1. I have completed the pattern for the dress portion of the Dress of blahblahblah, and almost done with the underskirt pattern. Yeeeeeeeeeehaw!
2. I have perused through the first of the menswear shows for Spring 07 and I feel good that some of my predictions are happening and I think the collection will look aligned with Europe, which is always good. (Pay no mind to the grammar there.) The next few weeks will be insane with last minute show prep, but I rather love being nutters busy. (Ssh, it’s a secret.)
3. I went to a kimono sale on Saturday and bought 12 more vintage kimono for $210 total! The boy told me, “It’s not really a bargain unless you can buy more closet space with the money you saved.” Oy. The collection grows and grows. On another plus note, I got some great lightweight kimono (including a few beautiful haori) so I don’t have to figure out what to wear to Miami next month.
4. I am slowly inching my way towards accepting the new dress code at work. Sigh. Well, it was an excuse to go shopping, anyway. And I’m breaking in my shoes with all the running around I’m doing. My toes do not love me.
5. Four-day weekend coming up! Woohoo! Which means I’ll have time to catch up on work! Clean the house, work on the Gen Art dress, catch up on my trade papers, start doing some research for Fall 07, blogging some stuff beyond fluff and updates. Oh, yeah, and sleep and watch The Devil Wears Prada, go shopping with my darling friend M, and maybe hit a BBQ. One of the perks of my place, the zoloft, is you can see fireworks going off all around the city from our rooftop terrace, especially the really big ones near the Bay Bridge.
She and I were IMing earlier today and she offered a possibly very good solution to a dilemma regarding the Dress of a Million Construction Nightmares. I’m gonna test it out later this week. I offered her my firstborn, but she didn’t want it. Good thing, too, since I really don’t need any more stretch marks.
The title says it all, really. I don’t feel like working on The Dress of A Million Construction Nightmares. I don’t feel like blogging anything remotely intelligent.
I bust my ass at work all day long and I want to come home and do something fun, not catch up on trade papers and make pattern corrections, research Fall 07, whatever. I think it’s summer creeping in under my skin.
I want to go bowling and mini-golf and drive around in the boy’s convertible. I want to collapse a lung at karaoke and have loud sex on some deserted beach. I want to go dancing to hiphop with a beat so heavy I can feel my armhairs vibrate. I want to go to an open-air symphony concert with some friends and a picnic basket, relaxing on the cool grass under the stars. I want to go hiking or biking or something.
Right now, I’ll settle for pain-free feet. Damn that new dress-code at work.
The post you’ve all been waiting for, I think. I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately asking for advice on how to get started in this biz, how to put together a portfolio, how to get a job, whatnot. Let me just state for the record: I do not feel comfortable giving budding designers any advice. I don’t feel qualified. I know what I know, and that may not necessarily work for anyone else. I only have my own story.
Rewind with me, if you will, to 1995. It was freshman year of high school and I enrolled in my first drawing class. (Up until then, the closest I got to art classes was a Korean calligraphy class at the Korean Education school I got kicked out of for my, um, behavior. Hey, man, I was 8. Anyway, I had wanted to be a fashion designer forever, drew on my own for hours on end, but all my spare hours were devoted to classical music studies. Don’t ask, long story.) I just figured it was high school, prep time for the real world, and all that jazz. I think I must have taken 12 art classes while in high school, including the ones I took at the local university. Drawing, composition, ceramics, color theory, painting, printmaking, jewelry making, everything.
The gifted education program at my high school had a mentorship program for their seniors. Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, my counselor had a heck of time trying to place me. Finally she found a spot for me interning at the local operahouse costume design department. It was an amazing experience. A paragraph doesn’t do the experience justice, so I’ll write a separate post on that year. That was pretty much the first time I sewed anything, and even then I didn’t sew that much. I didn’t really learn to sew until sophomore year of college.
Right out of high school, I moved to L.A. to attend Otis College of Art and Design. How did I pick that school? I read an article in W magazine announcing the winners of a college competition held by the CFDA. The schools of the winners were also posted next to the names, so I applied to those schools. Yup, I really didn’t do much research. I just figured those schools must be the top dogs. I pick Otis because they threw the most money my way and I had family in L.A.
Otis is basically a weeder school. It doesn’t take much to get accepted, but they will put you through hell and back several times if you want to graduate. The fashion program is incredibly intense. For proof, let me cite some numbers for you. I was in school from 1998-2002. When I started, we had a total undergraduate population of 900 students and almost 400 of them were freshmen. Freshmen all take the same classes—basics of drawing, color, 3-D design, etc. We matriculate into our majors sophomore year. Seventy sophs went to fashion with me, but only 24 graduated.
While in school, I didn’t do much in the industry. I had one short summer internship at a contemporary womenswear company doing about $10million a year. Another summer, I went to London to take classes at Central Saint Martins. Yes, that one. That too deserves it own post. I would have preferred to have a year-round internship during school, but I couldn’t. I was making anywhere from 3 to 10 times more at my part-time gigs as an English tutor, both for the Otis Liberal Arts Department and on my own. I needed that money for fabric and books. My senior year alone, I must have spent about $5000 on materials.
