story by Charles Beckwith
photography by Aeric Meredith-Goujon
Possibly the biggest fabric collection in the world is housed by Mood Fabrics, a textile superstore entered from the third floor at 225 West 37th Street in Manhattan. For designers coming to New York City from out of town, this is one stop not to miss. Forget Fifth Avenue, there is nothing like this in Milan, Paris, or anywhere else. Continuing modaCYCLE’s designer resources series, we recently sat down with manager Eric Sauma to talk about this wonder of the fashion world.
You may have seen Mood Fabrics featured on the television series Project Runway (Tim Gunn’s catch phrase “Thank You Mood” appears on the store-branded merchandise), but the sheer scale of the operation has never really been conveyed in the show, and it is simply a place you have to visit to understand. In terms of selection and volume, Mood Fabrics claims to hold about 80% of the fabrics available in the Garment District, and says if they don’t have what you’re looking for, they are happy to direct you to the other 20% in smaller shops around the neighborhood. Mood Fabrics prides themselves on fair pricing and having new inventory all the time. The turnover rate of their stock is amazing, and you can come in two weeks after your last visit to find literally hundreds of new patterns and textiles.
Mood deals mostly in designer leftovers. A major fashion house may commission tens of thousands of yards of a textile to mass produce part of their collection, but then not use all that they have manufactured, so Mood and other outlets buy the remaining stock and make it available in their stores. This means that the two or three bolts you find at Mood may be the only fabric left from that mill run, and you won’t know what mill it came from to get them to make more of the same. However, Mood has an innovative solution for this problem, and it should not worry designers who use leftovers to make their samples. Partnered with Preview Textile Group, a sister company in the same building, the only thing they cannot remake is exact designer patterns and prints, which can of course be substituted with similar custom patterns if the samples sell the collection. The store also stocks buttons, zippers, trimmings, furniture upholstery, and many other unique and interesting things you’ll have to explore the store to discover for yourself.
Several past employees of Mood have gone on to do great things. Christopher Bevans, known for his work as Design Director for Nike’s Blue Ribbon Sportswear line, now a designer of his own line, worked the floor here about 12 years ago, as did the head designer for Sean John. However, success is never guaranteed, and Mr. Suama estimates that only about 20% of designers who come through the doors intending to start their own line actually make it to a second season. They are simply unprepared for the realities fo the garment business. This reinforces the stance of modaCYCLE’s editors that new designers need to work in the business under other designers for a few years, to use the safety net of someone else’s established shop to do experimentation and field research before attempting to launch their own collection. To be a successful emerging designer you need to emerge from somewhere, and if that somewhere is not in the garment business, even if you went to a great fashion design school, then your chances of success are minuscule. To make it to the top you have to pay your dues, and that means taking the time to build your experience under someone else’s leadership before setting out on your own.
There are many destination stores in New York City. From around the world, photographers and filmmakers come to shop at B&H Photo Video, parents bring their children and inner children to FAO Schwarz, fashion fans flock to Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store which is actually on Fifth Avenue, and the Century 21 designer clothing outlet downtown, and for fashion designers, Mood Fabrics fills that need: the ultimate toy store.