And Away We Go

Well, that was hard.  And it’s likely just one of many hard things that I’ll be doing in the next few months.  This man here just set me up like a queen though.  Here, he’s rearranging the dishes in a more sensible way.  Now, he’s far away.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

That's not where you put plates.
“That’s not where you put plates.”

I won’t give you the whole story now but here’s the quick and dirty version: I was in Paris for the month of January as a co-director of a study abroad trip.  That’s done.  Now, I’m in Madrid, Spain for four months because I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship.  I’m a very lucky gal.  I’m sorting things out still.  Namely, how to reframe my beloved blog.  Is this about teaching? Fashion? Spain? Does it matter?

Well, I’m no Rick Steves.  I won’t tell you where to get a churro or why a plaza is named what it is.  I will tell you about fashion and Spain and the sensory things though.  It’s my duty now.  I’m here to research and lecture on fashion and communication these days. One way I like to examine communication is through the five senses so that’s what I’ll do here.

Spain smells good.  Like laundry detergent from long ago when it was okay that it was scented. And that smell is mixed with a neutral, cologne-y smell that I’m guessing CK One was inspired by. There’s fair amount of unapologetic smoking but I get just a whiff here and there and it reminds me of my rebellious days.

Just your average store brand washing detergent mixed with….
2016-02-08 16.44.05
Alvarez Gomez “Agua de Colonia Concentrada” Eau de Cologne

I have “crappy” (you’ll get it in a second) internet but the landlady and I are working on it.  Until then, the bathroom has the best connection so I get a whole new olfactory experience from the old plumbing when I’m checking emails.

Not so great smells.
Not so great smells.

No surprise here but Madrid is yellow to me. All shades of yellow.  From the canary yellow on the flag to a buttery yellow to gold leafed wrought iron.  It’s everywhere.  The buildings are short by American standards but seem to stand up straighter, pose proudly.  They’re all punctuated with a sculpture or spire on top and seem to say, “I am here!” In Paris, they wind around and are creamy and white to me and say “I don’t need you.” In Rome, they have nooks and crannies and are extremes of gray and white and seem to say “Screw you”.

See. Told you.
See. Told you. (Photo collage by me.)

This is stretch in terms of touch, but this is a clever foot thing to open the door to my building.

Sin manos!
Sin manos!

This is the best tasting bubbly water I’ve ever had.  It’s like the bottle is tainted with briny vermouth.

I chug this stuff.
I chug this stuff.

They do have ice.  It’s perfect and it’s shaped like jumbo marshmallows. It comes like this:

Eggs for scale.
Eggs for scale. Isn’t the bedspread cute?

Ham. Ham is plentiful. Yes. Tapas. We all know tapas. Will discuss later.

The old radiators in my apartment are workhorses and have been painted 42,000 times.  I takes a special house call with a special wrench to turn the knob.  (“Either on or off, Señora!!”)  So, I’m a little warm. I’ll figure it out after I figure out everything else.

No clanging though.
No clanging though.

So, sounds.  I love the word “bricolaje.” It sounds just like what it is: a store with household stuff in it. 

It has yellow too.
It has yellow too.

I haven’t witnessed the oft-spoken of lively 10 o’clock dinners yet.  It’s pretty damn quiet here.  I only hear a distant phone ringing or murmuring of Spanish TV or plates being stacked.  The buzzer to my apartment gives me a heart attack though. It sounds like a big, mean bumblebee coughing. 

I'll imitate it for you when I see you again.
I’ll imitate it for you when I see you again.

That’s it for the standard senses.  I’ll have to be here a while longer to get an idea of non-traditional senses and ESP.  There’s a lot to experience and share.  Aside from the gentleman in the first picture, there are many people to thank for their support and encouragement.  I didn’t get here alone and I truly appreciate the advice, positivity, and for shoveling the sidewalk.  I hope to see you soon.  Until then, abrazos!!! xoxoxoxo






“This site/blog (enter site’s title and address) is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of its author (or insert name here) and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.”



I can already hear the bass.
I can already hear the bass.

I know The Tents came out at least a year ago but I don’t care.  I thought it was a nice way to usher in NYFW.   I just saw it yesterday and, like every time I embark upon a new film, book, blog, or article relating to fashion it’s an emotional moment for me. I’m riveted and excited about learning something new and finding out about new fashion things, but panicked and ashamed that I didn’t already know about it.