What did I do after graduating? Not a whole lot. I watched the World Cup. That was fun. I freelanced. I slept. I was tired and maxed out on fashion for a bit. I had devoted 90+ hours a week to schoolwork and had 3 part-time jobs all the while. I half-heartedly started looking for full-time work. I freelanced some more. I started getting more connections, freelancing more and more. Finally, it was almost a year after graduation and my biggest freelance client dropped me because they decided to build an in-house design team in Italy. Oy.
A month into intense jobhunt mode, a classmate friend of mine calls me. Summer of 2003 I started at Eva Fortune, a tiny tiny startup that produced beautiful, kimono-inspired clothes. Unfortunately, the business end of things weren’t well organized and Eva Fortune went bankrupt a year later. Back to the jobhunt it was.
I don’t want to delve too much into my personal life, so let’s just say that living in L.A. grew less and less appealing every minute. It had been heading down that negative spiral for a while, but I felt powerless against the tide of events. I desperately wanted to leave L.A., but was broker than dropped china. (FYI, fashion designers don’t get paid very well and I had crippling student loans despite the scholarship money.)
It was July of 2004. The tide had turned and I was standing at a crossroads. I don’t mean it to sound so melodramatic, but the summer of 2004 really was a pivotal summer for me. On the one hand, I had L.A., a few good job offers, and a whole lot of problems. While most problems don’t function this way, I knew once I left, I could free myself from a lot of stress. On the other hand, my boyfriend was asking me to move in with him in San Francisco, a city with tons of friends, better weather, freedom, but no career-advancement opportunities.
I was and still am an ambitious, career-oriented, goal-driven nutcase, but there are times when you have to make sure you’re okay too. So I chose sanity and San Francisco and unemployment. I never worried about money so much in my life. I was never happier.
I started looking for a job, any job. I temped here and there to make ends meet. It had been almost a year since Eva Fortune had gone bankrupt and I still had no full-time job. The job market in the Bay Area was fierce in all categories, but that didn’t stop me from feeling like an out and out loser.
One day, in June 2005, I responded to an ad for a production assistant position available at a leather company. You can’t even imagine the happy dance I did when I got hired. A job! It paid more than my last job! I was working again! (I am SO not made for a life of leisure, even if I could afford it.) AND I was working in the industry again!
The past year has been a whirlwind. All the plans I had for my career were finally coming to fruition. I had proof that I was made to be in this industry and that all my hard work wasn’t for nothing. In just the past 12 months, I won 2 design competitions (I won a local one before Gen Art), got promoted to the head designer position at work, started blogging (in November) and met all these amazing women in fashion, built up my portfolio. And just as important, I’ve built some great friendships here, my physical health has gotten better, my life has become practically drama-free and I have the absolutely best relationship with a man I love dearly.
So you want advice from me? I got nothing. You want my opinion? If you want to be in this business, you have to prepare for a lot of hard work, a lot of disappointment, a lot of heartache, unexpected twists, not getting paid a lot, and more hard work. Each time you accomplish a goal, enjoy the moment, but remember that this is a fast-paced industry that doesn’t give you a lot of time to bask in the glory. (Case in point, after the high of the competition win, I’m now spending every waking moment working on The Dress of A Million Construction Nightmares.) Your love for this industry has to surpass every other thought or feeling about this world. And you can only stay in this industry if you can’t picture yourself doing anything else. Really.
And don’t forget that mistakes are just another opportunity to learn. As you can read here, I’ve not always made the best decisions, but I’ve learned a lot from my [many] mistakes.
So, there you have it: my history in this biz, as succinctly as I could write it. I’ll be posting more in-depth posts about different points either at Fashion-Incubator or here.
To truly fathom my review of this book, How to be a Budget Fashionista by Kathryn Finney, I have to give you a little personal background.
When I was 13, my mother passed away. Coming from a traditional Korean household, it was up to me, the oldest daughter, to take care of the kids and the house. With my grandmother’s two funerals (one in Alaska, one in Korea) the year before, the insane hospital bills for both her and my mother, and then my mother’s funeral, needless to say, my father wasn’t doing well financially. So at the age of 13, not only did I have to deal with running a household and raising a 5 year old and a 1 year old, I had to do it all on an extreme budget.
As a budding fashionista (yes, I’ve wanted to do this as far back as I can remember), I didn’t want my siblings teased at school for looking poor. As a girl in middle school, I understood how cruel kids can be. You may think that in a town like Anchorage, fashion had no play. Nope, we had our own set of prestige labels—The North Face, Eddie Bauer, Jay Jacobs, 5*7*9, Brass Plum, and of course, no one could be cool without at least one pair of Doc Martens. Yes, grade school kids didn’t know about labels back then, but they knew how to ask, “Did your parents get you that at Nordstrom’s?” Oh, those precocious little brats…
A few years down the road, my father had recovered financially and was actually doing very very well. But the “budget fashionista” in me still reigned supreme and still does today. I think the boy truly decided that moving in together was a good idea when I showed him ways to cut our heating bill down to a third of what he was paying before.
