June 19th, 2011 / posted by paularath

The family of Jose and Maria Barrera. Photo from Neiman Marcus' Book

Our day in the Garment District began with a visit to the atelier of Jose and Maria Barrera and their daughter Larisa. It’s located near 7th Avenue, the hub of the district. They are a small family business of jewelry design that is sold in specialty boutiques and at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. In Hawaii, I believe Riches Kahala was the first to carry the line. I have been an admirer of their work for twenty years and am proud to own earrings that I have treasured since the ’90s. I will be writing an entire blog about their business soon. They deserve their own blog.

We then walked a few blocks to Mood. If you’re a fan of Project Runway, you recognize the name. It’s where the contestants go to buy the fabrics for their challenges. If you are going to Mood, trust me, you have to know what you want. Otherwise you may end up sitting in the middle of a crowded floor-to-ceiling row of fabrics…in tears. It’s really overwhelming, kinda like Britex on steroids. (Britex is where many of us Honolulu fabric junkies go to in San Francisco.)

I caution you  to check prices when at Mood. I had been told that Mood was really inexpensive but that was not my experience. Perhaps I was just looking for high end fabrics, but most of what I looked at was pretty pricey. I also found the buttons were more than I thought they should be.

Just one of the dozens of sections of silks at Mood. Photo by Jerry Mayfield

With all those thousands and thousands of bolts of fabrics and hundreds of types of silks, would you believe they did not have silk tulle? I was crushed. Ever since I experienced the Alexander McQueen show at the Met Costume Institute I have been creating a garment (more like an installation, really) out of silk tulle, dyed in Darius Homay’s indigo vat. I had to compromise (not my favorite thing to do, as you know) and buy cotton tulle. Who knows? Perhaps it will be one of those serendipitous things  and will turn out to be even more exciting than silk tulle? Gotta hope……

Cotton prints, anyone?

I didn’t get to talk to many of the people working at Mood, as they were all busy all the time. The woman who helped me with the tulle specializes in 18th century reproductions. She freelances for theatres and museums but can’t quit her day job yet. The woman who helped me in buttons remembers Andy South and commented on how very nice he is. He is so well known to Mood, she said, they just refer to him as Andy.

Will this dye well? How wide? 56 inches? Two yards, please.

Julia is a specialist in 18th century garb.

After Mood we visited the Museum at F.I.T. (Fashion Institute of Technology). They have a show on called “Sporting Life” (through November 5) that examines the history of sports garments from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. It’s divided into sections devoted to particular sports, such as bicycling, tennis, motoring, skiing and swimming. Active sportswear garments are juxtaposed with the fashionable ready-to-wear styles they inspired.

Designers featured include Claire McCardell, Gucci, Stephen Sprouse, Manolo Blahnik, Patagonia,Norma Kamali and Yohji Yamamoto.  Sorry – they didn’t allow photos, as flash can compromise the fabrics.

There is a tangible stress level in the Garment District. We saw more smokers there than anywhere else in the city. I expected to see lots of well dressed women, but was not inspired. Perhaps it’s just the summer heat that’s discouraging them from being chic but I didn’t even find anyone to photograph on the street for a street fashion piece. Disappointing!

I will say that there are several prominent trends:

rubber slippers (my Gisele Bundchens are right in fashion)

yoga mats (they’re everywhere, especially in the subways)

flat gladiator sandals in metallic and earth tones

diaphanous Indian cotton scarves worn wrapped around the neck

Keds or Vans with no laces

In the evening we saw “War Horse,” a play that originated in London’s West End. It was brilliant. It was in the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, where Honolulu’s own talented actress and vocalist Loretta Ables Sayre played in “South Pacific.” They use huge puppets to “play” the horses in the show. They are each operated by three strong men and women. It’s really quite amazing how the staging, lighting and puppetry transport the audience to World War I. There is also a set design element I haven’t seen before that is spectacular. Hung from the ceiling is a huge swath of fabric or canvas that is used to project an “environment” to the audience. It changes from a quiet, serene farm scene to a battle scene, moving along as if coming off the sketching pen of an artist. “War Horse” won the Tony Award this year for best play.

– Paula Rath

What are they saying?
Leave a comment below.
Michelle Douglas
June 20th, 2011 at 3:25 am

Hi Paula, If you are looking for silk tulle, I can give you a contact in NY, thats where I buy my cotton and silk tulle.I know the cotton tulle dyes beautifully.
I enjoyed Mood when I was there but it is way over priced!
Keep giving us updates

June 22nd, 2011 at 12:43 am

Who do you buy silk tulle from in NYC? Maybe I can get there tomorrow or Thursday…

I am wearing my MegByDesign window pane top and ruffled skirt here in NYC. Love ’em!


Leave a comment:
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.