thinking and drinking – life drawing and life lessons

One thing that is easy to love about London is a culture that treats education like entertainment. Example: a neighbourhood watering hole called The Book Club, which has a wide variety of events that all fall under the category of thinking and drinking. I originally showed up for life drawing there in January, and some time later I got a sweet email from their publicist suggesting I check out a few more events.

Last night I did the life drawing again, which illustrates this post. For a life model, our model was somewhat lifeless. The poor boy, though finely formed, looked undernourished. It occurred to me, as a hungry person myself, that I would have to be very hungry to be a life model. It’s too bad, really, because a lively model is so much more inspiring. Perhaps they should feed the models a couple hours before the class for optimal results. Murray, the instructor, squirted the models hands with poster paint for something a little different. As far as life-drawing props go, I liked it because it didn’t distract too much from the figure. I love drawing figures best. Backgrounds and objects, not as much.

I used my paint box for life drawing for the first time. Getting as much practice with my squeezy brushes and mini-pans as possible, they are such a fun medium to use. I like waiting for things to dry. It helps keep me from overworking the longer poses. Murray encouraged me to try out some water-soluble markers which were pretty cool too – though being more unfamiliar with them, the results weren’t exactly my proudest.

Another event  I attended at TBC is called Scratch + Sniff. This particular evening was an interactive lecture on the history of teenagers and perfumes, given with great enthusiasm by Odette Toilette. I am not a perfume wearer, in fact the whole world of scent is a bit of a mystery to me, so it was a fascinating learning experience. The guest speaker was a young academic who studies adolescents, and it was quite enjoyable to get the equivalent of a university class, all while drinking and smelling and contributing our own memories and stories.

Thank you so much to Freya and everyone at The Book Club for their hospitality and generosity. If you’re in London and looking for something more mind-expanding than your usual pub night, I wholeheartedly recommend their fine establishment.

four Canadian girls in London

When you’re a Canadian fashion girl in London, the first people you meet are other Canadian girls. They’re the ones with friends in common, and let’s face it – Canadian girls rock.

Besides our nationality, our fashion focus and our shared awesomeness, we’re all so different! Different dreams, vastly different aesthetics, unique talents. When we get together our conversations cover similar ground, and we offer each other encouragement, but we are all on our own trips. Taking on London on our own, together.

I sent a little email interview to a few of my favourite Canadian girls to give you a state of the union when it comes to landing in London and pursuing fashion freedom. To be fair, I also interviewed myself.

Ashley Godsman is a tailor. She is a reader of the blog and she arrived in London around the same time I did. She reached out to me and I’m glad – she’s one of the hardest workers I know and she is always smiling.

How old are you?


How long have you been in London?

Since October 2010.

What are you seeking in London?

After working in the design industry in Montreal, Canada for the past few years, I was seeking to expand my knowledge and skill set on a global level. I wanted to specialize in (men’s) suiting, and I wanted to learn from the best; leading me to Savile Row in search of an apprenticeship, and hopefully after a few years, a position as a cutter.

Highlights so far?

Being given the opportunity to go in and work with an amazing tailoring house. It took a little bit of courage and a lot of luck! Seeing the amount of people that come into these houses seeking apprenticeships, and work experience on a day-to-day basis is incredible. There is absolutely nothing that sets me apart from the others, so it does make me feel grateful for being able to go in and do what I love.

I cannot say enough about the team of people I get to interact with everyday, they are some of the most patient, and incredibly knowledgeable people I have ever worked with; I wouldn’t be able to find this kind of experience anywhere else.

Lowlights so far?

When you hear about London being one of the most expensive cities to live in, they weren’t lying.

When I’m not at the tailors, I’m working a part time job, and a day off is few and far between. This city is constantly on the go and doesn’t wait for anyone. I don’t have time to feel tired, and knowing how quickly I could be replaced makes me work that much harder. In my spare time I’ll be going over how to draft a trouser pattern for a specific client, or practicing buttonholes.

What advice could you offer someone who is considering moving to London to work in fashion?

Perseverance, eventually it will pay off. You’ll push yourself harder than you ever thought, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Anything is possible; it just depends on how much you’re willing to sacrifice in order to achieve it.

Sarah Joynt is a writer. I first met her when she was working as a PR assistant extraordinaire for Knot PR in Toronto. Her PR employers love her, and rightly so – she’s incredibly detail oriented, a conscientious observer with a keen sense of what really matters in the fashion business. In London, she’s using these talents towards a freelance writing career.

How old are you?


How long have you been in London?

Just over a year and a half.