All of a sudden I want to wear headsets and hold clipboards and help non-English speaking models order a Diet Pepsi.  Those slick plexiglass runways, sexy after-parties, impeccably executed fake eyelashes and impossibly high heels are a big leap from messy studios, lost patterns, late night mania, and what I like to call “sewing in my filth.”

Studio glamour.
Studio glamour.  Cat hair included.

Don’t you worry though.  I don’t think I could ever stop my obsessive need to make things.

So, fashion shows.  Specifically, the story of the Bryant Park fashion shows in NYC.  I’ve worked many fashion shows (see below) but I have to admit that I’ve never been to “the tents.”  I won’t ever have the chance, since they’re no longer holding the shows there, but I guess that’s why they made the documentary.  Fashion moves on.  As Hal Rubenstein said, “You’re not dealing with a very nostalgic crowd.”

A couple of things I learned while watching “The Tents”:

Before the venerated Fern Mallis organized it and got funding in 1993 (which she describes in such an off-handed, “no big deal” way), designers were holding the shows anywhere: in dilapidated buildings all over the city, with little or no organization and tons of chain smoking.  It was borderline unprofessional and kind of a joke.  Suzy Menkes had some ceiling fall on her head at a show and that was the plaster that broke the fashion reporter’s bouffant. But they got their act together.  Stan Herman: “This is big business and it started right here.”  Now, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Fashion Week generates an estimated $532 million in direct visitor spending annually, which translates to $865 million in total economic impact.

Aqua Net doesn't stop ancient plaster.
Aqua Net doesn’t stop ancient plaster.

NYFW has taken a cue from Haute Couture in the production of their shows.  Hal Rubenstein also said “You’re selling a dream, not a garment,” which I thought was pretty obvious, and definitely the sentiment of the Haute Couture shows.  However, incredulous family members STILL like to scream “WHO WOULD EVER WEAR THAT?” after seeing the outrageous garments and sometimes partially nude people parade down the runway.  Sigh. Please stop saying that.  You want to know who would wear that?  ME. I would.  I realize that we’re pretty practical and dedicated to sportswear in the U.S. so there has been some push back against this seduction.   We like our dreams attainable.

Gaultier's Cat Ladies Fall 2013
Gaultier’s Cat Ladies Fall 2013

Needs and expectations are changing too.  Looking beyond the immediacy that the internet has brought to fashion, there’s also an overwhelming demand for density and being able to extract and document every last thing from every moment.  We want to know the play-by-play of the show, the designer, the model, the venue.  Case in point: “Atmosphere Photos.”  Soon, there will be a twitter account for the hairbrushes that are used and what they go through.  Some say ENOUGH!  Peter Som and others reign in the madness by having Digital Fashion Shows, saving time and money and headaches. Some don’t have a show at all.  Models just stand solemnly against a pretty backdrop.

Don't cry.  They'll be a show next year.
Don’t cry. There will be a show next year. Rachel Roy 2014

Students: volunteer at fashion shows whenever you can. You’ll have some stressful, primal moments and memories but it should read something like this after a few of them:

  • Crawling around on the floor removing nail polish off of dirty model feet
  • 15 models, 4 dressers and you in an un-airconditioned 10 x 10 foot tent in July
  • Hand sewing busted zippers and pantyose (!!!) with no light in said tent
  • Overprotective/creepy/baffled boyfriends who linger and gawk
  • Lights and music going out mid show (we decided it was an impromptu intermission)
  • Taping the bottom of 30 pairs of shoes, removing said tape with goof-off, going home early from exposure to fumes
  • Being amazed at how goddamned fast those models can change

Finally, a I have few new favorites from this year!  I didn’t think the shows needed any more coverage than they have already so here goes: Tibi, Edun, Louise GoldinA Détacher, SunoChadwick Bell.  Such great crisp-white-and-black-boxy-goodness to greet us in a few months!

Daydream dress up, indeed.

The reasons for starting a blog aren’t very lofty.  Let’s face it.  This isn’t the “Great American Novel.”

When I started my blog, I wrote down a few ideas that I wanted to mine to be about.  Besides strictly “fashion.”  The ideas I wrote down were: discovery, learning, trying things out, process, contradictions, complexity, and (obvi), daydreaming.

