podcast – talking to Julian Roberts

Now that Julian Roberts’ Subtraction Cutting Tour is coming to Toronto (June 14 & 15, get tickets here), I’ve given myself the challenge of persuading people that its a class well worth taking.  Beyond this city, the tour is also making stops in New York, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Portland – so if you’re near any of those places this summer, this post is for you.

I met Julian online at the end of 2005, back when I was fairly active on The Fashion Spot.  We were looking at some of his work, and me being the skeptical little troll that I used to be (sometimes still am), I posted something to the effect of “what’s so special about it?” – well, if you’ve got a lot of time on your hands you can read through the whole thread here.  To my great surprise, and eventual delight, Julian found the thread and engaged the forum-dwellers in a discussion about his work, took the time to answer our questions, and successfully showed me what was so special about what he does.

Julian Roberts is a designer who is experimental both in how he develops his designs and also how he shows them.  This video, called “killing labels” records highlights of his portfolio.

As someone who is obsessed with the transitional, ephemeral qualities of fashion (hence, Final Fashion and this site’s old subheader, the last collection) Julian’s act of killing labels inspires me.  He captures the most exciting parts of the process – the creation, and the showing, and turns the act of being a fashion designer from a very pragmatic act of creating objects for sale into the very radical act of allowing fashion to be ideas, events and images and nothing else, eliminating all of the material aspects that weigh down the process, leaving only the physical act of designing.  As someone who loves the act of design but has no desire to see my name on labels, Julian’s career showed me that it is possible to design outside of the boundaries of the existing industry, to celebrate and share fashion as action rather than as a commodity.

Subtraction Cutting is one of the techniques that Julian uses to create, and the one that he is teaching on this tour.  It is difficult to describe, so I would like to compare it to life drawing, or those creative writing exercises where the student is encouraged to write within parameters, but without planning.  Its an exercise that boils down the act of designing, cutting, and sewing a garment into something that is fast and free, uninhibited and playful.

This is a technique that even those who have never sewn before can easily dive into, and those of us who are trained in traditional ways of doing things can recapture the original sense of wonder and discovery that first attracted us to designing.

Plus, Julian is just a very generous, candid dreamer of a professor, the kind of professor who you will always remember, and that comes across in the conversation I had with him.This class will be a tremendous, transformative treat for anyone who loves to make things.  I invite you to come and share this experience with me.  Please buy a ticket – Julian and I would love to see you there!

click click – 17-04-09

Welcome to click click, the sporadic roundup of what I find worth clicking on the internet.

Toronto-centric stuff!

Karma links for internet friends of Final Fashion –

invitation – FAT 2010

If you’re in Toronto, and love fashion and art that is exuberant and provocative, you must go to FAT.  All the best fresh talent does.  From the press release:


Location: Studio City, 1 Pardee Ave. Liberty Village

Dates: April 21-24, 2010, 6pm – 1 am every night

Price: tickets $25 at select locations, $30 at the door/night, $70/week pass (4 days)

paper doll – Lucian Matis Fall 2010

Many of you have requested a Lucian Matis paper doll, so for my final doll of this season’s series, I am happy to oblige.  Matis’  Fall 2010 collection was a romantic gesture towards his heritage, executed with a sense of lavishness unique on the runways of Toronto.

You can buy this paper doll as a high-resolution, printable PDF to cut out and play with! Only $5 CDN. Just click the button below.

just a thought – fashionabubble

This post came to me over the course of the past few weeks.  During that time, I went to fashion week.  After fashion week, a number of discussions came up, as they usually do – whether fashion week is useful or successful, and so on.  The argument for fashion week is about exposure – is it enough, is it the right kind, is it worth it?  I just received the LGFW wrap-up in my inbox – already they are promising a “bigger and better” event next season. Well, I think its fair to say that things could get better.  But how long can they continue getting bigger?  Fashion week was at its apex of greatness just a couple seasons ago, when it was in Nathan Philips Square.  Now it has gotten too big for that ideal space.  The idea of an even bigger fashion week boggles me.