What are you seeking in London?

Opportunity. I am ambitious, almost to a fault, and always looking for bigger and better opportunities. Whilst in Toronto I was working in PR and writing a bit on the side and I came here looking to become a magazine slave or work as someone’s assistant but have ended up writing on my own and am really enjoying it. Having the freedom choose who and what I write about, and get paid for it, has been a real career booster because my writing is always better when I’m passionate about the subject.

Highlight so far?

Receiving a handwritten note from a *big* designer thanking me for my review was definitely an unexpected highlight. This past fashion week was a big turning point for me because I finally felt like I was a player in the game rather than someone peeking in from the sidelines.

Lowlight so far?

In terms of my career, being in an environment without a solid network is always hard but even more so when you’re a freelancer. It’s been a bit of a struggle to make a name for myself and I think I’m only just starting to remind people that I live here. Working for international publications has been fantastic for my career but it means that people aren’t sure of my home base. Also, I was mugged a few months after I arrived which was a major low.

What advice could you offer someone who is considering moving to London to work in fashion?

Be prepared for it to be a very different market than Toronto or New York (or wherever you’re coming from outside the UK). There are a still a lot of old school people running things here and it takes some getting used to. My best advice is to be strategic about where you live. As a freelancer I need a strong home base and London is huge so finding somewhere you feel comfortable can really help with the settling in process.

Cristina Sabaiduc is a designer. She is also an artist who loves exploring unconventional materials. I first discovered her when I saw her grad collection in Toronto – it featured gowns that transformed magnetically, embellished with flowers of iron filings, textiles made from hardware supplies like caulking and mesh. Besides being inventive, she is a true adventuress – a global gallivanter, all guts and glory.

How old are you?


How long have you been in London?

Six months.

What are you seeking in London?

An exploration of myself as a person and a designer. This city is so big and has so much to offer across so many disciplines; I feel like I’ve just had to open my eyes and take a second to see the vast possibilities. I hope to develop my career as a designer, in regards to my own line, and collaborating ventures.

Highlight so far?

Meeting everyone I have thus far has been an amazing experience; it’s really showed the many facets of the art and fashion world in London. The two most memorable highlights would be getting to assist with show production on on-site and off-site shows during my first fashion week here and the upcoming debut of my work at Debut Contemporary in Notting Hill.

Lowlight so far?

Probably every other day when you may feel even a nanosecond of self doubt. Moving to a new city and aspiring to work in this really tough industry can get to you at times, and I find I create my own lows as I’m my toughest critic. I can’t say I’ve had an extremely low experience or maybe I’ve just blocked it out of my memory.

What advice could you offer someone who is considering moving to London to work in fashion?

Research. I had planned to move to London for awhile but had barely anytime to pack my life up before leaving, let alone research. What I did the first three months here, I could have easily done before I moved (and started paying ridiculous rent). From little things like what’s the equivalent of Future Shop or Shopper’s Drug Mart to what studios and pr agencies are based in London. Getting a bible to the city (London A to Z) would be beneficial for anyone hoping to call this city their home.

And as for the industry, it’s small (surprisingly), so study it and be open to what you may encounter, London has a way of leading you down a path you didn’t think was possible.

Danielle Meder is me. I’m a fashion illustrator and blogger.

How old are you?


How long have you been in London?

Since November 2010.

What are you seeking in London?

I’m looking to develop contacts and clients, both here and around Europe. As a freelance fashion illustrator, I’ve built a decent level of visibility online and a strong personal network in Toronto where I lived for eight years, but the end goal is to be an illustrator with an international reputation and the clients to match. London is a great base because of its proximity to so many other international fashion capitals.

Highlights so far?

I’ve met a number people who I’ve admired and been inspired by from afar. In particular, David Downton (who I consider the world’s best living fashion illustrator), and Colin McDowell (a brilliant writer, well known collector of fashion illustration, and vivid connection to fashion’s fading memory) both complimented my work in person, which gave me the sense of validation and encouragement I truly needed – an irrefutable confirmation that I do in fact have the talent as well as the ambition.

Lowlights so far?

The sheer level of rejection you face as a newcomer in a competitive environment is truly difficult to learn how to handle. Emails disappear into the ether, faces turn away from you at parties, and questions get ignored. There is tremendous pressure to work for free, which is something I’m not prepared to do at this stage in my career or life. The feeling of being somewhat behind as I’m very much in the same boat as a lot of 20-24 year olds. I’m not going to lie, it is impossible not to succumb to discouragement every once in a while.

What advice could you offer someone who is considering moving to London to work in fashion?

