California Screamin'; or, I finally worked up the gumption to do some negotiating in the L.A. Garment District

Let me start by apologizing for not posting in a while; some really exciting real-life things have
been happening that made updating this humble little blog a third-tier priority. So, let me give
you the run-down:
1. I started a new job! Yay!
2. I'm returning to college! Yay!
3. I took a near week-long vacation in California! Whoop-whoop!
4. During my vacation in California, I participated in the runDisney Start Wars Half Marathon
(my first half marathon ever)! -insert angelic choir here-

So yeah, been fairly busy. While I was in California, I did, of course, make a trip up to the L.A.
Garment District for a little shopping. The last time I was in that neck of the woods, I remember being a lot more liberal with my spending (probably because I wasn't trying to stay away from all the polyester chiffon).

If you've never been to the Garment District, I seriously recommend taking a detour there the
next time you're near L.A. There are tons of hole-in-the-wall places with persuasive salesmen
hocking cheap (and sometimes not so cheap) fabric. There are lots of places that have a rack of fabric for $0.99/yard (usually with a 5 yard minimum) so if you're not particular about fabric
content, you can get an ass-load of material that will keep you busy for years to come (case in
point: I just now used the Pac-Man fabric I got 5 years ago).

One part of the shopping experience that I struggle with is the negotiating. See, the salespeople expect you to ask for a lower price than what they're offering. I am not good at doing that AT ALL (and I probably end up looking like a dumb tourist as a result). Here's what my first interaction looked like for this linen-like floral print:

Me: How much per yard?
Salesman: $4.99/yard. If you buy more, I can give you a better price.
Me: Okay, can I get 3 yard?
Salesman: I give to you for $3.99/yard.
Me: Okay.

Clearly I should've tried to negotiate for a lower price, but timid, non-aggressive me did not want to. I did get my confidence up at the next store when I felt like I had some ammo for negotiating:

Me: How much is this leather hide?
Salesgirl: It varies- [to the salesman] how much for this one?
Salesman: $30.
Me: But there's a big stain on the other side...
Saleman: Okay, give it to her for $20.

What! A big sueded leather hide for $20? Yeah, sure, there is a stain, but it's only on the one
side and when I'm still fairly new at working with leather, I don't mind using a slightly flawed
piece. Score 1 for me!

Shown stain-side up for reference. Ruler is 24" long.

Shown stain-side up for reference. Ruler is 24" long.

I did try my best to negotiate on this beautiful city print panel, but the salesman was having none of it.

What looks like glare from the camera in the upper left corner is actually the print!

What looks like glare from the camera in the upper left corner is actually the print!

Salesman [as I'm looking at a different fabric]: You buy that one, I make sure to give you good
Me: Can you give me a good price on that city print panel outside?
Salesman: Show me. [We go outside] Ah, that one is $28/panel. My cousin sells same print in
Anaheim for $75/panel but this is downtown so I can give you good price.
Me: You can't give me a better price than that?
Salesman: No, this one very very beautiful. [to another salesman] How much my cousin sell this
one for?
Salesman #2: $75!
Salesman: You buy many panels- everyone ask you where you get such beautiful fabric!
Me: I think just one panel.
Salesman: Only one?
Me: Yeah, just one.
Salesman: [cuts fabric] Next time you come back, I take care of you and make sure to give you
good price! [kisses me on the cheek]
Me: [wonders what the hell just happened]

Clearly I'm just too much of a novice at negotiating to work past that one.

The other thing to bear in mind is that pretty much all the stores prefer you have cash. I was
able to negotiate from $10 for 2 pieces of faux fur down to $8 and then the salesman got really pissed that I only had a card to pay (after I'd spent all my cash).

One of the stores where I was eyeing a poly chiffon Apple logo (as in the computer) print for only $0.99/yard told me they didn't have a machine to process cards and directed me to the ATM down the street (spoiler: I did not go back for the Apple fabric).

If you're like me and really don't want to negotiate, want to use credit cards, and want to actually know what you're buying instead of guessing and then doing a burn test later, I suggest Michael Levine Fabrics. It's a more or less traditional fabric store with sections clearly marked out ("Rayon Jersey", "Silk Dupioni", etc), and they run specials every so often. When I was there, they had 30% off lace so I got this multi-colored chevron lace for $2.79/yard (plus no tax when I was there!).

I also got a 1.5 yard piece of wool for $5- thank you, clearance section!

I also got a 1.5 yard piece of wool for $5- thank you, clearance section!

They have a great selection of unique leather hides, but it shows in the price ($80- $150/hide). You can also do what I did and buy leather scraps for $3/each.

If you're feeling more adventurous but still want a little structure in your life, Michael Levine also has a loft where you can buy fabric by the pound.

They keep all the fabric in massive bins and you just dig out what you want.

I got this sweater knit and knit border print for $6 total.

I think I got about 3 yards but I can't recall and am too lazy to verify right now.

I think I got about 3 yards but I can't recall and am too lazy to verify right now.

The only downside is that none of the fabric is labeled so you'll need to do a burn test when you get home (burn tests to come in a few days!).

The Garment District is also really great for getting all kinds of little notions. I didn't buy too
many but I did get all these buttons and a Chloe plaque for only $1! If I didn't already have a
giant button stockpile, (and if I knew what projects I wanted to work on) I definitely would've
bought more.

Overall, I spent less than $100 for all the fabric I bought, which is really not bad (especially
when you consider the leather hide). The next time I head to California (for the runDisney
Dumbo Double Dare!), I will definitely be doing a lot more fabric shopping. Hmm... should I bring a second suitcase just for fabric?