a week’s worth – 27-02-09

A Week’s Worth documents what I did all week – a little peek into the life of a fashion illustrator and blogger.

I fell off the wagon this week – when it comes to taking pictures.  Not that there was much going on worth taking pictures of.  Since I got back from Las Vegas my schedule is just a bit off, I felt a bit off, and I opted to hibernate and work for most of the week, missing some nice weather and probably some cool events.  You know what?  I will just get back to it next week, I have lots of stuff planned, and I will take photos again.

The highlight of the week was last night, when finally got tired of being lonely and went to visit The Deadly Nightshades.  I got a sneak peek at their new website (super cool!) and a couple of their designs that they will be showing at [FAT], Toronto’s alternative fashion week coming up in April.  These girls have a strong case of fashion-designeritus – the up-past-midgnight-dying-fabric-in-the-bathtub kind.  I love them, such vivid characters and full of passion for each other and creating things.

Ok, so as not to post a week’s worth without pictures, I want to include two favourites from last week.

me at POOL

Here I am at the POOL Style Sight photo booth.  A little more dressed up than usual.  I can finally put my hair back in a wee ponytail which means that of course, I can’t resist.  Shirt is H&M, skirt is thrifted Banana Republic, shoes from Zola.

Ray at the library

Ray and I have been going to the library frequently over the last month.  I go to the fashion stacks and Ray visits the machining stack.  I spend $50 a year on an alumni library card at the Ryerson Library and it is so worth it.  The librarians are friendly, and because it serves a school with a lot of design and engineering programs, the selection is incredible.

How was your week?

client karma – Flavio Olivera

Flavio OliveraI met Flavio Olivera the second time I came to New York City.  He was looking for someone to help him create a presentation of his designs and as luck would have it, I was in town!  It was a pleasure to meet him.

Flavio has been creating handbag designs for almost a decade now and sells his line at some very famous and prestigious stores.

Part of the reason for his success is his experience and connection to the fashion industry both in New York and Brazil.  But mostly I think it is that type of charm unique to creative entrepreneurs.  He is down-to-earth and very collaborative in how he works, and he is very curious and always asking questions and taking classes.  This openness reflects a kind character and a quest for new inspirations.

The project I did for him was some of the most detailed vector technical illustrations I have ever done.  It was a challenge on a tight deadline but it came together beautifully and I am very proud of it.

I asked Flavio a few questions about his career.

Why did you become a handbag designer?

I was in Brazil for vacation and my sister who used to be a shoe designer, out of nowhere came to me and said “Why don’t you design a handbag line?” After too much thinking and being tired of working for other people, I decided to follow her advice and made few samples. I showed them to some friends in the fashion industry and they all liked what I did. I came back to LA found a sales rep and got an order from Fred Segal right away, so I thought to myself that was a sign, that I was meant to do this.

What are the most valuable lessons you have learned over the years?

Stay true to yourself and never give up, even in hard times.

What has been the proudest moment in your career?

When I was nominated for Fresh Faces of Fashion in the accessory category by GenArt after only being in business for 2 seasons.

What is the greatest misconception about your work? The greatest challenge? The greatest reward?

I thing the greatest misconception about this business is that most of people think that you can become rich overnight after having a line and certainly it does not work that way.

The greatest challenge is to constantly be creative and make sure that your ideas can be translated into not only beautiful products but also products that will sell.

The greatest reward is getting compliments for your work and see the excitement of people when they look at your line.

fashion illustrated – wear a gown to work day

Every week, Fashion Illustrated features a drawing created especially for Final Fashion.

wear a gown to work day

This week’s illustration is inspired by Auntie Fashion’s May 29 2009 event, Wear A Gown to Work Day, as well as this iconic poster of soviet workers smiting the lazy.  I was wondering what to put under the hammer – an Ugg?

click click – 24-02-09

Welcome to Click Click, the regular roundup of what I find worth clicking on the internet.  Two weeks worth this time, it is epic.