There is surely a lot of exposure happening, though I can’t help but feel that as the exposure multiplies, the value of it decreases.  A few years ago there were just a handful of fashion bloggers in town – just enough to fill a table for eight at brunch.  Now there’s more than I can count, all busily tweeting and posting about the same events.  How does LGFW figure out which bloggers are worth accrediting? As it has been pointed out, it doesn’t.  Its pretty much a free-for-all.  Measured in “impressions”, the numbers for fashion week in Toronto seem awfully impressive, but others argue that there was only one man in town – for just a day or so – whose impressions really mattered.  He attended a breakfast event at Holt Renfrew, which I was also invited to attend (!), among just a handful of people in the tiny Holt’s Cafe. It felt like a very special place to be, even though I admit at the time I was wholly ignorant of who the VIP was.

Its not just about fashion week obesity either.  Its about the scope creep that has allowed adult unpaid internships to become normalized within the fashion industry to the point that the industry is becoming dependent on them.  Fashion editors say “we couldn’t produce the magazine without them”, and fashion designers (even those who are backed by corporations) often count more than half their staff as unpaid interns.  Corporations have been getting very bottom-heavy – sure the man at the top could well afford to pay a measly wage to its entry-level workers – but they don’t – and worse, they trick people into thinking that their tight-fisted employer is doing THEM a favour, just for the experience.  Or maybe they can’t pay – which begs the question, should they really be in business?  Perhaps there are too many fashion magazines and fashion designers already, and the use of intern labour is artificially keeping them all on life support. If suddenly all of these for-profit companies had to pay or get rid of all their unpaid interns, how many would fail?

As I see it, the only way the whole fashion juggernaut is going to get better is by getting smaller.  This will be an inevitable, unpredictable, and painful experience.  I agree with Clay Shirky (in his discussion of the media industry) that when it comes to downsizing, human beings are incapable of doing it in an orderly fashion.  They will wait until things get so bad, and then it will be all chaos and hell for a while, until some sort of simpler, smaller system can emerge.

Presently, we find ourselves in a “fashionabubble”. Its much like any other bubble – an ephemeral thing (exposure, experience or asset-backed securities) has its value greatly expanded by speculators (public relations, internet, universities – or investment bankers), to some point where it becomes so ridiculous the bubble gets popped by mere logic and the whole unwholesome system is left in shambles. Many have offered their prescription for how to fix the fashion system – and here’s mine.  Let it fail. If there was something I could do to make it fail faster, I would, but its probably a good thing that there really isn’t anything to do but hang on.

Something that bothers me about young people today – both myself (I’m 27) and those younger than me, is that we are complacent.  We don’t question authority. We don’t reject the past.  We don’t rebel.  For all the rhetoric about user-generated media, most of that stuff is chronicling our chronic consumerism, not our creativity.  We idolize punks past by buying their albums and their t-shirts and their vestigial media, but we don’t imitate the way The Clash made their own onstage costumes with spraypaint and scissors, and some out-of-work kids created magazines like The Face with a xerox machine and a stapler, full of profanity and protest, and they won success on their own terms, even against their own terms.  With all the tools and advantages we have, you’d think we could create some original, compelling culture of our own.  But we rarely do. Punk is dead now, isn’t it? Or maybe it is just sleeping.

In the meantime, I think its important for those of us who want to accurately assess the value of things to focus on what fashion is really about: clothing and images.  Be creative, be daring.  Make things with your own hands, and whenever possible, buy things directly from the creators who made them.  When it comes to business, focus on people. Make sure your time and money is going directly to real people, not some shareholders, or website impressions.  Focus on what really matters.

Dare to dream small.

tearsheets – Malcom McLaren interview in Marie Claire UK March 1993

The iconic iconoclast and master media manipulator Malcom McLaren died yesterday.  I pulled this tattered old copy of Marie Claire UK from March 1993 out of my bookshelf, which I remembered having a very sweet, candid interview with McLaren about his love life.  He had terrific taste in women.  Click on the scan to read the interview full sized.