Develop a thicker skin – be prepared to weather the very British “yes that means no”. Take a philosophical approach to the ups and downs, and a practical approach to living your life – be frugal, find a side gig. Be incredibly tenacious, because the girl who gets the gig is the one who refuses to give up.

Most of all, always remember to be grateful that you are able to pursue your dream, in a city that is so full of history and knowledge and creativity.


clarity vs. obscurity

I have been phasing between clarity and obscurity, like the sky.

It has become very clear that obscurity is my true opponent when it comes to making a living in London. It is me against obscurity as I try to create a network of friends and colleagues. It is me against obscurity as I try to define exactly what it is I am trying to accomplish here. Obscurity clouds drift between me and clarity of purpose.

I have been drifting without destination, not just a drifter by default, but a dedicated drifter. I never graduated from fashion school and said “I’m going to be a Fashion Illustrator!”. Instead I tumbled from temporary job to temporary job, while posting my illustrations online, until I had enough clients that when I got laid off at my last “real” job I just shrugged and stopped seeking. I’ve never done the traditional route of chasing art directors, sending out promos, etc. – that would be too direct. Instead I inhabit fashion blogland, where self-promotion is an indirect art at best.

The past couple weeks, confusion finally caught up with me. London is like university in a lot of ways, and I haven’t been doing my homework. The ultimate master’s thesis for all of us is ourselves, isn’t it? Except I didn’t have a clear thesis statement, my notes were a mess, my abstract was too abstract, my subject was too subjective, and it was already four months (!) into a two year course.

If London is like university, Toronto was like high school. At a higher level, the obscurity is both an opponent and an advantage. I don’t have an established reputation I have to redefine, I get to start fresh, like a freshman. (freshwoman?) However, the approach that sufficed in a second-tier fashion city just doesn’t cut it in a fashion capital. There is a cultural adjustment that happens that nothing can really prepare you for. The way I worked in Toronto – the way my clients found me, the way I blogged, the way I drew – all need to be revised. I have to completely reinvent the way I do business, now from zero.

Luckily, it isn’t literally from zero. I have skills, I have experience, I have clients, I have a portfolio. I have a blog with a significant set of archives. So what to do with what I’ve got?

There are thousands of talented fashion illustrators in this city. When I try to suss out what the difference is between the ones who are successful, working illustrators and the starving artists, the greatest factors seem to be talent and tenacity, signature style, personality and positioning. Essentially, what separates the contenders from the crowd is the same thing that applies to bloggers, designers, and every other competitive, creative, independent field. For lack of a better word: better branding.

So I ask myself: what type of fashion illustrator am I, where do I belong? I have been playing around with a lot of different mediums and styles – for my professional work, I need to focus more on the style I love best. I am an illustrator who is fascinated with technical detail and construction, intention and attitude. I am an illustrator who loves the classic fashion figure format. I am the designer’s illustrator.

I am lucky because I am not just an illustrator – a significant part of my “personality and positioning” is wrapped up in blogging. Last week I took a long hard look at my blog and was dismayed. Like any blog that has been established for a while, it was cluttered and unfocused. I had let it drift too long into obscurity. I have been struggling with blogger’s block for a while, even if it isn’t apparent. It is time for a ruthless gutting.

So I’ve decided that I’m going to write the blog I’ve always wanted to read. I consider the early years of Gaping Void to be formative of my blogging philosophy – Fashion-Incubator has been a long-time mentor – more recently I’ve been following White Hot Truth. What these blogs share is candour, an exploration of making a meaningful living approached with curiousity, vulnerability, and ambition. The blog I’ve always wanted to read takes those tenets and applies them directly to seeking an independent, creative fashion career. Final Fashion is that blog, I just didn’t realize it until now.

Yesterday’s post stripped it down to the real place I am starting from. The new subheading breaks it down into five words:

drawing lessons for fashion freedom

There are so many fashion blogs out there, we all know this. So few go outside the borders of “how fabulous is my life”, “look at these shoes”, “OMG drama” to tackle the how and why of fashion ambition. In real life, everyone I talk to is obsessed with the same thing: how to make it in fashion, and we are not hungry for tips on landing the “dream internship”, we crave a genuine exploration of realizing creative potential in this fascinating, unusual industry.

This Monday morning I woke up with the sun feeling a greater sense of clarity than I’ve ever felt before.

sincerely, in London

When I got back from Paris, I crashed hard. Traveling is not something I’ve done a lot of in my life. It takes it out of me. After a trip, I need to spend a few days in my tiny room, not going anywhere, sleeping too much. I am a solitary person by nature. My work is very solitary. I spend a lot of time alone, I need to in order to be able to enjoy time with others. These are not things I can post about.

