Thursday, August 4, 2016

New York City, Part 1: McCalls Tour, High Line, Chelsea Market

A view from the Google NYC office

I recently returned from an extremely fun week in NYC! I hadn't been to New York since the early-to-mid '90s, so it was high time for a visit. One recap post would be too long, even for me, so I'm breaking my trip report into several posts.

It's probably still too long!

Robin, of A Little Sewing joined me for two days of my visit. I hadn't seen her in person since my 2011 road trip to Pennsylvania, Baltimore, and Washington D.C.—it was great to enjoy some quality time!

I managed to book my trip right in the middle of a heat dome, the longest hot weather spell in NYC for years. And, yes, it was hot, but not impossibly so. Lots of shade (thanks to both trees and tall buildings), air conditioned buildings, breezes, and plenty of iced decaf soy lattes, made it quite tolerable.

Vogue Patterns

Photo credit: Robin Denning

Way back when the good folks at Vogue Patterns* flew me to Puyallup they invited me to come visit their offices in New York. It took me three years, but I finally made it to their offices. I was sorry not to see Kathy Marrone in her element—Kathy took her well-earned retirement earlier this year. She will be missed. I had met the new editor-in-chief of Vogue Patterns Magazine, Gillian Conahan, when she was an assistant editor. She's doing a great job in her new role, and it was nice to get to know her a little better. (Interesting factoid about Gillian: she sews amazing Cosplay costumes!)

I invited Robin on the expedition to New York's financial district. Robin worked briefly at McCalls, so this was "old home week" for her. She was also my intrepid guide on the subway.

Riding the subway down to the financial district. I was surprised that Vogue is so far from the garment district!

A subway mosaic

We met with Carlos, designer for the Vogue line. There is another designer for Butterick and another for McCalls. I asked Carlos how they ensure that the lines don't conflict with each other. Coordinating that effort is the job of Carolyne Cafaro, the Creative Director. Carlos told me that he keeps a printout of my "Open Letter to Vogue" on top of his desk and then he proved it - he very much liked it. I was flattered!
Photo credit: Meg at McCalls

Gillian, the editor-in-chief for Vogue Pattern Magazine. She's doing a great job! Yes, it was a heat wave, but the McCalls offices are cold.
Photo credit: Meg at McCalls

Much of the wall art, such as these sketches from past decades, reflects their long history.

The fabric and trim library. The designers come to this room to pull samples for their designs. They source all of their fabrics for the garments shown on the envelope covers from sources available to the home sewer.

Caught you, Gillian! That's Kathy Wiktor, in front of Robin, leading the tour.

The patternmaking room. These folks turn the designs into patterns and then test them in muslin. They do this for Butterick, Vogue, McCalls, and Kwik Sew patterns.

We also saw the sewing room where they make the samples, the workstations where they grade the patterns (one of the pattern graders walked us through her process), and the art studio where all of the designs are photographed. We also visited customer service. That room was interesting as it contains a copy of all current patterns. When someone contacts Vogue about a problem pattern, the customer service rep, Laurie, pulls the pattern, and checks it out. She may even sew it up. If the error is egregious, they will correct it at the factory for future printings.

When I met Frank Rizzo, President of McCalls, in Puyallup a few years back, he told me that their company wasn't that large, in terms of people, and now that I've seen it, it's true. They run a tight, efficient ship with limited headcount, and yet they produce hundreds of patterns per year. (What an exhausting thing to contemplate.) Aside from the New York office, they have a factory in Manhattan, Kansas (seriously, it's named Manhattan) where they print the paper patterns for all of their lines as well as for many independent pattern companies.

Thanks, Gillian, Meg, Carlos, Kathy, Chris, and all the other folks at Vogue Patterns, for a great visit! We were there for close to 2 hours, and I appreciate the time you generously gave us!

Also, thanks for the swag!

It JUST so happens that the New York Times also visited Vogue Patterns recently. They published this article, Do-It-Yourself Fashion Thrives at the McCall Pattern Company, just two days ago! Talk about stealing my thunder. ;)

But, seriously, you can also see Carolyne Cafaro in the article (she was there when I visited, and we briefly chatted, but I didn't interrupt her to take photos), and some of the other rooms that I didn't photograph. I also met the social media face of McCalls, Meg. Unfortunately, Frank was away.

