I had the opportunity to talk with Faina Goulb, owner of Leather, Suede, Skins in The Garment Center to learn about working with leathers and to get an overview of the store. Faina has been in the business for over a quarter of a century and has worked with everyone from the 7th Avenue icons to young designers and students in the industry.
Faina took me on a tour of the store and explained that they are constantly getting new inventory sourced from all over the world to keep up with the trends and be relevant. Their stock is plentiful, with over 30 types of skins ranging form basics like cowhide and lambskin to exotics like ostrich, stingray, python and lizard. Even more fascinating were all the treatments they had in stock like prints, geometrics, neons and flocked leather in a range of colors. My description is not doing the store justice as it is truly a leather paradise and something you will have to experience yourself.
After my tour, I asked her for tips on sourcing and she said the most important thing is to come in with a vision. She painted a very familiar picture (and one we should overcome) of the customer that comes into the store, and when is asked to be helped says, “I’m just looking.” Well, in a shop that carries over 3,000 leather prints alone, looking may be overwhelming. Faina says, don’t be afraid to ask so she can help you in the process and determine how your vision will translate into a finished product.
She made a good point that certain types of leathers work better on different products and functions. For example, a weekender bag lends itself to a durable leather while a suede floral cutout works better on a garment. This is great because so many times we fall in love with a color or a type of leather and loose sight of how the product will be constructed or how it will wear when a consumer uses it. My key takeaway here is that they’ve probably seen leather created and treated in every single way, and their tips and advice are like gold!
Faina also imparted her wisdom. For any designer, know your customer, because at the end of the day, your product has to sell. She also confirmed that success comes with experience and that you should be willing to make mistakes and learn from them each season in order to grow and evolve as a designer. After my chat with her, it was clear that Leather, Suede, Skins is not only a resource to buy leathers, but a place to get expert help and develop a great NYC partnership.
Check this Garment Center resource:
261 West 35th Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001