Then comes the reality check, and that’s the only check that’s coming in. Paying for an impulsive trip to Paris wasn’t that expensive, just more expensive than I could afford right now. I am waiting on too many accounts payable. March turned from a fashion fairytale to a cash crunch on a non-existent dime. These are not things I can post about.

I need a part time gig to help me catch up with London. I have been broke before, but I have never been broke in such an expensive city before. I rewrite my CV from scratch because the old one was on a floppy disk. I walk from store to store handing out my CV, just like I did when I was 20, because I am not sure what else I can do. The stores all have sale signs in the windows, even though it seems like spring was just delivered. I am not the only one feeling lean times. This makes it a bit easier to be philosophical about the constant rejection. These are not things I can post about.

You are not supposed to admit that you struggle, even though everyone does. In a business of appearances, everyone fronts. “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything,” they say, and even though there’s a lot of talk, not much is being said. It is not just phony… it is boring. These are not things I can post about.

Isn’t my life fabulous? How exciting to be in London, chasing the dream dragon. “I admire what you’re doing”, they tell me, and instead of feeling encouraged, I feel like a fraud. I am afraid I will fail, that I will lose at London, that I do not have the critical combination of talent and tenacity it takes, to take on the terrifying task of being meThese are not things I can post about.

Is it a risk if it is not a choice? It feels like if I were a sensible person, I would not choose to be a fashion person. I am drawn towards the fear, the flux, the fantasy, against better judgement. Everyone I talk to in fashion envies people with steady jobs and simple pleasures, with a sigh and a sense of fatalism. Because, at this point, what else could we possibly do? We are in too deep to give it up. These are not things I can post about.

Why am I here? What am I after? How do I get it? I am lost, in London. Love…

blogging – fashion blog sponsorship redux

As you can see, changes are happening on Final Fashion – only the second reorganization since I moved to this URL. It is not exactly a redesign – the same basic template has been in place since May 2006, and I like to keep it simple – the changes just to the main menu which is now in the header, the new wider sidebar, and an effort to clarify the agenda. As I am going through an intense life transition right now, it makes sense to re-evaluate the structure and role of the blog.

Over the course of 2009 and 2010, I experimented with a sponsorship program on Final Fashion. Like a lot of fashion bloggers, in 2011 I’ve decided to move on from the badge-and-banner stuff. It was an interesting process, as I developed and soft-launched a unique program. There were two components – a custom-illustrated badge in the sidebar, and a monthly sponsor news post, which the sponsors contributed words and images for on their own. I never promoted sponsorship on the site very actively, and yet I found that small to medium sized businesses, mostly in Toronto, voluntarily stepped up to support was is and has always been a very personal, niche fashion blog.

Because Final Fashion is not a shopping blog, I’m not sure that the results for the sponsors were anything more than a certain level of brand awareness among a very select population of regular visitors, which is hard to quantify. As I am primarily a fashion illustrator, and the blog is neither newsy or consumer focused, in the end I don’t think that media sales as a business model is a good fit for this site.

I did a brief anonymous survey with the sponsors. For anyone who is interested in the feedback from my small modern media venture, I’ve paraphrased the answers, and I’ve thrown in some of my own thoughts as well.

Have you ever sponsored a personal blog before?

80% of sponsors answered no, which I think reflects so well on their enthusiasm and gutsiness for trying an untested program.

Would you ever sponsor a personal blog again?

80% of sponsors answered yes, which gives me the sense that the overall experience was positive.

What results, if any, did you get from sponsoring Final Fashion?

80% of sponsors said that they got referrals for their website, which is the obvious function of a badge. Other answers included: brand awareness, insight on blogging, and inquiries from new contacts. Another clear benefit mentioned was direct referrals through me – when I work with trusted clients, they’ll often ask me for suggestions for other services or introductions, which is something I am always happy to help with if I can.

How did you feel the sponsor news posts complemented the program?

Most sponsors appreciated the opportunity to directly address a blog audience. The added benefit of increasing incoming links and google rank was mentioned. Some sponsors found the task of assembling a post too time-consuming and onerous to do regularly.

Why did you decide to sponsor Final Fashion?

Most said that they like me (aw!), and they like the site, and that’s a good enough reason. Some cited the discounted rate on the custom illustration for the badge. The aspect of promoting their business was almost an afterthought, which surprised me and made me feel grateful – a sponsorship program is more like patronizing an artist than it is like a traditional advertising model.

