Garment District’s unraveling?


On a rainy Friday afternoon, Swatch the Boston Terrier, famous for his many appearances on the reality television show “Project Runway,” lies fast asleep on the first floor of Mood Fabrics on West 37th street, oblivious to the surrounding bustle.

Designers step over his snoring body as they search through rows and rows of chiffon, silk, cotton and corduroy. Employees cut swatches of fabric, measure lengths of ribbon and help customers find the perfect button, all the while organizing and reorganizing countless rolls of fabric. People stream in and out of the store, some making a beeline for a particular fabric, others headed straight to the counter that sells Mood Fabrics T-shirts and souvenirs. Swatch sleeps through it all, heedless of a tourist leaning down to snap a photo.

Because of its role as fabric supplier for the competing designers on “Project Runway,” more than 1,500 people course through Mood Fabrics each day. Most are tourists, hoping for a glimpse of “Project Runway” judge Heidi Klum, or of the show’s famous fashion mentor, Tim Gunn. According to Mood Fabrics’ owner, Jack Sauma, who has been in the garment industry for 42 years, the show brought “tourists and life” to the industry, and the district, which occupies about a square mile from 34th to 42nd Streets, west of Fifth Avenue. But despite Mood Fabrics’ success, small designers and business owners in the historic district are trying to keep the industry alive as they face skyrocketing rents and hotels and businesses coveting space in the neighborhood.

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