verbal croquis

project runway from a designer’s perspective

Posted in events,opinions by verbalcroquis on January 31, 2006

For my next installment of the state of the fashion union address, I want to focus on the what a designer’s job entails today.

When I posted a rant about work, Andy from Camarilla posted on his own blog:

“It sounds like some of the creativity and freedom has been lost, and as a designer for a small-medium sized manufacturer apparently designing is only 1/10 of the designer’s job. It sounds like a tough gig”

Creativity isn’t lost, it’s been held captive by businessmen who bow down to the bottom line, occasionally doling out allowances when their belly’s full. It’s not their fault, really, since there’s only a slice of the population that really wants something different. How else do you explain houses like Balenciaga and McQueen being threatened to shut down if they don’t start making a profit? Designers are constantly battling creativity with the commercial demands of this industry. It’s those designers who can make that healthy compromise who ultimately succeed.

You have one of two options as a designer. Work corporate, get assigned a tidy list of job requirements, do the same things day in and day out. You are responsible for A, B, and C. That’s it. You collect a nice sum and excellent benefits doing the niche bit of the industry you prefer. Or you work for a small company and do everything. And I mean everything. In return, you get paid a nominal fee to have another go at your education. Seriously. I’ve learned more from working at two ridiculously understaffed start-ups that went bankrupt in less than a year than you could imagine. (I’ll follow up with a post about this later.)

I love Project Runway. Not only is it just a really fun show, but it’s realistically indicative of what the industry really is like for designers.

Note that they give the designers only 30 minutes to design, an hour and X amount of dollars to buy fabrics, and 12 hours or so to drape, make patterns and sew. Then you have the night ahead of you to stress out before you can present on the runway and find out if your efforts were good enough. This is about as accurate as you can get when you look at design cycles in the real world. You have this short allotted time to design, select and source fabric and trims according to your given budget, a precise amount of time to make your samples in time for the shows. The vast majority of your time is spent in production. You put your product out there and the outcome is unpredictable. You could have made a killing one season (episode) but that doesn’t guarantee anything.

And, as Abby pointed out, you need to know everything about creating a garment. How much did we ridicule one contestant because she came on the showing not knowing the basics of draping? That’s just how it is, plain and simple.

It shouldn’t have to be that way. Yes, you should know the basics of everything, but you just can’t be an expert on everything. Everyone should have their area of expertise and work together to make garments together. There’s this weird hypocrisy in employers attitudes towards designers. On the one hand, you don’t need a degree to a fashion designer. It helps, but it’s not necessary, like passing the bar. But on the other hand, employers expect their designers to be multifaceted, multitasking superheroes, tirelessly working fittings, tweaking flats, comparing swatches, picking pantones, sourcing zippers, etc.

Another point that the judges are constantly driving at is the fact that it’s all about the client. This is so true. If you make this absolutely gorgeous suit, but doesn’t cater to your customer base, it just isn’t going to sell.

The most important thing about Project Runway that resembles real life is the fact that notoriety and networking capabilities are two of the most important things you need in order to be successful and dare I say, well-known, in this industry. If it wasn’t, these designers, and the slew of others who auditioned, wouldn’t feel the intense pull of being on this show.

And that is the state of the fashion union from a designer’s shoes.

state of the fashion union address

Posted in events,opinions by verbalcroquis on January 28, 2006

I’ve already covered some of my opinions on the industry at large here and here. Disliking repetition, I want to focus on fashion education here.

I went to Otis College of Art and Design and got a BFA in Fashion Design. While I loved the education I got, it wasn’t enough. The education I got was driven by my department chair’s ideas on what a designer should know. I know that the basic program structure is the same at Parsons, with which Otis was once affiliated. (Email me if you want to know about the divorce.) While it was a strong base, and I’m by no way dismissing my education, four years just isn’t long enough to learn everything. And we shouldn’t learn everything in four years. Here are some of my ideas on fashion education.

1. A year’s experience in a fashion internship should be a prerequisite to study fashion. Once you put in that time and you experience first hand what it involves to devote that much money, time and effort into this incredibly misunderstood and underrated industry, you can really decide how to approach your education.

2. We need more fashion related electives so we can approach fashion from the angle of our choosing. Once you’ve worked in the industry for a year, now you have a better idea of your strengths and your desired areas of focus. I know several girls in my graduating class that studied design and now work as patternmakers because that’s what they liked best. There should be different tracks for going into design, illustration, construction, merchandising, sales, journalism, business. If you decide during your internship that you really prefer the business end of things, you shouldn’t be devoting time and sanity points towards illustration. Or, if you want to be a designer with a emphasis (or even a minor, double major) in business, you should have that option. (That so would have been me.)

There’s a lot of the business end of fashion that can not be taught in a general business program because this industry is so specialized in our needs. (No wonder we have a reputation for being high maintenence.)

