Monday, May 24, 2010

Finals Week @ FIT

So I'm half finished with the Menswear program at FIT!  I can't believe how much Professor Blackman & Co. have whipped us all into shape over the past year from not knowing how to thread a sewing machine to now being able to make a hand-tailored jacket.  As all high-caliber design schools are notorious for, finals week means it's about to get hardcore up in this bitch...

... and of course slap-happy moments in the studio.

Sunday was spent doing an extra credit paper for History of Menswear, working on a little bit of Patternmaking and a little bit of Tailoring.  Now when I say "a little bit," I mean like three hours to each.  The paper was actually a lot of fun to write.  I picked out this Parisian Hippy from 1970 to analyze.  He's the dancer Lester Wilson, taken at the Parisian café, Café de Flore.  Among other things I talked about, I showed that by his grooming, he didn't fall into the category of "dirty Hippy" hahaha...

Here's an nice except:

The man here is an example of someone in step with the fashion of the day, or rather as the Hippie movement was, anti-fashion.  At this time, men’s fashion, along with everything else in the world, was becoming more and more liberated.  With the women’s movement, the sexual revolution and Rock music, whose central theme is “Do what you want,” the type of dress people wear is becoming very uninhibited.  As well, with new colors and cuts being injected back into menswear, it was something not seen since before rich people were killed in France during the French Revolution for displaying their wealth.  This guy is definitely living up to this more uninhibited ideal as we see him enjoying time with a friend, in everyday attire, in a fur coat, a silk scarf around his head and necklaces that look like they go down to his waist.  He is the antitheis of the restrainted style of menswear in the “Leave It to Beaver” decades of yore.  
As I have come to understand the term “dandy,” it means a man who is very concerned and aware of his image and walks through the world with ease and confidence.  A typical hippie would not meet this criteria.  In describing a hippie’s clothing, the author cited a quote referencing the “badly stitched leather dividing the two colors (of his pants.)”  Someone with a dandy’s mindset wouldn’t be running around with badly stitched anything, at least not visible to others.  While this man is clearly heavily influenced by hippie style, he is much more of a dandy than a hippie.  Ignoring his clothing, with a bright, charming smile on his face, he is engaged with a friend and looks totally confident and at ease.  The way he holds his cigarette reminds me of the lazy confidence of 
Achille Devéria’s drawing of Alexandre Dumas, who even like the man in the picture, is in Paris.   

It was a good paper, but I did get docked a point because I compared a Hippie, which is an anti-fashion movement, to a very fashionable man, when someone like Oscar Wilde, who galavanted around town in knee breeches and velvet jackets with a sunflower, would have been more appropriate.  Well, whatever, anti-fashion inevitably becomes fashion.

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." - Oscar Wilde

Our drawing class never had homework so the last week so just the last week and that was it.  We showed some of our best sketches to the teacher as we were working and that was it.  Fine by me.  I feel like my figure drawing skills have gotten a lot better, and I'm beginning to have the proportions and patterns of curves in the body click.

Monday, I wrapped up the black denim jacket for Patternmaking.  I'd resolved a lot of the challenging parts earlier last week so there wasn't any problem-solving or thought left, just doing the work.  And after drafting a shawl and notch lapel, suit body and back suit vent from memory (or try my best :p) last week, felling in sleeve lining wudn't no thang.

It turned out nice, except Professor Blackman made me modify it a good amount, to include a collar we learned this semester, from my original sketch.

Meh.  There's a better pic floating around out there but here's a sneak peek at some details:

Tuesday night was mostly all working on my Tailoring jacket.  On the train ride home and in the morning, I went over my notes for History of Menswear class.  The exam went just dandily.

Wednesday night, I had a nice little surprise assignment.  A customer at Arbitrage had been requesting four of the shirts he bought have darts added.  I volunteered, having never learned about it.  I screwed it up at first pretty bad.  Screwing up a $150 shirt isn't good.  The way I did it first was put it on a form, pin it where I wanted to take volume away and transfer the measurements and such.  Where's what happened when I sewed it up:

The answer is no.

