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Location: Bi-coastal, United States

Working in the trenches of the fashion industry for years.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Fear of Sewing

How many of us have approached a project with that knot of terror in the pit of the stomach? I know that I regularly feel that I am sewing above my skill level. How about you? After years of working in sample rooms, sketching, and making patterns, I know how things are supposed to be made, for the most part. There is a big gulf between that, and actually sitting at the machine and doing it myself.

I recently came up against my sewing anxiety while working on this boiled wool sweatercoat. Everything managed to go smoothly until I got to the pockets. Of course, one could always make patch pockets...but then, I would have to match the pattern. I couldn't imagine interupting the design with a mis-matched patch pocket. That left me with puzzling thru inserting a single band/single layer "buttonhole" pocket.

Why single layer? The whole garment is unlined and made for the most low-bulk finish solutions possible. This double face boiled wool jacquard sweater knit fabric is very heavy, and I wanted this to be a sweater, not a coat with linings and interlinings, etc.

Starting with a commercial pattern, New Look 6536, which had a similar collar to what I wanted, I have added length and tweaked the fit. But now I am in uncharted waters!

Here's how I finished the collar: I have used the selvedge as a trim for the collar/front edge, and the cuff edge. I will use the same trim for the pocket band. So far I have managed to get past my fear and trembling to install about 2/3's of one pocket. The body is slashed and I've turned the back of the pocket to the inside, so it's definitive.

Let's see how long it takes me to get up the gumption to finish the rest of it. I am shooting for it to be finished before the warm weather comes. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Levi's goes after 'copyists'

See the Jan. 29, 2007 NYTimes article "Levis' Turns to Suing Its Rivals" for revelations on how the San Francisco denim maker is attempting to protect its brand.

Not only must other denim manufacturers be wary of placing any form of topstitched arc on the rear pockets of their jeans, you can't place a label in the vertical pocket seam on either the right or left side. They have a world wide team of store detectives looking for violations of their patent.

It's rare to have a patent on a sewn product in the garment industry. Gee, I guess Levi's really did invent something, huh?

Take a look at what Levi's considers to be an infringement~ As we saw in a previous MondoMode post on piracy and intellectual property issues in the fashion industry, copying can sometimes spur innovation. Apparently innovation is no longer Levi's business.

Stories abound in the Garment Center of design team meetings at the Gap with file folders with 500 pocket designs on the table. Don't quite like the look of that one? Let's try this.

Is Levi's, and in turn all of the denim manufacturers that it has spawned, so bereft of ideas? I agree that those manufacturers that are able to protect their brand should do so, no quarrel there. What gets me is that Levi's, a company that has more money than God, and 'owns' the concept of denim jeans, was unable to see which way the wind blows. Let's do some designing, what do you say?

Don't get me started on how the Gap has also given up its pre-eminent place as well! Is it something in the water in San Francisco? Nah, more likely it's the fickle finger of fashion. It's hard work to stay on the edge, maintain your customer base, and attract new customers as your base ages out.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tag you're it - Part 2

According to Mary Beth at The Stitchery who tagged me today:

Here’s how it works:

1. someone tags you,
2. you post five things about yourself that you haven’t already mentioned on your blog,
3. you tag 5 people you’d like to know more about

If you already knew that I grew up in Hawaii, I need to come up with 3 more things to tell you about.

I first saw this image of Gloria Swanson when I was about 8 years old in a wonderful coffee table compendium of the old Vanity Fair photos and articles. I am sure that it seared my brain with the ultimate Diva image. I loved that book! It was like my bible. I taught myself how to draw from comic books. Besides Archie and Jughead, there was a Dobie Gillis comic, based on the popular TV show of the time. And Patsy and Hedy, a fashion comic that encouraged readers to submit drawings for publication. I drew many many things, but never submitted them.

My mother's cousin was Tina Leser, a well known designer of mid 20th century America. She is one of the designers credited with inventing 'playclothes' and American sportswear. She is often mentionned in the same breath with Claire McCardell, and won the Coty Award in 1945, the same year that Adrian won. I suppose knowing this must have had some influence on me, but I never met her until my mother took me to see one of Tina's fashion shows at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki when I was 15 or 16 years old. (When I was in high school I thought I was going to get my PhD in historical linguistics, I had no aspirations to be a fashion designer.)Tina was pretty busy, and fairly distant - I think she barely knew my mother - they hadn't seen each other since they were 9 or 10 years old.

My second time around moving to New York, after working in fashion on the West Coast and Hawaii, I worked with Tina for about 5 or 6 months. She had moved from 550 7th Ave (THE designer building with Ralph and Calvin, el al) around the corner to 40th St. It was the beginning of her last hurrah. Though she was kind enough to me, she was a 'screamer' - later when I told my button supplier, an old timer, that I had worked with her, he rolled his eyes heavenward. I apparently wasn't the only one to suffer. Her half-brother told me that he hadn't even lasted that long working with her.
"Never work with your family" he said, words I have lived by ever since.

OK, I will have to think about the last item of the 5. Meanwhile, whom shall I tag? I will have to think on that as well.


Mary Beth, fellow Sewing Diva, at The Stitchery has tagged me. I am supposed to reveal 5 things that never revealed in my blog about myself. That leaves it pretty wide open.
But you knew I grew up in Hawaii?

Did you know I designed for a sweater company, Objects d'Art, for a long time? We made this sweater for Keiko her first winter in NYC - poor thing she was shivering. This was the first fitting. We needed to raise the centerfront neckline.

I worked in imports for a long time in junior sportswear. "Back in the Day" we had our yarndye recolorations hand painted - CAD systems cost $40,000 and were not particularly intuitive to use. We also used to carry graded sets of hard paper patterns in our suitcases on overseas trips. I made more than 36 trips to India - I lost count.

Hmmm, I will have to think of another couple of things to add. Right now, back to work. Check in later and see what else!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Creative recycling

Thanks to Boing Boing for bringing this link to our attention. Miss Malaprop shows us what to do with those blue Fema tarps you may find along the roadside.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Giorgio's Angel

My first job in New York City, after I got out of Haute Couture draping school in Paris was as the assistant designer for Giorgio di Sant'angelo. Giorgio's name has now become synonymous with trousers and blazers made in Bulgaria or some former Eastern bloc country for Chadwick's of Boston. But back in the day, he was one of the most exciting designers of his time, and right up there with Halston for glamour and innovative ideas.
It was Christmas, and we all got small packages from Giorgio with a hand drawn card included. This little angel was detachable, so I threaded a ribbon thru his loop and have hung it on the tree at Christmas ever since. He is holding a feather quill in his hand.
I have been meditating recently on my teachers and mentors, those I learned my craft from. Giorgio is right up there near the top of the pantheon. They know that you will spend the rest of your life drinking at the well of inspiration. That's why that kind of job never pays, and there are 10 people outside the door waiting for your job.
Read about a great article all about Giorgio. I wish I had access to the late 1960's Vogue fashion spread he did with Veruschka in the desert. Mind boggling!