Mass Exodus 2010

Its hard to believe that it has been four years since my own turn on the runway at my old fashion school.  Ryerson School of Fashion‘s grad show is called Mass Exodus, and its the best show in Toronto to see really exciting, unusual, and sometimes just plain weird ideas that only a fashion student would have the time and freedom to think up and proceed to spend six entire months executing.

There is usually about 50 grad collections, and these are just a small selection, in no particular order, with my comments.  I think it was one of the strongest groups of designers I’ve ever seen in Mass Exodus (curated by Sarah Casselman), and it was really touching to see them all get to take a curtain call. It really is a grand accomplishment to complete a small collection on your own for the first time, so every graduate deserves admiration and congratulations.

Adelaide Kim‘s collection is striking for its maturity and sincerity.  The items are wearable, want-able, classic and yet still novel – the use of transparent plaid organza for a jacket was a really neat concept, executed very cleanly.  Of all the collections, this was the one I can easily imagine being worn and recommended by fashion editors, who love that type of loose, unfussy, wry sophistication.

Amanda Kew Lee‘s collection was pretty much the ultimate in obsessed fashion student indulgence.  A slew of recent trends – studs, leggings with transparent panels, studs, pagoda shoulders, studs, headbands, studs – amped up to the next level.  Executed with devastating diligence, this collection is like a lovingly made time capsule, making the recent past seem like something worth getting nostalgic about just six months later.

Bianca Liu went the extra mile and designed her own textile patterns – really lovely, delicate, watery, painterly patterns that my poor photos do no justice to.  I only wish some of the tops were a bit longer – something about the proportions – or maybe its how the clothing has been combined – seems awkward around the hips.  But the overall sense of looseness, and the measured choices of colours, really made this one a stand out for me.

A2B by Jade Sullivan-Vallentyne was a playful pass on casual clothes for men.  Great jeans, hot colours, an affectionate evocation of Slater and Zack from Saved By the Bell, a snarky subversion of hipness.  Tacky and terrific.

Genevieve Pearson‘s outerwear was just so slickly executed – and outerwear is challenging to do – it looked so totally pro.  The all-blackness was a bit predictable (would have loved to see these in colours!) but the confidence and quality is just outstanding.

Romandin by Cristina Sabaiduc had the most adventurous fabrications – chicken wire and silicone caulking are what gave these garments their tremendous structure and texture, without giving away their identity as hardware.  Cristina is expanding her collection to show in FAT (Fashion Art Toronto) – I am really intrigued about how she will develop her themes further.

I didn’t manage to get a decent photo of Sofronov by Aneta Sofronova , thankfully the designer let me use these drawings (which are AMAZING) from her website.  Its truly modern menswear that nods to technological habits and interprets traditional tailoring details without being too precious about it. Neat.

The finale collection was all golden hues, and abundant clusters of raw-edged floaty fabrics by Emily Baker and Andrea Spano.

fashion illustrated – Coko Galore

Fashion friend and kind client Coko Galore asked me to come up with a cute T-shirt design for her back up dancers to wear – and this is what I came up with.  Coko just launched her debut CD (buy it if you love candy and dancing!), and she’s planning on performing at the upcoming Pride festivities here in Toronto – I know I’ll be going, I’m super-excited to see these shirts in action.

podcast – interview with Oma

For my first ever podcast, I decided to interview my Oma, Herta Meder, not only to get familiar with how to use audio, but also because I’ve inherited my own interest in fashion from Oma and I’ve always wanted to record her experiences with fashion.

As my first ever phone interview and podcast, it is not very edited and moves a bit slowly – but if you do listen, you will hear my Oma’s stories about working with a dressmaker in Germany just after the Second World War, being an immigrant wife in Canada and creating her own wardrobe inspired by the fashions of the time, and eventually working for clothing manufacturers in Winnipeg and Toronto in the 1970s and 80s.

These images, taken from slides, are of my Oma modeling an outfit on the runway, which she designed for a competition at the end of the 1960s. It was a miniskirt, hat and cape created from a Hudson’s Bay blanket.  Oma won a prize for this creation – a Pfaff sewing machine.

Thank you so much Oma, for everything!