3. We need to deglamourize the industry. Front row seating at couture shows, red carpet gowns, ad space in Vogue, these are not what make a thriving fashion business. The sooner students get a grip on reality, the better designers they will become. What I mean by that is that instead of trying to become the next McQueen, they can focus on finding that niche market or hone their skills on designing for a pre-exisitng customer. The company I work for has been around for 80+ years and they already have their brand identity. A good designer will work with the established customer base to sell more product to them, while exploring a bit, instead of deciding overnight that the company should look more like Demeulemeester. Aspirations to be famous are wonderful, but remember that they are famous because they are good designers.

I want to see these changes implemented in our current education system so we can start addressing concerns specific to the fashion industry now from the very beginning, in areas like corruption in overseas production, international trade policies, environmental pollution reduction, web-based fashion journalism, marketing, advertisement and sales, federal standarization of industry practices, counterfeit law and enforcement.

I know a lot of you are more used to fun’n’fluffy verbalcroquis, so I’ll conclude with a list of classes I wish I could have taken at school.

  • How to Produce a Fashion Show aka how to work with skinny models all day and not develop an eating disorder.
  • Fashion Finance 101 aka how to know when your finance guy is screwing you blind.
  • Cantonese for Garmentos 101 aka how to tell your contractor that they did everything wrong.
  • Environmental Procedures for Businesses aka how to politely tell your coworkers *again* that paper goes in the blue bin and you know they’re not colorblind.
  • SooperDooper Advanced Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop aka what to do when your computer crashes at 3am and you’re so tired you don’t remember the last time you hit CTRL+S.


Posted in events,the day job by verbalcroquis on January 26, 2006

wow.  almost anti-climatic.

i’m now head designer.  my boss is so random.

salary and design team restructuring to follow after tradeshow in Chicago in February.

but the job is mine.

bust out the champagne!

knock-off knock-out summit

Posted in general by verbalcroquis on January 26, 2006

From Fashion Week Daily:

Harper’s Bazaar is working to bring down the $500 billion a year designer counterfeit industry. On February 1, the magazine is partnering with Kirkland & Ellis LLP, to co-host the second-annual Anti-Counterfeiting Summit at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the Time Warner Center. International luxury company executives, intellectual-property and trademark attorneys, and other industry professionals are invited to the sit-down luncheon, which will feature a seminar called “Keep it Real: Protect your Brand’s Integrity? with trademark attorneys speaking on when and how to stop fakes, and what tools are available to safeguard brand identity from counterfeiters. Keynote speaker Mayor Michael Bloomberg will discuss New York City’s $23 billion counterfeit industry, followed by a panel discussion featuring Bertrand Stalla-Bourdillon, general manager of  Louis Vuitton and president of Berluti. Not only does counterfeiting result in fiscal losses for brands, but it can also be linked to child labor, money laundering, and terrorism.”

If any of y’all find updates to this summit, please let me know.  Thanks!

random tidbits

Posted in personal,the day job by verbalcroquis on January 26, 2006

I’m not a fashion journalist, my dears, I’m a designer.  If you want reviews on the shows, go visit any of the amazing blogs on my blogroll and you will find them.  I of course have my own views on the shows (I never thought I’d see a Chanel collection I liked again, but lo and behold!) but I’m very busy right now trying to conquer the world.

New about me:

I’m working on a very exciting new project.  Stay tuned.

I *may* be going to Boston in March for a muy importante meeting with some buyers.  Cross your fingers for me!

February is just around the corner.  Time for contract negotiations!  Will our fearless heroine be getting her promotion?  Here’s hoping!  sigh.
My hated coworker has turned a new leaf the past few days and is actually being helpful!  I’m totally digging this!  Yay!

Because of the impending project, I *may* be blogging a wee bit less.  Do not fear!  I will not abandon you, my (loyal?) readers!  Or something to that effect.

pretty pretty

Posted in love is in the air by verbalcroquis on January 24, 2006

These guys.

And this guy.

Can you tell I’m trying to make up for all the Asian jokes I was making earlier today?

(Before you PC peeps getting your collective panties in a twist, note that I’m Asian and most of the jokes were merely self-deprecating.)

some conversations to drive you mad

Posted in the day job by verbalcroquis on January 24, 2006

I almost never answer the phone, but I will, of course, when the phones get crazy.
Man says:  I got a jacket from you guys a few years ago and I need someone to fix it.
I say:  What do you need altered?
Man says:  I need the lining replaced.  And the cuffs are pretty destroyed.  I think I messed up the zipper.  Oh, and there’s a hole in the pocket.  And there are some stains around the collar.
I think:  What the hell did you do to that thing?  I know people who are still wearing our jackets after 20 years!
I say:  Can you please get your jacket cleaned before bringing it in?  Your total will be $XXX.
Man says:  What!!!  I could get a whole new jacket for that kind of money!
I think:  You practically are getting a whole new jacket, you twit.
Woman says:  I’d like to place an order for style ###.
I say:  How many?
Woman says:  Let me check with my boss.
I say:  What color?
Woman says:  Let me check with my boss.
I say:  What leather?
Woman says: Let me check with my boss.
I say:  Import or domestic?
Woman says:  Let me check with my boss.
I say:  How will you be paying?
Woman says:  Let me check with my boss.
I think:  You wanna also go ask your boss how I’m going to get the last 15 minutes of my life back?
At the tradeshow:
Woman says: You know what I hate about your jackets?  They never fit me in the shoulders.  My shoulders are broad and straight and your jackets don’t accommodate me at all.
I think:  Just because you’re built like Joan Crawford* training for the role of the NFL’s first female linebacker doesn’t mean you get to demand our whole label to alter the fit to suit just you.
I say:  I’ll take your constructive criticism into consideration for next season’s jackets. 
I think:  Alright, Quasimoto, get to steppin’.
*Joan Crawford had notoriously wide shoulders, much to Adrian‘s dismay. 

