Sunday, July 27, 2014

Are you a designer? Get inspired...

Imogene and Willie is a jeans manufacturer that could have grown anywhere.  Listen to the story, and get inspired.

I see this story as a direct response to my "As Yet Untitled" blog post.

After absorbing this information, I invite you to the seminar.

I suspect your objection may be that it can't be done here.  Allow me to correct you...

There's a "garment district" of sorts emerging in Brooklyn...  You can read about it here and here...

After all, we are all makers, aren't we?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Navel Gazing


That was a word used to describe my blog.  See the negative post here. Funny thing is, introspective rambling is kinda what the blogosphere is about, isn't it?  And I really like that. Frankly, I like to visit the blogs of people I find fun/interesting to listen to.  If it isn't interesting to me, I simply don't read it. Problem solved.  If I were an aspiring journalist, I would report news.  An activist?  I'd talk about issues.  A garment district fanatic? Well, I do wander a bit, but that's my focus, really.  So...



There was also a comment regarding the fact that I don't often show the things I make.  Well, I don't think my taste in clothing and accessories would necessarily have a broad appeal, but the appeal of the things I do make is extremely specific.  I am wildly self-conscious about doing "selfies", so my photos don't often capture the "magic" that I'd like to convey.  If you have an interest in seeing what I've made, I'll gladly show you. As a matter of fact, I'll show some things more often, and see how that goes.

Because I'm neither a plain Jane nor a supermodel, I am not quite sure how to take pictures of myself in a way that doesn't look like I'm neither trying too hard, or not trying hard enough.  I do know how to do the "movie star" thing, since I've done it for so many other people, but doing it for myself just feels... weird.  Living in a city like New York gives and abundance of fancy places to take photos while looking "natural", but I just can't...

So, I'll share something here today.  

This is in response to something i saw on the internet that really annoys me....   I don't like these "halfway" DIY posts that kinda hint at how to do something, without really telling you what you need to do to make it.  It feels kinda like someone explaining how to parallel park to someone whose never done it. So, here's the "vest" I made, and how I made it.

At 2:15 PM - I took out a small piece of a border print stretch knit from Elliott Berman.  Pretty, right?  60" long, 30" wide.  What could be done with it to feature the borders?

This fabric was particularly suitable for my plan...

I hemmed all four raw edges on the machine.  Finished that at about 2:30.

Did other things, ate lunch, had some phone conversations, sorted the laundry, and watched Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  Yeah, seriously.

At about 6:30 PM, I sewed a loop on the center top back edge, tied the two front top corners to it, and VOILA! I had made  a vest.

Looks nice when worn, but you've just gotta trust me, since I am a very selfie-conscious!

Front - no closures

Very basic, very pretty, very easy, and I can wear it with a spaghetti strap tank top and make the tank look significantly less bare, and more easy-casual.

Total time investment? Hard to say, since I had to make some decisions about which fabric I'd use, and what dimensions kept if from looking heavy, and that takes some time.  But really, 1/2 hr?  Here are the simple instructions I wrote, which you may save, if you're interested.

If this kind of explanation makes no sense to you, please feel free to let me know, as I am very interested in how different brains process information...

Monday, July 14, 2014

The things you didn't know you were looking for...

Tearing through the garment district at breakneck speed the other day, I went on an inadvertent shopping spree.  I tend to visit the stores through the eyes of a traveler,  noticing small changes when stores rearrange, brighten their palettes, change their focus, etc. I touch things, I interact, I talk to owners and employees, and all of this opens the doors to wonderful discoveries. When I consider what my purchases from that day will (hopefully) yield, my shopping trip was actually an outrageous bargain of an excursion. When I think about how I deviated from my simple plan of just stopping into one store with a very focused mission (a plan I failed to achieve), my wallet cries a little, but I will survive!

Having said that, what I want to share with you, is that this adventure led me to a few stores where I found a variety of things I have either never noticed before, or simply didn't realize were available to be found.  

Pacific Trimming

Once inside, I felt the creative vibration. I walked to the back, peeked just to the right of the button area, just before the "Employees ONLY!" sign, and saw impeccably neat folded stacks of resilient, crisp, ribbed knit cuffs and edges.  No, not the tatty factory overrun pieces you've seen in other stores, offered from a tattered box in piles of dingy mini-ziplock bags... these, by contrast, are precisely the pieces you would actually want to finish the edges of your own sweaters, hats, soft pants and jackets.  These are the kind of pieces you can use to breathe new life into old things that need a structural rescue. New ideas abound.

Then... I saw bra cups attached to a band.  I didn't know you could actually buy what is best described as the front half of of strapless molded bra, categorized by cup size. Oh, the time that could save!

Unique closures.  If you can relax your brain enough to do it, look at all of the wild closures they have.  From things that look like suitcase locks, to padlocks, to things you push, squeeze or slide, there are amazing ways to close, hook, dangle, and connect things.  Full of ideas after seeing so many things in there.

