There’s not long now until the SewBrum meet-up taking place on Saturday 04th October. One of the stores we’ll be visiting on the day is Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham city centre. Fancy Silk Store is located right next to Birmingham rag market & has three floors of fabric, all of which are packed to the rafters.
Alicia from the team at Fancy Silk Store found the time to answer a few questions:
Could you tell us a bit more about the store?
Fancy Silk Store is a family-run business set up in the early 1960s and has been around for over 50 years. We started off in Birmingham city centre next to the old Bull Ring complex but had to move to make way for the new Bull Ring shopping centre. We have been at our current location, nestled beside Birmingham’s focal shopping centre the Bull Ring and St Martin’s church, for 15 years. We are on the main route into the city centre for buses and a short walk away from Birmingham’s train stations. We are in a vibrant bustling location with plenty of amenities, and If you want to continue shopping in Birmingham, we’re happy to hold onto your purchases until you’re ready to leave.
We have three floors of fabric. The ground floor houses fashion and dressmaking fabrics such as suiting, cotton, and wool, as well as dance and theatre fabrics. The first floor houses evening wear and bridal fabrics, and the third floor is devoted to furnishing fabrics. We also have a fourth floor stock room which is stacked to the rafters with hundreds of fabrics.
Could you tell us about the shop team?
We are a family run business now into its third generation. The manager, Mr Rashid, has been with the business for over 40 years. As well as the family, there are three long-standing senior members of staff (one on each floor) who have been with the business for at least 20 years. They are very experienced, dedicated and more often than not can help you to find exactly what you are looking for and to purchase the right amount of fabric for your project.
You have a huge range of fabric! Could you tell us a bit more about what you have in stock?
We stock a small range of haberdashery items and patterns from Vogue, Butterick, McCalls and Simplicity. However, fabric is our main focus and we try to stock as wide a range of fabric as possible. We probably house one of the largest retail variety of fabrics under one roof in the UK.
The ground floor is a real mix where we stock a very large range of printed and plain cotton, polyester, interlining, felt, suiting, wool, fleece, faux suede, pvc, denim, corduroy, jersey and lycra.
On the first floor we have the fancier fabrics and bridal fabrics. We have chiffon, satin, silk, crepe, and plain, beaded and embroidered lace in a very wide range of colours.
On the third floor we have our furnishing and upholstery fabrics, towelling, hessian, sheeting, pvc, and a whole wall of faux furs.
In addition, we have fabric books from a range of brands that customers can order from in store.
The manager, Mr Rashid, is our main buyer and chooses what is stocked, based on a combination of feedback from staff and customer demand. He also takes into account the latest fashions in clothing and interiors. For example, florals have recently been a growing trend not only in fashion but also interiors and we have beautiful floral prints for both departments. Hat nets and jersey fabrics are a couple of examples where we have increased our range because of customer demand.
Do you have a good sense of what your customers want to buy?
In general we do have a good sense of what our customers buy. We have a lot of regular customers not only local but from all over the country and abroad. Our customers vary from home dressmakers, theatres, dance schools, art students, bridal parties, upholsterers and curtain makers, to people just wanting an odd piece of fabric to fix or make something.
We usually have something in stock that’s suitable or if not we can often source it. For example, last year we had a few people looking for neoprene (the fabric used for wetsuits) as it had started to appear on the catwalks and we managed to track down a supplier. It’s also lovely when we have mothers coming in with daughters to choose wedding dress fabric when, perhaps 30 years ago, they had come in with their own mothers to choose fabric for their own wedding dress.
Home sewing has definitely been having a revival and what’s been particularly nice over the last year has been the number of people who have come into the shop who want to sew something for the first time in years.
What are you excited about in the shop right now?
We have been increasing our range of lace fabrics and we have some beautiful laces which, as well as the traditional wedding ivory and white, come in vibrant colours.
With winter coming, we have a huge selection of fleeces, both plain and patterned, including a selection of animal print fleeces. We also have some stunning feather fabric and sequin fabric in time for the Christmas party season.
We’ve also recently had a delivery of beautiful cotton prints, wool worsteds and suiting as well as some good quality heavy-weight jerseys.
In the furnishing department, we’ve had some lovely quirky prints and check fabrics in. In addition to this we have a huge selection of plain and patterned faux fur, some of which is incredibly luxurious.
What are your all time best sellers?
I would say that the furnishing and bridal fabrics have always been good sellers.
In particular our bridal fabrics, especially the duchess satins where we have a very wide range of colours at a very competitive price. Our heavyweight crepe has always been a very popular fabric and we quite often get people coming back to buy it in multiple colours.
We also have lots of customers coming in for dance costumes and so we have a very wide variety of lycras which have always sold well.
Thanks Alicia. I will be perusing the neoprene and jersey selections on the 04th!