Last but never least, fashion blog karma for all my internet friends!

the late review – Eleven Minutes

Regent Releasing kindly sent me a copy of Eleven Minutes for review, it has just been released on DVD.  Do you all like the late review?  These posts never seem to generate much discussion.  But regardless, I am going to keep doing them because I love looking at stuff and writing about stuff.

Jay McCarroll

Eleven Minutes is my kind of movie.  I am a huge Jay fan, a devoted viewer of all things Project Runway, and adore watching anything that gets under the hood of the fashion industry.  This is Unzipped for us 21st century types, and a must-watch for anyone with designer dreams.  I know already, because I saw it in the theatre when it came to Toronto.

Why should this be required course material for every fashion student?  It is both an ode to ambition and a cautionary tale, a love/hate story about fashion that anyone who has held on to the ride for more than one season can identify with.  The main arc of the story is about the tension between Jay’s heart and his mind.  He wants to design intuitively but he allows his logical mind to restrict him.  There are consequences to his self-editing when it comes time to make sales – but not in the way Jay expects.

The supporting cast is terrific; from the interns/assistants, to the models, to the accessory designers, the documentary does a good job of showing that any emerging designer is supported by a very loose team of independents, herded like cats towards an inflexible deadline.  Best – Kelly Cutrone shows a more genuine side.  She is a compelling personality to watch, and on The Hills or The City, you only get a veiled glimpse.  Here there is less control over the editing and you get a sense of how she really works.

Behind the glamour of appearances is the logistical challenge of selling a physical product.  Jay McCarroll does us a great service sharing the reality behind the “reality” – I hope that more designers will be inspired to be this candid.

just a thought – recessionary trending

So I was talking about the atmosphere in the aisles of MAGIC in Las Vegas.  It seems that the scene at fashion week in New York City shared that same sense of… hesitant tension?  Maybe Apparel News and Women’s Wear Daily put it in a more diplomatic way.  Regardless how you say it, our world, our industry, our scene is in a state of flux somewhere between delusion and panic.  There is something in the air that is contagious and we are all trying to inoculate ourselves against it.

cartoon by gapingvoid.com

Cartoon by Gaping Void.

Among the fashion designers I have seen showing both in New York and Las Vegas, there seems to be two vaccination tactics.

Conservative designers pare down to their “greatest hits”, replaying the styles that sell well every season, and aiming to get their items below some magic MSRP number – $100, $60, $20 – some number that, in theory, people feel is an insignificant enough amount not to consider deeply.  The colours that these designers choose are black and navy blue solids.  Safe, absorbent non-colours.

Designers on the vanguard go beyond denial into outright contradiction.  Their industry is a glamour industry and disconnection from reality is the reality.  For those who want to escape at any price these designers create spacesuits of gold lame and mink life preservers.

Besides the designers, what about all of the rest of us – service providers, journalists, technicians, publicists, etceteras.  We have to decide if we are going to do business as usual or business unusual.  It is impossible to say if either route grants immunity, what is more likely is that neither does.  Big players fall hard and so do small ones.  So when links are breaking and dominos are falling, how to stay standing, how to keep connected?

Like everyone else I am sure, I am thinking of ways that I can make this the best recession, ever.  (Even though technically, it is my first.)

