Wednesday, July 29, 2015

All about the July 27 Speakeasy... What happens on a Speakeasy

It was a great day. We formed a small huddle at our meeting spot, where I explained how to navigate the wild fabric adventure upon which we were about to embark.

Normally, I would keep the secrets of a Speakeasy, but since there won't be another until Fall, and so much of it is "right now" information, I will happily share this time...

I am writing this post in real time today... just for fun... so this post will just be continuously updated as I write.  Enjoy... and if you comment or ask questions, I'll see them, because I'm right here!

So... what did I tell the group in the huddle?

I told them what to do/not to do when they find a fabric they love, how to know if they are getting a good price, different ways to tackle common pitfalls of the district, and got a feel for what they hoped to see, and where they had already been.

Our first stop was Paron Fabrics.  Why? Because they currently have a 40% off sale!  Deeper than their usual 25%, and in my scouting before the weekend, I saw some of the dreamiest things I could imagine!  A lovely, cozy striped jersey that defies description (one of the tour participants bought it - there may not be any left by the time you read this), a random eyelet in a great, magical coral shade, some heavenly silk prints, and a delightful silk ombre that had one of the tour participant's name all over it! 

Was that the most fun?  Nope... not yet...

There is a new trim store in the district, gradually filling in inventory.  Very neatly organized and of great appeal to the creative brain, the shelves are full of interesting buckled, crystals, beads, and embellishments of every kind.  A tour participant who makes costumes was particularly interested in the crystals.

But personally, I loved these buttons...

The store is called Lauren Trimming, Inc.  and they welcome both retail and wholesale customers.

Contact info below:
Lauren Trimming, Inc.
247 West 37th Street
New York, NY 10018

Conversations with the participants in that store led me to suggest our next stop, not originally in the plan, but necessary because we started to talk about possibilities in leather and suede:

Leather Suede Skins
251 West 35th Street
Suite 1100

We headed upstairs together, amid mumbles of "How would I even know this is here?", waited to be buzzed in, and breathed a collective gasp at the magic we found inside.  They always have fun stuff inside.  Once many years ago, I found this fabric, and made myself a baguette, to which my daughter is now desperately attached...

The baguette...

And while exploring options, it became abundantly clear that the group needed to see Manhattan Wardrobe Supply.  What a fantastic place for all the notions, supplies, and tools you never thought you needed.  Wanna feel some fantastic elastic?  You have to feel it in person to understand...  They also have a great website, and run many great sales on the website!  Don't feel left out, New York City Folks... You can even buy things on the website and come by to pick them up! When I go there, i go for the wonderful bust support products they have, that help me make swimsuits that can make the well-endowed look like rock stars!

I made this (years ago) for a HH cup -  with some help of supplies found at Manhattan Wardrobe Supply

So, by then, it was time to eat. Over lunch, we talked about many things, and I gave specific suggestions for places to fit each person's quest.  I also included some who would be particularly fun right now, because of specific things they have to offer, and mentioned the places EVERYONE knows about, if they still had energy for that afterward.

When we finished lunch, we headed over to Pacific Trimming, where people were happy to find inspiration and purchased embellishments, zippers, buttons, elastics, and such.

Pooped and happy, we ended our day at Pacific, and bid each other a very satisfied adieu!

Wanna come on a Speakeasy?  Updated info can always be found here!

Okay, I'm done with this post now. Got questions or comments? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Heroes of the Garment District - Example #3 - Boaz David of Human B

"I used to say I wanted a career like Donna Karan. But now, would I want to be Donna Karan? I'm not even so sure Donna Karan (the person) wants to be Donna Karan (the brand) right now."

-Me, last week...

Prophetic words before she left her eponymous label with no successor last week. I didn't know what was about to happen when I said it. Reviewing my lifelong professional objectives in what felt a bit like an impromptu professional therapy session, I sat in the office of Human B, talking about the fashion industry.

I've always loved designing, but never loved fashion.  I think it is important to have a hero - a person whose career you want to emulate. Do I dream of starting my own fashion line?  In theory, perhaps, but I have a sense of what it would require, and still find it daunting.