What do you feel is a fair monthly sponsorship rate for a niche blog like Final Fashion?

All over the place from $20/month to $150/month. Final Fashion’s monthly reach is between 15,000 and 20,000 unique visitors, including subscribers, to give you a sense of scale.

Any recommendations for those who would be interested in sponsoring personal blogs?

One sponsor wrote:

Before selected a blog to sponsor, be sure to understand who the readers are to understand what type of audience you will be reaching. It’s always good to be a followers and frequent visitor to that blog also.

Any recommendations for bloggers who are interested in sponsorship?

Connect with your sponsors and ask for feedback.

Any final thoughts on the Final Fashion sponsorship program?

I thought it was a great and unique way to introduce and promote my company. I loved the personalized illustration.

Another sponsor adds:

We loved working with Danielle. She makes it so easy to send posts and always sent out reminders.

A heartfelt thank you to all of the businesses who sponsored Final Fashion, for your support and your responses.

the late review – If You Have to Cry, Go Outside

Welcome to the late review, wherein I review a book long after you’ve all had the chance to read it.

If You Have to Cry, Go Outside (and other things your mother never told you) is the longest, cheesiest title for what is really a very punchy book by a woman who knows how to get to the point. That said, a long title definitely benefits from greater Googleability, and so Cutrone may have a method to her madness. She demonstrates a lot of that kind of canny counter-intuition in Go Outside.

Straight up: I loved this book. There aren’t many books I would characterize as a must-read for any would-be or die-hard fashion careerist. This is one, for sure. I think this is the first time I’ve read a real-talk rationalization of how the so-called superficial world of fashion is aligned with a sense of female divinity… and dignity. It is a uniquely feminine industry, and Cutrone addresses young women directly, without condescension or cliches.

Cutrone’s character as a publicist and celebrity provokes a lot of mixed feelings in me. Before she was on MTV, she didn’t endear herself to bloggers. I loved the way she balanced The City, but found the episodes I saw of Kell on Earth to be claustrophobic and chaotic, in a way that was fascinating but not inspiring. When it comes to her practical advice, I can take some of it and leave some of it. Go Outside really hits home when Cutrone articulates the airier stuff – philosophy, mysticism, self-discovery, and ambition.

I do think that this book is the very best of Kelly Cutrone. Her story is compelling and she provides a much needed, strong counterweight to the mainstream majority of shopaholics and fashionistas. Cutrone is using her celebrity to its best advantage. I appreciate that.

click click – 20-03-11

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

Just a brief clip from a game of fashion blogger mad libs I played with Fashionist. Oh yes, I can be a little bit facetious!

I’ve never met Danielle Meder of FINAL FASHION but have had the pleasure of reading her blog since she was a Ryerson fashion student. Danielle’s brand is one that seems to be a natural extension and progression of who she is, and that’s someone who is raw and curious. Her blog is reflective of independence and journey.

Tip o’ the top hat to incoming linkers and commenters for making my website a little richer.

portfolio – on Behance now

Better late than never – I’ve been meaning to kit out my Behance profile for ages. Of all the online portfolio networking sites out there, it is considered the one to be on. There is so much amazing work on there – well worth browsing for inspiration, and of course a terrific hub for hiring creatives.

I’ve put up a half a dozen of my favourite projects for now, and it was neat to revisit them. Are you on Behance? Say hey and I’ll follow you.

paper dolls – Vionnet

This pair of paper dolls inspired by the designs of Vionnet is now available as a high-resolution PDF download, at only $12 USD for personal use. This includes the two dolls and 20 outfit options including dresses, coats and swimwear. For a preview, check out these posts.

A PDF is a high-quality printable file. Unlike the images found on the web, there is clarity of detail which reproduces beautifully. Purchase this pair of paper dolls, and you can print them out as many times as you like for personal use – to cut out, play with and display.

Christy says…

LOVE them! I cut out one dress and doll and displayed her on my desk at work. Beautiful illustrations.


drawing – wee watercolour for Ava Lane

Drawing children is a lot of fun, but not something I get to do often, so I was so delighted when Tara Carr commissioned a small watercolour figure for her line Ava Lane. Tara designs lovely floral dresses and separates for adorable babies and toddlers.

As a model I used photos of my little niece Evelyn, who is a bright little sprite with an unbelievable head of curls. Here’s a picture of me and her from last Canadian Thanksgiving, playing with milkweed pods back home. I have to admit doing this painting made me feel a bit homesick, and full of affection.

Thanks Tara, and of course thanks Evelyn!