place to wear something that fabulous... Well, a girl can dream, can't she?