Flower Factory 👐 🌸💐
Making fabric flowers by hand
I had the opportunity to visit M&S Schmalberg in the fashion district of NYC and get a tour by company Vice President, Adam Brand. I am not someone who normally wears flowers (fabric, real, paper, or otherwise) so I didn’t have high expectations for how much I would enjoy this visit. Once I understood the history of this place and the specialized skills it takes to make these flowers by hand, I had a much greater appreciation for the industry and end result. I also love how the owner is trying new things to keep the business alive when there is so much competition from machine made flowers that can be imported at much lower prices. For example, the company can take any fabric and make a flower bouquet which they have done for people who want a unique baby gift or a memorial bouquet for a loved one.
When I entered the factory which is hidden away on the 7th floor of a building in the NYC fashion district, I immediately saw boxes and boxes full of flowers in every imaginable fabric and style.
The factory has an amazing collection of flower dies, many of which originate from the beginning of the factory in 1916. It is really a mind-blowing collection. The dies you see below are heated and used to cut the fabric into the appropriate shape depending on the final result needed.
Sometimes the flowers are cut at a small machine one at a time and for bigger orders, a large press is used as shown below. The individual on the left is cutting through multiple layers of fabric and cutting out about 50 flowers at a time. The middle photo shows a smaller machine for cutting out smaller quantities. The safety professional side of me (my day job) wasn’t thrilled with this set up. :/
Here are a few more photos of the smaller quantity operations. The third picture is the Vice President Adam demonstrating a tricky style of flower, that he admits to not being good at. This specialty work is done by a group of long-time employees who are the true experts.
I enjoyed the chance to make the small pink flower but what I really liked about this experience was the chance to see this specialty factory in motion. The visit also filled my head with ideas I could send to the factory since they are very happy to do any custom work and can work with any fabric. Although generally wearing flowers is not my thing, I did buy the flower shown below which I saw in a box next to one of the experienced workers. This was an experiment they were trying and were happy I liked it. To make this, a piece of thin wire had to be pulled through a ribbon slowly and carefully, a very labor intensive process, so I appreciate this even more.
Anyone can visit M&S Schmalberg so if you are interested and in NYC, you can just stop by and shop for whatever flowers you may need (or not yet know you need:). If Adam is free, he’ll be happy to give you a tour.
Korean Food (another activity in NYC - if you visit the flower factory you can combine it with a visit here).
Make your own fabric flower to get an idea how difficult it is.