Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Shopping in New York's garment district

Have you been to New York's garment district? Located between Fifth and Ninth Avenues from 34th to 42nd Street in Manhattan, this neighborhood is an incredible resource for fabrics, notions, and inspiration. If you are a fan of Project Runway, Parsons School of Design and Mood Fabrics reside there.

I try to make a pilgrimage for fabric a few times a year. I'm never disappointed. I go with a good friend of mine who is also an indie designer. We basically walk up and down each street, darting in and out of every store we come across. Most are small and stuffed full of bolts of fabrics (truly fire hazards).

Here are some helpful tips for this shopping experience:

1) If you see something you like, grab it. You may never find it again. I learned that the hard way.

2) Carry business cards. When we asked if we could reorder some fabrics, the owners would take our business card, cut swatches of the fabric and staple them to binders for reference. While their system is antiquated, it works and this will help them reorder should you call.

3) Have cash. The stores prefer cash and will often give you a break just for paying in cash.

4) Be willing to get dirty. You may have to dig through boxes of zippers and buttons or move rows of bolts. The stores are basically warehouses of fabric and not necessarily pretty.

5) Wear comfortable shoes. You'll do a lot of walking.

6) Collect business cards and write your special finds on the backs of them. Since the stores all begin to look a like, it helps to know where you found those great zippers or funky upholstery.

7) Don't be afraid to ask questions.

While we did not see Tim Gunn, we did stop by Mood for some inspiration. Mood has beautiful fabric (as indicated by their prices). This trip we went there last, just to look around, however, next trip, we'll start there first to get ideas.

Some other great stores:
B&J Fabrics
MJ Trimming

So, what did I buy? I found more of my favorite neoprene/scuba fabric (originally found a year and a half ago but couldn't find since). I bought all that remained. I found beautiful heavy linen in funky prints and hand fulls of zippers at great prices. I also picked up a lot of great ideas to feed on until I make my next trip back.

A trip well worth the exhaustion!

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