New York City's Garment District is basically a dreamland for fashionistas. Trunks full of buttons, walls stacked with rolls of colorful fabric, leather men and fur ladies, a warehouse that sells billions of little, tiny sequins. If you dig clothes and you've an imagination, this is your hang out. The Garment District is also one of the most dynamic historical neighborhoods in New York City and one that, unfortunately, is in major turmoil. Everything from real estate pressure (see the New York Times piece on Manhattan's flea markets for more) to manufacturing trends (hon, we 'aint makin it in New Yourk anymour) is turning the neighborhood upside down (a topic we'll save for our Garmento series) and causing shops to close every time you turn around. To help you navigate the district, two recent fashion graduates, Joceyln Simms and Victoria Somers, set out to create a user friendly guide on navigating the neighborhood. The task was not a simple one but the result, The Fashion District Source Book, is a sweet, smart reference guide that helps you find everything from bootlace to button. It is perhaps the author's youth and their passion for the industry that make this guide so refreshing. No old school inhabitant of the neighborhood could have seen things so clearly, that is, there's something to be said for a fresh perspective.
What inspired you to write the Fashion District Source Book?
Jocelyn Simms: New York City, and today’s world in general, are so full of information and product choices, that without tools that can organize and make sense of it all, consumers are lost when it comes to making a decision. The last thing that a shopping district wants is for the consumer to become so overwhelmed that they consistently revert back to the same, safe, convenient option time and again, or worse, forgo the shopping experience entirely. Unfortunately, this is often what happens. We wanted to create a tool that could quickly inform potential customers what to expect from each store in the garment center so they could spend more of their time shopping successfully, and less time doing research and learning through trial and error.
Victoria Somers: It happened more because I went to Jerry to see if he had any side work. He suggested I write this book and to get a friend to help. Jocelyn was the best person for the job because she is so creative. From there we just did a lot of brainstorming, thinking of what people (especially out of towners) need to know about the fashion district. It is something I wish I had when I first moved to NYC. It would have been a huge help when I needed something for a project.
The garment district has such a dynamic history, was it difficult to keep the book streamlined?
JS: History aside, the most daunting aspect of the garment district is the number of stores and the amount of merchandise that is offered. We probably could have written a novel- however, the purpose of this guide was not to be thorough, but to create a USER FRIENDLY guide that gives designers and shoppers just enough information to make decisions. Streamlined is what consumers are craving in today’s marketplace. They only have time for quick, easy answers and that is what we tried to deliver. Although I do think the publisher did a bit of secret editing down for us….as I look at it now, I know we weren’t quite that concise. ☺
VS: We put the focus of the book on the present. It changes so much that it was getting difficult. Some stores were closing in the process of just getting the information. So we would get the info, write it up, then someone would point out that the store just put up closing signs. So we did all we could to get everything current in there. But I am pretty sure that even after we turned it in they needed to keep making sure it was up to date before publishing it.
When differentiating between all of the different shops in the district, did you find it challenging to point out the discrepancies? With a million trimmings shops, in other words, how did you find ways to describe them as unique?
J.S: As often as we used the garment district stores during college and our internships, most stores had already taken on a very specific identity in our minds. We had the shopping background to pick out the little but important things that aren’t apparent just by glancing in a window. One of my favorite functions of the guide is the organizational/rating system that we assigned to the stores. We flagged certain stores as our favorites and flagged some as having great deals as well. We also specified when a store falls into multiple product categories so its easier to find a one-stop shop for whatever you happen to be looking for. Our personal opinions on quality, pricing, and service, combined with the product assortment of each shop, were plenty to differentiate them from one another. I encourage the user to keep their own notes in the book as well.
VS: Although it is hard to tell, they really are all very unique. Even if they offer the same sort of fabrics, they will all have something no other store offers. That could include prices, service, variety, or convenience. If was fun doing the project because we were able to find such unique stores that no one knows about. There is a feather store, for example, that Jocelyn found. And I actually had to use it one day. It happens to be an older man in a room full of beautiful and exotic feathers. It was so interesting to me to know he was creating all the boas all by himself with these colorful feathers from all over the world.
What is one of the biggest rewards of having published this book?
JS: I have heard feedback within the industry, from co-workers, and students, and I know it is making their lives easier when it comes to shopping for fabrics and trims. I think that one of the main things the guide has done is to open people up to trying stores that they wouldn’t normally visit or didn’t know were there. It is easy to go to the same stores over and over because you are familiar with the merchandise assortment. This guide makes it safer to venture out to new stores and therefore discover great resources that you would have been missing out on otherwise.
VS: Although it is a small guide book, it is still not something I would have thought I would have done by the time I was 21. It is an accomplishment of mine that I am happy I was given the opportunity for. Also, I actually use it as a reference quite a bit. So it really helped me out as well.
What are your future plans in fashion?
JS: I am currently an assistant designer for women’s sportswear at Tommy Hilfiger and plan to continue my career in the fashion industry as a designer. However, as a designer it is great to be able to use your expertise in other creative projects, for example the Fashion District Source Book. I plan on being involved in any up-dating and re-vamping that the Source Book may need each year, and look forward to being a part of other similar ventures in the fashion industry as well.
VS: I currently was hired at Tommy Hilfiger for design. (Jocelyn actually helped me get the job). So I am very excited to be getting back into design where I belong. I spent the last year at a vintage print archive here in NYC. I learned so much and was given great opportunities with travel, but I know I am meant for design.