I have a strong grasp of production and the technical side of the industry but the one thing that brought me to fashion was daydreaming.  It allowed me to think freely, abstractly, and naturally.  And for me and a friend, that was the two of us in her basement at 3 am, dressed as male talk show hosts from the seventies, belting out the soundtrack from A Chorus Line (while recording every last minute of it for posterity).  Not quite the same level as haute couture design, but I like to think it starts in the same place.  Speaking of dressed up men from the seventies, I give you John Galliano:

Albino YMCA
I shall return with violets.
Don’t forget your espadrilles!
Major Tom

These are just a few ways he used to “take a bow” at the end of his legendary runway shows.  They were as anticipated almost as much as the show itself.  Ever the prolific, genius-dreamer!

These exits are no more.  Why?  Hmmm… I don’t really want to go in to detail about it.  I’ll leave the real examination to Cathryn Horyn.  Let’s just say, for the sake of my blog that, aside from the pressure, subsequent addiction, and clandestine handheld recording devices, he “lost his daydreams.”  Ooooh.  That’s good.  From now on, whenever I see a fashion “don’t” or get a parking ticket or bite into a mushy apple, I’m going to use that.  “I just lost my daydreams.”

And there’s nothing like commerce, shareholders, and reality to suck the daydream right out of you and set you up for world of fashion trouble.

Yves St. Laurent: “God, when I first started I could work day and night, without stopping for food or rest.  It was pure excitement.  Now there is this incredible anguish and emptiness before every collection.  Something new, something new, always something new.  I work because I have to–not to make money but for the people who depend on me.  If I don’t create the next collection and the collection after that, they will end up in the street.”

YSL sketches and swatches

Do I need to even mention McQueen?

“Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.” AM

Galliano was producing up to 32 collections a year between House of Galliano and Dior.  “As long as I could produce, it was fine.”

Ack!  HOW ON EARTH DID HE DO THAT?  Well, we know how he did it but still, HOW ON EARTH DID HE DO THAT?!  And while we’re on the topic, what is the heck is in The Kaiser‘s water?

Galliano said in the Charlie Rose interview, “I couldn’t say ‘no’.”

That’s why I admire Isabel Toledo so much.  We can learn a lot from her restraint/boundaries.  She’s a designer’s designer who, for over twenty years has been able to create clothes that people want to wear.  People like Michelle Obama on Inauguration Day in 2009.  She’s maintained not only an artistic vision, but one that requires an understanding of technical design.  Despite being a top designer, she’s an outspoken opponent of the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, feeling that her designs are no more important than any other designer’s out there.  In fact, she’s designed a shoe line for Payless.  She’s also quite the showman herself, often landing on Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed list with her husband and collaborator, the artist, Ruben Toledo.  Did I talk about the FIT show and corresponding book about her or one she recently wrote?

You know, designin’!

Perhaps the smartest and most measured choice she’s made is to only show collections when she can.  This, of course, is hard when Bernard Arnault is breathing down your neck but it’s testament to knowing herself and what you’re capable of and what makes you happy.  You don’t need to be a rock star to make clothes.

In the July Vanity Fair article about Galliano, Anna Wintour said, “We need the dreamers. We need those designers who create a magic moment, a world that changes the way you look at clothes.”  Cherish your daydreaming because this is when you play.  Develop techniques to cultivate your dreams so that you can do it effortlessly.  I know of a blog that can help.

Designer Interview: Lobo Mau

Huffin' and puffin'.
Huffin’ and puffin’.

I hear a lot of students talk about how they want to start their own fashion label so I thought I’d interview an independent designer to lay it all out for those aspiring to do so.  Nicole Haddad is the owner and designer of the Philadelphia fashion label Lobo Mau (Portuguese for “Big Bad Wolf”, a child hood obsession) and she has bravely been living the *glamorous* life of a designer for several years now and shared a few thoughts with me.  She’s also refreshingly honest, non-scary and always says thank you.

She’s busy bee.  Aside from getting production going for her Fall 2013 collection, she just participated in a Harajuku-themed fashion show for the Suburu Cherry Blossom Festival and she’s been asked to show at Immaculata University’s Annual Fashion Show as well.  And rounding out the Spring is a two day trunk show at Arthur & Daughter’s in York, PA on May 3rd and 4th where she’ll be showing her Spring/Summer Collection.  Her website is brand, spanking new.  I asked her to tell me the good, the bad, and the necessary details to start and run your own fashion label.

