Tuesday, September 22, 2009


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(To non-Sydneysiders, this should explain it all.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Julien Macdonald's YSL 'homage'

Browsing through style.com as I usually do during the shows, I noticed something very familiar about Julien Macdonald's use of sequins in a fish scale pattern:

(Above images from style.com)

They reminded me of a 1983 dress by Yves Saint Laurent, sometimes referred to as the sardine dress, in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A dress that looks like this:
(Page 94 from 'Haute Couture' by Richard Martin and Harold Koda, published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.)

My educated guess would be that the sequin work would have been done by Lesage, and their archives probably are open to designers - does anyone know more about how that works? I am somewhat torn on this; on one hand, I think any designer championing the haute couture crafts of France deserves a pat on the back, and on the other, as a designer I would never use a source so literally. Not knowingly, anyway. I do recall one instance of pretty much copying the cut of a Miyake jacket in my final year; I realised what I'd done two days before the work was due and wanted to bin it. In the end I didn't after having chatted to my tutor, who probably thought all the tears were a bit of an over-reaction.

This reminds me of another instance of a contemporary designer using a constructed textile design pretty much as is, even if the dress was different. The lace in this dress by Madeleine Vionnet (1938) was constructed from horsehair braid:

(Image from 'Vionnet' by Betty Kirke, 1991, Chronicle Books, San Francisco)

When I saw the following ad for Chanel haute couture in 1997, I did feel a slight sense of déjà vu. But then again, that's not uncommon when it comes to Lagerfeld's work. I know one lecturer who has built an entire lecture on literal use of inspiration around Lagerfeld's work for Chanel in the 80s.

Maybe it's pointless to make any value judgments on this; designer ethics are a very personal thing. I nevertheless feel compelled to point out the similarities, so there you go.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rachael Cassar at Estethica S/S 2010 at LFW

Rachael Cassar is a friend and a former student, who is showing at Estethica as part of London Fashion Week for the first time. Rachael won the Media Prize of the Australian final of the 2006 Lancôme Colour Design Awards (another staff member and I did an all-nighter with the students for that - there was definitely something comical about trying to ensure the cleaners wouldn't vacuum the sequins off the floor at 5am...) and she was the overall winner of Mittelmoda in 2007. At Estethica, there are at least two other Aussies listed: Mark Liu, an Estethica veteran, and Bird Textiles. Rachel Bending from Bird Textiles was one of the speakers at the Fashioning Now symposium.

I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of Rachael's latest collection Ruby at the Belvoir St Theatre. Trade shows can be pretty harrowing so best of luck to all three, and Rachael, I reckon it's a good omen the wheel on your suitcase broke at the airport :) Rachael works with secondhand garments and fabrics, reworking them - much of the work is done by hand - into new, beautiful things.

Images from Ruby by Rachael Cassar 2009 (currently waiting on credits).

Sam Formo's zero-waste jacket

Sam Formo's name has come up here a few times and I was fortunate enough to see the photos of this jacket quite a while ago. I didn't want to post any photos earlier, in case doing so might have compromised Sam's chances of entering any competitions, which I'm glad he did do: the Metropolis Next Generation competition. The results are in, and Sam was commended as one of twelve notables. Congratulations! Feel free to disagree but I think that not too long ago fashion wouldn't have even got a look in, so this is fantastic. The photos came from Metropolis and Sam Formo; the photography is by Shidume Lozada (a CCA graduate) and the model is Drew Kleiner (a fellow fashion student):

From Metropolis, Sam's thoughts on the garments:

How would you describe it?
The no-waste pattern was developed in order to eliminate cutting waste that generally ends up in landfills. By filling in the negative spaces in order to utilize all of the fabric laid out and by sharing cutting lines, a garment emerges leaving behind not a scrap of waste.

How does it pertain to energy?
By eliminating waste and creating timeless designs we decrease the need for consumption, which in turn saves the energy embodied in the cloth, decreases the need to transport it from disposal to landfill and overseas to clothing brokers.

What makes it important?
I realize that my entry is completely non-traditional in terms of what Metropolis magazine puts forth, but I stand by my design because I am a true believer that thinking in these terms, no matter from what standpoint, is crucial in our current quandary. My piece is an accessible concept that is structural, durable and beautiful and much like architecture provides a function that involves the body. The issues that it can possibly address globally reach far beyond what many other forms of design can, such as the poor ethics that are being practiced in the textile and garment manufacturing industries, the amount of energy and waste occurring at alarming rates and the no-end of health risks involved thereof. Clothing is as much part of our lives as the buildings we live and work in and current times are calling for massive change and re-invention. There is no reason that fashion should not be part of that change.

