Paris live sketches 29-09-11

It is beautiful and sunny in Paris. I don’t have any show tix (yet?), so yesterday I did the watching-the-arrivals thing outside of Carven and later, Balmain.


Lou Doillon



I don’t know who this is, but she looked important.

As far as illustrating goes, it seems much more pleasant than photography, eh? Shooting the arrivals has become an epic swarming. If I find a good vantage, I can sit back, take my time, and enjoy.

Fashion Fringe sketches

Thanks to Colin McDowell and the Design Museum, I had the lucky chance to sketch at the Fashion Fringe show. The live version is on the left – the more polished version is on the right. Click for big.

Fyodor Golan was the night’s award winner.

Heidi Leung, my personal favourite. (See a slide of the rough overlaid with the final here.)

Nabil El-Nayal, the crowd favourite.

photos from Cristina Sabaiduc 18-09-11

Cristina Sabaiduc‘s audacious London debut. This is an image of the rehearsal. You can see the magnetic garments clinging to the back wall there. Cristina dressed her models in these modular effects as they walked around the block. Check out her full collection here.

The video is off the hook.

CRISTINA SABAIDUC SS12 Motion from Cristina Sabaiduc on Vimeo.

My sketches and notes from the show are here.

This wonderful candid was captured by Lynsie Roberts. See more of Lynsie’s shots at her site.  Emma and I were absorbed in sketching by Cristina’s runway. Emma Block does brilliant illustration with a delightful collage technique.


the fashion week thriving kit

This is not another fashion week survival kit. Why focus on just surviving, why run with the middle of the pack? Fashion week is there for the taking. So why not pack a thriving kit instead? And instead of filling the bag with a bunch of branded merchandise, fill your head with some idea of why you are there and a vision of how you can rock the week.

Don’t try to do it all. Do it better. You are a human being. Focus your resources on your strengths. What is your favourite part of fashion week? What makes you excited about fashion? What do you want to achieve this season? Great fashion and great content thrive on inspiration and enthusiasm. Good work also takes energy and time to produce. Give yourself time and space to do your best, forget the rest.

Have a strategy or an idea. Keep it achievable, but inventive. Bring something new, every season. This is part of the joy of fashion. It might not be great every single season. That’s the way creativity crumbles. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Aim to make yourself useful, or better yet, delightful.

Meet people. It is a human mixing machine. For one week, everyone who shares the fashion proclivity will share tents. Queues and seating and parties will have you rubbing fabric-clad elbows with them all. Your tribe are in there somewhere – find them. There will be a few remarkable talents on display – celebrate them wholeheartedly.

Observe people. It is a stadium of style. Tremendous Darwinian diversity, and some species of style more successful than others. What are the differences this season? What are people discussing, dismissing, desiring? Fashion occasionally transcends – you might have the rare opportunity to witness that. Keep your eyes peeled.

Be kind. Be grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. Fashion is temporal. No season, no city is identical. Attending or participating in a fashion week in any capacity is a very unique experience that not everyone gets to do. Have a good one.

click click – 13-09-11

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

These textural, meticulous paintings of textiles are a type of very abstract fashion illustration. The artist Andrea Higgins‘ obsessive reproduction of textiles worn, in this case by First Lady Jackie Kennedy, are a visceral/visual portrait. Via Covet & Want.

  • Tents, but No Circus – another season, another nostalgic article from an established voice about the way things used to be. What was once raw and glamourous has become efficient and industrialized. Trite but true.
  • Catwalk (1996) – the way it used to be. This is an excellent documentary, graceful without commentary, following Christy Turlington through fashion weeks in Milan, Paris and New York. Wonderful cameos of Gianni Versace, pre-Dior Galliano, young Kate and Naomi, clever Carla Bruni and others. Candidly captures a moment in fashion with such vividness. A terrific find.
  • Nian Fish – terrific interview with a pioneer in the relatively young profession of styling. Via Sarah Joynt.
  • The Long Tail – an oldie but goodie from 2004, all about a concept that I constantly refer to when thinking about media and entrepreneurship in the digital age. Geeky, but it applies to fashion too.
  • The Fashion Industry Wants Tumblr to Get its Fucking Act Together – it just isn’t often that you get to see this kind of business scrap play out in public. The valuation of digital media is beginning to get defined. Wild west numbers are a thing of the past.
  • How Sassy is Tavi Gevinson? – See for yourself. Watching her work develop is incredible.


Karma for friendly friends!


so far, so London

So it has been 9 months in London. 9 months of novelty, bureaucracy, existential crises, loneliness, rejection, vacation, self-destruction, wondering, wandering, cash flow issues, random encounters, queues, new friends, risky behaviour, beigels, confined spaces, grandeur, wrong turns and righteous reinvention.

I knew that it would be a tricky to move to a new city in a new country, but of course there was no way I could prepare myself for it. Do I love London? Every once in a while, when it loves me back – most of the time the relationship is somewhere between ambivalent and adversarial. It is not that different than Toronto, just more extreme – London deals out euphoria and downright hostility, but without much in between. It is not a city you can cruise along comfortably in. Especially if the nature of your occupation is inconsistent.

When you’re winning at London, you feel brilliant. When you’re losing at London, you feel like an abject failure. Experience can modify your reactions to the fluctuations somewhat, just as in freelancing, after a while you accept that your last job won’t be your last, ever. You just have to accept that the struggle will never be transcended.

My three greatest dragons to slay have been isolation, obscurity, and squalor.

