M & S Schmalberg at first glance does not look like your typical Garment District store. According to the owner and our tour guide whose family has run and made artificial flowers since 1916, the garment district used to operate a lot differently. Whole buildings were manufacturing or designing, allowing neat features like gas heating pad tabletops that were used to press and indent flowers to give them their intricate detail. The flowers themselves would be carted mainly around NY to other production houses to be used. Now, the business is one of the few fashion tenants in the building and gas has been removed completely. Instead, they have hydraulic presses and have retrofitted the molds to work with them.
Along the journey Adam said the company had to majorly innovate to keep up and in business. While there were once a multitude of artificial flower stores in NY, M & S Schmalberg is the only one left. The company’s willingness to expand into different avenues is a testament to their ability to survive. Now they make flowers for just about anything you can imagine, for amazon, etsy, fashion brands, costumes (like Disney and Broadway), interiors, weddings, and so much more! Their flowers can be seen on celebrities such as Constance Wu, Emma Watson, Reece Witherspoon, Beyonce, Emelia Clarke, Jared Leto, Scarlette Johansen, Kristen Stewart, and such a multitude of others that the owner Adam was having trouble naming them all.
Additionally, Adam walked us through and showed us the entire process from cutting, to stamping, to wiring, and of course the final process: shopping. I left with two beautiful flowers for my grandma’s and an appreciation for the resilience of the fashion industry!