Do you dream of starting your own fashion line?  Well, dreaming is not enough.

There will be much to learn.  The practical stuff.  The potential pitfalls.  You'll need to be introduced to the people who can actually do the work. While I'm sure that it comes as no surprise to you that you can and will learn much of it the hard way,  I can absolutely promise you that you really don't want to learn in the hardest (too much work, missed deadlines, quality problems) and most painful (financial) ways.

My personal experience with this?  I have worked with and for some fantastic apparel and textile companies, and I have worked for some struggling and failing ones.  Over my professional career so far (about 30 years, because I started really young, not kidding), I have seen that so many budding designers and fashion professionals who want in but can't find their way, have questions, and there's no one to answer them with the designer/founder's best interests at heart.

Enter ... Boaz David of Human B

Through some professional relationships with sample/pattern/dressmakers I know, I had heard great things about David Boaz and seen evidence of his great consulting work before we had the opportunity to meet.  Last week, I arranged an appointment with him in his garment district office, and I sincerely appreciate the enlightening hour we spent talking about the district, how new designers are navigating it, how he is helping them achieve, and how his knowledge helps them get there. Confident, knowledgeable, and with a garment industry history of his own, Boaz is exactly the type of practical help a creative person needs to get started building a fashion brand.

So... Is now a good time to start a fashion brand?  

Well, I will tell you this... It is the perfect time for the RIGHT one.  That means looking at all of the predictable angles and making an educated analysis of the unpredictable ones.

Read Boaz's cautionary tale of how success threatened to kill a start-up.

Be sure to visit HumanB's website to look at the free resources as well.

Note: This is not a sponsored post.  This is a profile of a business I have seen work with people who are ready to develop products and get things started!

Heroes of the Garment District - Example #2 - FIT Museum

Let's talk about the Global Fashion Capitals exhibit at FIT. It seemed a particularly American idea, as if to indicate that we Americans are unaware that every human being on the planet who has any disposable income is inclined to have at least some level of an interest in fashion, I was particularly intrigued.  What would this be?

I didn't know what to expect from such a broad topic.  Before reading the brochure, I wasn't sure where they were headed with this exhibit, so I ventured in to see the pieces. I must say it is important to read the brochure or any literature you can before taking this exhibit in, so you don't miss the point here.  Think local AND global.  Think international, think technology, think textiles, think androgynous, think edgy, think city, think opulence, think historical, think modern, or frankly, just think... 

And it is so fabulous that we are now allowed to take pictures and share via social media all we want!

Dior, Balenciaga


Claire McCardell

What I found, after some looking around, was an all-inclusive celebration of creativity and innovation.  Many continents represented, many creative directions taken. There is no word that would characterize this entire display, but "artistic" and "individual", are the best ones that come to mind.

Among the works on display, were the designer names anyone would expect - names like Balenciaga, Miyake, Galliano, Chanel, Poiret, Claire McCardell, McQueen etc.  But, I also really appreciated the names I've never heard from the places I've never been.

Here's some eye candy:

Christopher kane, London

This exhibit will be in place for quite some time, and will close on November 12, 2015.  I strongly suggest a visit!

Note: Better photos than mine can be found here.

Heroes of the Garment District - Example #1: Amy Matto

Translation: Made in the USA

"Nowadays, a new designer would have to be crazy to design and make clothing in New York City."
- Everyone

Luckily, the Italian word for "crazy" is Matto. And if this designer is crazy, Amy Matto is crazy like a fox.  (And I am just crazy enough to check the translation.)

The wisdom of this company's choice to produce here in NYC's Garment district is beautifully conveyed in this article, featuring an interview with Ms. Matto by the International Business Times.

This isn't some harebrained scheme.  They've been here since 2009, and that's 6 years now! Having recently completed a round of hiring additional staff, this enthusiastic and energetic bunch is growing beautifully, while promoting their mission to expand their line, which is represented in boutiques across the country.

How do I know this?  Last week, after a warm email exchange with a member of the staff, I asked to come in and see the work they are doing. Yesterday, I was delighted to enter their clean, brightly lit showroom, shipping room and workspace, where rows of garments were beautifully displayed on racks amid a handful of busy design, administrative and production staffers.  

