Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Suited

This is truly a documentary worth watching.




Tuesday, June 21, 2016

3D printing wearable items- Don't get it? Watch this...

Second update to the orginal post - now more interesting because of the Manus Ex Machina exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Original post dated September 25, 2014 - but still exciting.  Update to this info, the Cooper Hewitt Museum has reopened, and their current design exhibit has wonderful ideas to offer on this subject!

If you are a visual learner like I am, watch this, and you will have a better idea. So exciting! Now, here's creativity on a whole new level! No words from me are needed here...

Monday, June 20, 2016

The fundamental missing piece of women's equality

I have thought and REthought this post.  I have changed my mind a million times. I decided that there is no good reason I can think of to write another "Debbie Downer"- style post, unless there are some practical solutions I can personally subscribe to on my own, ask you to join in, fuel your fire, and leave you feeling hopeful and encouraged.

So that's what I aim to do here.

I read an article written by Melinda Gates very recently, and it blew my mind, because it expresses the truth so clearly.


There's an old business maxim: what gets measured gets done. Well, it's true. Data drives results. Unless you can measure a problem—and thereby prove it exists—you can't start solving it.
One of the reasons that progress has been so slow for the world's poorest women is that we have very little data about them. There are still women who live and die entirely unrecorded. They leave behind no birth certificate, no death certificate, and no data about the struggles and challenges they faced—whether they had the chance to go to school or earn an income, whether they suffered from violence or disease, whether they died preventable deaths.
What little data we have about the world's poorest women is incomplete and, to put it bluntly, sexist.
Nowadays, we are in the dark about where most of our clothing comes from.  Even when it is created by our very own hands, the origins of and conditions from which our fabrics and supplies needed to make our clothing and accessories come are a mystery to us.

I have worked on my own, and for large and small companies, sometimes, discovering, much to my dismay, that something the company is doing is wildly unethical.  So, the truth is, once I know, I'm part of it.  As I sit here typing, I'm wearing a super cheap, perfectly fitting pair of jeans  from Old Navy, made of a fabric I've jokingly termed "barely denim", due to its whispery softness, but incomprehensible durability.  No way these jeans should have cost as little as they did.  But what do I KNOW for sure about them?  Nothing, really. 

Okay... looking at the label.  Made in Cambodia.  Although the RN# (factory number) is listed, it yields no results in my internet search.

So we can sit and complain about so many things, get lost in hand-wringing and lamenting the plight of the less fortunate, but it doesn't make anything happen.  We can all comfort ourselves by boycotting brands we know are operating unethically, we can hoist picket banners into the air, write to politicians, donate money to charities dedicated to fighting the exploitation of workers and children everywhere, or... we can reach out and be examples, leaders, and support to people we know, and people we don't... like this little girl:



There's some data we can measure.

What am I doing? I am helping kids. My help with be through a program that is teaching leadership skills to teenagers this summer. More on that later.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Working on... (A teen perspective)




As my daughter prepares for summer camp, she is filling our home with her beautiful cartoons, artwork and Hamilton-related fan art.  The designer/creative craftsperson in me is compelled to print some of her work on fabric for artistic projects. I have recently redesigned the strap attachment and construction puzzle that makes a bag design I developed quite some time ago work...



And it dawned on me that the perfect canvas for her work is a shell for the cradle bag I designed:


Oh yeah... This is gonna happen...




Monday, June 13, 2016

Unifiormity exhibit at FIT

The omnipresence of uniforms has shaped our ways of seeing.
-Jennifer Craik (fashion historian) 



Updated: This weekend I saw the Uniformity exhibit, and am updating this post accordingly.  This exhibit isn't a collection of stale uniforms; it actually takes the time to show the uniform's influence on design details, structure, and fabrics used in fashion. It is an intelligent conversation between fashion, inclusion, exclusion and function, worth seeing for a cerebral dose if fashion education.  Less eye-candy than most FIT exhibits, this one will appeal to the thinker/technician/designers among you.

Historically, the exhibit reacher as far back as 1895 (a dress with a "middy" collar) to pieces as modern as a Chanel Fall 2015 "Brasserie Gabrielle" ensemble.  If you think like I do, the featured garments will challenge your definition of what a uniform actually is, and how we identify it. Designed to both fit in and stand out, uniforms are important markers in our daily lives.






*Trumpet blares First Call/Reveille...


You awake from a deep slumber...

A stern voice announces -

"There is a new exhibit at the FIT Museum. 

Uniformity is its name."

Check it out by clicking the link here.  Then, schedule yourself accordingly, and go! And that's an order!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Led a private Speakeasy yesterday...


The weather was beautiful ... until it wasn't! (It rained cats and dogs yesterday in New York City.) But we made full use of our time together.  I led a wonderful, excited artist through some of the best stores in the district, and we had a blast.

