While we’ve traded our summer wardrobe for sweaters and fall is spreading across New York City, everything is in full bloom at M&S Schmalberg. This sustainable item maker is located seven floors above Manhattan’s Garment District, but you might have seen their work in the Harry Winston window display or on HBO’s fabulous TV series Sex and the City. This company has been capitalizing on family, flowers, and the future of fashion for more than 100 years.
On Monday, October 7, my LIM College class and I walked into the charming custom fabric flower factory in the heart of Manhattan. However, this was not the stereotypical factory one might imagine with rows of machinery in a large, open warehouse. This factory was small, cozy, and reminded me of the days I would spend crafting things in my grandma’s basement. The showroom was filled with display cases of fabric flowers. Our host, Adam Brand, started by sharing the rich history that the four-generation family factory holds.
Adam Brand, son to Warren Brand, is helping run the family business. From the time he was three, Adam would visit his father at work, and soon enough both the factory and its workers became a second home.
When the company started in 1916, there were 10-15 other flower contractors. Now, M&S Schmalberg remains the last one standing in New York. The Brand’s take pride in knowing their flowers are handcrafted in America, because as technology has developed and “fast fashion” has taken over, most competitors have moved overseas, and many others couldn’t compete with the low costs overseas factories offer. Because of industry evolution, adaptation throughout the company has been a key factor to success. Clients such as Vera Wang, Oscar de la Renta, and stylists for Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Anne Hathaway all turn to M&S Schmalberg for their professionalism and expertise in the trade. That’s only to name a few!
While they have a big resume with high-end clients, the company also falls back on the meaning of family and takes on projects from wedding bouquets to converting a beloved family member’s dress into special mementos. Clients can also find these one of a kind flowers through a variety of channels such as Amazon or Instagram.
Our tour included the showroom and the stockroom. The stockroom serves two purposes, the first purpose being buying. The walls were lined with different colors, textures, patterns, and types of flowers all available for a client’s purchase. From silk to suede, leather to hand-dyed, they have it all. The second purpose is to help design. As we walked deeper into the stockroom, there were stations with people putting the flowers together by hand. The back held the original 100-year-old tools to get the correct shape, petals, and veining, which are still in use to complete all orders.
Brand left us with our own flower and an invitation to come back, really making us feel like part of the family. The warmth of what it means to be a family business shows in the craftsmanship of each petal’s layers. So, in case you run across one, take time to stop and “smell the roses” and take in the beauty of these fabric flowers.