Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Garment District, New York City

Picture of button

Another adventure during my trip to New York City. On one of the afternoons that we split up to go pursue our separate interests, I went to the garment district. That is the reason I wanted to see New York City….to see the garment district. The excitement I felt when I saw that big button with the needle in it was indescribable. A dream was coming true! But I really had no clue what I was in for. The garment district is a block of streets and avenues all of which contain fabric stores, button shops, fringe shops, feather shops, embellishment specialty shops… name it and there isn’t just one shop, there are several.

I spent 4 hours wandering in and out of the stores there. And that was only the ones located at street level! The stores are so very different than what we have here in Canada, or in fact, anywhere else I’ve been lucky enough to shop for fabric! The fabric is on rolls, and the rolls stand on the floor, leaning against the wall, against the row behind them, and against the next row etc. etc., until they are so deep that you can hardly reach the ones at the back. There are little aisles through the store that if you are wearing a back pack, you cannot turn around in! All you can see is the tip of the roll so you have to reach in and try to lift up the roll. The minute you try to do that, the salesperson is there to get it for you, unroll what you were interested in and spread it out for a better view. I was so astounded at the variety and sheer volume that I was on sensory overload and kind of wandered around trying not to look overwhelmed! Gobsmacked as Debbie Travis would say!

And nothing has a price on it. It seems to be decided upon when you ask about it. And then you are expected to barter. Now I know some people love to barter, but I’m not one of them. Therefore, my shock and discomfort to see a customer and a salesperson actually yelling at each other over some fabric for a sari would not be a surprise to those who know me! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing and left the store to go to the next one. In the end, I came back with ONE little bag that had a HALF yard of fabric.

When I walked into the hotel room, where Linda and Ang were waiting for me, Ang could not believe I had spent four hours in the fabric district and came back with one little package. I sat down with my glass of wine and described what I’d been exposed to. Ang was rolling on the bed laughing at the thought of me being so overwhelmed that I didn’t buy fabric by the yards! I told her she was in for it….just for laughing, she had to come back with me the next day. There actually was a piece I loved, but couldn’t bring myself to barter. She agreed.

Next morning, we were there bright and early. We found the store I wanted to return to and found the roll of fabric I had admired. It was already half gone! But I did get two yards and I did barter for it. I don’t know if I got a good deal, but if I’d got it here in Canada at that price, it was a great deal. I just fondle it daily now…’s one of those I have to think about before I cut into it!

But I have to admit that I lay awake at night wishing I could go to the garment district when I’m starting a new project here at home. The offerings were utterly spectacular and I will never forget the variety and possibilities. It would be a wonderful place to go with a project in mind and look for specific items. I could do a whole new book on embellishing! I’m so glad I made it there at least once in my life!