How to Fabric Shop in New York

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Originally Posted 9/19/16

 

Sourcing in New York; nothing sounds more elite. “Oh sorry. I‘m gonna be  in New York that weekend. Going on a hunt for some polyester softshell.” That statement right there will make anyone’s eyes pop out of their head. So yeah, enjoy the ego boost, but afterward you are going to have to get to work. It’s fun,  but you will enjoy it more if you are prepared. Here are a couple of tips to make  that process easier.

Know what you need

Do a little fabric research before your trip. By knowing what you need you can communicate with ease and avoid wasting time somewhere you don’t need to be.  I learned that many of the dealers I interacted with were not familiar with the outerwear fabric I am using.  It helped that I could describe it as synthetic performance fabric used for outerwear. It would have helped even more to have a swatch as well.  To get familiar with fabrics, read a few books.  The Mood Guide to Fabric and Fashion is one option that will help you communicate what you are looking for ( and it’s available in the Fashion Week Or Die Trying Store).

Know the difference between jobbers and wholesalers

Kathleen Fasanela of Fashion-Incubator defines Jobbers as  “fabric suppliers who sell mill ends, odd lots and seconds”.  Great for smaller manufacturers, but not in cases where one needs to reorder. They do not guarantee quantities for reorder or that the coloring of the fabric will be the same in the future. What you order to sample your collection may not be there when it’s time to produce your orders. Personally, I need to build relationships with wholesale dealers and fabric reps that offer low minimums. A jobber won’t allow me to stay lean and competitive. You will find a lot of jobbers in the garment district, but if they meet your needs, shop on.

Dress Comfortably

Initially I wanted to dress up to “ look like a designer,” but all that is garbage. I was in New York in August. I was sweaty, my makeup was running and my blown out afro was the victim of massive shrinkage. It was all for naught. Be comfortable. You don’t have to be flashy. You are a designer shopping for product; you deserve to be there.  Worry more about the flights of stairs you are going to climb in the garment district and the New York weather. Heels in January and suits in July are probably a bad move.

Don’t be scared to make friends

New York has a reputation for rude residents. I have found that New Yorkers are direct, but not mean.  So be polite and ask questions. You will get tips on where to go to get what you need. I met a number of good people who pointed  me to stores that I would never have known about.

Bring twice as many business cards as you thought you would need

I ran out of cards. Don’t run out of cards. Give your cards out liberally and make sure they are accurate. This is an awesome opportunity to network. You will be meeting potential suppliers and customers. Make sure to leave them with a tangible memory  of your conversation.

 

Have you been to New York for a sourcing trip? What tips do you have?

mood

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Scoprah Got Me Together – Power Moves 2016

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Originally posted 10/13/16

This Saturday I went to a business talk. The organizer is presenting women in business who have made impacts in non conventional ways. Her first speaker in her series was  Nicole Walters. Honestly I knew nothing of Nicole. I learned she started as a natural hair blogger and expanded her brand to a point where she could leave her job at a fortunate 500 company. Crazy, huh?  You ain’t heard nothin’ yet. SHE QUIT HER JOB ON PERISCOPE! After peacing out on the comfort and prestige of corporate life, she grew her online business and morphed into an Income Strategist. Now she teaches courses online utilizing her blogging success and corporate experience. To her dedicated following of online students, she is also considered an expert on the new live streaming platform and affectionately called Scoprah or the Oprah of Periscope.