After being told by two very competent people what I wanted to do couldn't be done, I was more determined ever to do it.  Finally, I talked to my friend Pasha, who said something like, "Oh yeah, it's simple.  Here's what you do.  Draw a line from arm hole to armhole.  Find the mid point.  Mark 6" to both sides, drop a line to 3" above the hem and mark about 7 1/2" down from the armhole line, which is approximately the waist line.  Pin it with silk pins since the fabric's so fine and sew it."

Glorious.  I replicated it on the other three shirts and, as you can see, memorized how to do it.

Now when I took the stitches out from the first screwy dart I did, the fabric was a very tight weave and it left a diamond of little perforations from the needle.  After thinking about the situation a little, I thought I could get them out, despite not being able to steam them out with an iron...

Just like how if you have messy hair, if you wet it, it relaxes down, the same would probably be the same with the cotton fibers.  None were broken, they were just pushed out around a shape that went through it exactly like if you would put your finger through cheesecloth.  So I dunked it in water, rubbed the perforations and gave it a good press of the iron and it was as good as new!

I pressed all four of those bad boys, tag teamed with FedEx and got them en route in the morning.

I already had my Menswear Design project finished so I was done for the night and presented in the morning.  My collection was based on spiders and spider webs.  I like the brutal elegance of spiders.  It incorporated a few sheer fabrics like organza and other natural fabrics like cream worsted wool, white linen, purple satin and brown tweed.  There were generally sharp corners and cutouts in the collection and it was (would be) cut very slim.  (Click the images to see it larger)

Then came the monster night before our Tailoring class.  And with losing the previous night, even though I was diligent the whole semester, it was a guaranteed all-nighter.

The studios are supposed to close at 2 am...  2 am rolls around and a good 20 Menswear students are still there.  We just FULL-ON IGNORE their requests to leave and keep sewing lol.  Like, no one even looked up.  I started laughing like crazy because the whole situation was bananas...

There were schemes devised about how to get back in once they did kicked us out, none of which came through.  We got shooed away around 2:45 am and we left dragging six mannequins out the front door only to have security be like "What the fuck???!"  We gave it a valiant effort but didn't prevail and had to take them back upstairs.  I meandered around for about 10 minutes and decided it would be a waste to take the train back home to Harlem and back in the morning at this point so I went to the 24-hour computer lab.

I checked the news and Perez Hilton (just being honest lol) and stuff and got bored.  The girl next to me was spazzing out over issues with a final Packaging Design project computer file being corrupted and not working.  I ended up working with Katie and helping her sort through things and quickly getting back to the point she was at before.  She called me her savior.  Me no think so. 

At this point, it was 5 am and I was sick and tired of being tired so I went to bed.  Katie snapped this wooly mammoth of a picture of me... right before she acquiesced and joined me under the table for a snooze.

Long story short, Gresia's jacket got turned in finished and on time.  It's too big for me but here's me wearing it home:

Saturday was my Tailoring the Pant class.  We just set up our pants on forms and had our teacher check out the finished garment.  Mine came out pretty smoothly.  If anyone is a size 32 x 32, they're all yours, just let me know you want them.  Here's a close up of the side pocket:

I loved my teacher for this class, Benedito Alibradi.  He's like a dinosaur but has more of a youthful spirit than most people I know.  He still gets excited about showing people his tag in a suit he makes!  

Oh, and I was drinking iced tea before class and he comes up and says "No drinking."  I'm thinking "Kinda weird but okay, you've never said anything before..."  Then he goes, "You drinking beer?"  LOLOL.... He told me a story about how three years ago there was this alcoholic girl who actually would do that all the time.  Intoxication and sharp machinery... mmmk.  Not what I'm looking for.

After this, our Menswear Club had a last-minute picnic/Broadway show we planned a day before.  We ordered food, took a cab to pick it up from Manganaro Foods, a little Italian place at 9th and 37th.  Amazzzzing food we found out.  We made friends with the Italian woman owner, Ceila; she even gave me a kiss on the cheek as we were leaving as thanks for the big order (we had 20 people RSVP to our picnic).

The picnic was better than I could have imagined.  My classmates are the funnest group of people ever.


ALL of the shows on Broadway were sold out Saturday so we bought tickets for Sunday afternoon to see Promises, Promises.  

