New York is called many things, the city that never sleeps among some other descriptions that cannot be written here for they may offend someone or even many. To me, it is the city that let my creativity come out of its recent hiding place and run around like an unsupervised, hyperactive child in a massive candy store. I didn’t expect that to happen. You see, my trip was to go to NYC to show my line, House of Koopslie to the stores in the United States. I wanted to expand my client base. I didn’t think much past that. I didn’t think that the most significant thing that would come out of this trip was a change in me!
I was so wrapped up in getting ready for the ENK Children's show, that I didn’t do much in terms of research about what to see and do in NYC. When we got there, Allison, who started out as my wonderful helper and quickly became a good friend, went to get us a map from the concierge and came back with a few things circled. The thing that instantly caught my eye was the garment district. They have a garment district? I didn't know what that was, but I immediately wanted to go there. It was like a magnet was pulling something hidden out of me. I think it was my drive to be creative. You see I had been feeling very stressed the last little while. I was doing one show after another, sending out orders, talking with customers, but I was missing one thing. The thing that made me love my business more than any other job I've ever done - it let me be creative and express myself.
The moment we stepped into the garment district I was mesmerized. The first store that we went into was a button store. The only thing they sold was buttons. Can you imagine? I don’t think that a store like that would ever survive in Edmonton, but in New York, this was one of many!! The button store was only the beginning. Next, we entered a trims and notions store. Yes! This store was full of trims and notions only! We came in about 10 minutes before closing and left 30 minutes after, and only because the sales people were giving us the “it’s time to go” looks. I could have spent 4 hours in that amazing place. I bought several trims including strips of iron on flowers, a black bib with silver and black jewels, which would look perfect on a black shirt or dress, or as a necklace or, or, or!!! So many ideas.
I also got some black shoulder embellishments with stones and chains. Super cool! We then visited another really funky trim store, where I saw something I had never seen before – synthetic horse hair, it was so cool I picked up several colours and sizes. I have no idea what I am going to do with it, but I can feel that it will be amazing. I also got some really cool stretch elastic – one with gold studs and one with metallic gold hearts. I was so happy I wanted to dance around. The store owner was amazing and told us all about the business. She offered to connect us with her supplier if I came up with a way to use the horse hair within house of koopslie’s line. She gave us tons of advice about the fashion district, cards for businesses to check out and even directions! Then she gave me 15% off of my purchase just because. She was so fabulous I had to hold back from giving her a massive hug.
The next day I visited the garment district on my own. I went to about 10 different specialty fabric stores and several trims and notions stores. It was very apparent that each store owner worked very hard to ensure they had unique items. Each fabric store had different fabric and each trim store had different trims. I didn’t see any repeats. I was in heaven! I visited one store which specialized in spandex fabric only.
The cool thing about fabric stores in NYC is that they all offer sample cuts of the fabric. You can come into a store, pick your favourite fabrics, and they will cut 4 by 4 inch squares for you at no charge. This was really helpful in figuring out which fabrics go with which trims. I went back the next day and bought the fabrics that I sampled. I bought black fabric with gold animal print as well as black with gold metallic polka dots to go with my previously purchased trims.
My last day in New York didn’t start off great. I woke up feeling incredibly sick, stuffed up, and was ready to go home. My friend and I had plans to check out the city and do some shopping, instead I stayed in the room sleeping and feeling horrible. There was also a building explosion in East Harlem that day and that put me in an uneasy place in my heart. I was scared because Allison was out and about and I thought that if something terrible was going to happen, I would feel better if I was with my friend. I phoned my husband and my mom to let them know I was alright, just in case they heard anything on the news. I watched the local news, while trying to force myself to pack and get ready. NY officials explained that it was a gas explosion and I started to believe that we were going to be alright. It was finally time to check out of our hotel room, the fabulous New Yorker, and I had no choice but to leave my room. Thankfully Allison had come back by that time and we went to eat at the Deli downstairs. We had plans to go see a flower factory and knowing that there wasno imminent threat to our safety, we made our way to one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen - M & S Schmalberg Custom Fabric Flowers.
We met Adam, one of the owners of this family run business, which had been operational for over 90 years. He gave us a detailed tour of how flowers are made. First, large pieces of fabric are starched, then the fabric is stretched onto massive frames (think biggest window in your house times 3) to dry. Once the fabric is dry, it gets cut out into different flower shapes using one of the hundreds of dies in stock. Adam explained that some of these dyes have been in his family for over 90 years. He showed us how they used to manually cut out flowers by hitting a die with a hammer and how they had to alter the original dyes to fit into a specialized machine, which is operated by a man who has been with the company long enough that he was around when the machine wasn’t!
It was so cool and made me once again realize, how much work goes into each piece of clothing or accessory that we wear. We're just running around not realizing that it took 3 or more people to create that flower that carelessly and beautifully sits on our daughter's headband or dress. Until I started house of koopslie, I didn't know and now that I do, I am in awe when I see a unique embellishment or something that has a lot of detail. That is a lot of love and a lot of work that go into each item.
I picked a few of my favourite flowers and Adam graciously gifted me a few of the butterflies I had selected and we left for Mood Fabrics. Mood is famous for being the store on Project Runway. It is also an incredibly cool place stocked with fashion fabrics, home decor fabrics, trims, notions, and buttons. It was 3 floors of awesomeness. I could have spent much longer than we did there, but we had to leave to catch our flight home.
The next day I stayed in bed until 10:30. I still felt very sick and in a bit of shock to be back home. In the early afternoon I started to feel better and started pulling out all the notions and fabrics and my imagination took over. I came up with some ideas for my hats, headbands and also my newest item - bamboo leggings (a full line of leggings will be available in late summer 2014). It's been a few days since I came back and the ideas are still flowing. I think it will take a while yet to finalize my NYC collection, but when I do, I can promise you that it will be fun, unique and full of life - just like the amazing city of New York.