Fashion and Fabric Tour of New York

by Leanne Church

In May 2017, I travelled to the USA where I was lucky enough to start my trip as a guest teacher at Virginia Beach for Lisa Shaw of Embrilliance. It was here that I presented my recent trunk show of projects which I created using the ScanNCut CM900 and the Embrilliance software suite.

Sewing Guild of America

The second highlight of my trip was a Fashion and Fabric Tour of New York which I attending with the American Sewing Guild. I had been planning this trip since 2013 so I am very excited to share my experience with you.

This tour was hosted by Marsha McClintock and Marla Kazell who are very well-known garment teachers in the USA.

I stayed in the heart of Manhattan, which was the perfect location as it was within ten blocks of most attractions. However, you still end up walking a lot, so good shoes are essential! I met up with eighteen lovely ladies from all around the America, and I was the only one from outside of the U.S.

I feel lucky to have been part of this tour as I was able to access a number of incredible places that I may not have been able to if I was travelling alone.

Day One

We had a guided tour of the city which included a sky-high view from the Rockefeller Centre, discovering where the stars lived, learning where movies and TV shows were filmed, a visit to Central Park and finishing at the World Trade Centre.

We then had the afternoon to check out local fabric stores including Mood Fabrics, which is featured heavily in the television show, Project Runway.

Day Two

We visited the store of Koos Van Der Akkers, a Dutch born fashion designer who passed away a few years ago. His designers and staff members continue to keep the business, and his name, going strong.

Through viewing the garments, we discovered that his techniques are timeless, being adapted throughout the years. These techniques included a range of different patchwork ideas, some you wouldn’t even think to match up. You can also identify the use of appliqué, bobbin work, unique construction on the bias and his work using a variety of different contrasting fabrics.

Our next stop was the Metropolitan Museum Exhibit for “ Commes des Garcon”: Rei Kawakubo. This was a very unusual fashion exhibition, to say the least, but some of the techniques could be adapted to garments in real lives. Raw edges were everywhere, there was no overlocking at all.

As a dressmaker myself, I found it a little frustrating to see this kind of finish, however after a while it was easy to overlook that, and appreciate that it was just a different view of art and fashion. It was a look into the mind of these designers, how they work and how eccentric they can be.

We then visited the MET Gallery, which also houses famous artists’ art from historical years such, as Egypt, all the way to the modern day. One of my favourite pieces of art was the Monets Water Lilies along with the Renoirs, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Picasso and the Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer statue by Edgar Degas. I was in artists heaven having studied all of these in high school.

It was amazing to see silk fabrics which were created in the early 18th Century that we could create today with modern or traditional techniques.

After a day at the Gallery and visiting fabric and button stores we headed off to Broadway to see ‘War Paint’ staring Patti LaPone as Helena Rubenstein and Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden. This show was all about the beauty legends who pioneered the make-up industry during the years from 1915 through the war, continuing right through the 50’s and 60’s. The tailored costumes and hats in the show were simply gorgeous.

Day Three

We visited the studio of Koos Van Der Akkers to see how the designers construct the garments and what techniques they use. Since they make a lot of garments for TV and movie shows, we were able to watch a dress being made for an actress from the television show, ‘Orange is the New Black’.

Next we visited a company called Leather Suede and Skins who supply leather for shoe and garment makers all across New York. They had leather in every color of the rainbow and from all different sorts of skins such as cow hide, crocodile and snakes, as well as some that were embossed, laser cut and printed.

I did purchase some beautiful laser lace cut leather that I hope to make some sort of jacket with, however I haven’t used leather before so this will be a great challenge.

We then visited the last remaining fabric flower maker in the U.S, Schmalberg Flower Factory. They still make all of the flowers by hand and supply many well-known fashion designers such as Vera Wang.

All of the fabric is starched first and then cut out on a press. It is then heated and embossed from these tool stamps which are used to create each different flower shape.
The dies shapes that they cut these flowers from could be simulated with the Brother ScanNCut.

We then had some free time to roam the different fabric stores which were like Aladdin’s Cave such as B & J Fabrics. You could spend hours dreaming and thinking off all of the different possibilities while in these stores. Some of these visions you could even create with a Brother embroidery machine.