Serendipitously, I also happened to run into a Speakeasy map purchaser, who was in one of the stores I recommended at the same time we were, and happened to mention something to a staff member that made me think she might be there very person I had interacted with via email... and she was!!!  Such a crazy moment!  It was so lovely to meet her, too!

As always, I was blown away by the beauty of the things we saw and happened upon along the way, and, as always, my heart aches for what I did not buy.

Examples below:




So, if you're wondering when to go, the answer is "NOW"!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Mode-ular. A Gen Z perspective

It's okay if the title makes you uncomfortable.  One thing I am grateful to my Generation Z kids for is the introduction of new vocabulary.

Today, courtesy of my boy "tween", or that strange middle-school no-man's-land of kid maturity... I introduce you to this tech wizard (video below), who my son adores, and hangs on his every word.  His brilliant explanations are truly food for technological thought, and, now that I've started listening, too, inspiring in the creative world as well.

Whether you choose to watch the video below, choose NOT to watch it, or this kind of thing doesn't speak to you, just know that he is explaining "modular" smartphones, and why the idea of having elements of a device that can be switched out is highly practical and desirable.





And because design and making things is always on my mind, the idea of things being "switch-out-able" has long appealed to me...


My term?

"MODE" (fashion) - ULAR.

I've been thinking more about the practical things I make, and how the fashion element of an entirely practical item can be switched out or modified to make the item so much more versatile.

Examples so far:










So it seems I am already into this idea of MODE-ULARITY.  I doubt that will change any time soon...





Sunday, June 5, 2016

Design, self expression, and the culture of (Groucho) Marxism

**Originally posted 7/6/12, but reposting today, because... well. I still believe what I said, and it still resonates... within me, at least.

I am often inspired by Seth Godin's blog, where he dispenses loving teaspoonfuls of business motivation, advice, and food for thought on a daily basis. His recent post on the decline of what he described as "(Groucho) Marxism" was a particularly brilliant one, and inspired some design-specific thoughts of my own.

He references the quote, "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member...", famously attributed to Groucho Marx, to fortify his point that often people often feel that they don't belong, are inferior, or somehow lack the stuff to really be the frontperson in their endeavors. I agree. You probably don't need any particular proof to see that there are far more "retweets" than tweets (a 65:35 ratio, according to The Archivist), and more people re-quoting benign motivational statements as their Facebook status updates than are sharing their own thoughts. There are more spectators than performers, more followers than leaders... You get the idea.

The joy of being creative or original in some way, is the ability to create something completely unique to you, to the people who interact with or use your work,  or to your customer.  It is a great way to convey your "youness".

We all get advice.  Solicited or unsolicited, in our best interest or not, we all get it. Some of it is good advice.  The good advice usually resonates. How many times do you need to hear the same thing over and over again, before you really "hear" it? Before you really "use" it?

Whenever someone receives an award, or gets to step up on a podium and speak after achieving something really great, it seems that some version of the same advice is always given. "Believe in yourself", "March to the beat of YOUR drummer", "Follow your heart", yet we spend so much time copying, looking to others to tell us what is cool, or fashionable, or in demand.

Just today, I read an article on Valerie Steele, Fashion's first PhD, and curator of the museum at FIT, where she gives just that bit of advice at the very end of the article. Although her advice is fashion-specific, she emphasizes the importance of sticking with one's passion.

So, what is my bigger point here?

Knock-offs and copycat versions of everything popular abound, and while I understand why, I find that in my own experience, nothing gets more feedback than the things that came straight from my own head, hands and heart. I'll bet the same is true for you, too. Yes, creating/sewing/making is a laborious process, and sadly,  not always a successful one. It is fraught with mistakes, missteps, and wrong turns, but ultimately, a valuable process and opportunity for education.

Make the things you've been dreaming of.  Go to the Garment District, shop in the stores, and realize those things that live in your head and your sketchbooks.  Your contribution improves the visual and cultural mosaic surrounding you, and everyone else. I'm not just saying this.  I'm doing it, too.  Join me.

If you sell your work, the quilt artist Faith Ringgold, an inspiration to me, and one whose work I adore, says that you must do the following three things to be successful:
  • build a body of work
  • find an audience
  • THEN find a market within that audience 
For any of you who are in the early stages of your creative life, if you can really take in this advice, it will prove valuable.  So many people put the cart before the horse, immersed in endless research, while creating nothing.

Know that you will make mistakes. Accept that.

Okay, so let's say you make a mistake.  Or ten. Treat it (them) as a learning opportunity.  So, when you are further along in the process, and someone asks you, "What's the best mistake you've ever made?", you'll have a great answer.

Interested in hearing your comments...