It was my first time on Broadway and the production was on a totally different level than any other theatre production I've ever seen.  We got pizza afterwards and headed back to FIT for the last project of the week: Computer Design.  

I realized I worked on this for almost 14 hours straight.  Now, granted, I did do two of them, one for a friend, but it was way more work than I thought it would have been.  We were supposed to design a small collection for the company Original Penguin with flats, croquis, patterns and the like.  I amazed myself at how rapidly I was able to do #2, having already done the first one.  I actually was having fun doing it and watching my fingers and mouse zip and dart around with effortless confidence.  Anyway, here's my Original Penguin collection:

It was a great semester and I can't wait to learn and grow more next year!  Now it's time to get my life back in balance and do things like drink pomegranate juice, sleep and run around Central Park!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lam Nguyen from Barneys

Today in my design class, we had a guest speaker: Lam Nguyen, the CO-OP menswear buyer for Barneys.  The CO-OP part of Barneys is their less expensive (they still have $230 Prada t-shirts though) wing of the store.  I would have felt über-weird asking to get a picture with the guy so this is the only image you get!

Barneys was one of the first places I went to check out when I moved to New York, and I really liked the set up of the whole retail space.  I remember the sales associates being extremely accommodating and attentive.  Lam has been there for 12 years now and shared his experiences with us this morning...
  • Fashion is a business and a professional job.  There's more to it than just the social aspects.
  • In co-op, price point is key.  Barney's has a focus on breaking emerging designers first and tends to want exclusivity if they do.  
  • They think of themselves as a big specialty store, not a major retailer (even though according to their website they have 19 co-op stores, 13 outlets and 14 Barneys New York locations)
  • When approaching any retailer, “Where do you sit on our floor?” is an important question the buyers will ask.  Reference what other brands are like yours.
  • Tailoring is a big "trend" now.
  • Varsity jacket will be everywhere in the Fall.
  • If you have your own company, the aesthetic you’re projecting has to be true to who you are as a person.
  • When evaluating a designer, retailers want to know who you are and what you could become, i.e. "Oh, I could see them as the next Ralph Lauren..."
  • Men care MUCH less about what clothes male celebrities wear than women do about prominent females.
  • The American market follows the European market.
  • Aesthetic and story behind the collection is important.
  • Present in a manner that is congruent with your brand (i.e. presenting a line of t-shirts in a suit = disconnect).
  • Steps a customer goes through when deciding if they like something: The overall aesthetic of brand, they feel it, ask themselves "Is something missing in my wardrobe?"  By then a sales associate will get them a fitting room.  Fit is the most crucial and if it doesn't fit, they'll probably never go back to that brand.
  • Don’t try to react and design for retailers and buyers because "we’re fickle."
It's always refreshing to hear from someone that is on the other side of the table dealing with the realities of SELLING clothes.

Monday, May 3, 2010

E'LON Couture Magazine


Earlier today, someone told me that the clothes we showed in Cincy Fashion Week were mentioned in the publication E'LON Couture Magazine, known as "The magazine for proud, thoughtful Black women."  They described our clothes as having "a fun, youthful and somewhat 'bad boy' feel."

And, according to their media/advertising kit, with circulation of approximately 250,000 around the country, I ain't complainin'...

Proud, thoughtful women probably have proud, thoughtful men in their lives, which is EXACTLY our market.  Printed on our hang tags is "Ambition.  Audacity.  Accomplishment."  I'm glad we resonate with the right bunch.

Oh, I can't forget that according to Fara Warner, author of the book The Power of the Purse, "Women make 80 percent of all buying decisions" and "control $7 trillion in purchasing power."  So I'm glad the women at E'LON liked our stuff!

Click the picture below to get a closer look:

P.S. Thanks to (from the top) Adam Montrose, Tim Thornton and Jeremy Harig for looking making these outfits look like a million bucks!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cincinnati Fashion Week

Last week, I skipped out on school and flew back to Cincinnati from Tuesday night to Sunday afternoon to participate in Cincinnati Fashion Week!

