Okay so we're back to my April trip to the USA. I've told you all about my shop-hopping through Maine and my wonderful afternoon at
Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge Mass. Now we'll move on to my first day with Susan Elliott and gang- our adventure into the fashion district of New York City. Five of us got up early in the morning, (yes those of you who know me well know I do not DO early very often- but when it involves travel or an adventure, I'll be ready!!) had a quick breakfast and then hopped into Susan' s SUV for the hour drive to New Haven. It's a two hour train ride to NYC's Grand Central Station. We "hit the ground running" and our first Manhattan stop was M&S Schmalberg's. Allie was so excited to finally meet the owner Warren Brand. (And we were more than a little excited to be accompanying her!!) Allie had "done a little business" with Schmalberg's and had made them a small quilt- she was thrilled to see it hanging prominently in their showroom. (You can read about that on Allie's blog here and here.) Warren was so welcoming to all of us, telling us to make ourselves at home and look at anything we wanted. Here he is (on the right) with his son Adam and Allie. We wandered around while he explained their entire operation and we were welcome to photograph anything we wished. I almost had to keep pinching myself to make sure it was real: here we were, in the heart of the fashion district, seeing the actual production of handmade custom fabric flowers for the fashion, bridal, accessory and millinery industries. They also now deal with home decorators, theatrical set and costume designers, party planners and display artists. Their flowers have been worn by stars at the Academy Awards, appeared on the covers and pages of bridal magazines, and we were having a personal tour with the owner! How good is that?! What a great start to our day!
We were fascinated to see their entire process from start to finish- how the fabric petals are cut by machine, pressed /shaped in molds that have been used for three generations of this business,and then assembled by hand, one by one. Some are custom shaded, hand painted, and/or embellished with beads, etc. Below you see the sheets of "fabric waste" after the cutting process, Warren demonstrating the pressing process which shapes the petals, and the workers assembling.
We chatted with the workers and had such fun looking through the hundreds of "sample" flowers to decide on our purchases. Just look at some of what we had to choose from - no wonder we were there several hours. Every size, shape and color... You can click on these photos for a closer look.
Susan in particular had fun making her choices... Thanks Allie for making that visit possible!! It was an experience of a lifetime.
After that we proceeded on to Mood Fabrics (of Project Runway fame), and Tinsel Trading. What fun... like candy shops for adults. Of course we had to take a few pics on 7th Avenue ("Fashion Avenue") with the tailor who pays homage to the garment district workers, near the giant needle and button, symbol of the worlds' fashion center. Above are Allie, Helen and Cathy standing near the needle and button, and at left are the tailor and I. (Notice I'm wearing my new posie from Schmalberg's...)
After some yummy lunch at a Deli, it was on to NY Beads, followed by Sposabella Lace and Elegant Fabrics. The imported Italian and French laces at Sposabella's were so beautiful, we just had to have a few little pieces. Many of the choices were vintage, making them all the more special...
Elegant Fabrics made us all drool, just look at their selection of Dupioni silks - every bolt is a different shade - who could not find just the right color there... It was fun seeing the many fashion students buzzing around getting fabric samples. Helen and I split a piece of beautiful burgundy silk velvet - one choice was all we could handle- we were on "overload" by this point...
What a day, what a day... we had such fun, lots of laughs, and tired feet... By late afternoon we were making our way back to Grand Central Station. Let me tell you, being there at 5pm is quite an experience- people hurrying in all directions - reminded me of ants on an anthill. It felt so good to sit on the train for a few hours. Dinner at Miso, a Japanese restaurant in New Haven was the perfect ending to a fabulous day with new friends...
Thanks so much Susan, Helen, Allie and Cathy for a day to remember!
You can click here for Cathy's post about our day - she posted more pics than I did! And here for Allie's post...
"A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be." ~Douglas Pagels