Saturday, June 4, 2016

How I won the lottery (and asked about buttonholes)

** Originally posted 5/12/13 - updated because I'm thinking about buttonholes now...



Seth Godin, currently the world's most successful blogger, gave a talk at The New School's Creative Mornings Series on Friday, and, geek that I am, I was BEYOND eager to attend.  Not only that, but I knew that I would be eligible to register for free tickets last Monday at 11AM, so I logged in at 3 seconds before 11, and dove in.  Did I get a ticket?  Yes.  And so did my best friend (who was equally psyched about it).  The event "sold" out in 45 seconds.

45 seconds! As an audience, we were praised for our "skill", but I think we were just the people who cared the most.

Whoa.



So, my friend and I sat in the front row, listened with focused attention to his talk, and only one burning question stayed in my mind from start to finish.  Yes, I listened to the challenges of the new economy, creative thinking strategies, workplace philosophy, and all of the other pithy insights he had to share, but...

Creatives, you know what that question is, don't you?

"Where'd ya get that jacket????"

So, did it come from a store that way, did he find a pretty sedate suit jacket and commission someone to jazz up the lapel, change the lining, and create a bold rainbow of multicolored buttonholes of which any web designer would approve?  Not only were the buttonholes cool, the color combination was particularly good.

There was a brief Q&A, when all questions were about business, and then an informal, seated-on-the-edge-of-the-stage Q&A, when I  scurried up to ask my question.

"There's a little store in the East Village," he said, "where they take these jackets from somewhere that are going to be thrown out, and do things like this to them.  I just saw it, and liked it."

Perfect. Nice upcycle, Seth.


  

Friday, June 3, 2016

The law of large numbers and the "Gambler's Fallacy"


Silk organza fabric from Rosen & Chadick


A few years ago, a bridal client contacted me, and asked me to make a bolero for her wedding dress.  As is often the case, this bride was second-guessing herself, feeling self-conscious about the exposure her strapless dress would require. Pale-skinned,tall and statuesque, she felt she needed a bit more coverage. Going back home to the deep south, her artsy-New-York-self battled with the traditional, sleek look she had chosen. She showed me a highly stylized photo of a model in a frilly, high-end, artsy bolero, and, using that photo as inspiration, I fashioned a length of silk organza into this bolero.  I draped the body on the dress form, with only two seams (one at each underarm), and then cut strips of raw-edged spiral bias to sculpt this look.  Pleased and confident with my creation, I took it to the bride for her approval.

And she hated it.

Per her wishes, I reworked and exaggerated this bolero to meet her requirements, and a much more over-the-top (with feathers!) version was born. While I didn't personally care for the exaggerated version, it was HER opinion and her wallet governing this transaction.  That's just true, and it is a painful lesson for me, or any creative person. I had made what I thought was better.  And that's not what she asked for.

Since then, I've shared this version on Facebook and elsewhere, gaining "likes" that support my belief that this is the best version of this bolero... but you know what?  I was looking to the law of large(r) numbers to support my claim, in a circumstance where its application is, frankly, irrelevant.

While working for an insurance company in a completely different capacity recently, I had a light bulb moment when the Law of Large Numbers was used to explain to an unhappy client why a decision had not been rendered in his favor.  "I know you are upset," he was told, "but do you think if we had put 1000 different people in your exact circumstances, that they would have all reacted in the same way?  Some would have chosen left/right, up/down, black/white.  Any different decision could/would have produced a different outcome."

Here's the definition:

In probability theory, the law of large numbers (LLN) is a theorem that describes the result of performing the same experiment a large number of times. According to the law, the average of the results obtained from a large number of trials should be close to the expected value, and will tend to become closer as more trials are performed. The LLN is important because it "guarantees" stable long-term results for the averages of random events. For example, while a casino may lose money in a single spin of the roulette wheel, its earnings will tend towards a predictable percentage over a large number of spins. Any winning streak by a player will eventually be overcome by the parameters of the game. It is important to remember that the LLN only applies (as the name indicates) when a large number of observations are considered. There is no principle that a small number of observations will coincide with the expected value or that a streak of one value will immediately be "balanced" by the others. See the Gambler's fallacy.

- Definition, as offered by Wikipedia


I had spun and lost.

When we shop for clothing, what appears in stores is a result of what has already been proven to sell, or expected to sell based on market data.  The fact is, while the bolero I made is fun, and many people have "liked" it, not a SINGLE person has ever sought to purchase a duplicate from me.  Would I wear it to a formal event?  Absolutely. 

My inner "gambler's fallacy" theory wants to scream,  "If other people love what I make, so will you!"  Not true.  That's not what custom clothing is.

Here's the thing.  That thing you love doesn't exist unless you create it. Fabric stores open up endless possibilities for us. Beautiful ideas abound.  Find your creative voice, and answer its call.  And not for anyone else.  Do it for yourself.