I worked my tail off to finish my last garment for the show.  It was my take on a tuxedo shirt.  Here's a pic of it midway finished:

Tuesday night, I got in at 9:45 pm and caught the tail end of the designer meet and greet at FBs downtown.  It was a nice welcome back...

Wednesday afternoon I had to go up to Rachel's mom's in West Chester to pick up four pairs of the new pant line that Manoj overnighted to me from Oregon because our factory in NYC shipped out ALL of our pants to a buyer there after he emailed them to have some reserved for us to take to Cincinnati.  Whoops!  We left with the pants an hour before the fitting and no one knew the difference...

Wednesday night was the model fitting.  It's quite challenging to pick outfits for, match sizes and mark pant hems for ten guys you just met on the spot!  It all worked out in the end though.  My models were super cooperative and easygoing.  No divas haha...  Here's a few of my guys and I working to get the sizing right for them:

Thursday was the up-and-coming show at Suite in the back of Blackfinn.  I rolled up solo which was a good thing...  The event was a lot of fun and I got to make friends with a lot of people.

Still hoping for a good pic that I'm in from the night to pop up online :(

And lastly, Friday was the big night!  

So I was gonna wear a white linen suit I had to the show but, one, it had some mystery yellow streaks on the back of them, and two... it was a dreary, grey day.  So I had a change of heart and decided to rock the black velvet blazer.  Problem was, the only pair of black pants I had on me that would have matched went in the dang show!

But after dealing with the previous pant crisis on Wednesday, this was cake.  I jetted over to Rookwood to buy a pair of black pants that looked good with my outfit.  I tried on some in Banana Republic, but as they were dress pants, with everything else being all black basically, I looked as though I were about to roll into a funeral ready to have a liiiittle too much fun.  So I ended up snatching a sweet pair of Joe's Jeans from Nordstrom Rack that were dark denim with black painted on top.  Score.

I got to the Regency Hyatt Ballroom with plenty of time to spare.  I had two people assisting me, my friend Drew and my mom.  The steamer that the designers were trying to use kept spitting water out at us and it was getting to be silly to keep using it.  Then like the great Mom that she is, my mother volunteered to iron all ten outfits.  Hell yes...

Things progressed as expected until the show started.  Actually though, the host of the event from the CW television network, Jen Dalton, had her David Meister dress's zipper come off the track.  So she was standing there having people fiddle and diddle with it trying to get it to work and I came in and volunteered to hand-sew it up for her haha.  My tailoring teachers would have been so proud!

Before my guys went out, she did me a favor and read the bio and concept of the show that I typed and my mom neatly transcribed for me as I was doing other stuff on notebook paper.  

So Arbitrage was third in the line up.  Everything went very well, expect the DJ played the two songs in opposite order.  Whatever.

In short, the concept for the show was Las Vegas and the highs and lows of gambling, which was a metaphor for taking risks in life.  My guys transitioned from "the bottom to the top" with the first look being a hooded dress shirt with a worker-type patch and raw edge jeans with leather pockets to more and more polished, refined looks, ending with a tuxedo-type shirt with clean, black pants.  In the middle, I had my model Jeremy (wearing the playing card print shirt) do a 52 card pickup into the crowd, which really amped them up!

Here are pics of the four looks that I had the most hand in and subsequently tied the theme of the collection together:

A lot of people have been asking about the hooded shirts... they can be purchased here.  Enter the code "cincyrunway" at the checkout to receive $36 off your final order!

To see ALL the looks (taken by Thadd Fiala), click here: 

All 11 other designers killed it.  My favorite was Trash Biscuit from St. Louis.  I met one of the designers Ryan Coyne at the after party and he was super cool!

A copy of the DVD of the show is being produced by Troy McDaniel.  You can put your name on the interest list by joining the Facebook group.  Click the image below to see the one-minute teaser:


I got a lot of great feedback and Amy from Cincy Chic mentioned us in her column in the Cincinnati Enquirer kindly saying,"...if I had to pick a male fav, it would be the Arbitrage Vegas-inspired line. My husband loved every single thing they put on the catwalk, and I’d love to see him in all of it too!"

Now comes the tough part... taking the enthusiasm from the show and turning that into sales :)