So all that to say it takes a lot for me to say that I read a book called “How to Be a Budget Fashionista” and be impressed. I personally know lots of tricks on looking good on a budget. I was working 3 part-time jobs while going to school full-time. My senior thesis alone cost $3000. Yeah, I know all about dressing myself on the cheap. And then Miz Kathryn swooped in with this book and taught me a thing or two.
I hate the illustrations, but love the verbage. After I finished the book, which was so well written that I read it all in one sitting, I wanted to overhaul my closet in true Kathryn-style. Alas, I have deadlines and a job and some other major side projects to take care of first. What exactly are these tips? Go read the book for yourself. And don’t forget to stop by thebudgetfashionista.com for even more tips.
(And yes, I promise no one paid me to say any of the above.)
Well, the news were correct. This is officially the worst allergy season I've experienced. To attest, I'm actually home from work. I could sit here and describe all the disgusting reasons why I'm home, but the whole point of quarantining oneself would be lost.
My brain is kinda foggy, so I'm not even gonna try to be articulate today. Just jotting down some random thoughts:
Note to all aspiring or currently working designers: I don't claim to be an expert in this industry. All I have are some opinions. I really don't know what to say. If you want to know what it's like for a designer, just read the archives. This is what this blog is about.
Note on fur fashion week: When I wrote that I would participate, I momentarily forgot how much I dislike moral debates on fur. I was planning on writing a post on construction and design issues in regards to fur and leather, but it may come across trite in the larger scheme of this topic, especially in regards to the discussions happening at Almost Girl. I write what I know and from a designer's point of view. If there's any interest in that, let me know.
That's all my sick, tired, sniffly, sneezy, foggy self can think to write. Please send Kleenex and Claritin. Thanks.
Hi kids, you can read another interview here, graciously posted by the lovely Trisha of Omiru. She's local, she's chatty, and we had a great conversation on the phone. Thanks, Trisha!
Why awkward? Because I want people to read my press because they're an achievement, and yes, I'm proud of my achievements, but I'm not very good at boasting, other than the lame "I'm a GENIUS!" jokes at work, and I find compliments hard to take. I've even asked Danielle to revise a post on her blog because her flattery was making me squirm. I think it comes from my traditional Korean upbringing. Modesty is a virtue, especially in women, and the translation of the most typical response to "thank you" is "oh, no, that's okay, no problem". To this day, I still say (in English) "no problem" instead of "you're welcome", even if it was a problem.
Anyway, to my interviewers, thank you for extending your attention this way. (And thank God I only have one more coming up.)
The past week has been a bit of a ride. (My professional life only–my personal life is pretty steady and overall really good.)
First of all, my boss decided not to send me to New York for the tradeshow after all. She said she couldn't justify expensing for that many people to go for a season we don't sell a lot. (We do the bulk of our business in the fall.) Which means I got the cut. From a business standpoint, I understand, but I can't help but feel the sting and hiss of disappointment, after she had hyped me up with all the reasons why she wanted to send me in the first place. (Mainly because she liked a lot of my ideas for how to design and work the booth.)
I was really looking forward to meeting the buyers, pitch the new direction we were going in, to excite them with a fall teaser pitch, show off the new catalog we just produced…And she already did this to me once before (I was supposed to go to Boston with her earlier this year). Oh well.
So, this means I have to contact the Gen Art people about rearranging my ticket. I hate to do this because I hate bothering people.
On the plus side, which is what I always like to focus on, this means I get an extra week to complete the dress the way I like it (finetuned within an 1/8th of an inch of its life). And I get to stay in a quiet(er) office where I can focus on the next big project for our Most Important Private Label Client. I've already pitched the idea to my boss and she likes it. Oh, and less time away from the boy. Heh.
On another positive note, Sparkle Construction is well under way. I'll be cutting a fresh muslin tomorrow, and I think that'll do it. If the stars are smiling, I'll be able to make this dress appear to have no seams. My patterns look really funky, in a good way. You can't really tell what the hell they are, quite frankly. I'll post pictures later.
Coming up, I'll be taking up Miss Super-Flats II on her request? challenge? on an assessment on San Francisco fashion and join Grand Master Squirrel Action J on her posts for fur fashion week. (For the newbies, I work for a leather house, and we also do a tiny bit of fur. And Julie's nickname is a total compliment.)
Hmm…actually, it's only 10:30pm…I think I'll go ahead and cut the new muslin right now…
If you're interested in reading about construction on the dissolving bows dress for the Gen Art/Perrier Competition, go here. You can leave me comments here or there.