The Unexpected Impacts of COVID-19

So I was helping someone learn the basics of hand sewing (because everyone is all about the new quarantine crafts right now…), and this led me down the rabbit hole of fabric shopping. Which was bad and I did a very terrible thing (aka I bought waaaaaayyyy too much fabric I don’t need but will look so good with my PR contest plans when I finish them, so, whatever), when I happened to come across what I consider to be very sad news for SoCal sewists. More broadly, I expect this may be a larger indication of more sad news to come. I was looking for some specific lining fabrics when I decided to head over the the Michael Levine website to check out their lining selection, and I came upon the notice that they had permanently closed:

For those who have never been able to visit the LA fashion district, Michael Levines is what I would have considered to be, in many ways the landmark store in that area. It was always the place you went to look for something specific; the fabrics were all sorted by type, labeled, and priced. If you wanted something really unique, there were other stores in the area that might have had a better selection if you knew where to look, but if you wanted the best overall selection or one stop shopping, Michael Levine’s was the place to go. I thought I would share this YouTube video I found with a tour of the LA Fashion district; if you want to see Michael Levine’s you can skip ahead to about the 12 minute mark:

This video didn’t showcase the Michael Levine Loft, but I’m going to miss that place. It had a room full of giant cardboard boxes and rolls of fabric that was available by the pound. It was all leftovers and off-cuts from the main store, and while there was a lot of junk there, I’ve also found a lot of gems as well. Really, really cheap fabric gems. The Loft is most decidedly the reason my stash is as ridiculously large as it is now, but now that it’s gone I firmly declare that I regret nothing.

While I think that the sewists who frequent the New York Garment District have long been lamenting the loss of stores and locations that had historically given that garment district its significance, I don’t feel like I’ve seen as much of a discussion about the LA district. While the LA fashion district is arguably not as robust as the NY district (we definitely don’t have as many high end fabric options, and there is a lot more fabrics that seem to be leftover from fast fashion productions, as well as a larger emphasis on fast fashion stores in the surrounding area), there are still a lot of great fabric stores in that area, and I worry about how this pandemic is going to affect their business. While I have seen some stores doing well in emphasizing their online presence (and most decidedly winning at the Instagram game), there are a lot of small businesses in LA that I’m not sure will survive, and it’s a really depressing thought. Already there is such a dearth of local fabric stores in so many places (aside from that one ubiquitous craft store…), and especially a lack of local stores that have quality or specialty fabrics. While I’ve read a few articles that have predicted that there will be long-term consequences of this pandemic on the fashion industry, as a hobby sewist, it’s interesting to think what the even longer term effects of that might be in regards to sourcing fabric, especially when a lot of the go-to places for fabric may no longer exist.

Of course, given all of the other tragedy that has befallen those of us over the past few months, the closing of one store isn’t really even close to being on the radar of actual concerns at the moment. But in some ways this small thing really feels symbolic of the challenges we have faced these past few months. We have lost so many great people whom, I suspect, many of us didn’t fully appreciate until they were gone. We didn’t appreciate how they impacted us and our communities until we had to face things without them. Obviously the loss of these leaders and all of the other deaths from this pandemic are far greater tragedies than the loss of one fabric store in Los Angeles. But some losses are so monumental that it can be hard to really come to terms with what they mean, and sometimes it’s the small losses that really help crystalize your thoughts around the matter.

I’m still coming to terms with the larger losses, and I may find the words to fully express myself at some later time. But I feel that in a small way I can start to come to terms with it all by saying RIP Michael Levine’s. You and your reliable $0.75 restroom location will be sorely missed.

18 thoughts on “The Unexpected Impacts of COVID-19

  1. Too bad about Michael Levine’s – I have heard of this store but never shopped there. I think the quarantine has been good for some, bad for others – my local independent fabric store and sewing machine dealer have been very busy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes; I think those stores who had a really strong base and a good online platform are doing well; those that relied more on in-person business are not doing so well. They are also close to FIDM; I’m not sure how that school is handling COVID, but lack of students might have lost them a lot of business as well.


  2. I, too, am mourning the loss of Michael Levine. As a SoCal sewist, I went in person, but also ordered online to avoid the DTLA traffic. Sometimes I’d pass on a fabric I saw in person only to order it online the next day. I thought that since they had a robust online store already running, and that it would see them through.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry to hear that 😦 it’s weird, in the UK fabric retailers seem to be doing well. My usual sources have had long delays on shipping orders because they’ve been so busy. I do worry about the ones without any online presence though.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Strangely enough, same here. There is a very local fabric store 15 minutes from me that is now much more crowded than it used to be. Of course, there never were very many fabric stores in my area to begin with. Our Fabricville (Fabricland) online store and Club Tissus (♥ ♥ their fabric) online store is something else – they were both closed for several months after the lockdown, and it was unsure (as far as I know) if they would open again. Happily, they did. Hoping they will stay open…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember seeing the notice about them closing. It is sad to see a great place shutdown. We are truly in strange times. I’m fortunate that my favorite local store is doing well. The only competition they have is Joann and they’ve been holding their own against them for years. So I hope that store doesn’t go away because I don’t shop at Joann.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The main reason we have so few fabric stores is the result of cloth manufacturers NOT wanting to sell less than 5000 yds of a fabric. Only a big box craft store can buy 5000 yds and put it in 8 yd bolts and sell it through their 1800 stores 😐. Renita in NC

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I live in LA county, and Michael Levine was struggling well before COVID. First they closed the Loft, then the home dec store. I read that the main store has new owners, but I haven’t visited in person yet. Since the lockdown started, I’ve been filtering Etsy stores to LA or Orange County locations and buying fabric and notions locally. I’ve discovered several new stores, and things typically reach me in less than a week, which is convenient.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw some notices before covid-19 on the website. I thought they just might be closing their online store. I’m sure covid-19 is the nail on the coffin but they have in trouble for a while. I’m sad to see them go because most of the small stores are fun but hit and miss. We still have mood but they aren’t located at the garment district and driving around to different stores in la traffic is not fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey y’all, just thought I’d weigh in in the matter and hope to bring transparency on this beloved shop. Michael Levine is under new management and has been open for business as of April 2020. The transition was not as smooth as wished due to the pandemic lockdown. The loft and home decor were closed but there’s a plan to bring back the loft once this virus has ceased its existence. The main store is open. Yes, the availability of fabrics could be increased but fact is, the mills and uncertainty of where this pandemic would take the business was daunting and businesses have had to play it safe when purchasing goods. But, should you need a specific fabric, the owner will try his best to find it for you. The effort to launch the new online shop has been put on hold but fingers crossed it can make its debut sometime in 2021.
    For questions or comments, give them a ring 213-629-2626
    920 S Maple Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90015
    Hours of operation
    M-Sat 9am-5:30pm
    Sunday 9am -4:30pm
    Michael Levine Fabrics 26


  9. As the person who worked the most in the Loft, it makes me happy when I stumble upon people having a good memory of it. There were indeed some gems mixed into all those boxes of knits. I loved seeing what people would find. My stash of fabric I bought at work was a small mountain! Michael Levine did have financial problems well before the pandemic. It was many things about our business that ended the store. But, I did hear they opened up again ( under a new owner) and I visited. It was nice to see some of the people who worked there before working there again. The people who worked there are very nice people in real life. I hope everyone has lots of sewing ahead of them.

    Liked by 1 person

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