My photographer friend, Deborah Atalig, asked me to help her realize her concept of shooting a designer surrounded by all of her random work paraphanalia for her portfolio. At some point I randomly picked up a piece of yellow tulle and put it on my head as a joke and D fell in love with the idea, as you can tell from some of the other photos. These are my favorites from the shoot. (This is not what my studio looks like normally.) Click for larger images. To see more of Deborah’s work, check out her website. She also took the photos for my website, zoehong.com.
Okay, I know I said in my last post that I was going to relax this weekend, but who are we kidding? We all know I can’t sit still for very long. Three exciting things came my way recently and I’d like to share them with you. I will try to be good and start on Monday instead of right away.
VC reader Karen has been quite the doll and 1. invited me to a local industry meetup, the next one which will be next month and 2. sent me this link about a non-profit looking for fashion designers for their next fundraiser. Basically, the designer creates a one of a kind piece made at least 50% out of random clothes donated to St. Vincent, and the proceeds from the silent auction will go directly to the organization. Click the link to find out more. I’m so excited about this. A chance to use my skills for the greater good? Hell yeah! I urge all Bay Area designers to participate! They raised $15,000 last year; let’s top that this year. Click the link above!!! Thanks, Karen!
Next up, I’ll be interviewing The Evans Group for a post for both VC and Fashion-Incubator. The Evans Group is a vertically integrated production facility based in L.A. that has small minimums for high end apparel. A team from The Evans Group is coming up to meet with Bay Area designers, by appointment, to discuss what they do, how they do it, and explore possible working relationships. They will be here Monday and Tuesday of next week (the 20th and 21st). If you’re interested, please contact them and set up an appointment with Julia. I am interviewing them on Monday, so that I can give you guys a better informed post on their company. I’m not endorsing them in any way until I get a chance to meet them, but first off, Julia was really nice and her follow-up very efficient. If you have a particular question you’d like me to ask, drop me a line in the comments thread.
By the way, I found out about The Evans Group through a different local fashion industry through meetup.com. They’re a very friendly, mellow group that gets together and discuss various industry goings on once a month. Check it out if you’re local, or hit one up in your area. Thanks to Grace, the fabulous blogger behind Design*Sponge for the link trail.
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.
Yup, over the weekend, I named my mannequin. Olive.
And because I finally named her, the dressmaking gods blessed me with an extension on the outfit. Gen Art emailed me and told me that the event wasn't going to take place until late July, so I have lots more time than orginally planned! Almost twice as much time! Which means I can indulge in my perfectionist idiosyncracies as much as I want.
Moral of the story? Do your own thang, even if some people think you're weird for doing it. (Okay, I know that obviously the two are not connected, but indulge me, okay?)
Another fabulous thing happened to me today. As you know, ever since I got promoted to head designer back in January, I've actually been doing 2 jobs, my old production/product development one and my new design one. It's been pretty hairy at work for me the past few months. It's not the extra work that was so hard, it was the constant switching back and forth of 2 completely different brains, memory reserves, and work methods. I'd be deeply entrenched in a design meeting and I'd be interrupted constantly with production questions. I toyed with the idea of quitting. A lot.
But there was something in my gut that told me to stay. I see so much potential in this company. I really believe in the product. I don't see why we can't be making triple the sales. So I stuck around, even though it seemed crazy to other people.
The new consultant, who has become a permanent VP (design, merchandising, marketing), went behind my back and told my boss that he really needs me to focus on design, because from working with me the past month, that's where I should be. So, tomorrow, I'm going to write an ad to find a replacement for my old job. (insert happy dance here)
Moral of the story? Trust your gut.
So. I've not been keeping up with Bloglines. Why? Because I'm at Fashion Maximum Capacity ™ right now.
- Been planning the catalog at work. Looking a million male and female headshots, page layouts, styling outfits, thinking hair and makeup, meeting with photographer, printer, calling agencies.
- Right smack in the middle of Spring 07 at work. Now that we've put together all the spec packages for our overseas production, we're developing our domestic styles.
- My plan is to upload my entire portfolio onto this blog before New York. And I still have a lot of stuff to scan. You guys still haven't seen any of my fashion graphics or the warrior brides.
- I'm still working on designing that coat collection. Still sketching. Liking what I have so far.
- Thinking of my next post for Kathleen's blog. I'm going to meet her over the phone tonight! Yay me!
So if you're wondering about my absence in your comment threads, fear not. I'll be back with my witticisms (heh) soon enough.
P.S. Thanks for all the votes on the photo submission, and extra love to the lurkers who finally commented! I submitted the "princessy" one.
Hi kids. Go check out the article I wrote for the Fashion Incubator on freelancing. I respect her blog so much, I was so flattered when she asked me to write this post. Thanks again, Kathleen!