this is the industry, uncut ii

Posted in the day job by verbalcroquis on January 20, 2006

I got some comments in my post “this is the industry, uncut” that I really want to address in a longer post, but I’m pretty fried today.  Tradeshow prep for New York is done, the girls leave in the morning, and I’m spending tomorrow catching up on some loose ends.  I promise I will post about this soon.  Thanks for your comments and keep them coming!  Especially the ones that make me think!

fashion musts

Posted in events,opinions by verbalcroquis on January 20, 2006

The mission, should you choose to accept it, is this:


“You are stranded at a lifelong party on The Island of Superfantasticness. What are the fashion items you simply cannot live without?”

Shangri Law

P.S. This post will self-archive under a slew of new posts in 30 seconds.

Why do I hear faint strains of the themes from “Fantasy Island” and “Mission: Impossible” like I’m getting sucked into a vortex of the worst mash-up ideas ever?

So, I’m a bit chagrined to say that this Carnivale of Couture topic is a little harder for me to write than the others. (Foiled by those damn Yalies again!) Why? Because it reminds me of packing. I’m the type of person who changes clothes 4 or 5 times before a night out and set a limit of airline luggage regulations and we’re looking at your worst Calculus nightmare.

Here are my needs: tinted moisturizer with SPF 15, sandals, my kimonos, sashes, big earrings, lots of pretty underwear, a folding fan made of microslats of balsa wood or bamboo (no, I’m not trying to bust a Karl, I just don’t do heat. I left L.A. for a reason.) And the boy. He’s my best accessory.

the boy Isn’t he HOT? I love this man. Six feet of best boyfriend ever!

Uh, where was I?

Here are my really really wants: all the cute nautical stuff from the spring 06 shows, a longstem cigarette holder a la Holly Golightly, a big floppy hat, big fluffy terrycloth robe, a maillot, black, low cut in the back.

If we’re talking survival mode, as in I’m never seeing the rest of my closet or a store ever again: the classics, of course. I *am* a classicist at heart, hard to believe, I know, if you’ve looked through my work at all. Jeans, a white oversized button down, a little black dress, a little white dress, both of my leather jackets, my silk-knit black cardigan, all of my wraps, and a few classic matte jersey tops that ball up in your suitcase and take up no room at all! Omigod, somebody stop me, I want to keep adding to this list! I’m hopeless.

missive from almost girl and fashiontribes

Posted in events by verbalcroquis on January 20, 2006

“Spread the word! Fashionweek is upon us! If you lovely fashion
bloggers want to help get the invites out that would be great

Here is the link to the invite:

Here is the text of the invite
State of The Fashion Union: Invitation To All Bloggers

With Fashionweek kicking off the first week of next month in New York,
Almost Girl And Fashiontribes thought it would be fun to do something
similar to my Black Friday blogging extravaganza. Except this time, in
honor of the Fall 06 shows, the theme will be “The State of the
Fashion Union.”

Because there’s such a wide variety of us blogging about fashion &
lifestyle, the theme is wide open to interpretation. Some ideas could

*       what fashion means to you
*       why fashion is important (or not)
*       your take on the shows
*       which country produces the strongest design
*       etc. etc.

We did a countdown last time, so Fashionweek blogging would begin
Friday, January 27th & countdown to Friday, Feb 3rd when NY
Fashionweek kicks off, with blogging continuing throughout the week
until the end of day on Friday, February 10th.

Lesley Scott at Fashiontribes and myself will collect all of the links
and use our blogs as a portal to the fashion content. In essence, it
will work exactly like Black Friday Blogging did! Everyone who
participated in Black Friday is again welcome to participate and I
encourage anyone who did not participate to get in on the action this
time. It is fun to see everyone’s thoughts and for a little personal
incentive it really drives traffic and readership. So please email me
Julie Fredrickson and Lesley to get in on the action so we know who is
in on the game. Also, whenever you post something new please email us
as well so we can get it up on our sites as quickly as possible.

In addition, for extra ease of use Lesley is hosting The Manolo’s
carnival the week before Fashionweek (starting January 28th) and I am
hosting it the week of Fashionweek. So if you plan on participating in
The Manolo’s carnival it is now part of our carnival effort as well!
Good timing yes?”


Alright, you heard the girl.  Bust a move!

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