Mood of Project Runway
When you travel to a big city for the first time, like New York City for example, you naturally have a list of things you just have to see while there. Touristy things like the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square or maybe even crawling out of bed at the buttcrack of dawn to be on the Today Show in Rockefeller Center.
Darling Daughter and I were no different. Well, kind of.
Our May trip was my first NYC trip and DD’s second. Though her first trip was a quick overnight stop visiting a friend who lived there so her sightseeing was somewhat limited, so in many ways this counted as her first excursion there as well.
As with every other first-time tourist, we certainly had out list of must-sees, but with what is probably a key difference. At the top of our lists were places not necessarily number one on most tourist lists.
We both wanted to see a couple of Broadway plays, a pretty common item, but then:
Parents, if you want your child to become a bibliophile, start reading to them when they’re young. I started with DD when she was still a baby. She now can’t pass a bookstore without going in and, more likely than not, adding to her collection.
As for me, there was no doubt the ultimate must-see location, without question, was Mood Designer Fabrics. Yep, a fabric store.
Mind you, I don’t sew. At least not big, fancy projects.
Having taken costume design classes in college I was once able to do so. I can still hand sew when called upon. In fact, my late wife always brought things to me that needed patching. But, frustratingly, I’ve long forgotten how to thread a sewing machine.
No, the reason I wanted to see Mood so badly is thanks to a little reality television show called Project Runway.
It all began 18 years ago. I was working on a project out in our garage at the house. During those years I was designing and creating stage sets for an annual awards show. Each year I’d build these things in our two-car garage, pack them up in a cargo van and drive them off to wherever the show was being held that year – Minneapolis, Savannah, GA., Austin, TX…
I had the television running for background noise when on came this all-day marathon, back-to-back episodes, of a new reality show featuring fashion designers competing against each other.
Initially, I was a little puzzled by it, but by the second show I was hooked. DD was probably a high school sophomore and had already decided she wanted a career in some area of theater design after college. Costume design was high on the list, she would later create her own dress for senior prom, so I grabbed her and we began watching the show together.
As future seasons aired, it became a weekly daddy/daughter date night, watching each new episode.
(In case you’re curious, she chose scenic design over costume design and is still into that today.)
I haven’t missed a season or show since. Project Runway’s 20th season is currently airing on Bravo with a special All-Star edition bringing back past contestants. (If you’re doing the math, there has indeed been 20 seasons over the course of the last 18 years when it first premiered. A couple of years packed in additional seasons.)
Mood Designer Fabrics
Other than one of the Project Runway judges, Elle Magazine Editor—in-Chief Nina Garcia, Mood is the only thing with the honor of appearing in every season of the show.
One caveat, one season was shot in Los Angeles instead of New York, so the contestants went to Mood’s LA store.
Not so surprisingly, Mood is located in NYC’s Garment District in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. That’s where pretty much all of the fabric stores are located.
The Garment District is the center of American fashion design and home to the greatest concentration of fashion designers in the country. You’ll know you’re there when you see the Big Yellow Button sculpture on the corner of 7th Avenue and West 39th Street.
The yellow version of the button is a new edition, just put into place this past February, replacing the original black button that previously rested there.
Walking down the streets you’ll find numerous storefront fabric stores but none of them are quite like Mood.
Others are on street level with large store windows. They all seem relatively small and, well, a little dingy.
Mood is different. First of all, it’s not on street level which can be a bit confusing for your first visit. It’s on the third floor of the Bricken Arcade building at 225 West 37th Street.
Fortunately, there was an extremely kind doorman inside to help guide us when we stopped in. He knew instantly from our puzzled looks what we were there for.
Elevators are located right in the main hallway and look like a throwback to another time with the display above the doors having that little arm that moves along to each floor as the elevator goes up and down.
The second thing you’ll notice is the place is huge. If you are a Project Runway fan, it looks exactly like it does on television. Three solid floors of fabric, buttons, thread and everything your sewing, fashion designing heart, desires.
It’s 55,000-square-feet in size, with an additional 35,000-square-feet in warehouse space. It averages 1,200 customers a day.
Mood was started by Jack Sauma who grew up in Lebanon and Sweden before moving to New York City.
A designer himself, he and his wife Janet decided to go into the fabric business in 1991, strictly as a fabric wholesaler but opened it to retail sales two years later and, as they say, the rest is history.
The New York Daily News included the Saumas on its list of “Fashion’s 50 Most Fascinating”. Mood is now run by their two sons and is considered the number one shopping destination for fashion fabric in the world.
To learn a little more about Mood’s connection with Project Runway, here’s a fun little story from Time Magazine.
Swatch, Mood’s Official Mascot
One sad note, I really hoped to see Swatch, the bulldog who served as the store mascot for so many years. He was a constant presence at the store and showed up on screen somewhere almost every time Project Runway filmed there and even made a few cameos on the actual set.
Unfortunately, he died late last year at 15½ years old. There are rumors there may be a memorial during this season’s Project Runway but we’ll just have to wait and watch.
Fabric was purchased during our visit. Neither of us really planned on buying any fabric but then we discovered an entire section devoted to furniture fabrics.
DD couldn’t resist and brought home the perfect fabric for a chair she was working on re-doing. It now will forever be known as the Project Runway chair.
An FYI, in case you’re planning a visit, I was surprised they didn’t really have touristy kinds of merchandise (t-shirts, etc.) available in the store and they seem to be clearing out a lot of what’s available online.
Of course that didn’t stop me from hunting down a signature “Thank You Mood” t-shirt after our visit. Fans of the show will understand that one.
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