Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Passion for Fabric & Haberdashery: Great Stores & Sources



Are you obsessed with fabric too? So many people I know have become what my friend calls 'mad habers' (short for haberdashers); the kind of people who spend hours in fabric stores, pondering trimmings and going glazed-eyed for vintage ribbons (and all the other things you find in fabulous old Parisian merceries).


We learned to sew at school – we had the most ferocious sewing mistress who made us unpick if something was a mm out of line! – but I can't remember being as fascinated with fabrics as I am now. 

Just try wandering around the Garment District of New York where stores sell off-cuts and remnants from the collections of Armani, Oscar de la Renta, Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren and other design names, and you'll see how people develop a following for fabrics. (NB There are lots of entries on the best fabric stores in the new New York Guide.)

Even the window displays, such as this one in London (above) are incredibly creative examples of pins and imagination.


The Cabbages & Roses Summer Brocante in the countryside near Bath in England last month was a haber's heaven because half the marquees had exquisite fabric displays. This lady was selling vintage indigo linen.


A favourite fabric source is Tricia Guild's Designers Guild store on King's Road in Chelsea, London. If you love fabric and trimmings in all shades, colours and textures, this is the place to go. In fact, it's difficult to resist buying anything in this store (and it's not cheap), but if you're on a budget they do have off-cuts and small pieces for sale. 

I bought these beautiful Designers Guild fabrics one afternoon, pictured above with some vintage ribbons, a painting from a vintage store and a first edition book of Diana Cooper's biography signed by Diana Cooper from John Sandoe bookstore. That was a lovely day's shopping.


Here's the cobalt-blue and purple hydrangea Designers Guild print on our bedhead (above). 

(NB For a cheap bedhead, grab some some MDF, some thick foam and a nail gun one rainy night!)


Here's the pretty powder-blue velvet fabric, which is called Calaggio in Cerulean and is from one of Designers Guild's new collections. It's a beautifully tactile velvet in a botanical print, and looks like something you'd find at Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon.


We even frame fabric. This vintage Herm├Ęs scarf had a small stain and really couldn't be worn any more, so our kindly framer framed it up into a beautiful piece of 'fabric art'.


This glamorous chaise was part of a display of fabrics in the famous D&D Building (Decoration and Design) in New York. This place is a must for designers. There are some many ideas for how to use fabrics and trimmings for little effort. (Will definitely be included in next year's New York tour.)

We had an old Ikea single mattress stored  in the garage, so my partner made a base for it, and I'll now attempt to emulate the far more beautiful D&D chaise above for one-twentieth the cost.


Another wonderful mecca for fabric fans is Edith Mezard's chateau in Provence. Edith is famous for her monogrammed linens and embroidery (The Ritz is a client), and she sells many pieces from a converted stables in her home. Hours are irregular though, so you need to plan.

We're going to be including this lovely place in next year's tour of Paris and Provence.



In London, a great fabric store is MacCulloch & Wallis, just off Oxford Street. You'll need to Google it as it's easy to miss, but the service is wonderful and the fabric range is amazing.



And of course if you haven't been to The Cloth House in Soho, London, you need to pop in there too. (It's just around the corner from MacCulloch & Wallis.)


Merchant & Mills in Rye was featured in a previous post, but it, too, is a must-stop if you're in East Sussex. (This will also be included on future tours.)


In Paris, a gorgeous little mercerie is Ultramod. It's one of the authentic old Parisian haberdasheries, with timber-lined shelves, a beautiful mezzanine and an air of being lost in time.


This was the window merchandising of Ultramod: lamps hung with embroider's thread. So clever.


And finally, a dear friend Doody Taylor made this for me as a special thank-you gift for organising the tour to Dior's home and garden last year. It's a cushion made from the most beautiful fabric and fashion labels. 

At first, I was horrified to think she'd cut the labels from her precious Max Mara and Chanel coats, but she assured me her clothes were still intact! I adore it. It's a very kind gift that now has dress-circle position on our wingback sofas. (Dogs not allowed.) 

It just shows that you can make virtually anything from even the smallest fabric pieces.

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