Day Four

On our fourth day of our trip we discovered the ‘FIT’, Fashion Institute of Technology. Design students come from all over the world to learn about their art and receive qualifications in fashion, jewellery making, architecture, media, fabric printing, product design and toy design.

We had a look through the museum located at the institute and were very privileged to meet one of the historians and curators. They showed us samples of 100 years of fashion design, including designers such as Chanel, Dior, Valentino, Donna Karen, Oscar D and Louis Vuitton.

Later in the day we went down to the Wall Street area, where the headquarters of McCalls Patterns is. McCalls is an international pattern company who sell Vogue, Butterick and Kwik Sew. They showed us how patterns were created from the design concept right through to writing the instructions and how they test each pattern to ensure the size and fit meets all of the correct requirements. This was a great day as the staff were so forthcoming, answering all of our questions.

Day Five

We ventured to the Star studios where they audition people for acting roles. We met Jennifer Riaz from ‘War Paint’, which we saw the previous night. She spoke about the costumes that they wore during the show. She explained the interesting process of changing into multiple costumes during the one show, and the type of construction that helps this process, such as using magnets in heavy duty areas.

We also met Amanda Widden who is one of the costume designers from the stage show ‘Wicked’. She presented her green-dye costume, which was made to withstand a lot of wear and tear. This costume included a lot of fabric, lace and ribbon and as it was created with heavy woolen garments, they have to keep the theater quite cool.

We then were fortunate enough to explore the fabric shops along 7th avenue, which is also known as The Fashion Avenue. There are shops dedicated to zippers, bag findings, buttons, trims and fabric you can’t even imagine, from basic cottons to designer labels. There was so much glitter, sparkle and lycra I basically got heart palpitations at the thought of discovering what I could purchase and create.

Day Six

The last night saw us on a dinner boat cruise around Manhattan, where I wore my favourite dress that I created with the John Deer Lace Collection. As we were all part of a sewing group I thought it was only fitting that I wore something that I had created.

Trip to US for Erin_Page_61_Image_0001

Final Day Touring

After my tour I spent another couple of days walking and taking pictures of things that inspired me, including lace trims that I could possibly make and styles that will be in next season. Just a heads up- sleeves with flounces, and flowing floral dresses are in for Summer 2018!

This was a bucket list trip that I have been wanting to take for years and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I hope there is some inspiration in this article that can help you achieve your sewing and embroidery goals, or inspire you to take your own sewing trip! Always look around and take pictures of things that take your eye, which you can then use to create your own Pinterest board.

I look forward to sharing more ideas and inspiration on my travels, as well as projects and tutorials that I have created.

9 thoughts on “Fashion and Fabric Tour of New York

  1. Ann M van Gemeren says:

    Hi Leanne,
    What a wonderful trip you have had. I am so pleased that it was everything you thought it would be. The visuals you included were just so inspiring and outstanding, I am drooling!!! I am with you on raw edge garments, I prefer a more couture and fine finish on garments.
    Best regards,
    Ann van Gemeren

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lynne Brasier says:

    Sounds like a great trip. As Our son lives in New York I do go there quite often and am wondering if you could let me know where the best shops are.
    I have been to City Quilters last year and note that is has since closed.
    Regarding shoes New York is one place where comfort wins. The subway is no place for heals.


  3. Brenda Ross says:

    Hi Leanne, Wow ! what a trip and what a wonderful experience. Am looking forward to hearing some more about your trip and seeing some of your purchases. I also do not favour raw edges, I prefer a much neater finish to my garments. Anyway, nice to welcome you home safe and sound and I look forward to seeing you soon.


  4. Kate Erickson says:

    Wow, what an amazing trip. Thouroughly enjoyed reading and looking at your pictures. It has inspired me to learn more techniques and use my machines and scan n cut. There is a small street in Hanoi that is habby heaven and i spent many hours fossicking and finding treasures to bring home.


  5. Su Shearer says:

    Thanks for sharing your adventure Leanne. The photos are fantastic, so inspirational. I think I may have to put this one on my bucket list too.


  6. Fran Todkill says:

    Leanne how wonderful to experience that trip – Thank you for sharing it with us and look forward to hearing more fabulous stories


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