Do you use computers in your design? At what point?

Although I am a huge Photoshop and Illustrator user, I don’t need any computer programs for the design phase. My textile prints are mostly hand-drawn and silk screened onto the fabric by artist Ryan Parker. I draw my flats by hand. I think computers only come in at the photo editing phase, after the season’s look book as been shot.

How does your background and history play into your designs?

On my mother’s side of the family I come from a long line of Sicilian dress makers and fashion designers. My great-grandparents had several bridal and evening gown shops in Philadelphia. They dressed all the local celebrities such as Grace Kelly. I learned a lot of sewing techniques from my grandmother who was a bridal designer and had a shop in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. My dad’s side of the family is Brazilian, so I we have been visiting Brazil at least once a year my entire life. In Brazil, it is common to have clothing custom made by local seamstresses. I began designing my own clothing at a very young age and having my designs made during my visits to Brazil. Brazilian fashion also really influences my aesthetic.

She started WAY early.
She started WAY early.

Who are your favorite people to work with? Designers, models, photographers?

I love photoshoots. If you find the right photographer, who really gets your vision, the collaboration can be explosive. The photographer can elevate your product to the next level with a great photo. It takes me about a month to plan my look book shoots with my favorite photographer, Ross Ericsson.

What is important to you as a designer?

I want to make clothing that women want to wear. It is really a simple goal, but it can be difficult to achieve. As a designer, it is my mission to analyze women’s relationship to their clothing. And believe me, this relationship goes deep. The right garment can make a woman feel incredible. My mission is to make women feel cool, thin, and chic. I want my customers to walk into a room wearing Lobo Mau and get a ton of compliments on her outfit. And she does!

Where do you see the fashion industry going?

I definitely think mass customization is the way of the future. We are going to be able to order garments that fit our bodies perfectly, at no extra cost.

What do you think up and coming designers need to learn today?

How to make a living doing what they love. You can’t survive as a designer if you aren’t selling your product. The goal of a designer is to solve problems. If you aren’t solving the problem of how to make a living, then you aren’t really designing.

Can you share with me the difficulties you have that you think young designers don’t know?

I don’t think young designers realize how tenacious you need to be to survive. You can’t expect to work a 40 hour work week and be done with it. When you start your own line, you are working all the time. You have to always be thinking ahead and strategizing about your next step. It’s also really important to be organized and to make sure you aren’t spinning your wheels unnecessarily. Time is money!

Do you think your design training prepared you to be an independent designer? Why or why not?

I got a great education, and I learned how to make my deadlines and how to present myself and my work with the utmost professionalism. My education definitely laid the groundwork for my career, but I had to fight my way through using trial and error.  I’ve probably made every mistake in the book when it comes to starting my own line, but these mistakes made me stronger and more knowledgeable. I’m at the point now where I have established my brand and my aesthetic. I know who I am and where I want to take this brand.

Who or what has gotten you through tough times?

The tough times are constant. Every time I want to give up, I have a breakthrough. I also have this amazing community of Philadelphia designers around me, and we all lift each other up. We have a great co-op called US*U.S. where we work together and sell our clothing. And of course, I have my family and my husband who keep me going.

What is your inspiration?

I’m inspired by print design, color, and a garment’s proportion.

Bold colors, eh?
Bold colors, you say?

What was a turning point in your career?

Probably when I quit my day job. When you don’t have a paycheck coming in, you hustle much harder. Fear of failure is what gets me up in the morning. I have made a decision to take this difficult career path, and I need to make sure I don’t let down the people who believe in me. Most of all, I can’t let myself down!

What gets you in the studio every day?

I strive to be a responsible business woman. I want to make my deadlines and be on top of my emails. I have all these great new boutique accounts, and I want to make sure that these are lone-term relationships. I want them to know that they can count on me to deliver!

What’s your favorite part of designing/being a designer?

I love clothing. I used to lay awake at night as a child and dream up clothing that I wish I had. I love seeing these dreams come to life, and it makes me giddy to see people wearing my designs. I can’t contain myself. I want to Lobo Mau-ify the world!

Me want.
I DARE you to take my little couch.

What’s your least favorite part?

Hemorrhaging money. Being an independent designer is SO expensive. Everything I make just goes right back out again. I have to pay for fabric, fabric printing, manufacturing, parking, photoshoots, models, graphic designers, printing etc.

