press – The Times 27-04-11

Did you watch The Royal Wedding? At first, I didn’t think much of it but as the day came closer I just relaxed and let myself enjoy what really is a rare spectacle, sort of the highest form of reality television, and of course a grand fashion moment shared with millions. Best, I got to share the experience of watching it live with my mom over the phone. A while back, The Times called for readers to submit their own sketches of possible wedding dresses, and I was pleased to be featured online on April 27 with a positive review. All of the submissions were so different!

The real dress designed by Sarah Burton of McQueen is exactly right. The challenge of even just sketching an idea that was appropriate really made me appreciate what a task the real designer was in for. Burton succeeded and exceeded expectations – the dress was grand and yet still modern, simple and yet still ornate, and perfect for the setting and the occasion. Bravo.

I am glad some of the Times readers liked my idea too. Thanks very much for the complimentary reviews.

drawing – London skyline

I rarely attempt to render landscapes (or cityscapes), and this may be a good example why. Still – it’s always good practice to go outside of my comfort zone. I painted this as a picture postcard to send to my Nana and Grandpa to give them a sense of where I live. This is the view of The City skyline (not at all to scale) from the park I live by.

Oh yeah, and this is my field studio setup.

click click – 26-04-11

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

The photos in this post I took at Debut Contemporary, a west London art space that features emerging talent. This little shopper sculpture, a subversive take on that old fashion illustration trope “woman with shopping bags” is by Mr. Clement.

This is a detail of a silicon-textured dress by fashion designer and friend Cristina Sabaiduc.

Comment crushes and link love… karma back atcha.

  • Anna Dello Russo“I don’t want to be cool I want to be fashion!”
  • Form“We aim to make fashion accessible to our readers and inspire students to explore their creative talent.”
  • Daily Front Row“Meder dubs the project “one of the great pleasures of my life.” Vraiment?” For real, Daily!
  • Undeniably Martine“Pourquoi as-tu commencé ce blog? Surtout pour utiliser ma créativité.”


paper doll – Anna Dello Russo for The Hudson’s Bay Company

Wow! This is a dream paper doll – inspired by fashion maniac and fountain of enthusiasm Anna Dello Russo, commissioned by great Canadian department store, The Hudson’s Bay Company. Drawing this doll was truly one of the greatest pleasures of my life. ADR is all whimsy and colour and glittering glamour layered over a slamming hot body. The perfect fashion paper doll. She unreservedly loved the tribute, with effusive exclamation marks!!! I love you Anna Dello Russo!!!

The striding stance of the doll is an homage to the work of Tommy Ton, whose photos of ADR are currently being exhibited in The Room at the Bay flagship in Toronto. Tommy is a total inspiration both as an image maker and a fashion careerist. To get a sense of the synchronicity between shooter and subject, this interview on is a must read.

Big, heartfelt thanks to Anna Dello Russo, Tommy Ton, Christopher Sherman and everyone at The Bay for a beautiful opportunity to participate in a true fashion moment. Love!!!

Thanks to Sharon at The Backseat Stylers for capturing ADR and the dolls at the signing!

sponsor post – rockin’ events in Toronto

Heads up Toronto readers – this is a swan song to my sponsorship program from the amazing girls at rock-it promotions. Three very cool events I’m going to miss – so make sure you go and report back. Sending my love to Toronto!

Not only do May and June bring lovely weather, but also some amazing nights on the town that rock-it promotions are working on. Check them out:

Jam to the tunes of Alicia Keys, Rufus Wainright, K’naan and many more at the Hope Rising! Concert, benefiting the Stephen Lewis Foundation on Tuesday, May 3.  There have been few events like this in Toronto. Tickets from $75, available here. Three words – don’t miss it.

For culinary delights, cocktails, and celebrity-curated performances, get your tickets now for the Visionaries’ third annual unScripted event at Canadian Stage, Friday, May 13. Support theatre and cause some drama of your own.

Tickets from $90, available here.

Love art? So do we. Celebrate contemporary art with Toronto’s top players in the art world at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery’s Power Ball 13, on Thursday, June 16. Tickets from $165, available here.

5 degrees of social adventurism

Lonely? Been there. Fuck that.

I’m living in London. It is one of the wealthiest, most powerful cities in the world, home to 8 million souls, and when I arrived here I could count my acquaintances on the fingers of one hand. The first month here was the loneliest month of my life, which seems impossible surrounded by people, money, and messages of good will. Christmas is a terrible time to make new friends. That’s why the renewal of a new year held so much promise for me. I made a resolution to “leave no social stone unturned”,  and this post shares what I’ve learned so far.

