Nothing like a trip to the NYC Garment District to get your creative juices flowing for the upcoming season! Candy and I recently returned from just such a trip. Even though the cold winds have yet to blow here in the Northeast, our heads are already well into Spring 2007. That is definitely one of the benefits of working in the fashion industry. Of course, most fabric buyers for ready-to-wear work a year in advance, but we are fortunate to work closer to the season. What’s it like to go buying in NYC? It can be a lot of fun and a lot of very hard work. Here’s a snapshot of a typical trip.
After trying many modes of transportation, we’ve settled on driving as the best scenario. We leave early in the morning (Groan from Candy) and work late (Groan from Barb). Prior to the trip we prepare as much as possible. First, I contact my favorite tipster for the best parking spots and rates. For years we used the same lot and arrived before 10 a.m. to get the Early Bird Special. The attendant even got to know us after a bit. But, alas, that lot has been sold to a developer. Luckily we found a great garage with an even better Early Bird rate. It sure wouldn’t pay to do this daily, but for our seasonal trips, you can’t beat the convenience of driving right to your destination. Next I get in touch with specific suppliers that I want to visit. These are regulars that I’m in touch with several times a week. Most of my suppliers know our business well and contact me when they have fabrics they know will interest our customers. But I think its important to see them in person at least several times a year to keep the relationships fresh. We visit them in their warehouses, in their showrooms or at trade shows. Each venue is a bit different and over the years, we’ve learned the protocol for each environment. Yes, we usually dress in dark colors–de rigeur for NYC, but we have gotten more casual each time we go. We’re down to jeans now, topped with jackets in some of our favorite fabrics! We dress in layers as we go in and out of very hot buildings into cold windy streets or vice versa from air conditioned buildings to windless, crowded streets. Still the biggest pre-trip issue is “What shoes will I wear? ” Comfort is the top priority for our long days!
We bring with us swatches of the fabric that we already have purchased so we can search out coordinates or complements. We bring scissors, tape, notepads, water bottles and crackers. Oh, did I mention we usually don’t bother to take a break for lunch! This isn’t a glamorous trip…we’re all business, all the time. Of course, we do occasionally succumb to the invitation of a special frined in the business who plies us with fine food and drink 🙂
We have a great time seeing the newest fabrics in the marketplace, discovering little known offerings that are pulled out for us from the back room or having the first peak at a shipment just in from Europe. Once we’ve pounded the pavement for the day, we head out to NJ where we have a favorite hotel and a favorite diner. The most fun is setting out all the swatches from the days finds on the bed and “playing” with them to form the upcoming collections. Could there be more fun? Watch this blog in early January and we’ll give you a preview of what we’ve purchased!
The next day we’re off again for more visits and some exploring. Nearly every trip we find a corner of the market that we’ve missed before. We remember fondly the time years ago when our fabric buying was lackluster and we were heading back to the car quite disappointed when we came upon a shop that sells wholesale zippers. We met the owner, told him our needs and voila we were in business with a full array of over 100 colors of zippers. They’ve moved several times now, but we stay in touch by fax. This is why we can bring you such a wide selection of color matches in our zippers.
We try to leave time to visit some of the retailers in the District. We enjoy seeing the choices they’ve made and comparing prices to ours. You’ll be interested to know that dollar for dollar our prices are generally lower than those of the top retailers. We enjoy eavesdropping on the many design students and small designers who visit these shops with their upcoming projects in mind. It’s really fun to hear them describe their vision and see which fabrics come out for them to consider.
We like to leave the city by 3:30 or so to get a head start on the traffic. No matter when we leave we’re going to hit rush hour someplace along the route. But we have much to talk about and are energized by the fabric finds and the conversations that we have had with old and new friends alike.