One thing I must convey here, is that whenever I make something a bit different, not driven by anything but my own creative urge, it is generally about three years before anyone says A SINGLE WORD about it.  Just two weeks ago, I took a long walk in Manhattan, appreciating the diversity of this city, and the complete lack of conformity among the people I encountered, and I must have gotten at least 8 unsolicited compliments from complete strangers on my shirt (now 4 years old).  

I say all this to lead to the bigger point.  I love to go to fabric stores and pick things, often without knowing what those fabrics will eventually become.  This is why a stash is not only important, but necessary for me.  Only today have I cut a fabric bought about three years ago, and now, it's time has come.  Shall I wait three years before I show you? No.  I will wear it when it is done.  Not for your sake, but for mine.

Trust your gut.  Make (or commission) what you love. That's all.

The perpetual shirt

*Updated 3/8/15*
and again... 6/3/16

On the evening of May 20 of this year, I laid out my perpetual shirt to wear on May 21st.  On May 21st, I got up, got dressed, and forgot to put it on... Now, it is labelled JUL 01 16, and I had to give it an alarm on my calendar, so I will remember this time! Ha!

A current exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York takes this idea in a completely different, more conceptual, fascinating direction.

Originally posted 4/1/13

You may already know that I love humor in my clothing. 

One particular piece I just made was inspired by Jerry Lewis.  He was rumored to have never worn a pair of socks more than once, and I was struck by the sheer impracticality and wastefulness of that choice.  Unless, of course, he had a sock endorsement deal, and a free lifetime supply of new socks, which could then be laundered and donated to charity monthly.  Then, that kinda cleans it up. Right?

Every now and then I get truly obsessed with a clothing-related idea, and, when that happens, I feel the need to talk it out. With anyone who will listen. So, I told some friends I was designing a "perpetual" shirt.  Every time I explained it, it generated at least 10 follow-up questions, most of them starting with "But... how would you..." or "Why would anyone ever..." No one really understood why this idea was important or funny to me.

But guess what...

When you make your own stuff, the only person who needs to like it or understand it is you.

So there.

I've learned by watching cartoons, that when people or animated characters get an idea, they often experience that moment beneath a single, illuminated light bulb. Well, not in this case.

My idea hit me like this...


This image in my head helped me sort out a way to make this work.  Look at my other blog for sewing info, if you care.

Okay, so yes, I know what today's date is, and no, this isn't an "April Fool" idea.  Really now, why would you even say that to me?

(*clearing throat) Moving on...

So, since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, here it is.

The "perpetual shirt". It only looks impractical... 


Cotton stretch fabric from NY Elegant. Why that store?  Because I am only making this shirt once, I want it to last a long time, and their quality and variety when it comes to fashion stretch fabrics is stellar.

Velcro by the yard from Daytona Trimming. Why that store?  Because I know they sell it by the yard, the prices are wonderfully reasonable, I find the store very easy to navigate, and getting quick, courteous assistance is easy there.

Silver fusible letters from Jonathan Embroidery.  Why that store?  I happened to notice just the letters I wanted when I wandered in for another reason recently.  Easy, and they had what I needed. For something as simple as letters, I'm well aware that there are other great choices in the district too, though.

Background fabric for letters from an unused fancy black table linen given to me by my son's occupational therapist some years ago, because she "knew I sewed, and could use anything"... how random is that? And, how true is that??? Ha!

And, hey, if that isn't true about Jerry Lewis, don't tell me.  It's far more fun to believe it.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Confirmation bias - a Teen's Perspective, a Prince tribute,.and a challenge...

In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.
In the wake of Prince's death... My daughter watched the news and wondered aloud if the fact that he could play 20 different instruments skillfully as a kid meant he would grow up to be "Prince"...


My daughter's most recent self-portrait

Not that I am comparing my sewing/design abilities to his musical talents, but my relatives love to tell me stories about how I made doll clothes or other creations when I was little. Of course, by now, I should be a grand designer for some major enterprise... Sure, I get it.

But I also loved to count stacks of change and roll them up in paper wrappers.  It felt wonderful, since family members were always dropping coins, leaving them lying around like garbage... until... I would take them to the bank. (I have a large family)  Yet, I am not a banker.

I fanatically experimented with my EZ Bake Oven, yet I am not a pastry chef.

I can look at my daughter's drawings and conclude that she will pursue an artistic career.  And maybe not. My daughter elaborated on her point by adding this...

If I become a nutritionist, you'll say... "Even as a small child, she REALLY loved her vegetables!"

But here's where it all comes together.



The thing I have always loved about designing/creating/sewing, is that it is not required to follow any rules.  While I consider the practical aspects (can I wash it, can I move and do things in it) I do not feel restricted by the "rules" of a garment.  Nor does my daughter.

I would like to continue to celebrate that.  We'll consider it our Prince tribute challenge.  (I have always been an insane Prince fan)

My daughter and I are designing garments for her own wardrobe that do not conform to anyone's rules about what they should be.  this will be fun...