How do the photos or renderings illustrate the concept?
The pattern is laid out exactly as it would on cloth. When laid out properly, especially on something like a wool melton or boiled wool, it can be situated so that; a) it takes up the entire width of a piece of yardage and b) can be laid out so that it utilizes less than one yard. The types of fabrics researched for this project were sought because of the quality and inability to fray, meaning that cut edges do not have to be finished (thus saving the extra energy it would take to run a machine). Each and every part of the pattern is utilized and put into the finished garment, the interlocked puzzle-like pieces on the front are pulled through buttonholes, creating the closure for the jacket and also becoming a unique design feature. The photos tell the story of how those pieces come to life when put on the body.
I really think you'll be hearing and seeing a lot more of Sam and his excellent work. I'd also like to mention a person 'behind the scenes' who doesn't get credited enough. Lynda Grose, one of Sam's professors at the California College of the Arts, has been a pioneer in the field of fashion design and sustainability and worked with Sam on this project. To my horror, I recently read one 'history' or review of sustainable fashion to date, and it made no mention of Lynda (nor Kate Fletcher, or Becky Earley, and so it went) or the ecollection she helped develop for Esprit, what, almost two decades ago. That's kind of like writing a history of Western fashion and not mentioning France. Lynda also worked with Andrew Hague, whose no-waste shirt Fletcher featured in her book (Andrew features it on his website).

Back to the point of the post, some huge congratulations to Sam. If you have a look at the winner, the runners-up and the other notables like Sam, you'll notice that apart from one PhD candidate, none are students. (Please correct me if I'm wrong there; I am somewhat tired and slightly incoherent as I type this.) They are practicing architects, designers, engineers and the like. Congratulations!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

the hoodie - an attempt to explain

I feel very humbled by and grateful for having been featured on three prominent blogs over the last few days. Kathleen Fasanella from Fashion Incubator (you need her book!) posted the hoodie as a Pattern Puzzle, Danielle Meder from Final Fashion posted her very good go at it, and Outi of Outsapop wrote a post on zero-waste fashion. Thank you, and more importantly, thank you each for your blogs!

I realise that the pattern diagram for the hoodie isn't particularly helpful - even when you see the photo. Had I included a couple of crucial notches in the diagram (they are on the actual pattern, obviously), it would be much easier to 'read'. For example, the CB seam isn't joined all the way through to the top of the 'triangle'; the hood triangle gets inserted into the 'split' that results:

There is a partially stitched inverted pleat at the CF edge of the hood. I had a set length measurement available for the facing that faces the entire CF and hood edge (see the diagram), and I used the pleat to make the edge match the facing. Although cut perfectly to match, I fumbled the stripes whilst sewing; they are out by about 2mm. If any of my students are reading this, this is where you stop, unpick and resew. At the time I was probably too buggered to even notice:

The hood triangle, perhaps counter-intuitively, goes around the triangle point where the CF and CB of the body meet rather than match to it. The hood keeper controls the area and creates a look that's more hat- than hood-like when the hood is on the head:

About the sleeves and 'armholes'. The slash at the top back (the one that does have a notch marked) is the armhole; the sleeve is inserted from the notch to the end of the slash. I am realising quickly that I am not very good at explaining this verbally or with photographs, but in the photo below you can see the CB and parts of the sleeves inserted into the slashes:
The sleeves are cut on the straight grain but hang on bias, with the one seam spiraling around the arm, Vionnet-style. The mismatched grains at CF and CB were the intention from the word go, creating all sorts of havoc throughout the fittings. I think I made three toiles (or muslins) and even now, the final garment doesn't fit quite as well as I'd like it to.

The back waist has an internal elastic casing inserted into the lower slash. The hems are quite deep (4" or 10cm). I mitred the corners by simply folding and hiding the folds inside the hem:

Although there are lots of large eyelets available now, thanks to Givenchy (I predicted it here), I decided to get mine made by a very capable jewellery designer, George Plionis. In fine silver, these are thus far the most expensive eyelets I've ever worked with.
There are a number of things that would need addressing before this could be taken to manufacture, primarily to do with the hood and the facing. As for (hypothetical) sales (this garment, and all others, was made purely for research and exhibition), most guys I spoke with liked the front but not the heavily gathered back waist. I also debated whether to put tucks into the shoulder area which would have prevented the garment falling off the shoulders so much. The tucks were marked on the original pattern but in the end I left them out. Back in 1982, Vivienne Westwood said about the Buffalo collection: "There's more to clothes than just comfort. Even if they're not quite comfortable and slip and have to be readjusted now and again, I don't mind, because that's some sort of display and gesture that belongs with the clothes." Reflecting on that at whatever hour I might have been sewing the hoodie, I decided to leave the tucks out.

Any questions about the hoodie, don't hesitate to ask. I do find it quite difficult to explain the cut, and it's not a particularly complex garment.

Monday, August 24, 2009

a weekend writing retreat...

...that was somewhat railroaded by food poisoning. I nevertheless managed a solid start on the edits as mentioned in the last post, and a two-hour walk around the Cape Byron Lighthouse on Sunday morning.

