Let me explain. I’m no fabric store newbie. My very first job was working in a warehouse style fabric store, full of hundreds of fabric types. I knew where they all lived and could tell you how to wash them. I’ve purchased fabrics in Asia, North America and Europe, mentally converting yards to metres and pesos to pounds with ease. I have held my own against the ‘oh so knowledgeable’ fashion-school-graduate shop assistants in London’s Soho. I thought I’d done it all.
When we set off for Copenhagen, I looked for recommendations of fabric stores and found one not far from our hotel. I.W. Hvidberg was established in 1780 and came e-recommended by a local.
So on the afternoon of our first full day, we set off to find this old fashioned shop. And it was great! Beautiful fabrics left, right, and centre. In the back was a workroom (they also do tailoring – in fact all the other customers were there for outfits) with machines, sergers, dressforms galore. I wandered around, impressed with the range of fine fabrics they had. But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how much anything cost.
Fabric bolts had different types of tags on them. Some had several numbers, some just one. None of the numbers made sense – there’s no way pure wool would be 24 kroner (about £3) per meter. After much browsing and increasing confusion, an assistant became free and asked if she could help.
I asked her how the pricing worked. She responded, “You have to ask me for the price*”. The shop owner responded to her, saying she could tell me how it worked.
So she came from behind the counter and explained that not every bolt had the same tag, but if they did, I could find the price on the back. And that I needed to add a zero to the end of each number.
So the penny dropped. The number I’d seen was for 10cms. That pure wool I’d seen wasn’t 24 kroner per metre, it was 240 (£30) – which made a whole bunch more sense.
The code cracked, I realised the lovely fabric was at least as expensive as the nicest shops back home. We’d been there quite a while already and it was hot and stuffy. So I admitted defeat, and left without a scrap of new fabric. It was unique and beautiful though and if I ever find myself back on Løngangsstræde, I will venture back into those well-stacked aisles of fabric and emerge with something lovely.