As a freelancer and a single person, a diverse portfolio of friendships and acquaintances isn’t just nice to have – it’s a necessity that helps me build my career, maintain my health and mental well-being. Every business is a people business, and every life is made richer by the quality of the relationships in it. If you’ve ever felt social isolation you know that it drags you down, holds you back, and makes you sick. Many people limit the possibilities in their life by allowing fear of rejection and complacency to close their social circle.

And while being on good terms with a wide variety of people is incredibly valuable, the real social goal is to find your people. Kelly Cutrone calls them “your tribe” – what we’re really talking about is the people you have a true affinity with – your real friends. As Hugh MacLeod says,

“The people you trust and vice versa, this is what will feed you. Nothing else.”

In a city of millions, or even a town of hundreds, there will be some human beings who will “get” you and care for you just as much as you care for them, who will inspire you and encourage you. That’s all that really matters. You won’t find them by watching TV. Here’s five ways I’ve met acquaintances, colleagues, fellow travellers and friends over the past four months.

1. Circumstance.

This takes the least amount of effort. Your family, flatmates, neighbours, your work colleagues, or your classmates, are all circumstantial contacts. In my case, I am at a major disadvantage – what I do for a living is incredibly solitary. I don’t go to school, and I don’t have a day job. My flatmates are great but I don’t share a lot in common with them. Counterintuitively, this is an advantage, because it’s too easy to relax into circumstantial relationships. Many people never expand their horizons beyond this, even if the quality of the relationships leaves much to be desired. These people have to at least tolerate your presence in their lives, whether you share any type of affinity with them or not. Beyond this core, lies risk and rejection.

2. Friends of friends.

This was my first line of attack in January. I put the word out that I was in London and I wanted to meet everyone’s London friends. Friends are generous people – and they love to help out, and people are much more inclined to meet you if you are introduced this way. I got a lot of introductions – sometimes through very tangential degrees of separation. The one limitation I found with this was that the tendency would be to end up meeting a lot of other Canadians who are in the same boat – it’s good company but it doesn’t help either of you transcend where you’re at.

While I experienced a low level of missed connections in this arena, for the most part I ended up with a very diverse group of acquaintances and a few new friends. I also met quite a few people I might not have met any other way. The funny thing is that having a friend in common doesn’t guarantee many other commonalities at all. Don’t let this stop you from making the connection though – only knowing people that are just like you is boring.

3. Social Networking

As a blogger, I am quite accustomed to meeting friends through the internet, but this is by no means usual. Many people have never met someone from the internet before, so be prepared for a low level of rejection based on people’s fear of the unknown. This is a terrific way to meet people. You get a sense from their profiles and feeds about whether you have similar interests and senses of humour, and in my experience this qualifies people even more than having friends in common. Most of my best friends are fellow bloggers – bloggers tend to be very open, articulate, passionate, curious people. That’s a high level of affinity to me.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to pull online relationships offline. First of all, you need to be open with your own profiles. Don’t limit your facebook and twitter to people you know already. Give people a chance – try them out – if they drive you nuts, they’re easily gotten rid anyway if you have no real life ties to them. You need to be patient. Wait for the right time – an event, or a natural transition to a more intimate form of contact like DM or email, and people will be more receptive to meeting IRL.

When I first got to London, I scoped out a number of potential groups of friends (as Ze calls them, po-friends) on twitter. I found one group in particular who weren’t fashion related but who had a great sense of humour. They went out to comedy clubs sometimes and after a while of @-ing and bantering I asked if I could come along. They are just as fun in real life as they were online, and even though they found my way of inserting myself into their lives kind of strange and amusing, they accepted me anyway. This was a total win.

4. Qualified introductions.

This is where social adventurism gets aspirational. You want to meet people in your industry or field that you admire, people who are far busier than you and who have far less time or need to meet new people than you do. Cold emails will get ignored in a high-volume inbox and cold calls are just intrusive and give a bad impression. Sidling up to them at parties takes all the fun out of partying for both of you. In this case, your best bet is to find a friend in common who will give you a qualified introduction.

Here’s something to keep in mind too – just because someone is influential or important, doesn’t mean that they belong in your tribe. And if they’re not in your tribe, they’re likely never to be more than an acquaintance, if that. People at this level meet so many people that acquaintances are treated much the same as strangers. Only leaders whose thinking is fundamentally aligned with yours, who are direct influencers of your own work, are worth the amount of effort it takes to climb this social mountain. This isn’t about superficial moments – getting your picture taken with a famous person or getting an autograph. It is about identifying yourself to them as a true disciple, a rare individual worthy of a genuine human relationship. Needless to say, just existing isn’t enough in this case. You have to demonstrate a high level of dedication and work well before you even try to make these contacts.

