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gen art competition (2006)

Gen Art holds fashion competitons every year and this year I’ve had the means to enter. You submit some sketches, they pick 5 finalists. If you're a finalist, you go to New York, they announce the winner at some Big Hullabaloo Fashiony Event ™ and if you win, you get $10,000 and 8 weeks to make one of your designs for Another Big Hullabaloo Fashiony Event ™ in Miami. This year’s theme is “Sparkle”. Um, I’m not really a “sparkly” designer, but hey, gotta love a challenge, right? Here’s the text on the storyboard:

There’s a current wave of designers that are so caught up in concept that they forget the basics of clothes: people want to wear nice things. Most don’t care whether or not they’re wearing Darwin’s theory of evolution interpreted in fabric. Researched themes and stories is one thing, convoluted theory is another. The intrigue of this year’s theme “Sparkle,” is that it almost begs the upcoming generation of designers to drop the contrived themes and just make something gorgeous.

The word “sparkle” conveys light and all things pretty; it’s a playful word. It conjures up images of a young girl’s joy in rummaging through her mother’s closet and playing dress-up, images of girls in frilly dresses, shiny baubles, feather boas, and tiaras. Of course, few women dress this way, but that same joyous desire for pretty things exists in every woman, whether they’re the ladylike sophisticate or the edgy urbanite. My interpretation of “sparkle” is what happens when the edgy urbanite indulges in her nostalgic romanticism; the clothes here are cocktail and evening attire that have that rock and roll glamour softened with a sprinkle of “sparkle.” Menswear influences, unusual fabric treatments/layering and unexpected color combinations are my trademarks and make this collection feminine without it being too girly.

Let’s return to the basics of fashion design: creating really beautiful, covetable clothes. For all the soap-box antics some designers pull to gain publicity, nothing is more captivating than a collection of beautifully designed, perfectly constructed clothes.

Sorry–the photos are horrible. But hey, I'm a fashion designer, not a photographer…





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.

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?):

dissolvingdress.jpg dissolvingflat.jpg

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:

cinderella.jpg cinderellaflat.jpg

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:

teapartylook.jpg teapartyflat.jpg

I also love to look at period pieces and morph them into something thoroughly modern, like the jabot on this little number:

belldress.jpg bellflat.jpg

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):
boysclublook.jpg pantflat.jpg

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).

15 Responses to 'gen art competition (2006)'

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  1. […] And if ya don’t know, now ya know. […]

  2. […] I’m looking forward to attending Zoe’s big night at the Gen-Art finals (see her entry here… so incredible), shadowing Julie as she covers fashion events, and gawking like a tourist at the bigness of it all… did you know New York City has the same population as my entire country? I really want to visit the Met and see AngloMania. I know there’s a million other things to see in NYC but if there is any must-go locations for a fashionophile, let me know. […]

  3. Profuse congratulations from Paris! Shall be announccing your win on my franglais fashion (+art, +music) blog, Da Scaree Fash Post today! XXG

  4. roxy said,

    congrats Zoe!!!!!

  5. Jemma said,

    I love your work.. and the entry really sparkles, although I understand you’re not a “sparkle” designer. I don’t think there are many “sparkle” designers… mostly just designers who think they are “sparkle” designers. aha.
    Anyway, good luck! You do beautiful work!

  6. Susie Yang said,

    FLIPPIN’ GORGEOUS!! Can you make me the bubble dress in the middle please?!? I know you can do it you masochist you…Absolutely amazing

  7. […] * Need proof? Start here. […]

  8. J'enseigne said,

    “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.):”
    LOVE your “sketch” AND the dress! Fantastique! Make it for me??!! so I can wear it à l’Opera and pretend I am a 6′ 2″ model !!!!! bisous, J’enseigne

  9. Ria said,

    I just wanted to say that I truly admire you! well done! you are so talented! STUNNING STUNNING designs- The illustration is exquizit!!! I am bewildered!!!
    BRAVO!!! Keep it up and Good Luck for the future!

  10. Queen Bee said,

    fashion designers

    I Googled for something completely different, but found your page…and have to say thanks. nice read.

  11. Jackie said,

    Your work should be shown to all freshman design students to let them know with very very hard work, this is the level of perfection that can be accomplished if you are dedicated. Amazing work!!!

  12. […] runway. The highlight of the night was when Zoe won her competition category with a really amazing entry (trust me, its even cooler in […]

  13. […] ever fashion blog friends.  When I found out she was a finalist (and eventually, winner) for the Gen Art competition way back in 2006 I immediately bought my bus ticket to New York City so I could go and meet her […]

  14. […] ever fashion blog friends. When I found out she was a finalist (and eventually, winner) for the Gen Art competition way back in 2006 I immediately bought my bus ticket to New York City so I could go and meet her. We […]

  15. […] comes in celebration of Coutorture‘s launch and Zoe‘s -our newest F-I blogger!- successful entry in the Gen Art finals. Also in attendence will be Danielle who’s making her first foray into […]

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