Great clothes? Yes.
Affordable? Yes.
Where can I buy them? Lots of places. 
Click here for a list of stockists.

Now, for the skeptics among you, I must add that this is not a sponsored post.  This is my genuine impression of a solid garment district player.  Make no mistake; from what I can see, the architecture of a great future for Amy Matto is represented here, and this is one I am very happy to support.

The line is very American in appearance, and I mean that in the best way. Great for the modern woman's lifestyle; you can wear it to work, wear it out afterward, and then wear it on the weekend...  It's workwear that works anywhere.  A classically youthful color palette, uncomplicated, well-made, and versatile in its appropriateness.

Here are some examples to fall in love with:

A close look at a a great fabric..

A whisper of a delicate dress, light as air...

An eyelet dress, perfect for summer...

A fur vest (FAUX!)... and so DREAMY for fall!

Get this... it has a matching jacket!

So, is it possible to make clothing here in New York City?  Apparently so!  Can the garment district still support it?  Apparently so! Will we support it as shoppers?  Time will tell!

And, if my opinion (or your own) isn't enough, they do have an impressive celebrity following as well.

The fall line looks really promising.  I look forward to watching them grow!

Amy Matto
(Showroom and New York HQ)
270 West 38th Street
Suite 1202
New York, NY 10018

Friday, July 3, 2015

Betcha' didn't know about Evermax

And if you did, you're more observant (or in the know?) than I am, my friend. How many years do I need to walk past a place before I actually enter?  Maybe a decade or more, sometimes, apparently.

One of you recently asked me where you can buy a GREAT BIG enormous bag of buttons recently... and I said I DIDN'T KNOW!!!!  I hope you're reading today...

How did I find this place?

Bagel fanatic that I am, I thought my feet remembered the way to a local garment district bagel place, but I made a wrong turn a block early, and wandered just past a sign with an arrow pointing upwards that read "Evermax". That wouldn't have mattered to me, except that there was also some text beneath the name, referring to buckles, trimmings and buttons, so I rang the bell.  Nothing. 

Looked around the entrance for a bit...

No need to ring the bell, apparently.  You just push the door open and head upstairs.  You know, like a detective would...

Whoa, folks.  This place has got LOTS of stuff.  A home sewer would find it overwhelming, I assure you, but if you want to buy factory trims, notions, buttons, and other items, whether singularly or in larger quantities, this is the place for you! Wholesale or retail, they will welcome you!

HUGE bags of buttons, all sorts of embellishments, ribbons, cords, sparkly things and buttons are everywhere.  Neatly organized in a HUGE showroom. Shelves and shelves and shelves of them!

Elvia, the friendly and welcoming manager, explained to me that they are a huge international manufacturer (they are actually a Chinese company), but anyone at all is welcome to purchase there. They have had a presence in this location for 20 years.

What if you're not in New York?

They have an Ebay store. Yes, really.

Evermax International Corp.
Buttons and Trimmings Manufacturer
225 West 36th Street
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10018

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Ghosts of the Garment district

Everything must change. 

I assure you, that although it will seem so, this is not a sad post. Not sad at all.  This is progress. The death knell is tolling for many in the garment district for sure, but it is summoning the strongest businesses to resurrect and reinvent themselves.

New construction encroaches upon old buildings... luxury high-rises push others out...

And Lou Lou Buttons... the sign remains, and the storefront sits empty now, but the shuttered business is gone...  

10/14/15 - Update!  Not gone... but definitely at half-mast these days. Click here to see a recent update.  They were sidelined by a recent flood, and when I've walked past recently, I haven't seen them open, but I have been assured that they are...

And, it affects all types of businesses in the area, not just the garment-related.

And the rents push businesses out, victims of skyrocketing rents

And what will the Parsons building (below) become?  A luxury hotel, apparently... Read the NY Times article that chronicles the building's history, and you will be amazed.  See Tim Gunn's tour on Project Runway here.

Parsons School of Design building - soon to be torn down...

So, what are the resilient garment district businesses doing?  Stay tuned for the next series of posts, and I will share my perspective with you...