Visiting the Los Angeles Fashion District and the International Textile Show.

by Anna Marie Cooper October 08, 2014

Being a designer in Portland, Oregon, you will constantly be told that you need to go to L.A. to visit the fashion district. Designers here complain constantly about how terrible it is to source fabric here. I was absolutely guilty of this, and if you are too, I can't emphasis more that you need to go visit L.A.'s fashion district. There are a ton of shops around 9th and Maple over to 8th and San Perdro. There is more even beyond that, but it is less concentrated. The shops really vary in quality. Some of them are okay, and some of them are full of cheap, chintzy polyester garbage that would probably be a massive liability if you ever attempted to make a garment out of it. The real gem for me during this visit was Ragfinders - a massive four story warehouse at the corner of 8th and San Perdro. In terms of size and ability to overwhelm this place is essentially the Yosemite of fabric stores. It's hard to fully understand with pictures, so I took a timelapse video of a very quick walk through the first floor, across the basement, and back up to where I started to give you a better scope of the size. This still doesn't give you a full scope of the height of the stacks, or all the other little aisles that lead off into the unknown. 

You can call or e-mail them for an appointment or you can walk in, ask for basic directions to a certain type of fabric and then just start digging. That's what I did, and it was great. The prices were crazy cheap compared to what we are used to seeing in Portland. Cotton shirting was around $3.50-$4.00 per yard, and the minimums were set at 20 yards or whatever was left on the roll. Wool could be found for about $9.50-$12.50. The savings will definitely make up for the cost of a flight down there if you are at the point where you are buying larger amounts. You can grab a pair of scissors when you walk in, swatch all your favorites, and then either buy right away or (like I did) think about it overnight and come back later. All you have to do is give them the swatches that you want to buy. They will find the fabric, bundle it, and then ship it to you or load your car up. They make the whole process super easy, and I couldn't recommend them more. 

My next stop was the Los Angeles International Textile Show. It takes place twice a year at the California Market Center right in the middle of the fashion district. You can apply to get in, or pay $20 to have access for the day. I didn't take pictures there because I didn't want to be super obnoxious, but it was nicely put together and overwhelming in a totally different way. It wasn't as massive, but since it was so well organized there were really just as many good fabrics to be found here. I was really worried that everyone I talked to would be mills with gigantic minimums, but in reality it varied a lot. I found places with one, ten, fifty, two hundred and five hundred yard minimums. There really was a lot of variety. For the most part I only had to pay to swatch buttons, but most of the fabric vendors were willing to send me swatches free of charge. The costs were obviously much higher than Ragfinders in most cases, but they were still cheaper than what you would find at normal fabric stores. You don't really find significant price breaks until you reach upwards of 500 yards. However, there were still a lot of nice leads, and it was a great break to the grime and heat of the actual fashion district. I really can't recommend visiting enough. L.A. is definitely off-putting in a lot of ways, but there is definitely some treasure to be found if you a up to a little adventure.

Anna Marie Cooper
Anna Marie Cooper


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