  • Think small.  Small is flexible, small has low overhead.  Small can react faster.  Small has less to lose.
  • Be an entrepreneur.  Even if you have a job.  Our incomes come from multiple clients and we are already attuned to constantly searching for opportunity.  You can never “lose” your job, and you can constantly refine your business.
  • Do it yourself.  Employees are the greatest expense in any business, and it is worth thinking of ways to avoid hiring, whether it is using freelance help only when needed, trading services, or being inventive with solutions you can execute by yourself.
  • Look beyond the bottom line.  Measure value, not dollars.  No one is going to make money like gangbusters any time soon, so being in business for the money right now is futile.  Make sure that no matter what you are doing, it gives you a sense of purpose, that you are surrounded with good people, and that you are happy.
  • Be persistently persistent.  In fashion, no matter how hard times are, the competition is tight.  If you are adverse to adversity, you are not going to measure up, no matter what the macro situation is like.  The last ones standing will be the ones who bounce back.
  • Open up.  Do not hoard resources, do not cultivate suspicion.  Be generous now, and if circumstances turn against you later you won’t be alone.
  • Be an autodidact.  If you have downtime, use it to improve your skills and research your industry.  Find causes to volunteer for, projects you never had time for before.  Make sure that whenever someone asks what you are doing, you have lots of exciting things to talk about.  Show that you are a curious, productive, and ambitious individual.
  • Be frugal.  Develop life skills that do not cost a lot but improve your well being – like cooking for yourself, shopping smart, growing and preserving your own food, and mending your own clothes.
  • Experiment.  If things do not work the way they have always done, sticking with the status quo is the worst risk you can take.  Abandon the unnecessary, embrace the untested.

How about you?  Are you dealing with the recession or avoiding it?  What is your strategy for surviving and thriving in these fascinating times?

Las Vegas Market Week redux

It was an intense week.  I did not take a lot of pictures, so this will be a text-heavy post.

We were supposed to leave on Sunday.  We arrived at the airport and boarded a tiny plane, taxied out to the runway, and then turned around and went back to the terminal.  There was some sort of mechanical problem.  The ladies at the desk transferred us onto another flight on Monday morning.

When we got to the airport the next morning, we found out after waiting in line for a long time that our transfers were not done properly and we were not allowed to get on the flight.  The next flight we could get on was later that afternoon and it would have been too late – we needed to get the booth set up before 6pm.  So we had to book a new one-way flight with another airline.  It worked out okay but it was incredibly frustrating, who would have thought crossing a continent would be so difficult.

Finally getting in the air felt like a miracle.  I do not fly very frequently (this is my third airplane trip, ever) so I spend almost all of the time with my forehead on the window.  My favourite parts are takeoffs and landings.

leaving toronto

Look at Toronto!  It was a perfect clear day all across the continent and I was fascinated to see all the farms and towns and foothills unfolding below me like a quilt dusted with icing sugar.

me flying

Look, mountains!

Nevada mountains

It was a rainy, cool day in Las Vegas, not at all warm and sunny like I hoped for.  Once on the ground it still felt like we were struggling against a tide of adversity as we waited in line for 40 minutes to get the rental car.  When we finally got to the Convention center for the trade show there was just enough time to steam the entire collection and hang it up on the booth.  We went back to the hotel for giant burgers and went to sleep.

Butikofer booth

I wish I had taken more photos of the trade show, but I mostly forgot, or I was stopped by the security people.  We were close to the windows so we had lots of natural light.  We also had lovely neighbors – The Recycled Dead and Choye Toi both from Los Angeles.  There were lots of people from LA at the show, and they all were incredibly hip, very social and friendly.

The other exhibitors were all very generous and kind.  Snoflake from Toronto, and Feral Childe from Brooklyn were our good friends at the show and shared some of the things they had learned from previous shows.

The first day was the busiest.  Butikofer received a lot of compliments.  Adrienne’s fabrics are so soft and easy to care for, she chose great colours, and the designs are strong and feminine at the same time.  She even got interviews with a couple of major newspapers which was exciting.  But I will let Adrienne tell her own story in her own time – she talks about starting a blog and I hope she does because she has a characteristic, candid and poetic style of writing.

That evening we dropped by GUILD where my friend Philip Sparks was showing.  It was a very different kind of show, in a fancy hotel, where each designer had a room of their own.  There, the buyers were coming from very high end stores around the world.

