Sunday, September 28, 2014

In the Mood

"Fabric Mecca!" is not actually on the building

Project Runway fans, this one's for you.

I've watched every episode since the first, and in 13 seasons have learned to like and admire Heidi Klum, respect (and get over my fear of) Nina Garcia, grow weary of Michael Kors (now replaced by the charming Zac Posen) and love love love Tim Gunn.

The supporting player in all this is Mood. That's Mood Fabrics, located at 225 West 37th Street off Eighth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan's garment district. Mood was opened to-the-trade-only in 1991 by a working designer, Jack Sauma, unhappy with the fact that designing didn't guarantee a steady paycheck. Word spread of Mood's cache of fabulous fabrics, and two years later it was opened to the public. Now Mood's New York flagship is 40,000 square feet. A Los Angeles branch is 20,00 square feet, and there's an online store. Not in the least elitist, Mood offers sewing lessons and workshops for all levels.

Yes, it's that vast

All the years I lived in New York I never knew about Mood. It's truly off the beaten path, as I found out on a recent visit to the city. This is an area that holds no interest for the casual tourist. You can sense the importance of these crowded blocks before so much manufacturing got sent to China or India or elsewhere. This is where the majority of American fashion was conceived, cut, sewn, brokered and shipped. Remnants (forgive the pun) of that still exist, and there's a real effort to keep jobs here that haven't left.

Mood is a short hop from Parson's School of Design. When Tim Gunn tells the designers, "And you have $200 and 30 minutes to shop at Mood", they're practically going to the shop around the corner. In New York terms, you wouldn't take a subway or try to hail a cab; you'd probably hoof it.

The facade of Mood is deceptive as the ground floor store is "Mood Home" (upholstery and drapery fabrics). For the dressmaker's nirvana you need to enter a nondescript office building and take an elevator operated by a real human to the third floor. From there you can take stairs up or down, so Mood Fabrics is essentially three floors.

They must clear the place for filming as it serves an average of 1200 customers daily and was busy. Between the bolts of fabric jutting everywhere, milling customers and Swatch running around, there would hardly be room for cameras.

Swatch and Eric

Let me tell you about Swatch. I'm not what you call a dog person, but I would pop that little guy in a sack and take him home. If I could catch him. Swatch was everywhere— chasing his turquoise rubber ball, darting in and out of the fabric aisles, sidling up to customers and generally enjoying himself at warp speed. The scoop on Swatch is he is a 7-year-old Boston Terrier, big for his breed, and belongs to Eric Sauma, owner of Mood and son of the founder. Swatch picked Eric in the pet store, and was even on sale. When you see Swatch on television he's usually sacked out in the middle of the floor, the only time he's still long enough for the camera.

Swatch posing for me: Action shot
Ready for his close-up

I wasn't there to buy anything other than a souvenir for my friend Annie back in Houston— something small that I could have packed in a Mood bag. I found a package of mixed buttons she could probably craft into something magical. I thought about getting some yardage but was blinded by the choices. Naturally, when I watched last week's show I spotted a fabulous bolt.

The reality of reality shows may be a bit suspect, but Mood is the real deal. Thank you, Mood!

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