5. Happenstance.

This is the top level of social interaction, above even qualified introductions, because it takes the most confidence and charisma. Simply introducing yourself to strangers takes all kinds of guts and glory, and of all the methods I’ve mentioned here, yields the most instances of rejection. Yet, it is worth it because it raises the bar on any situation – making parties more fun, opening up random adventures, allowing you to discover people and experiences that you would never find any other way. The people you meet this way are on the same trip you are – open wide, keen to find what life has to offer.

I also believe this is probably the best way to meet someone romantically. Dating far outside your established social and professional circles is preferable for so many reasons.

Going to events alone is the best way to do this because it gives you no other choice but to move beyond the fear. The most success I’ve had involves offering some type of service – if you’re at a party, and someone looks lonely, introduce yourself. Then start introducing them to other people. I’ve met people by watching their bikes while they get their picture taken. I’ve met people standing in queues waiting to get into fashion shows. I’ve met people by sharing tables at busy bars and restaurants. I’ve met people by showing up early for something and having to wait around. I’ve approached people just because I think they look cute or interesting. Flattery will at least get you a hello. Sometimes it’s just as simple as throwing out a big grin or kicking a stray ball.

Some people will think you are crazy if you’re approaching them for no apparent motive. These people are so sane they’re boring. Brush off their rejection. Can’t think of anything to say? Great! Ask people about their lives – people love talking about themselves and you’ll learn new things.

After using all of these five approaches, I’ve developed a fairly wide group of acquaintances in just a few months, met a couple of my fashion heroes, and found a few nascent friendships. I still deal with feelings of loneliness sometimes, though increasingly I have people I can call when I need to. The ultimate goal – finding my people – takes time. The process of actively seeking out connections only increases chances of finding them a little sooner. True friendships are rare and wonderful, and like all the best things in life, are well worth waiting for.

click click – 14-04-11

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

The Very Stupidest Things Vogue Has Ever Published About Politics – I tend to avoid mentioning current events as a fashion blogger because I feel ridiculous doing it. But Vogue doesn’t seem to worry about that. Which is so fascinating – if fashion isn’t meant to be taken seriously, why does it gloss over serious issues? Why does an authority on taste get away with such extreme lapses in taste? This is where fashion and comedy overlap.

Additionally, karmically, totally for linkers and commenters.

best competitors – female friendships in fashion

June, 2007. Fashion friends.

When I was a six years old, I met one of my best, lifelong friends. We were both homeschooled. We both lived on farms with goats and chickens. We were both blonde. We both loved to draw and paint. We both loved to read and write. We both created elaborate, imaginary worlds to play in, both together and on our own.

Later we went to high school together. The transition into school life was a difficult one, and just as much as we were there for each other, we also compared ourselves against each other. We were both bright kids who got high marks – hers were higher, mostly because she tried harder while I tended to drift. Adolescence had not treated us equally – she became petite and feminine and desirable with long blonde hair – and I was skinny and awkward with unflattering glasses and bad haircuts. She had better boyfriends and better clothes than I did. Her artwork was more impressive than mine, and she won more praise. Mostly, those things didn’t matter so much. I loved having an intellectual and creative equal-or-better, someone who was talented and worked hard and encouraged me to do the same, someone who made me feel not so alone in a rural school environment where I very clearly knew I didn’t belong. We always made things together, just like we did when we were kids – constantly drawing, school projects, sharing clothes, she was, and is, someone who is always there for me.

The way I love her has always been mixed up with traces of envy. All the things we had in common just made it seem unfair that I wasn’t more like her.

In a way I didn’t expect, this friendship set the tone for my path in fashion. Fashion school is a unique, almost wholly female environment. It took me a while to develop friendships, and what I discovered is that I was still drawn to the girls at the top of the class. I really responded to the competitive aspect fashion school – somehow the camaraderie that was all mixed up with ambition was, to me, the best kind. I could clearly identify the girls whose talents matched or outmatched my own, and I truly cherished the challenge of beating them, or even being beaten by them, in a creative field that totally fascinates me.

After fashion school I found my friends through blogging. Again I found myself drawn to the friends who were my equals or better. Fashion bloggers are incredibly supportive, generous people, which balances out the weirdly measurable aspect of this arena. Hits, event invites, swag, money, collaborations, seat assignments – you are constantly susceptible to comparing yourselves against one another with these very tangible markers of success. I’m not going to lie – as fiercely as I love my fashion blog friends, at the same time I am racing against them. As we cheer on and support each other’s accomplishments, we are constantly raising the bar on our own efforts.

In fashion, there is no room for those who are not ambitious and competitive. Sometimes people ask me if fashion school is stressful – my answer is that any fashion school that isn’t hard isn’t worth it. This is not finishing school for princesses; this is a highly creative, difficult industry that will challenge you at every step. Everyone brings their own arsenal of advantages and adversities, but the one thing we all have in common is that we want to be here so much we’re willing to sacrifice the easier options we could have chosen. Your fashion friends will inevitably share your obsessions and your ambitions.