The view north, from the forest walk from Byron Bay proper to the lighthouse:

The view south:

Another northerly view across the Bay from the lighthouse:

Two humpback whales making their way north - when they should have been going south - between two kayaks:

A closer view:

Whilst these two kayakers were taken somewhat by surprise (the whales simply swam straight for them), about ten minutes earlier an idiot from a larger group of kayaks made a beeline for the whales, despite clear regulations to stay away. Anyway, there were another two whales further out to sea, as well as a pod of about fifty dolphins that went majestically past the lighthouse.

A somewhat fearless Laughing Kookaburra also watching the whales and dolphins:

An Australian Brush-Turkey at the car park; these guys were everywhere:

A Masked Lapwing at the beach; their calls were incessant, night and day:

It's spring for everyone, including these Greater Crested Terns:

A farewell message I stumbled upon yesterday morning:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

no-waste and less-waste fashion designers

The aim of this post is to provide a bit of a list for anyone interested; please do email me about anyone I've missed. I'm more than happy to update.

Holly McQuillan emailed me yesterday; her recent zero-waste garments are now online. I actually saw the process work when Holly was here for Fashioning Now and was completely blown away by it - truly inspiring! Have a look:
Precarious Cut

I actually saw this mentioned on Clara Vuletich's blog last year but somehow didn't check it out until this week: Flora2. Download the book, it is well worth a read. I think Dorothy Burnham would be delighted with the work, too.

Siddhartha Upadhyaya first emailed me last October and thankfully again this week about his work. In particular, the idea of fabric getting woven for a specific garment resonates with me, as a complete contrast to how things generally occur. Have a thorough look at August.

At the Fashioning Now symposium (we'll be uploading all of the speakers' audio on the website in the next few weeks) Susan Dimasi spoke of the system Materialbyproduct (the other half is Chantal Kirby) use to cut their no-waste garments. Of particular interest was their approach to sizes; unlike conventional manufacture, each size of a Materialbyproduct garment is not a replica of the sample size in terms of design. This has been a hunch of mine for a while - what is wrong with making each size slightly different - and I admire Susan and Chantal for doing away with that rule. One could say that each size is designed rather than graded. Sure it may slow things down, but on the upside, arguably each size of a style receives an equal amount of love from the maker.

At this point I should note that all of the above will require some rewriting of a thesis chapter, but I am quite excited about it. Each designer is addressing waste and each designer's handwriting is completely unique; no-waste isn't limited to a particular aesthetic.

And here's a list of people I've mentioned in the past:

The pioneers of no-waste and less waste:
Zandra Rhodes
Yeohlee Teng
Julian Roberts - not strictly a no-waste designer but his method of designing and cutting (is it possible to separate the two?) lends itself beautifully for considering fabric waste.

The more recent forays into same:
Sam Formo, a student of Lynda Grose at the California College of the Arts
Andrew Hague, also a former student of Lynda Grose; Kate Fletcher featured his no-waste shirt in her book
Mark Liu

Oh and me. Here are two garments from Bad Dogs last year:

I'm sure I've forgotten a designer or two; do let me know.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

journal writing: how-to and then, not

The Ideal:
Drawing from Owain Pedgley, what is on my office wall:

The Ugly Reality:
What the last two pages of my journal looked like before Bad Dogs opened, now more than a year ago:

Analyse that.

a friend in need

Over the past year I've been blessed with post-it after post-it from Zoe. I don't want this to sound like a whinge because it isn't, but since the beginning of April, I've had three weekends. I passionately love what I do but Fashioning Now has been a time-consuming project - time well spent, nevertheless! In particular, it was a delight to hear Kate Fletcher speak, ditto for Susan Dimasi (one half of Materialbyproduct), and it was really inspiring to meet Holly McQuillan (more on Holly soon). But rest has been scarce - and I'm writing this on a Sunday night at the office. My last real holiday of more than four days was in 2005. I don't think last October in Finland counts; a month I spent first watching mum slowly lose the battle, and then burying her with my siblings.

So, amid all the hard work the post-its from Zoe have been such welcome little breaks from the grind. Usually I find one on my door after a meeting or a long day of teaching. Zoe is well aware of my passion for birds (see first photo) and recently she added the interweb to the gift-giving (that's how I regard this). The site is odosketch; I love how the sketch appears on screen:
And another finch:As a charming anomaly, the following finch emerges through (traditional) collage:

The following two return to the traditional format. The brain is her latest blog post, but I am proud to declare myself the guardian of the original post-it.

I should note, too, that Zoe contributed to Fashioning Now through Alison's project. If I could draw well, I would draw Zoe a wall full of giraffes. If I was rich, I'd buy her a trip to Tanzania.

(As well as engaging Zoe as an illustrator, Alison's work highlights the screenprinting skills of Steve Woods and embroidery by Helen Parsons.)

Thank you, Zoe.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

some more photos from Fashioning Now

The three pattern diagrams for my garments:

We commissioned Silversalt Photographic Services to photograph the exhibition and the following photographs were part of that commission: