“We’re coming to New York!” The email pops up in my inbox on Wednesday afternoon. It’s my university professor. She’s writing to tell me that January 2017 she will be flying across the pond with 35 inspiring fashion design students, ready to explore the big city.
“Do you have any recommendations for us?!” she asks. “The students are starting their final collections and we would love to get as much information as we can to plan the trip.”
“Say no more.” I tell her. More than happy to share my knowledge of the jungle that is the garment district, and so here it is.
The List. My list.
Let’s start by talking fabric. It is my specialty after all. ‘Mood Fabrics.’ My favorite retail fabric Aladdin’s cave. They seriously have everything. From Oscar De La Renta novelty boucles to your basic silks in every shade possible. Upstairs, a huge selection of gorgeous wool crepes, double face cashmeres, cashgoras. Even a hidden leather corner in the back. Happy staff, student friendly, and if you’re lucky, they’ll kick you out so that they can film an episode of project runway in the store.
Then there is ‘B&J Fabrics’ off 7th Ave. Don’t tell anyone I recommended this place. Okay, so you’re definitely going to get ripped off with their insane prices, however it’s filled up with the most beautiful cloques, intricate fil coupes, not to mention the $300 embroidery cuts. You see this is the place where the European mills sell off their past season fabrics at retail price. I mean truly beautiful Italian silks, however just be prepared to put down three months worth of rent. As I said, don’t mention that I recommended it. But definitely a must.
Talking of embroidery, you need to head over to 6th avenue. 34th street right up until you hit Bryant Park there are endless bead stores, one after the other, each one as good as before. From your classic bugle bead to unusual coral pendants. It really is bead heaven. A particular favorite of mine is ‘Tosu.’ Their selection really stands out and the cute Asian girl that always helps me is part of the wonderful experience.
That leads me on to trims. ‘M&J Trimming’ and ‘Pacific Trimming.’ Let them feed all your trimming needs. Ribbons, buttons, threads, literally everything you can think of. They will trigger inspiration, for all the finishing you could possibly want. Did I mention the zipper store within Pacific Trimming? A whole store dedicated just for zippers. Okay, so you spend $14 on one zipper, but let me explain that this is no ordinary zipper. This is a RiRi metal industrial zip, cut to any size of your desire on the spot. The best zipper brand universal in my opinion, and it’s worth every dime. I am committed to RiRi, and I have never looked at a zipper in the same way again.
If you need leather, you’ve got to go to ‘Global.’ Situated the dodgy end of 8th avenue on 35th street. Get the elevator to the 9th floor, and my one piece of advise it this. Go in knowing what you want. Even if you don’t know what you want, pretend. Be strong, be confident, and you will go far. So the staff can be a little cold, but this place is really cool. Exquisite lambs skin in every color, pig suede, foiled perforated pieces, and the most exciting exotic skins. That pungent smell of leather once you leave will linger for a while. Just so you know. It’s part of the experience.
I remember the first time I went to ‘Tender Button’ on the Upper East Side. It was back in my intern days, and a VIP client had lost a button on her cashmere coat, and we had to replace it. A button emergency. Stepping into the store, which is no bigger than the size of a generous Manhattan kitchen, and the décor is just amazing. A whole wall full with vintage looking individual novelty buttons. The woman serving me was probably as old as the antique toggle I found for the coat. You must go, even if it’s just for the experience. But remember to dress well, it’s the Upper East side.
On a rainy Saturday afternoon in the city, and you’ll find me hidden in the back of ‘Around the World.’ Probably in between Sportswear International, and Men’s V Magazine. This overwhelming magazine store in midtown is on 37th Street off Fashion Avenue, and boy does it live up to its name. Issues of Vogue from every country you can think of, and great discounted publications on past season trend magazines, bibles I like to call them. The only down part is two hours later when I have to decide which magazines I’m taking home with me. Talk about Sophie’s choice.
Well, I think that’s about it for now, and you are now ready to take on the jungle that is the garment district of New York. Remember, if you’re handed a sample sale flyer, take it and go. Discounted $15 cashmere sweaters do exist in the real world, and get one whilst you can. That’s my last piece of advice, for now.