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.