My brain is in a state of limbo over a lot of different things right now and I’m finding it hard to focus on one thing. So, in no particular order:
Reason for state of limbo #1: Ever since the gaping void post, I’ve been doing some mental puttering as to why I blog and if I’ll continue to do so. I’m still going back and forth on it. I’ll most likely keep blogging, but I may shift the focus some. I really appreciate everyone’s comments and you’ve definitely given me plenty of food for thought. Thank you.
Reason for state of limbo #2: I’ve been working on Spring 07 at work. I have a lot of sketches and tons of swatches. I’ve been having meetings with
sales and production (my production manager used to be in
sales, too) about what we did right and we’ve been doing wrong. I started at this company in June of last year as a product development/production liaison and started getting design projects in December. I got promoted to the head designer’s position in January, and several private label projects later, here I am, working for the first time, on the company’s own label collection. And quite frankly, I’m freaking out. Just a little. Okay, more than just a little.
Basically, 10 years ago, this company used to do 5 times the business it does now. Through a series of not the best decisions, here we are, trying to get that business back. Nothing would please me more than to see this company really take off again. Beyond my own personal goals as a designer and wanting my clothes to sell and be appreciated, I really want to see
San Francisco fashion get more attention nationally and globally. I think this city holds so much potential.
So, I’ve done a lot of initial work for Spring 07—I’m waiting for my boss to return from a business trip so we can discuss my ideas. She hasn’t been feeling well, so I don’t exactly know when she’ll be at work and what kind of mood she’ll be in, so I’m feeling antsy about that too. I’m trying to stop myself from retweaking and ultimately overworking what I have so far. There’s no point in going further right now, without some direct feedback from her.
Reason for state of limbo #3: the competition. One part of my brain says I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. The other part of my brain says, in Dante’s Inferno, the very center of hell where Satan himself dwells is actually an ice chamber so maybe I do have a good shot. And back and forth and back and forth. Is it April 18th yet?
Reason for state of limbo #4: I’m waiting to hear back on a possible major freelance project. If I get this gig, I’ll be working with bamboo! Aren’t you proud of me, lol and henri? Heh.
So once again I’m in a position where I’ve put in as much effort as I can, I have a lot of things set up and I’m waiting for people to get back to me. (Except for #1, that’s something I have to figure out on my own.) Once I hear back from various people, I can plan out my year—what project to work on next, what I should focus on at work next, when I can plan for my siblings to come visit me, what direction to take my blog, when to plan on having a proper vacation (I don’t think I’ve ever had one) what to do with a certain business proposition that’s crossed my path. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now I’m a planner. I have a full plate and I’m not complaining about any of it, I’m currently just floating and waiting, which I don’t enjoy too much. Stay tuned for future developments. Same VC time, same VC channel.
P.S. I’ll probably be posting more work from my portfolio so keep watching the top right hand corner for more page links!
Ah, the post I’ve been dreading to write. What I think I did right and what I think I did horribly horribly wrong. Keep in mind that this is written by an overachieving workaholic with a touch of OCD. I try to keep in mind that we are our own harshest critics, but that doesn’t stop me from picking at everything.
Things I did right:
Overall, I like how the boards turned out. Not quite evident in the photographs, but technically, the illustrations, flats, fabrics, storyboard were all executed well.
There’s plenty of sparkle, which is not easy for me.
I love the fabrics I picked, the treatments, the combination of textures and colors.
The collection is well merchandised. No two looks look alike at all, but work under the umbrella theme.
One of my aims for this project was to present a lot of ideas that if I were to elaborate this group into a full sized collection, the designs had room to grow into different bodies, the embellishment ideas would not just work for that piece but be able to evolve onto another. I just wanted to cram as many ideas as I could in one collection without it looking too loaded and schizophrenic and I think I’ve accomplished that.
Things that are off:
The fabric board needs tweaking. The background color doesn’t work as well as I thought it would. I think I should have used the same blue as the illustrations. It needs a border.
The storyboard printed out a little too green.
The blurb isn’t as well written as I’d like.
Things that are still preying at my brainmeats:
I don’t know how modern or forward this collection looks. This is the doozy. After I had the designs mostly finalized, I took a break to view the fall 06 shows online. Eep. There were lots of bows and lots of chains. I won’t lie to you–I panicked. I couldn’t look at my project for about 3 days and I considered chucking it all and starting all over. My girl M came over and put a stuffed toy pig on my head. (That’s what she does–don’t question her wisdom.) I thought up new themes, new fabric stories. I sketched, I chainsmoked, I panicked some more. I didn’t want to design something that was happening now–I wanted to design something that would be next.
Then I gave myself a good hard slap and told myself: Zoe, this is what you do. You take something that people overlook as ordinary and make it weird and different and special. Lots of people do really pretty blouses with a bow and you take that blouse with a bow and turn it on its ear. That’s your job. You push boundaries on what something is without making it so esoteric no one wants to wear it. Right? Right?
So I pushed onward. I changed some things. Obviously I think I changed them for the better, but who knows? I’m still more on-trend than I’d like to be. I don’t know if I produced ideas that were new enough. We shall see.
