Chapter 7: Baring My Design Soul

So. Back to the bag.

For months I walked the garment district of Manhattan, ducking into store after store for fabrics and hardware. I became intimately familiar with each store’s personality, as well as the coffee trucks on 38th Street and my new favorite fast food find: Walk to Wok. Nomnomnom.

I digress from fashion to food.

So Ben needed all of my hardware and all of my fabrics. So I became intimately familiar with the garment district of Manhattan to find seemingly identical buckles and canvases, magnets, and D-rings.

The importers were often annoyed with my nondescript descriptions like “I’m looking for something that’s like…shiny but not too shiny and not too big but more like this size” (holding up two fingers) “and strong enough to hold twenty pounds and…”

I was so new. And then I’d walk out of stores having bought a $1.75 zipper.

But after several trips to this area, (often after auditions since the main NYC theatre audition studios are nestled in the garment district), I finally got my materials: webbing (shoulder strap material that’s like a car seatbelt), rivets, zippers, shoulder strap adjusting thingamajigs and hook doo-hickeys.

At the same time, I needed to get our lining fabric. And I wanted that to have a custom print. How the hell does one do that?

It was quite a process to get our “signature paisley” printed on fabric that would serve as the bag’s removable liner. The main problem was quantities. To have fabric printed economically, you need to make mass quantities. But I didn’t need mass quantities. I needed three square yards. The only way to do that is to have it digitally printed – like with a computer printer - as opposed to screen-printing (which is for mass printing.)

I made what felt like hundreds of phone calls and Google searches to figure out how to have our fabric printed.

Eventually I landed on a digital printing company in midtown Manhattan that undoubtedly wasn’t the most economical, but was willing to work with me. I just went with that. I was tired of researching.

I needed to keep meticulous track of where all these materials came from, keep a notebook of all the stores visited, along with fabric swatches and hardware finds. And I needed to keep all receipts to be able tot retrace my steps.

But I’m just not that guy. I didn’t do any of that. I kept swatches and extra buckles in a bag, and somewhere there’s record of all the purchases. But hell if I know where those bags of buckles and receipts are hiding.

Interminable months later, I was able to bring my fabrics and hardware to Ben Liberty. James and I sat down with him and presented the entire plan for our bag.

He asked for measurements.

We had rough ideas.

He asked for instruction on folds and seams.

We shrugged.

He asked for buckle placement.

We said, “Whatever you think?”

He questioned some of our logic.

So did we.

Ben did an amazing job of keeping his eyebrows down as we basically gave him a sketch of a napkin drawing of a very, very complicated diaper bag. He said, “this will be hard. But I’ll figure it out.”

We left that meeting feeling invigorated and relieved. It felt like we’d just presented our PhD theses that were works of art and had just survived a scrutinizing panel of judges.

Ben knew he was working with amateurs. And he was game. He liked our idea.

James and I celebrated by eating over-priced trendy donuts.

I started the timer for the estimate two weeks it’d take Ben to finish.

I needn’t have bothered.