After hearing all of this, you are probably thinking that  she sold us some get rich quick scheme for 10 easy payments of $99.99. No. What happened in that modest theater was something more beautiful. She shared her personal story as the daughter of working class immigrants in DC. I fought back tears as she described a childhood experiences that mirrored my own. Like her I was taught that I was born into this world with 2 strikes against me: I’m female and black ( a third if you count not coming from money). I also didn’t believe that those characteristics justified the differences I saw between my life, and the life of wealthier people. As she talked about the businessmen and politicians her father drove in his cab, I remembered being 4 and wondering why my house was so much smaller than the mansions on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” (#80sbaby). “My mommy is just as beautiful as these ladies on TV.” I would think. “ She’s just as smart. SHE’S BETTER! WE SHOULD HAVE A MANSON!”
I think we all need confirmation. I occasionally reminisce on the little girl that thought those things, but I’ve learned to not always openly share her ambition. Not everyone is comfortable with it. In that intimate dark theater, I got choked up thinking that someone felt the way I felt and they did exactly what they said they wanted to do. It let me know that I wasn’t (and am still not) crazy.  Even if Nicole never shared another thing with us I would have been satisfied. Instead she went on to discuss how legal representation, sales, and customer service  can help us grow our business. We even talked about taxes. NO ONE EVER WANTS TO TALK ABOUT TAXES! I love learning all of the accounting and taxes things because if your books aren’t right you can lose your business. It happens all the time.  I will certainly be going to November’s talk. If you are in Seattle  you should come and check it out. Below are some words from Nicole:

 

Day job diary


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Originally posted 8/16/16

I was legit day dreaming at work and thought I needed to just write all of it down. 1) So I don’t mess up my paper and lose this job being an adult Ramona  Quimby, unable to focus.
2) Because I’m serious about paying attention to my emotions. I feel like ignoring what is inside me will damage me: physically, spiritually, emotionally, creatively, etc.


I am a sunflower. I was in the office with all these heavy feelings, looking out the window. Now I’m typing this on my phone feeling much lighter, beautiful and more inspired. This weather is a blessing.


I wish we still lived in a world where I could pay my rent working at a coffee shop. I think I need a grung-ier lifestyle. Working and grinding on your art drains you so much.  You have all these balls in the air that you can’t drop. The rent is too damn high! I wish I could just take a month’s rent and buy a mannequin. Or take a day off and sketch. Just place some of these balls down and attend to them one at a time

I try to organize everything. I make lists and I maintain a calendar so that the ” balls” stay in the air. When people see that I’m busy and feel some type of way or refuse to acknowledge the organization as an effort to bring order to my life, it grinds my gears. Its like “You see me out here struggling and you go and swing your arms at the balls I’m trying to juggle?!”

If I had a theme song I think it might be “I’m Different” by 2Chains. Not really, just the chorus. Sometimes I feel like a straight alien. These other priorities people have I do not understand! At all! I overhear conversations and I just don’t even interact because it is obvious that I’m not in agreement with any of it. I’m not really about “escaping.” I would hope that my real life isn’t shit that needs to be escaped from. That’s the goal.  I  don’t  get involved with things that aren’t in alignment with my goals and desires, but that seems to be the trend.  I don’t like company for company’s sake.  I don’t like fakeness. I don’t like shallowness. Be real. Be about your shit. Be a thinker and a doer and I can be your friend. Otherwise, nah.

New York State of Mind

I had a crazy weekend! I went to New York for a little work and play. I will make another post detailing what I learned about sourcing in New York soon. Right now I want to reflect on my free time in the city.

I stayed in an AirBnb in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York, during the trip. While the subway trips to Manhattan were long, it gave me an opportunity to explore New York’s second largest borough. As a kid I definitely romanticized the hometown of my favorite rappers, but it had more depth then I imagined. Brooklyn is basically a city on its own. It  has nicer and rougher neighborhoods, shopping, museums, families, parks, singles, bars, an oddly large quantity of churches, public housing projects and beautiful historic brownstones. I don’t think you could call this place one definitive thing, other than stimulating. Brooklyn is not boring.  I met up with a childhood friend and he showed me the sights in Fort Greene, which he taught me was an actual fort during the revolutionary war. I shared with him  my teenage dream of going to FIT, working for BabyPhat and owning one of those iconic brownstones the neighborhood. Refocusing on those old goals help to remember my  reason for building my business.

