When I was a little girl, I would go shopping with my mom and I would wander through the racks of clothing, touching everything. No, really, everything. Every skirt, dress, top and pair of pants. Every blanket, towel, quilt and duvet had to be felt by my little hands. While I didn’t understand it at the time, I felt drawn to each garment, needing to know the texture and hand feel of the fabric. Tops that were a drape-y knit made me stop in my tracks. I loved the softness of the material, and I was mesmerized how it fell, draping down in an almost fluid-like way. Cashmere made me stop too, but my mom would grab my hand and always say, ‘you have champagne taste on a bologna budget. Come on.’
20 years later and I spend most days doing the same thing. For those of you that don’t know, I work in the retail fashion industry. It’s literally part of my job to locate fabrics that we need for our products. I get fabric swatches in the mail and I feel them, are they soft or too rough? Can a wash be added to make it softer or should we have it brushed? My team wants wool, but I know the cost of wool is going up, and we’ll never get a soft handfeel with only wool. Let’s find a wool blended with nylon or poly. If I need a low price, add in acrylic yarns, as those are among the cheapest of yarns.
There is an entire world of fabrics, yarns and fibers, that the average consumer never even thinks of. When you go shopping and buy a top, you’ll never never know how much thought went into it, down to the very fibers within. The fiber is the smallest component, spun into yarns. Yarns are then woven or knit together to make a fabric. Some fabrics can retain heat as seen in outerwear, while some are made to allow for breathe-ability or moisture wicking, most often found in active wear. But, to me, the most important thing about a fabric will always be how it feels.