The general consensus is that envy is a bad thing, and I’m not going to disagree that it is a painful thing. Rather than assigning it value, I prefer to treat it as an unavoidable aspect of the human condition. Even more so, I think envy is essential to the fashion phenomenon. In the fashionmobile, desire is the internal combustion engine and envy is the fossil fuel. We are not in the business of making clothes; we are in the business of creating desire. Envy is just the other side of the coin. I don’t think we can ever eliminate jealousy; but we can philosophically make peace with it, even use it as a force that drives us to be better. When I think of the most positive, encouraging collegial friendships I’ve been lucky to have, not a single one is untouched by a lingering sense of longing.

Perhaps in male-dominated industries the competition is clearer and there are sharper definitions between colleagues and friends. I think in fashion, the competition is incredibly nuanced because of a natural, feminine empathy, and on the flip side, passive female socialization. Regardless, I enjoy the challenge of complicated, competitive friendships. I love my fashion friends. I want to be like them. I think they are the most amazing girls in the world.

career karma – Corey Lee

While I was dissolving my studio in Toronto and moving over the Atlantic to London, fellow illustrator and internet friend Corey Lee did the same, passing over the Pacific from Los Angeles to Tokyo. (I virtually met Corey when he did the first-ever-and-only fan art of me I’ve ever seen.) Naturally I’m curious about the parallel nomadic lives of my colleagues – Corey kindly answered some of my questions about making big international moves as a freelance illustrator.

What made you decide to move to Japan?

Back in June 2009 I visited Japan for the first time and I think it was love at first sight. The countryside is beautiful, but I really love Tokyo. It’s like an intricate machine with millions of pieces all working together harmoniously. Being in the center of that really inspires me everyday.

Was the transition smooth from a work standpoint? How much of your business is internet-based versus location-based?

It was nearly seamless. I do almost all of my work online, so besides the time difference my workflow hasn’t changed much.

How do you handle the costs of relocation and travel? Do you have to take on other jobs besides illustration?

I decided I wanted to live and work in Japan about a year in advance, so it gave me a lot of time to save up for my travel expenses and about three months of living expenses. Although I arrived with a decent amount of financial padding, I really tried to be as frugal as possible until I felt financially stable.

Initially I wanted to focus solely on freelancing in Tokyo, but after some research I realized I needed to secure I job at a Japanese company in order to obtain a work visa. It’s very difficult to sponsor your own work visa as a freelancer unless you’ve previously worked in Japan.

After about a month of hustling I managed to land a position at a small Japanese company where I did graphic design and illustration for mobile applications. This gave me a stable income and a work visa, while also allowing me to freelance.

How do you approach meeting friends and networking in a new country with a new language?

This is tough because I’m really a shy person when it comes to introducing myself and meeting new people. Along with networking online, I try to attend various events and meet-ups around the city as much as possible to network. The language barrier is difficult though. I spend a lot of time studying Japanese so I can improve the way I communicate with people.

What types of promotion do you use for your illustration work? Has that changed now that you are in a different country?

The way I promote online hasn’t changed too much. I still try to build traffic and web presence by getting my work featured on various websites and uploading my work to design communities like Behance, etc. The biggest difference now is I spend significantly more time networking in person. I’m still trying to break into the market, so I need to use every opportunity I can to promote.

Can you describe your current illustration studio setup? How do you do your work?

Right now my current setup consists of 21.5” iMac, large Wacom Intuos4, and a simple table for drawing. Because I’m kind of a minimalist and I work from my small apartment I like to keep things simple to conserve space. I really hate having clutter in my life.

When I create a new illustration I usually have a rough idea of what I want to draw, but gather my reference materials so I can decide on the details of what I want to create. I have a few folders on my computer where I save reference material like fashion magazine scans, and street style photos that I look at while drawing.

I draw my line work with just paper and pencil or sometimes ball point pen. I’ve been trying to migrate to drawing on my computer directly, however it still feels too unnatural. After completing the line work on paper I scan the drawing and add color with PhotoShop or SAI Paint Tool(a popular Japanese program). I’m constantly trying to tweak my technique so I don’t really have a standard process.

Do you think location matters for a working illustrator? Why or why not?

I feel like location is becoming less and less relevant. When you can promote your work and deliver worldwide with just an internet connection, location doesn’t seem to matter. There are no longer limits to who you can work for and where you can work from.

What are the greatest challenges in relocating as an illustrator? The greatest rewards?

The fear of failing. The fear I don’t posses the skills or drive to succeed. Even though I have goals I’d like to achieve I have doubts about my ability to accomplish them. At the same time, the most rewarding thing is the challenge itself. Succeeding in starting a career in another country, and living in an inspirational place is my reward.