Another experience that helped change my perspective was attending Spike Lee’s Bk loves MJ block party. The city honored him by naming the block where he shot “Do the Right Thing” after the film. For the last 6 years he has been throwing a Michael Jackson themed block party to celebrate Jackson’s birthday. Dancing in the street with beautiful Brooklynites as Sway Calloway and Spike Lee  joked on stage was awesome! And more importantly it didn’t happen overnight. 27 years ago Spike released the controversial film on a small budget. Today he can use his business and celebrity to bring joy to his neighborhood. The shit is going to take the time that it takes. When your done you can dance in the sun to “ Rock With You”. Hell, I would even advise dance breaks at the beginning and middle of the journey as well, but always remember that it is a journey. It might take a couple decades to be an icon.

Lastly the intoxicating cultural experience known as Afropunk. I bought tickets to the two day festival at Commodore Barry park and it was money well spent! Afropunk is  black, indie, inclusive, and creative. The loving vibes and amazing talent displayed gave me life. Below are some of the beautiful souls I met. If you see yourself pictured email me so that I can link to your work, Instagram, SoundCloud, whatever. Peace Brooklyn. Thank you!

 

When Life Gives You Lemons, LEMONADE, PTO and Dope LadyArtist friends……

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(photocredit : Frank Micelotta/Parkwood Entertainment)

Rebellious self care is constant work. I usually tell myself that I shouldn’t indulge in an activity because there is work to be done. And when I see an amazing opportunity that I want to be a part of, I beat myself up by thinking of all the things I should have done to be ready for that opportunity.
Well, that doesn’t work. I just feel bad. I don’t move forward.

Nowadays I try to keep things balanced. I stay focused on my grind and work hard, but I also fit in fun. I have been finding that the fun is replenishing my spirit in new ways. Not only am I happier, but I am super inspired as well.

Went to the album release party for SassyBlack‘s solo project. DOPE! Besides being motivated by her creative progression, I ran into a plethora of amazing women that I don’t see often enough.
Then I attended  the Formation Tour with my bestie, sister, the majority of my high school, all the women at my day job and half the black women in my county. No, we did not all have seats together, but we were certainly in attendance. The night was amazing!  The homie saw DJ Khaled! There were flames, and fireworks and confetti (not made from the teeth of side chicks)! Don’t take my word for it. Check my snaps:

 

Always inspired by Beyonce’s professionalism and work ethic, I was in awe by her joy. On stage wasn’t just woman at the top of her field, in full control of her career. We got to see the dreams of a little girl brought to fruition. You could tell she was having fun and enjoying the performance just as much as any fan in that stadium.

Picking up on that joy I was filled with the desire to create it in someone else.  I want to make someone’s favorite something! Knowing that I could create something to trigger emotion in someone else has been my dream since day one. The tour made me me long for it even more.

Networking is Awkward

Originally Posted 5/15/16

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 Why is networking so weird? I mean it’s like the first day of middle school, plus flirting in bars, plus any sort of public speaking; BUT WORSE. In those other situations, aiming for personal gain is frowned upon. I’m okay with that. I believe in building relationships and finding your tribe, but networking seems different. Some how you have to balance what you need, with the needs of who you are trying to network with. In that way this symbolic relationship is beautiful, like a dance. Unfortunately, I have two left feet.

Since I’m using this dance analogy, let’s say that I have committed to two stepping my way through the party. Instead of staying in my house, I have filled my calendar with events that connect me with other entrepreneurs, not just designers. I want to take full advantage of my city and meet people who will inspire and challenge me. Worst case scenario I have a new follower on Instagram ( are you following the line on insta? @p29:18 DO IT). Best case scenario I get a gem: an industry tidbit I didn’t know; a potential mentor; a sales lead.  Basically new dance partners can teach you new moves. So I’m gonna stay on floor long enough to learn something.

Okay, I know this dance analogy is getting hackneyed. I’ll stop.  

So who am I networking with? I attended designer seminars through Seattle Fashion Week lead by a buyer from Amazon. I have attended a number of local fashion shows. I joined two business incubators  Ventures and  Black Dot Union. Both have  helped me set up systems for my business even though neither are focused on fashion.