Oh yeah... I had gone in for buttons, and forgot to get them.  Whoops.

Steinlauf & Stoler

Maybe they always had them, but I noticed mastectomy pads for sale in a bin above the thread. I have designed garments for people who wear mastectomy bras so many times, I forget that we are not limited to always designing around it, since we can build the pads into the actual garment, if needed.

Oh, and they had the buttons I needed. No problem.

Fashion Design books

The little touch knife Olfa tool they offer is outrageously inexpensive and just adorable.  I'm sure that will come in handy every now and then...

Bonded leather sheets in different weights.  The "hot dog" of leather products, really, bonded leather is a pressed pulp made from leather waste.  A professional sewing friend has long lamented the loss of "stay papers" sold in various weights to give structure to handbags, and these bonded leather sheets felt like a suitable, flexible, substitute.  She assured me that there are no "rules" for making handbags, so it is essential that you use your own ability to think like a sculptor/architect when looking for suitable support for the handbag's shape.  Another friend of hers had looked at art supply stores, trying matte board and heavy drawing paper for support in some areas. Always experimenting, this bonded leather product is next on my agenda.

Handbag cord.  Probably offered in other stores elsewhere in the district, I particularly liked the weight, shape, and feel of what this store had to offer, and will be excited to make some wrapped handles using this product.

So, all in all, a good haul.  Working steadily, and I have accomplished a great deal on my "Working Title" blouse.  The amount of hours this particular work has absorbed is just incredible, but it wouldn't be what it is becoming without it!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A History of Lingerie Exhibit at the Museum atFIT

I my be wrong on this, but...

Kinda weird for me to apologize in the intro, isn't it?  

I may have missed the point of this exhibit, or maybe I just think differently when it comes to the subject of lingerie.  While I find it hard to articulate my feelings about this event, as always at FIT, it is still absolutely a worthwhile visit.  Exploring the developments in intimate apparel from the 1800's until the present day, this display of items is an interesting assemblage of pieces, with a solid range of "flavors".   What I feel this exhibit of unmentionables leaves unmentioned, is that so much of lingerie is structural, technical, about supporting the self esteem of the wearer, and/or reshaping/re-sculpting parts of the body, and, while beautiful, is often specifically not fashion oriented.

I recognize that there have been trends in lingerie ("Wonderbra", anyone?), of course, but from this exhibit, the major unifying theme I saw, was that they were all represented as pieces specifically meant to be worn on bare flesh. Is lingerie really defined by ease of "access" to what it adorns?

Maybe we each have our own definition of lingerie?

Whenever I visit an exhibit at the Museum at FIT, I discover a very specific reason for my specific experience there.  Something always jumps out at me, grabs my heart, inspires me, and holds me transfixed by its artistry, wrapping me up in its magic.  This time, it was a beautiful Fortuny pleated cascade of a slip dress that was absolutely magical.  If I were to translate this dress into an experience, the scene would be a figure in silhouette, pouring a glass of burgundy around midnight, poised on a a chaise lounge, poolside, beneath a candle-lit chandelier adorned with tiny grey Tahitian pearls and onyx. 

I would say this exhibit had a more commercial feel than most, as if it had been done with the goal of attracting a particular type of audience. I can certainly appreciate that I am not the target market for every show, and that I may be missing the goal here, but having worked in this industry specifically, I think this particular topic merits a significantly larger and deeper exploration. You may find more information on this particular exhibit here.

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Working Title

A few weeks ago, I spent a full week just thinking about the right buttons for a project, and then, a few days later, I spent full day on a hem.  


A hem.


Not a huge, horsehair reinforced bridal hem, or a hand-rolled chiffon baby hem (which would explain that amount of time).  


It is the hem of a relatively simple self-drafted blouse I started conceiving last year.  And this blouse isn't even for me.  It is part of an ensemble for an endlessly patient recipient, who knows I have been fighting through a professional and creative block for quite some time now.  Thank God I've known her all my life, so she understands, but of course, not fully... or she would tell me to just drop it, if it's too hard to complete.  She would just die if she knew how many hours in I am at this point. Frankly, I would refuse to drop it, anyway.

There are times when my hands simply won't move.  Times when turning on the sewing machine requires excessive preparation for me.  A deep internal pep talk, then deciding that I need a proper and wildly elaborate breakfast that includes a trip to the grocery store, then spending far too long scrubbing some unknown stain off of something that I've decided simply can't wait, all in an endless attempt to shut off the noise in my head so I can begin.  While my practical tasks are positively ON FIRE right now, many days, even that creative "beginning" never starts.

My brain is alive with far too many ideas right now.  I feel that I run the risk of exploding if I don't release them.   And this post is part of my exercise to find that release.  I am determined to find that release. My projects following this one are all lined up and ready to go, but somehow, the needle doesn't get threaded.  The scissors don't get touched. I have been wildly creative in our kitchen (and wow, has THAT been fun, and yummy...) and I've been intensely present and engaged for the Speakeasy tours, as well as in my writing, business life, sketching, pattern-making and conceiving.  My output has been enormous, but not my sewing output, the physical DOING of it, which feels like a clogged pipe. 