How would you define your style?

Fresh, edgy, chic.

Watchoo doin’ in the bathtub?

What fabrics, colors, silhouettes do you work with?

I only work with jersey knit fabrics. It makes sizing so much easier. I choose really simple shapes and usually a-line silhouettes. I like to hide and show the body.

When you sit down to design each collection, what do you do?

First I choose colors, then we choose the print. Next I begin drawing. Once the fabric is printed, I begin making the pieces I’m absolutely sure about. Usually the collection begins to develop based on these finished pieces. I really try to merchandise each collection so that pieces can all be mixed up and worn together. I think a lot about how my buyers will view the collection. I want to give them diversity with the pieces.

What is your favorite way to draw/sketch? What do you use?

I have a 8”x11” sketchbook that I carry around with me. I like to continuously draw and redraw the pieces until I get them right in the context of the collection.

Bangs 4evah!
Bangs 4evah!

Thank you for your time Nicole!  I wish you all the luck in the world!

Fashion Forecasting and Lidewij Edelkoort

You’re just gonna have to look it up to see how to pronounce that.  I did.

"There is no creation without advance knowledge, and without design, a product cannot exist. " Lide
“There is no creation without advance knowledge, and without design, a product cannot exist. ” Lidewij Edelkoort

I’ve been getting really excited preparing for a lecture about trend forecasting.  I’ve always loved pouring over the books I got at trade shows but enlightening students on this career has made me want to cultivate my own micro-forecasting world.  I don’t know anyone who has a career in this but I would love to hear all about it if anyone out there is one!  The thing that excites me the most is that in order to become one, you basically need an immense amount of knowledge on all things past and present.  The end.  And then you need to be able to interpret how they affect our lives.  That’s all. (I’m guessing they’re probably very smart people.)

This is what one looks like.

Can I be you one day?
Tissue scarves are IN.

Her name is Lidewij Edelkoort and she’s been doing this for at least thirty years.  From her website, it looks like she knows a LOT about cool things like fashion, color, design, technology, art, history, politics, the environment, literature and… sigh.  I bet she sits at her cool kitchen table in Paris and flips through Taschen books she gets for free and takes calls from Virginie Mouzat while sipping some tea we won’t hear about for 4 years (am I glamorizing this job or what?)   There are a few other impressive forecasters out there too like Martin Raymond and David Wolfe but their pictures aren’t nearly as dramatic so here’s a book one of them wrote:

"Trend forecasters are lifestyle detectives." Martin Raymond
“Trend forecasters are lifestyle detectives.” Martin Raymond

It’s not lost on me that “forecasting” sounds like something mystical and interpretive.  It sounds like a scam to a certain degree.  When I introduce the concept in class, I always have a student ask me, “If designers are the ones setting the trends, why do they hire someone else to tell them what’s going to be popular?  That’s crazy!”  It’s like when I got my fortune told and the fortune teller said my “aura was stuck” but that she could help me if I came back and paid her more.

Rasputin knows the colors for Fall 2016.
Rasputin knows the colors for Fall 2016.

So it’s a really good question.  And it’s a big one to answer but I have a two thoughts on it: 1) times have changed and 2) it’s complicated.

The Kaiser said, “You cannot live in an ivory tower and make fashion or anything artistic….You’re to live in the real world.”  Indeed.  Even a couturier like him knows he’s not alone in creating fashion.  Gone are the days when a single person decided what was in.  If a couturier with all the skill and talent at their fingertips is truly an artist, they need to consider more than what their subjective view of the world is.

And when you’re living in that world as a designer, there are a lot moving parts.  To get a garment made requires many different people, across many cultures, with many steps and things to keep track of.  You’re like an air traffic controller except the thing you’re trying to get down the runway doesn’t weigh as much (but it took the same amount of fuel to get there.;))  Simply, you don’t always have the time to shop the market and see what’s out there.  Sometimes you need someone else to organize that information for you.

Like these guys.
Like these guys.

These agencies are smart and know what they’re doing, so don’t be too shocked when you see the price tag that goes along with their reports and subscriptions   However, remember that while they might be seasoned at interpreting the trends, they get their information from the exact same world we all live in.  Your most important skill to foster your inner trend forecaster is to keep those eyes open, make connections about what you see, and, for goodness sake, find inspiration in them.