Check out the Aladdin’s cave…

It’s testament to how a hobby can change your whole outlook that this unprepossessing cold room in North London looks like an veritable cave of wonders to me.

aladdins cave B

This is Cannon Street Jersey Fabrics. A factory clearance operation specialising in knits where the prices are, oh, £1/m.  Same as when I visited in late 2011 following a tip-off from Dibs and the machine. Looks like inflation has skipped over the goodies hiding behind these corners…

Aladdins cave A

My hasty pictures don’t show the many rolls of knit fabric to be found. While it wasn’t all to my taste, I found a good number of gems, including the hot pink animal print I used in my recent Quest Cardigan, as well as a snazzy silver patterned knit that longs to be a party dress.

aladdins cave D

They’re open Monday to Friday, with what appear to be earlier closure on Friday afternoons, so it’s worth ringing ahead just to be totally sure. I HAVE BEEN ALL THE WAY TO TOTTENHAM TWICE WHEN IT TURNS OUT IT WAS CLOSED. Do not do this.

It’s a testament to my fabric madness that I love this place. Here’s the address in case you’re in the locale:

16 Ashley Road, Tottenham Hale, London, N17 9LJ

Tel: 020 8885 9401

It’s super-close to the Tube station but still a little off the beaten track.

If I have a reservation, it’s the price. Reading about sustainability issues on various sewing blogs (such as So Zo’s…) has made me more conscious of the provenance of the clothes and the fabric I buy, and low consumer prices are an aspect of this complex subject. So £1 a metre does make me pause: how can it be so affordable?

The business is described as factory clearance, so I’d imagine that would create a different pricing model. But I know nothing about the wholesale fabric business, so any thoughts would be of great interest!

Is a bargain a bargain? Or can something be too cheap?

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14 Responses to Check out the Aladdin’s cave…

  1. Stevie says:

    That place does look amazing but I know what you mean about the price. Its difficult when your on a tight budget though, i’ve seen bad quality jerseys in high end shops for £10 a meter which isn’t right either,
    I’m doing a Walthamstow meetup around Saturday 2nd of Feb if your interested!
    Would be great to see you, leave me a comment or drop me an email if you fancy coming beebeesvintagedress@hotmail.co.uk
    x

    • I know what you mean about budgets vs bargains! I wanted to put something in recognising that. Because unless you’re rolling in it, you’re not necessarily in a position to second-guess a good deal. But i was having trouble distilling all that into a couple of sentences.
      A meet-up sounds cool, I’ll check out your post! Walthamstow is so close to Tottenham Hale, it’s such a shame Cannon Street Jersey isn’t open weekends 😦

  2. wow – great tip – thanks! i think things can be too cheap, for example t-shirts for £1 in primark or whole chickens for £3 in tesco. but for me the unacceptableness (is that a word? i think not!) or those is the amount of money someone was paid to produce that item to be sold at that price at a profit.
    i think it is different if it is a sale/ clearance. i guess for a factory clearance it could well be a factory that has gone bust (which if course will be very difficult for the owners/ workers) but could just as easily be surplus stock or seconds. so it will be the profit margin that takes the hit, not the producer.
    i don’t think i’m explaining myself very well and sure someone will be able to point out that i am totally wrong in this, but i am interested to know more too!

    • That’s a good point, I hadn’t thought about it like that. I was thinking of the very low-cost products that you mention, which require someone along the line to take the hit, whether it’s a farmer (or indeed the chickens themselves) or factory workers. But if it’s pure cabbage (love this) then as you said it’s a different picture.

  3. yesilikethat says:

    Okay I HAVE to go to this place with you. I will take an afternoon off work to sample it’s delights!

    I am similarly clueless about the pricing issue, but I guess if they are selling this stuff wholesale to companies to make garments, it will be pretty cheap in the first place. Then if garment factories have extra stock to get rid off, maybe they sell it SUPER cheap to this place which manages to make some kind of margin off it at £1 a metre? Maybe it’s part of a larger operation? Hmmmm. Would love to know more about how the garment industry works, it’s so shrouded in mystery.

    • I’ve dropped you an email re: cave meet-up.
      Thinking about the margins, I guess the business works the same way as Poundland or 99p stores etc. Those models work off buying surplus stock (as I understand it) and must be making profits since they’re expanding all over UK high streets.

  4. Thanks for the tip off, it’s been added to my list of fabric shops to shlep to! I’ve done a bit of reading on ethical fashion (if you’re interested then To Die For by Lucy Seigel is a good place to start) but the origins of fabric isn’t really touched on. I would imagine in the same way that you can’t guarantee fairtrade/organic/ethical unless it is certified on your clothes that the same would apply for fabric. Though it’s not hard to find fabrics that cover these criteria it does limit your choice somewhat but as some fabric shops get the remnants from big clothing companies (it’s called cabbage in the industry; really) as they begin to produce more clothes made with organic etc. fabrics this will filter down to us sewers!

    • Cabbage, fantastic! Looks like the term dates back to 1663 so I presume there have been businesses built around this for centuries, in fact I just found a designer, Sir Plus, who exclusively uses cabbage to make dapper waistcoats and so on.
      Thanks for the book recommendation. It’s an issue I skirt around because I know I’m not too ethical a shopper but other sewers are definitely making me think about it more!

  5. Maria Gonzalez says:

    Hello there! Its Maria here, this is a great tip, thank you so much. Can anybody help me with this? I have just started organizing my little business of smart spanish handmade cloth for children. The idea I have is offering classic vintage style cloth for kids 0 – 4 good quality and handmade in Spain. This is not going to be cheap as Primark, H&M or even Zara Kids! but I want my cloth to be affordable for stylish families who has not money to waste! In Barcelona there are a few Fabrics warehouse where to get fabrics per meter in a very good price as they sell only to shops or cloths makers no to public directly you must buy more than 10m so the price is good and you can be competitive. I wonder if you know any place like this where I can get reasonable quality and competitive price in London or south of England. Thank you so much!

  6. Maria Gonzalez says:

    I forgot to ask about this. Does anybody know if in this Aladdins cave I could find other fabrics apart from knit fabric? and a few of good quality? thanks!

    • Hi Maria, I’m afraid as a hobbyist I might not be the best person to give advice on this. There are some excellent fabric shops in the Goldhawk Road in West London especially that are not wholesale businesses. Google Goldhawk Road and fabric shops and you’re bound to find other UK bloggers posting fuller details about these places.
      As for Cannon Street Jersey, the majority of the fabric it sells on the shop floor is jersey.
      Good luck with your business!

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  9. Roberto Trebioli says:

    This place is amazing for fashion students! STRONGLY RECOMMEND!

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