On October 7, I was fortunate to visit M&S Schmalberg, a flower factory in Midtown Manhattan, with my Intro to the Fashion Business peers and our professor. While M&S Schmalberg is a flower factory, these aren’t the typical bouquets you’ll think of. This company creates all types of flowers from all types of fabrics, whether it be leather, suede, or silk. Their most popular design tends to be a camellia, rose, or daisy.
During our visit, we met with Adam Schmalberg, who is the fourth generation of this family business. He taught us a lot about the background of the company: It was started in 1916 by his great-great-uncle, who probably had no idea it would still be here 103 years later.
We got to meet Adam’s father, who also works with the company. One of my favorite quotes Adam said about his father was, “Dad graduated on Tuesday, and he was here on Wednesday.” It really showed how motivated and driven this family was about the business.
Each flower is diverse in color, size, and texture. Some have more detailing and smaller petals, I even saw one dotted with Swarovski crystals. There’s so much variety possible. One great note that Adam mentioned was that customers are able to bring in any garment they would like made into fabric flowers. Apparently, a lot of people convert the material from their grandmother's wedding dress into their own wedding bouquet.
Another aspect with much variety is pricing. A flower could cost as little as $5 or it could jump to over $100. Adam told us this depends on how long it takes for the flower to be made. The flowers with low pricing could be made as quickly and easily as 100 per hour; but with some, you can only make ten in an hour. You truly pay for the labor put into the item.
To finish off, what would a great fashion blog be without mentioning trends? Trends are everywhere—even in the fabric-flower-factory world. With each royal wedding, there’s a new fashion role model to gather inspiration from. With the previous royal wedding, big flowers became very stylish for weddings, and M&S Schmalberg has to be able to cater to customers’ wants. Another great trendsetter for the company was Sex in the City—because there was an episode where Carrie Bradshaw wore a big flower. I love how you could actually see where the company drew design inspiration from, as I saw a few pictures of Carrie Bradshaw in the entrance hallway and in the showroom. The hallway also had photos of celebrities wearing M&S Schmalberg’s flowers: I saw one of Beyonce; I saw one from the movie Crazy Rich Asians.
These beautiful fabric flowers are truly everywhere, even if we didn’t know it!
About the Author Tessa Aldridge is a Freshman at LIM and part of the College's Fashion Scholars program. She is a Coleader of the LIM Blog Club and studying Fashion Media.