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STYLE: New boutique sews up fine-fabrics market

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Gabrielle Poshadlo

It only took one look at the squirrel fabric—a lightweight European woven cotton dotted with hundreds of tiny squirrel silhouettes—for dozens of clothing possibilities to usher forth. I imagined a summer blouse with tiny pouf sleeves, maybe the lining in a linen blazer, maybe a floor-sweeping sundress to go with my wide-brimmed straw hat.

That’s what happens in fabric stores: People get inspired. The bolts of silk and tweed, the rolls of shiny ribbons, and the racks of buttons dare the next creative person to put them all together into something beautiful.
 

Style The French Seam, located in Clearwater Shoppes on the northside, has a wide selection of what Young calls “adult cottons,” which are more stylish than quilting cottons. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

I’m not talking about a craft store like Jo-Ann Fabrics or a quilting store crammed with every calico imaginable. I’m talking about a fashion fabric store, where one shops for the trappings of an evening gown or a killer suit. I’m talking about something like The French Seam, where I saw the squirrel fabric, which I’ll be purchasing when the shop opens next weekend.

The new store is a family venture by Courtney Young and her mother, Linda Compton, who have already been working together for 11 years in the not-for-profit world.

Both recreational sewers, Young and Compton started writing the business plan for The French Seam nearly three years ago, to realize Compton’s dream of owning a fine fabric store in the Midwest.

“I’m tired of people saying sewing is a lost art, because it’s not,” Young said. “Anyone can do it with the right tools, and that’s what we intend to bring to Indianapolis.”

As I looked around the space at 3909 E. 82nd St., made small by the mammoth amount of stock and broad cutting tables, I could tell Young and her mother have good taste. The brands they had chosen reminded me of a smaller version of Haberman Fabrics, the Michigan fabric giant where my mom worked when she was 16 and where I worked from age 14 to 18.

I recognized KAI Japanese sewing scissors, Gutermann thread, vintage Vogue patterns, Missoni knits, YKK zippers and horse hair canvas, everything one needs to make a stellar garment.

Young and Compton describe their investment—a six-figure combination of family savings and a bank loan—as something like “blind faith,” since they admit they don’t really know who their customer will be.

But I think I know. A store like this has the potential to transform a city, heck, even a state. Indiana is home to five colleges and universities offering apparel design and fashion merchandising programs. And with only craft and quilting stores available locally, student work is often made with poor materials.

Inexperienced sewers will have a place to bring their projects for guidance, or learn new things in the small classroom set up near the back of the space. When a high school senior wants a custom prom dress, The French Seam will offer her something other than polyester satin. A man can select fine Italian wool for a suit without having to choose from an array of swatches, and a hobby sewer like me can find the right interfacing for my skirt pattern without having to order it online.

My fashion designer mother makes an average of three trips to her local fine fabric store every week, to get a different thread color or because she needs extra fabric. Now local designers will have the same luxury.

Young stresses The French Seam is not a bridal supply store—at least not yet.

“All that lace and satin could fill its own store,” she said. But that doesn’t mean she won’t add that later, since she says her gut tells her the store will be expanding in just a year. That’s in addition to the Web store component she hopes to add soon.

In the meantime, she and her mother look forward to getting some sewing done so the store has some display pieces.

I’m hoping they don’t use all the squirrel fabric.•

__________

If you’d like to share your own style ideas or know anyone who’s making waves in the fashion community, contact Poshadlo at gposhadlo@ibj.com. This column appears monthly.

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  • So glad!
    I grew up in Hendricks County and made many treks into Indy in the Mid 70's to buy fabric at Cloth World before marrying and moving to Alabama. I'm so glad to see a true fabric store returning to the area...you can bet I'll be headed to town to drop in next time I come up for a visit!
  • Julie
    I heard about the store before it opened and made a visit today. An entirely unique store with great fabrics that inspire. So glad too that they do not carry what you can get elsewhere easily - the everyday patterns and fabrics at the chain stores. A truly wonderful little shop with great potential to fill a void. I truly hope the sewers in Indianapolis take advantage and support this store.
  • congratulations
    Congratulations and all the best wishes to a successful opening and many years of fine fabric deals. Yes there is a need for more retail stores that offer fine quality fabrics and all the notions and supplies to construct quality garments. I wish "The French Seam" all the best in their business. I only wish I lived closer to shop there. I look forward to their web shop as I live in Wisconsin. congratulations and best wishes.
    Sincerely,
    Christine
  • Looking forward to it
    I passed by there today and saw the name of the store and wondered what it was going to be. Now I'm pleasantly surprised to find out.They aren't the first to have a high end fabric store on the north side though--Fine Line Fabrics was here for years in the shopping center in the spot now occupied by La Margarita restaurant. They've been gone at least a decade, and I had given up hope that anyone would ever fill the void they left.
  • The French Seam!
    I may be bias as my mom and sister are the two featured in this article, but the store is amazing. Have seen it all come together and any person that already sews are wants to learn is going to LOVE the French Seam. When looking around the store I immediately can think of so many things to do with the amazing fabrics and notions. Can't wait until the opening tomorrow. Also-What a great article...thank you so much!
  • Fabulous!!!!!
    There are so many needs that are going unanswered in Indianapolisfor fine laces and wools..... This shop will be a Godsend!!! Cannot wait to visit the shop.....
  • Fabrics
    Looking forward to viewing your postings. Rosie
  • Yessssss!!!
    I am so relieved that someone is replenishing the void left when the Fabric Studio left Madison Avenue on the South side. French laces, and upscale polyesters, Pendelton wools, all the quality materials needed for a garment made with pride! Maybe now we can all stop being the boring fashion drones wearing "non-shape flattering" styles in the uniform black or white and show some individualism in our attire! A Family & Consumer Science teacher by trade, I'm hoping the long cloth quality drought is over. Thank you!
  • Wonderful News!!
    I am so excited to share this article with my students! My daughters and I will be there this weekend.
    Thank you for coming to Indy!
    Liz Trinkle, Fashion and Textiles Teacher at Hamilton Southeastern and a mom to 4 daughters.(and I have never purchased a prom dress!!)
  • More growth in the fashion sewing world
    Kudos for a well-written positive business story.

    Yes, fashion sewing continues to revive, despite assumptions to the contrary. At Haberman Fabrics in the metro Detroit area, our most popular class is Sewing 101: "So You Want To Learn To Sew". It's great to see kids, teens and adults eagerly learning new creative skills and delighting in their achievements.

    Whether for personal satisfaction or career goals, new sewers are learning to patronize independent fabric stores, where they can get guidance and support for their projects, a better selection and quality of fabrics, and certainly, really good value. The French Seam should be well-received in Indianapolis by sewers inspired by TV shows like Project Runway" or the growth of home-based businesses and hobbies.

    Toby Haberman, Owner
    Haberman Fabrics
    www.habermanfabrics.com

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