I know that this particular ensemble I'm making is uniquely beautiful.  It will be something really definitive in my life as a person who makes special articles of clothing. In fact, I am certain this particular ensemble is important work. My heart sighs as I see it develop.  I know I will feel as if I am parting with my firstborn when I turn it over to its owner.  I have to admit, I don't actually WANT to turn it over. I also know that if I were to keep it (in my size, of course) , it would simply hang in my closet, waiting for that occasion that never comes... and I do wish I could keep it for myself, but it really is specifically hers and only hers.  It looks like her.  It totally came alive on her in the fittings.  And yet, I'm fighting with my own hands to complete it. Every day, I swear to myself I'm almost finished, yet every day, I am not.  Sewing/creating/designing has long been my meditation and my joy, and the motivation to complete a project comes from something that isn't money or fear of the consequences of having an angry client, or any of the things that I would hope could just force me into action.  It comes from somewhere I can't even identify.  I've always been desperate not to become a temperamental artist-type, yet I'm scared that is exactly what I've become.

While I don't compare my talent to his, Charles James was rumored to have been difficult to rely on for completion of a garment.  While I do not use this information as an excuse to endlessly fuss over the details of a garment, I can certainly take comfort in the idea that there was at least one other person who could become obsessed with the minutiae and refuse to let go until satisfied with a garment's completion.  I will assume he often had to stop and wait for the creative muse to appear.

Creative people can often find themselves blocked.

I've been looking at other sources for creative inspiration, and the things I've found that resonate all seem to be shouting the same message to me right now.

A writer must write, a creator must create, and a craftsperson/designer must make/craft/design.  There is no other way.  Late last year, I tried to turn off my creative side, listen to my practical side, fall in line, and just march...  I thought I could do that.  Just to get a regular paycheck.  I was willing to just put on earplugs and march.  I sincerely was.  What I discovered, however, is that sometimes your ears have tuned into a certain frequency that is only your own, and your brain won't let you hear but one drummer.

I am no longer endlessly meandering down a creative path.  I can see that I am truly wed to a creative life, and I am finding my way.  The static on my internal radio will clear.  The cover of my own book is still a bit fuzzy, and I am squinting to make out the words. Now, my hands have to be on board too, please...

Some years ago, I had a wonderful client who commissioned me to make 4 jackets.  We had an instant rapport, and became actual friends throughout the process of our designing and finding textures and fabrics together.  Her classically English husband was an incredible motivator to me, keeping me on top of my game, as he would review the items, gently fondle the soft roll of her lapels, and offer his quiet approval as I shaped the cuffs, sleeves, and length of her jackets.  The garments were visually beautiful, but of course now, as I've matured in my craft, I can think of about a million ways I would/could have technically improved them, if I had the chance to reproduce them now.  She was an Academy Award winning movie maker/writer/producer, and we truly had a sincere respect for each other's talents.  I once asked her how she makes movies.  What an enormous undertaking. Does she see the movie in her head, or does she just start writing?  How does it all come together?  "Well, you do start with the writing, of course... " she said.  "But, above all else, you have to have a working title."

I guess that's not unlike anything, huh?  A garment, a career, a life plan... "a working title" is necessary.  I can't wait for the day my hands start responding.  I have to practice moving my hands until they can find pick up the rhythm again.  Starting RIGHT NOW.  And yes, I have already pushed the power button on my machine.

Now, if you'll excuse me...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

So, what did we learn on yesterday's Speakeasy?

When it comes to Speakeasies, I'm always surprised at how a tour is ALWAYS  far more than JUST a tour.  

Yesterday was truly filled with great interaction, fun-loving, truly inspired and inspiring tour participants, and a great learning trip for all of us.  I had asked the participants in advance what they were looking for and curated the locations before our outing to match their specific needs.  I also took them to peek into and explore places that our conversations inspired along the way. We had a long, productive outing, and I think I learned as much creative and non-creative information from them, as they learned about the choices the garment district offers from me!

The specifics of the trip were specific to our group, and, while I could tell you where we went and why, the specifics are simply too specific, and the stories too unique to share in a way that will serve a wider audience.  This was truly a custom speakeasy for an intimate group, who really enjoyed themselves!

In fact (full disclosure), I have written and erased maybe three paragraphs while writing this simple post.  Either it is short and sweet, or an entire novel!

For the women who were with me yesterday, I offer my sincere thanks for a great day... My brain is still marinating in the inspiration and thought-provoking conversations/ideas we shared yesterday! From ice skating to summer camp, to bags and beads and buttons, to life/creativity/employment in other countries, to, to cotton sateen and eyelet, to the "secret" to traveling from NJ, to the work/life balance, to ... well, on and on and on.... I really enjoyed your company, ladies!