I slept and worked in this sixty square foot room in East London for just over seven months. To say it was a downgrade from my studio situation in Toronto would be an understatement. But there was nothing to be done for it – I only had a couple months worth of expenses saved, I had lost the location-specific portion of my income, and I had no definite business plan in London. I chose to operate with as little as I could, allowing myself only a few business-related investments – an office chair, a new small scanner and a work lamp. The situation was physically and psychologically confining.

In December, business was good, with two large projects from American clients and a number of smaller ones, I was almost wholly occupied with work. Personally, I had never been so miserable in my life. I was sick with a persistent cough, there was a lot of tension and disorder in my flat, and I was lonelier than I had ever been before, far away from my family and friends. I’m not sure why I chose November to move, in retrospect.

January was decent business wise but I started to experience some cash flow issues as I had difficulty opening up a UK bank account as a self-employed person. I had put a plan into place to meet people in London – so my social anxieties were alleviated somewhat, but overall the only reason it was better was because December had been so bad. The other major event was the eviction of some toxic flatmates – so me and my remaining flatmates had the opportunity to upgrade the flat and it became significantly more liveable.

In January, February and March I attended my first European fashion weeks, in Berlin, London and Paris. These experiences were incredible and enlightening, but not without difficulties. As a new kid in town, I experienced the most frequent feelings of professional rejection I had since I was a new graduate. Berlin was covered by a freelance job, but I was mostly just hanging out, wall-flying it, for London and Paris. And eventually, pants-flying it as I carelessly spent next month’s rent on cafe au lait and macarons in Paris.

Coming back to London and reality was rock hard. For the first time in my entire career as a freelancer, I experienced two consecutive months with zero revenue – March and April. The “freelancer’s vacation” is probably the most stressful thing I deal with in my work, more so that time because I had spent my usual buffer, and had foolishly decided to live in a ridiculously expensive city. I have had several zero months in the past & ridden them out fairly smoothly on savings and faith. Not this time. This was probably the most intense professional existential crises of my entire life.

Racking up credit card bills, I refused to lose at London. I took my time and divided it in two. I revived my resume – moribund for 8 years, printed it out, and literally pounded the pavement by day, applying for shop assistant positions all over London. The rest of my time was spent re-assessing my web presence and professional goals. It was like post-grad anxiety all over again – interviews for jobs I could care less about by day, agonizing ambitious angst by night. I stripped down my website to the essentials, and started posting less often, but focusing on gnarlier subjects, posts that would take a while to work into shape.

Just like they always do, once I had achieved a level of hustling momentum, the freelance gods blessed me with my first ever consulting client, advising and overseeing fashion-related artwork for a game developer in San Francisco. Then I got one of my highest profile jobs ever for a dream Canadian client, doing an ADR paper doll for The Bay. Suddenly, I was OK again. I turned down two retail positions. I paid off my credit card bill (though I would be hovering between black and red until August) and I could afford my trip to Glasgow with Gail in June.

Despite the good news, I was still dealing with a lingering sense of isolation. I was keeping a diary for a side project at the time, and it was strange to read how repetitive my obsessions were: lonely, money, lonely, money, lonely, money. The exercise of writing it down was really useful, it made me realize that I had to do something about my situation, as I could see that it was resulting in genuine psychological distress and some low-level self-destructive behaviour.

At the beginning of July, I met some kind strangers, as had become my habit, at the V&A on a rainy night. One of them mentioned he had a desk share available & lived in my neighbourhood. I checked it out, and while it didn’t suit me exactly, the solution for my isolation had presented itself. It was time to take on the risk of an extra monthly expense and find a good desk share. Within two days I had found it and moved in and it was a physically and socially expansive experience from the beginning. My working space is no longer confined, and an added level of social texture in my life has made my days significantly more pleasant.

Once that move was made and I had settled into a new routine, I finally had the career-defining epiphany I had been searching for since March. I often struggled with how to describe my blog – it is a fashion blog, but it is not the type of fashion blog that most people think of. It is not an outfit blog or a street style blog, and while it errs on the analytical side, it is definitely not an academic blog either.

With an unconscious impulse, I found myself typing “trend theory” into Google, and guess what the top result was? A post I made on The Fashion Spot in 2005. It was some long tail voodoo magic, of course that is what Final Fashion is about! I googled “trend theorist“, and I found that no one calls themselves that. Well, now someone does, and as the first ever trend theorist I have the opportunity to define that role as I continue to think, write, discuss, and observe fashion. It was an epiphany on the same level as when I named my grad collection “final fashion”, or when I first put “fashion illustrator” on my business cards.

Now I am finding the greater clarity of purpose has started to have an effect – I am creating more estimates, some for UK businesses, I am finding new friends with great affinity at greater frequency. For the first time in well over a year, I feel temporary bursts of contentment. My consulting contract has been renewed twice, and I have other contracts lined up through January. This week, I was finally able to save one month’s worth of expenses again. I’m preparing to attend fashion weeks in London and Paris. I selected two new flatmates and my living space is now even more neat and comfortable.

Will I stay in London indefinitely? I don’t think so. I miss being near my family, and now that my business is 100% non-location-specific I don’t see why I should settle in such an expensive city when I could live much more comfortably in a smaller centre. I do plan stay the rest of my Visa here – until October 2012. It continues to be an incredibly life-defining challenge for me – the first time I ever attempted something truly on my own. Though it has been difficult, I cherish the solitary nature of this endeavor. In order to make a bid for social mobility – which is what moving to an expensive, competitive city truly is – you have to take financial, social, and professional risks and be very persistent. I have and I’ll continue to do so, because the professional and personal rewards are so satisfying.

When I come back to Canada, I’ll be able to have my very own studio for the first time, and I’ll be totally self-reliant, at a profession I absolutely adore.

Thanks for reading. Love from London…