Maybe I’ll get good at all of this. My business card will be pretty and always in hand; my pitches professional and effective; and maybe I’ll even have a mentor or two one day. But that day is not today. I’ll just keep moving toward that put together, flawless moment.

I learned what dilettantes are: I don’t like them

I heard the word Dilettante, and realized I didn’t know what it meant. While listening to River of Tears,  I looked up the definition.

 “A person who cultivates an interest such as the arts without real commitment or knowledge.”

This definition gave me such comfort. Since my teen years I would get livid with girls playing fashion. The pretty ones who just wanted to get dressed. The silly ones who thought this life was Project Runway. I would feel  insulted by  those who saw me as one of those girls. They would  ask how I could make money in this industry. They would tell me I was dumb for dreaming of FIT and Parson’s. They thought my analysis of fashion week was shallow. It feels good to have a real word to communicate who I am not.

I aspire to be a producer not a consumer.

This is not a hobby.

Yes, I have a passion for fashion, but nothing about it is shallow or cliche.

This passion means more than calluses from designer shoes. It has been tetanus shots after falling asleep at a sewing machine and having the needle zip through my nail and lodge itself in my finger. It has been sobbing on the kitchen floor after negotiating with my building manager because my photoshoot cannibalized my rent money.  This passion carried 25 yards of soft shell on my back through the streets of Portland. It filled my belly and energized my body the summer I subsisted on Ramen and .49 cent cheeseburgers so that I could pay for my overpriced design school. I can’t count the times I pulled it together, abracadabra-ed the most hopeless situation with this passion.

Maybe as many times as I have felt breathless when viewing couture; acheing to touch it and understand how to  make something so beautiful.

I think that’s what love is.

To have that love, that comes from the purest, realest oldest part of who I am reduced to folly infuriates me.

Forgive me for sinking deep in my feelings. Blame this Alessia Cara song. Blame the hot headed honesty I’ve inherited. Or not. It is what it is. I rather be that girl: angry, crazy, hungry, bleeding, laughing, than be anyone else. Cuz if I’m her then, when I’m gone, you’ll know that I’m done. That I gave it all, and did my best. My mom always said she didn’t care if I got A’s in school as long as I did my best. So if I am a F student because my job isn’t at a desk and doesn’t require  a ph’d,  I will still feel honor roll accomplishment. Because with this passion, I do my best.

Phife

Originally posted 4/6/16

a-tribe-called-quest-new-york-1990-billboard-1548I am not a huge follower of Tribe. I consider myself a respecter of their work. They are a strong pillar of an era of Hip Hop that reminds me of being little. I plugged some ATCQ into my playlist the day Phife Dawg died. Tidal moved from  “Steve Biko” to “Deuces” and  No disrespect to Chris Brown’s artistry ( let’s not get into any opinions on that right now), but in that moment I understood why I have this divide between real Hip Hop and Pop music in my mind. Hip Hop has always inspired me to me do big things. Big audacious dreams, big audacious art. Puff my chest out, stand taller, take up more space.

I am jealous of his life. In 45 years he made great art, inspired people, traveled the world. I wonder if I have wasted some time… doing things the “right way,”  but hip hop is not fashion. The start up cost is higher. As are the opportunity cost. It’s a similar, but different hustle.


Hip hop is like my neighborhood. Phife and the rest of  tribe are like guys that went to school with my brothers. I appreciate their presence in my community. I am not strongly grieving his death, but I appreciate and am thankful for his life. 

‘Merica

I caucused for the first time, and it was great! Recently it seems that political conversations lead to bloodshed, but my neighbors politely shared their opinions on the candidates. I think this is the first real debate I ever witnessed. No intellectual pissing contest, just people sharing their beliefs and displaying their good manners. Maybe all ain’t lost. #Blessed

And the cherry on top? My neighbors are some snazzy dressers !