All in all, it was a great visit!

*Yes, I know that the company is actually called "The McCalls Pattern Company" but, I generally refer to them as Vogue Patterns, which is the line I use the most.
After leaving Vogue Patterns, Robin wanted to stop by Mendel Goldberg Fabrics

They sell very high end fabrics, like this beautiful embroidered Dolce and Gabbana lace

And Robin found this gorgeous cotton. She blogged about our visit here.

And then we skedaddled back to the garment district and made our way to M&J Trimmings. Neither of us purchased anything, but this is a go-to place if you sew bridal!

The High Line

I am a little a lot obsessed with the High Line. The High Line didn't exist, at least not in its present form, when I last visited New York.

What is the High Line?

It's an elevated park, three miles long. Originally it was an elevated railway used to deliver carcasses to New York City's meat packing district, as well as produce and other groceries. The trains were discontinued in the '50s and the railway fell into disrepair. In the 90s, it was declared an eyesore and was slated for demolition, when two artists met and decided that it must be saved.

I couldn't wait to get up on the High Line. My flight landed in Newark on Sunday at 5pm, and by 6pm, I was walking the High Line. An entrance was 2 blocks from my Airbnb, and another entrance is near the Google NYC office, so I used it to commute to work.

I love this unique park, as do many New Yorkers. One afternoon we had a very impressive lighting and thunderstorm, which I avoided by working late. As soon as it lifted, I was back on the High Line. It was delightfully uncrowded after the storm. When I visited on Sunday, there were food booths, and musicians playing in the areas that pass through buildings—these covered sections create wonderful acoustics, as well as providing shade. I found it relaxing and serene to watch the sun set over the Hudson, above the city, enjoying the breezes, without the hassle of cars or traffic lights.

Enjoy the views!

Park benches

Some of the flora

I saw this scene Sunday evening. I didn't get too close to the creepy performance artist, though lots of people were clustered around, taking pics, but it was... creepy, so I kept moving. It was only the next day that I realized that it's NOT a creepy performance artist... It's a creepy sculpture!

A quiet corner

This may not look elevated, but it is

Just kidding! This is a piece of art

Definitely no nude sunbathers

They've created some stadium seating facing picture windows of the street. People enjoy sitting and watching the traffic. Such an interesting idea!

Same view, after the storm

Another art piece. Note the tree growing from the roof

Blind idealism is reactionary scary deadly.

Enjoying the sunset over the Hudson

My new goal is to experience the High Line in every season. I've seen it in summer, so one down and three to go!

The High Line is only marginally related to sewing or fashion, though Diane von Furstenberg was one of the first people to come on board in support of the project. (Her building overlooks the park.) If you want to learn more about the history of this unique park, as well as its landscaping and design, watch this excellent documentary, narrated by Susan Sarandon:

Chelsea Market

One of the Google offices is located above the Chelsea Market, so I was eager to check it out! I'm not a foodie, but there's a lot of food there. There's also shopping. The third or fourth time I walked through the market, I spied a seller in the corner of one of the artisan shops. The mannequins featured garments covered with zippers. I was drawn in!

The artist is Sohung Designs and I bought one of his pieces, which can be worn as a belt (not by me) or a collar (yes, please!).
Worn backwards

Google NYC

My trip to NY wasn't all play. I also worked for two days in our New York office. What a great office! Here are a few pics of some of the interesting details. It's just a few - there was so much to see in the three buildings.

Views from up high

Carolyn, of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, came to lunch!

I loved this quilted wall!

One of the conference rooms

Fun work cubbies!

No... I didn't try the ladder

Lego, anyone?

I love this "knitted" bench!

There was an impressive thunder and lightning storm on Monday afternoon. While violent, it only lasted during the commute home. I worked late that day (avoiding the storm entirely) and then made a beeline to the High Line, once it was over.

That's enough for this post! It's morning now, so I need to get ready for work. (This post brought to you by insomnia...)

Have a great day!