The images for GUILD’s promotional material and the website were created by Designerman Richard Haines, who Philip and I had met briefly in New York last fall.  I missed Richard at the show which was disappointing because I wanted to talk to him about all the great gigs he’s been doing!  I would love to be a blogger “mascot” at a trade show.  POOL also had a blogger feature, an exhibit by Face Hunter, though Yvan was not in town, apparently he could not be flown in because of the economy.

Later that night was the POOL party at a place called the “Beauty Bar” which was up on the older part of the strip.  I was expecting a hotel bar, but actually it was a hipster bar on a side street, and the cab driver did not want to let me out by myself in that neighborhood.  Inside it was very smoky (everyone smokes inside in Las Vegas, and almost all of the rooms are scented, I found the interiors to be rather suffocating as a non-smoker) and full of people who put on the show and friends.  I did not know anyone there and was feeling kind of vulnerable, being bumped into by all the drunk guys so I did not stay long.

The second day, PROJECT started and the drop in traffic at POOL was remarkable.  I had lots of time to go and check out all the other shows – PREMIUM, STREET, and MAGIC, and many of them seemed kind of quiet too, lots of exhibitors hanging out in their booths and not very many buyer badges in the halls.  I have never been to market week in Las Vegas before, but the atmosphere could be described as a kind of futile optimism, and towards the end of the show, exhausted resignation.  Without experience as a point of reference, it is hard to say how the show went, but I had expected to see more traffic from an international, famous show.

On Wednesday night, we went to a meetup with members of Fashion-Incubator.  It was organized by Eric Busboom of Retailing Together and Clarinova.  Among other new friends, we got to meet JC Sprowls who is a frequent contributer to F-I and also an entrepreneur with a sample shop called Studio 9 Apparel.  Discussion was lively and ranged across the subjects near and dear to designer-entrepreneurs and the service providers who work with them.

After we packed up on Thursday night, Adrienne and I drove up the strip to the Bellagio to see the fountains – and they were magnificent.  She took me into a casino and talked me into playing a slot machine, where I promptly lost $3 – she won $25.

Adrienne gambles

I have never been a great believer in mysticism, but something about the show and the entire city was so intense and strange.  Whether you are in a burger joint, on the highway, watching TV or walking along the aisles of the show, you can feel people stress.  The only place that you can not feel it is in the casinos, where there is another kind of weirdness that I have never felt anything like before and can not even describe properly.  The week had many memorable moments high and low, and overall the experience was both fascinating and psychologically heavy.

Market Week in Las Vegas

Tomorrow I am leaving for market week in Las Vegas with Adrienne.  We will be working POOL, and hopefully attending a few other parties and trade shows.  I have never been before, so I am very excited! I would be thrilled to meet you if you are also in the city, please drop me a line!

Las Vegas strip
Photo by pbo31 – used under Creative Commons

I am not yet sure what the internet situation will be like there so I can’t promise to keep up with 5 posts this week, however there will be a couple massive updates when I get back to Toronto for sure.

the late review – Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Ignore the fact that this time, the late review is only one day late.  It was part of the deal – my first ever pre-screening!  So today, I get to play movie reviewer for Confessions of a Shopaholic.

“The clothes are ugly,” one contrary fashion writer said after the movie, and I had to wonder if Rebecca’s affliction would have been funnier if she wore sublime Yves St. Laurent and darkest Rick Owens instead of Fozzie Bear boleros and giant pendant necklaces.  Perhaps this movie should have been made by Sofia Coppola.


But that’s not the movie Patricia Field styled.  This movie is unashamed, 2 dimensional technicolour fairy fluff and the worst thing you could do to it is watch it as a political critique on why our economy sucks so hard for so many.  Or judge it on its success as a character study of an addict.

Instead, pay attention to how earnestly and whole-heartedly the actors deliver their archytypal roles.  Allow yourself to be distracted by the “look at me” clothes.  Become thoroughly absorbed in how amazing Isla Fisher’s hair is.  Forget how a credit card works.  Laugh at the goofy gags!

If you can’t do that, you’re not going to enjoy this movie.