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Unread 05-25-2014, 09:58 PM   #1
Evil Bishounen
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Shopping in the NYC Garment District

So I'll be taking a trip to Manhattan in June. I've never been to NYC before, but I've heard that the Garment District is pretty awesome so I'd really like to check it out while I'm there. I'm looking primarily for fashion fabric stores (not drapery or upholstery). I'd be most interested in stuff like leather, suitweight solids, spandexes (primarily solid colors, metallics, or holographics), special effect fabric, linen (either 100% or tencel), and/or silks (especially non-slubby in solid colors). I also dig stretch suede. Trim or bead stores could be really cool too, though.

For those of you in/from NYC, or who are in the northeast region and go to the Garment District, do you have any recommendations or words of advice?

- Recommended stores / good deals? Places that haggle? Places that overcharge tourists and should be avoided?

- Do stores tend to be cash-only, or do they generally take credit card?

- Any particular day(s) of the week that are best for shopping, or when everything is closed? What are the best hours of the day to shop?

- Places to eat nearby?

- Anything environmental to watch out for? (For example: I'm used to doing the Los Angeles Fashion District, where there are lots of panhandlers and no available bathrooms)

- What's the NYC weather like in June?

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Unread 05-26-2014, 07:00 PM   #2
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I've only been into the Garment District once, but it was a lot of fun (and I learned a lot.) Stores range from places like Mood (aka where they shop in Project Runway,) to holes in the wall where you need to be careful going walking through or you'll bring down a literal avalanche of fabric on yourself. Go in everywhere. No one is offended if you don't buy anything, just explain that you're looking for something very specific. Some places have no organization whatsoever, so don't be afraid to ask the shopkeeps.

EVERY shop will tell you that they have a 1yd minimum for each purchase, but if you only need a tiny amount tell them that, and say you'll just not buy at all if they insist on you getting a full yard. Most of the time they cave and will let you do 1/4 or 1/2, especially if you buy something else as well.

Ask prices before you fall in love with a fabric. There were a few times my friend and I found the ~perfect~ fabric before finding out that it was $80/yd.

Carry cash. A lot of the smaller places don't accept cards, or won't charge tax if you pay cash.

Bathrooms are pretty hit and miss, but you just have to buck up and ask. It may not look like they have a bathroom in the shop, but ask anyway. Even if it's a skanky employee bathroom, it's better than nothing! The shops close early on Sunday (when I went) and will be shut up by 5 or earlier. If you go in early you can still get some good shopping time in though!

I suggest hitting up New York Elegant Fabrics. At the end of the day if you haven't found what you want yet, chances are that it's here. You may not be able to afford it (they stock some very high quality merch,) but it's most likely here nonetheless. Even if you don't buy anything they have amazing, rare BEAUTIFUL fabrics that will make you drool. Have fun!
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Unread 05-27-2014, 08:13 AM   #3
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Recommended stores / good deals? Places that haggle? Places that overcharge tourists and should be avoided?
Mood is really expensive. Most fabric stores will haggle. Don't haggle with the people selling notions or with the stores that have online presences.
I usually stick to 39th St between 7th and 8th for fabric, all the stores are pretty good/willing to haggle/not heinously overpriced. Less about 'deals', more about "omg that is the /exact fabric/ in the reference." Most of the notion and trim stores are on 38th st, my favorite trim store is Pacific Trimmings (they sell jumbo zippers!). Spandex House is also on 38th, and it is even more amazing in person than online (don't haggle with them, they don't haggle). If you need beads or findings, head over to 6th avenue, there are quite a few stores there: East Coast Trimming is on the way and sells all kinds of acrylic gems if you don't like casting your own. If you want leather, you can sometimes find pieces in the fabric stores, but Global Leather is just a few blocks down from the fabric and is amazing. They have a remnants bin.
Also, the Garment District is just a few blocks from Kinokuniya, which you will probably want to visit.
Do stores tend to be cash-only, or do they generally take credit card?
Take cash, it's easier to haggle when you can show them exactly how much you have to spend.
Any particular days of the week that are best for shopping, or when everything is closed? What are the best hours of the day to shop?
Everything is closed on Sunday, and many stores close pretty early on Friday. Assume everything will be closed by 5pm. Weekday afternoons are best. You should be fine if you're visiting during summer, it's the school year that makes everything crowded.
Places to eat nearby?
Bonchon Chicken is /delicious/. If you want cheap Japanese food, head west to 41st between 5th and Madison (it's the street that leads out from the Library front steps, you'll have to go around the park) for Cafe Zaiya/Sunrise Mart/Mai Sushi.
Anything environmental to watch out for?
You're going to be in heavy pedestrian traffic, the garment district is between three major transportation hubs. Walk fast. If you need to stop, move off to the side. Here is a relevant diagram.
None of the stores will have restrooms for customers. There are public bathrooms in Bryant Park and in the New York Public Library.
What's the NYC weather like in June?
Like Florida, but dirtier. I recommend carrying something to fan yourself with, subway platforms are awful in summer.
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Unread 05-29-2014, 09:56 PM   #4
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The garment district is fantastic! I live in the city and like to go every other week just to see what's new. Honestly, I used to be intimidated by walking around because of all of the fashion students who get their project materials there, but once I got over it I felt silly for letting them deter me. There's no reason to go to the places where Project Runway buys their fabric unless you're looking to spend an unnecessary amount of money. If you need a very very specific fabric and they're the only ones who have it, it's worth a shot. For basic materials however, I would recommend what ChilmarkGryphon said above, the side streets of 38th and 39th street between 7th and 8th avenue are ideal. There are plenty of theatrical fabric stores where I've had luck finding fabrics for a wide variety of costumes. There are also stores dedicated specifically to embroidery and trimming which you can get lost in for hours (Daytona Fabric is a favourite of mine and I know for a fact that they will haggle prices if you explain your situation and are polite). The stores in that area I mentioned are also reasonably priced and most will even haggle if you're kind and reasonable to the people working there.

