In a gallery-like loft space on South La Brea Avenue, rolls of fabrics are displayed by color in rich cascades of texture and pattern. Tags on the rolls make it evident that this is no run-of-the-mill fabric shop: Some are labeled with the names of major fashion designers, such as Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg and Donna Karan.
This is the first U.S. location for the Fabric Store, a New Zealand-based business that also has four retail stores in its native country and three in Australia.
A major focus of the business is its emphasis on natural fabrics — silks, linens, leathers, lyocell tencel, viscose rayon, cottons (including Japanese cottons), Italian wools and New Zealand merino wool jersey, because the brand's country of origin is a top global producers of the ultra-fine, soft merino variety.
"We offer a more edgy, fashiony focus than a typical fabric store," says owner Roger Wall, who began buying and selling fabric for a wholesale business in New Zealand at age 18. Eventually he started his own business selling fabric in New Zealand and Australia, then had the idea of reselling leftover fabric remnants from New Zealand clothing manufacturers. When this became a success, Wall saw the potential for something bigger and expanded the business to include buys from Hong Kong clothing manufacturers.
"We buy 1- or 2-million yards of fabric a year from European and American clothing designers," Wall says. "We buy all the sample yardage that they retained and never made into garments. And we buy from the designers because they don't want it hanging around."
"I know there are other companies that buy designer ends, and they shout from the rooftop about it," says Jasmine Cucksey, general manager of the Fabric Store and an employee for 11 years. "For us, it's about being able to curate a really unique range of high-quality fabrics. We source through [fashion] designers to get quality product, and it makes us interesting to our customers, but we don't sell it to them like, 'Oh, my God, this is amazing; it's Marc Jacobs!'"
Mood Fabrics, located just up the street on La Brea in a massive 22,000-square-foot-plus space, is known for its large stock of designer fabrics (as well as for its collaboration with the hit television show "Project Runway"). The Los Angeles store opened in 2007, but Mood Fabrics has carried an array of designer fabrics in its original New York City location since opening in 1991, according to owner Eric Sauma. Designers such as Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, Carolina Herrera, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani and Roberto Cavalli are listed on the company website (www.moodfabrics.com), and Sauma adds 3.1 Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang, Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, Vera Wang, Calvin Klein and many more to the list.
Mood Fabric's warehouse approach with free sewing instruction on site is almost the polar opposite of the Fabric Store's intimate atmosphere and boutique setting, decorated with original art. Beyond fabrics, the Fabric Store also offers hard-to-find Japanese sewing pattern books, Papercut sewing patterns from New Zealand, Guttermann's thread made of recycled polyester and books, such as "Home Sewn" by the New Zealand Fashion Museum, with patterns from 10 of the country's top designers. The Los Angeles location will soon add haberdashery, such as special buttons, zippers, ribbons and trim.
Company publicist Ann Flower also notes how the New Zealand stores are a major resource for costume designers, such as Ngila Dickson, known for her work on "The Lord of The Rings" films, and Kirsty Cameron, whose credits include "Whale Rider" and "In My Father's Den." So what better location than Hollywood for the brand's first U.S. outpost?
Prices range from $5 per yard for the more basic cotton fabrics to up to $80 per yard for heavily embellished fabrics, such as sequined or beaded designer pieces.
The Fabric Store
Where: 136 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Info: (323) 931-8300, www.thefabricstoreusa.com
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