I end this with a big thanks to the boy for putting up with my madness during this project. My workspace became a disaster area, I contemplated having people wearing a hazmat suit upon entering our house, I didn’t pay enough attention to him, and barely did my share of the chores and then proceeded to get sick as a dog right afterwards. So, um, thanks for not dumping me.
Cost sheet time! Ugh. Can I go pick the lint out of my belly button instead? Actually, I don't mind doing these–it appeals to the math geek part of me–but these in particular were a pain. I couldn't really figure out what to charge for the fabric treatments like the chain print done in rhinestones on tweed. I decided to add on top of the base fabric price, as if I would have a dude develop this fabric for me instead of making it part of the labor charge–which would be astronomical as a per item fee.
These would be my wholesale prices (which include my markup):
- The deconstructed cinderella: $925
- The tank $175
- The trousers: $375
- The suspenders: $125
- The bell dress: $625
- The trompe l'oeil blouse: $150
- The cargo skirt: $425
- The dissolving bows dress: $1750
Some things to consider when looking at these prices:
- They're overseas production prices that include the cheaper labor and the expensive freight costs.
- The special fabrics cost a lot per yard on top of the fact that the base was a very expensive lux material.
- If I were to actually produce this line, I'd be talking to guys who could recreate my fabrics and therefore have a better idea on what the actual fabric costs would be. I'd tweak my numbers.
Don't rule out looking at your line and doing a "perceived value analysis". Would buyers really get the fact that a silk blouse costs as much as a cotton rib tank? Or would buyers get the fact that something that obviously requires so much more labor (the tank) would only be a little more than something that doesn't (the blouse)? And would suspenders, no matter how "special" they were, sell for a 3-digit price? All questions I would seriously have to ask myself if I were to produce this line.
The more I look at the photos of my project, the more I’m dismayed at the poor quality. I should have scanned everything, but I was just so ready to drop. I hope they return the boards to me intact. *crosses fingers, legs and eyes* The line quality of the dark pencil faded, the overall paint, especially the charcoal, faded and the white pencils glows thicker than what’s actually there. But you get the idea.
Several of you loyal readers have asked about my design process. Some day, I’ll write a post on my design process at the day job, but this one will be devoted to how I like to work, without the restrictions of the office.
I start by developing mini-groups. I design a concept outfit to embody the feel of each group, even if they never make it to my final edit. I develop color stories, fabric stories, design themes, a customer profile and a girl’s physical look for each group. I tend to start with 3 or 4 of these groups, about 5-6 sketches each group to start.
My concept outfit for this project never made the final edit, but an earlier version of this dress later replaced the original CO, as I drove the look to a more aggressive feel.
The earlier version of the Dissolving Bows Dress (which ironically, turned out a better illustration than the final, also because I scanned this one, as opposed to photographing. grr.):
The final (I actually go back and forth as to which version I like better. Thoughts?):
After I’ve developed the groups, I narrow it down to the 2 strongest groups and continue to sketch for those, devoloping about 20 designs for each group. Sometimes I’ll design a silhouette for one group that later gets incorporated into the other instead, such as this one:
One of my other groups was to use various gem cuts as stylelines. The original stylelines for this corset mimicked a truncated marquis cut.
With the way my brain works, I dump everything onto paper–good ideas and bad. I end up with sometimes hundreds of sketches for a 20-pc project. After I’ve fully developed the 2 groups, rethought my colors and fabrics, I pick one to follow through on. I start with some practice renderings, like the first image of this post. I use this method of simultaneously editing and expanding and evolving and editing some more, trying to tighten up the group. I don’t like designing 10 pieces if 6 or 7 will do.
Some of these outfits are direct reflections on my personal design aesthetic, that shows strongly regardless of direction.
My affinity for incorporating menswear elements, sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant, like this cargo skirt in a men’s suiting, but covered in rhinestones in a chain print:
I also love to look at period pieces and morph them into something thoroughly modern, like the jabot on this little number:
I also love to make things in an unpredictable material, like these chain link suspenders done in twisted ropes of silk crepe (also a nod to the nautical look that I think is becoming more classic than trendy):
While developing the designs, I also develop fabric treatments. If I’m designing something on my own (as in not for a specific client or explicit design direction), I will always try to mix up textures, distress or refinish, *something*, like the charcoal pinstripe I turned into a subtle check with metallic gold and silver threads. So like I’ve said in a previous post, I revisit colors and fabrics continuously, as they are so important to the design, how it looks, how it fits, how it moves.
In that same post, I mentioned how important it was to not fall in love so much with something that it hinders your decision making. Just so you know I follow my own preaching, I designed this 3/4 ball skirt that was just so pretty I could die. I wanted one of my own so bad. It killed me, but I had to drop it–it just didn’t work with the rest of the group–not aggro enough, too many ruffles (on trend, not forward).
Questions and comments welcome, as usual. Post on what I thought I did well and what I wish I had done better to follow.