Friday, September 30, 2005

Commonwealth Street

Commonwealth is perpendicular to Campbell and cuts it in half at some very strange angles (you're never quite sure where to get a cab from). Commonwealth has become better known in recent years thanks to Longrain, the city's funkiest Thai restaurant and bar, and while many restaurants and bars in Sydney have been 'it' one minute and Z-list a microsecond later, Longrain has somehow maintained it's uber-cool status. Having only been to the bar once - and being very impressed by the wicked drinks, attitude-less bar staff and ambiance, and tres sympa look and feel - in the name of research I will be back, and to sample the food as well.

Commonwealth has been the mecca for almost 30 years for anyone with a passing interest in fashion, dressmaking and getting married, thanks to Fabric Fantasy at No. 110. It is the city's premier fabric warehouse, stocking thousands of rolls of everything from hot pink velvet to the latest Versace and Gucci. And today, it closes.

I have been going to Fabric Fantasy ever since I can remember. Mum is a phenomenal dressmaker (and still makes most of her own clothes) so at the beginning she would drag me there to pick up fabric for a new jacket or dress and I - bored - would sift through buckets of buttons and finger the reams of lace and sequins. As a teenager my interest lifted as I begged mum for two metres of Versace tartan to turn into a skirt (yes), or tried to convince her that the Italian silk upholstry would make a fabulous suit (no). Saturday mornings buzz with wealthy brides-to-be arguing with their mums over which magnificent silk should materialise into their dream gown. The wedding section was the stuff of fairytales - mannequins floated in the most original, fantastical satins, silks, sequins. Lacroix colour interfused with mother-of-the-bride beige Armani. Posters of Chanel haute couture looked down on romantic roses individually sewn into lashings of tulle. It was easy to get carried away, although the sometimes-painful experiences of having your mother tailor your clothes has somewhat jaded me.

Recently it was I who would call up mum and ask if she wanted to meet me at Fabric Fantasy, just to see what was new, or to get inspired. And when I moved in around the corner in July, we talked about meeting regularly for a browse and a coffee. And a week after I moved in, the letter came in the mail, that after 28 years they were closing.

And having a closing sale. We went a week before the sale to scope out must-buys, which for me meant this amazing blue Italian silk that would be a hit summer dress. I hid it amongst the more boring fabrics as I always do. We came on the first day of the sale and couldn't believe it, the crowd was out the door, little old well-heeled ladies forced to bump into the black-clad drummers of next door's Billy Hyde drum shop. We could barely breath, but managed to duck in to find that someone had pinched my gorgeous fabric. It was sad, but not as sad as realising Sydney's best fabric shop - an institution! - was actually closing. Fabric Fantasy is the only place in Sydney to find designer fabrics, as well as a huge range of good-quality materials, unlike the chain craft shops that are mostly polyester and plain-jane.

At my last pop-in this week the store was virtually empty, a real warehouse, and the Spanish lady who has been serving mum for decades, gave me a gold button that I want to string through a chain for free. Mum, who has yards of unused fabric at home, but can't say no, bought some beautiful bronze lurex to turn into a summer singlet, and maybe one for me too.

Arrividerci, Fabric Fantasy, and thanks for the memories.

Posted by Julia at 1:39 PM


  1. Blogger I heart Hackney posted at 11:02 PM  
    How sad. What a shame. Why did it close? I hate when neighbourhood institutions shut down like that.
  2. Blogger SFChickie posted at 9:04 AM  
    It's been AGES since I've posted at 5-Streets San Francisco...Must get back to my 5 streets!

    How sad about your fabric store; it's like a local landmark has been erased.
  3. Blogger 5straatjes posted at 12:03 AM  
    Hey! what's happened since September in your five streets???

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