My favourite store in that area because of price, ease, and staff helpfulness is called Cut Fabric Inc, they specialise in costume fabrics and their address is 270 W. 38th St., between 7th and 8th avenue. They're typically my starting point and if they don't have what I'm looking for, that's when I look elsewhere on the block. The best thing about the Garment District is that there are a number of stores dedicated to one kind of fabric, there's a place called the Silk House across the street from Cut Fabric that specialises in (you guessed it) silk fabrics, then there are also a handful of places that just focus on selling leathers and hides. There are even a lot of stores that specialise in spandex fabrics (mostly for dance and superhero costumes).

I typically pay in cash when I go but most places will also accept credit cards. There has only been one store in that district that I've seen has a yard minimum requirement, and it's only because you go there to buy fabric in bulk and they have to place the order for you to a warehouse. They have swatches of each fabric on the wall when you walk in and you can place a big order for when you need more than 5 or 6 yards of a fabric at a time (they're also located in the same area). Most places will let you take a sample of fabric if you ask politely, they'll cut you off a small piece (I've seen Cut Fabric do this a lot and if you look particularly interested they'll offer you several samples to make a decision).

Everything in the district is closed on Sunday, I actually just wouldn't recommend going on weekends since they close pretty early. When I go fabric shopping I try to go in the late morning to early afternoon to give myself enough time to browse without worrying about getting ushered out by early closing times. The Garment District is only a few blocks away from Times Square and Herald Square so there are plenty of things to eat and do there, just look out for the overpriced tourist trap restaurants and you should be fine. And stay around 7th and 8th avenue, the neighborhood starts looking sketchy after 8th.

Also don't feel bad about asking questions and then not buying something! Like Zil said, most of them deal with plenty of people throughout the day who just come in looking for specific fabric and they won't be offended if you don't buy anything. A lot of the smaller places really are stocked haphazardly and it's tricky navigating through all of the imposing fabric rolls on the walls - there's little to no organisation with them so make sure you check everything or you could miss what you're looking for! Pull rolls back to see what's behind them or even ask for assistance looking, though be warned most of the employees aren't even sure what they themselves have in the store.
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Unread 07-01-2014, 09:10 PM   #5
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- Recommended stores / good deals? Places that haggle? Places that overcharge tourists and should be avoided?
I cannot stress this enough but DISCOUNTS and haggling can be your best friends. If your looking for trimmings and out of print sewing patterns (at half price!), I suggest Daytona Trimmings on 251 W 39th St between 7th & 8th Ave. There are places dedicated to high quality silks,

- Do stores tend to be cash-only, or do they generally take credit card?
Most are cash only but a handful of places take credit cards but charge tax. Haggling is easier with cash.

- Any particular day(s) of the week that are best for shopping, or when everything is closed? What are the best hours of the day to shop?
Go during the week because everything closes early on Friday, Saturday and stores are closed Sunday.

- Anything environmental to watch out for? (For example: I'm used to doing the Los Angeles Fashion District, where there are lots of panhandlers and no available bathrooms)
Lots of pedestrians and it can get crowded at times.

- What's the NYC weather like in June?
Humid, especially in the subway platforms. Staying hydrated is important.

This link might be helpful if you ever plan to go back
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Unread 07-02-2014, 10:37 PM   #6
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I've never visited NYC outside of JFK Airport, but I'd love to visit the Garment District! This was really interesting to read. It sounds a lot more upscale than Nippori Textile Town in Tokyo.
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