concept book

I know I’ve been absent from here for a little while (again) but it’s because I’ve been busy (not lazy!) – I’m going to take the next several posts to bring this record up to date.

First up, my concept book. I decided some weeks ago that I really needed to delineate the focus of my line – I had so many ideas that were going all over the place, and I was having a hard time organizing and editing. So I took about a week to really comb through all the material (inspiration and ideas) I had generated. I organized everything into a concept book, being very selective about what I included in it, so that it would show a clear point of view and be full of only valuable information.

I am calling my line (for now) Future Architecture, which holds a lot of meaning (I’ll elaborate on the name later) and helps me make appropriate design decisions. In the first few pages of the book, I broke down this title and clearly outlined the concept of the line, including why I feel this concept is relevant. I want to take the “activewear” idea I had previously and grow it into something that has both functional and aesthetic appeal.

The next section is a collection of visual references and inspiration that I feel is valid for this concept. I was particularly selective here, as I wanted to build a clear picture of where I’ll be going with my designs. It was also really important for me to organize the images into groups (per page) because each page represents a visual concept or theme that will appear in my final designs. The first page is about mobile/active utility wear through the visual language of sci-fi and anime.

The next page is about geometric elements used in an architectural, structural way.

Then I included some inspiration pulled directly from existing apparel. I picked these specific pieces as examples of how I see the above concepts already being expressed in clothing presently.

Next I did a study on who I’m designing for: my user. First, I explored her physicalilty as preparation for how she will be illustrated in my final designs. In fashion illustration, the figure’s pose conveys the personality of the clothing, so I will show her in a dynamic, direct, active pose.

I also explored her spirit – I collected the images of iconic women (real and fictional) whose personality traits could merge into a strong, active, fearless adventurer. I included Lady Gaga, Princess Leia, Trinity from The Matrix and Nausicaa from the anime, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

Next I outlined the color palette I will use and some of the materials I will use. The materials section is still in progress while I hunt down the right fabric. The color palette is mostly neutrals with black and cream (in place of bright white), and 3 accent colors, one per look (I’m working towards 3 looks, initially).

The way I had represented the color palette (each color an equal sized square) was a bit misleading to look at, so I did a page of color studies that show more accurately how I will be using color across each look. You can see from these studies that the neutrals will be most prevalent, and the accent colors will be spare and deliberate.

Then I drew up a game plan – I will create 3 looks (initially), each intended for a different level of activity (low, medium and highly active) and attribute the accent colors accordingly. The first look (low activity) will be a dress, the second will be heavier outerwear type top and bottom, and the third look (highest activity level) will be a light top and bottom set.

Finally, I put together some inspiration for accessories and started to list out finishes I’ll use. I picked zippers and buttons that fit in aesthetically and functionally. I also listed out hems and seam types I’ll use, they are more suited to activewear and stretch fabrics. I’m finding it helpful to think of these things early on in the design process, because when I’m sketching things out, I’m already in the mindset of things like elasticized waistbands, and can sketch more on target.

And that’s the book! It relieves a lot of anxiety to have put it all down on paper. I refer to it often as I’m working on the final designs. When all three looks are complete, I will include my drawings of the final designs and photographs of final pieces as the last pages of the book. Then I’ll have a complete record of my process from start to finish!

first prototype: raglan dress

This is one of the prototypes I’m working on, I drafted the pattern from scratch myself – a big accomplishment for me! It’s a raglan dress using purple/lavender wick-away material. This material drapes beautifully and is a functional high-performance fabric. The resulting dress is slinky and feminine but with a modern, techy edge.

The drop waist and blousy top section are figure flattering and comfortable, and the keyhole sleeves are both a fun design detail and a functional way to work in more ventilation. It’s almost impossible to wrinkle this fabric, so you could definitely go for a brisk walk on your lunch break in this dress, combined with leggings and flats.

Since it’s a prototype some of the edges aren’t finished. It looks a little flat here, but it really comes alive on a real person. I am going to finalize the pattern and look for fabric with similar qualities to make the final dresses in.

if it’s broken, fix it

It can be disheartening to learn at the end of a project that you have to redo something. But I know it’s not always a bad thing to have to fix something. It just means you’re one step closer to getting it right. And to me, if it’s not right then it’s not really done. I used to have an aversion to fixing things, because once you finish putting something together, you want that satisfying feeling of completion. But what I’ve learned from sewing is that it’s nigh impossible for something to be 100% right the first time you put it together. There is always something you can improve on. So I’m training myself (it’s not easy…) not to expect completion the first time around. If it happens, hey awesome! But I am totally prepared to take something apart and make it better, because I’m not going to negate all the time and effort I’ve already put into the thing by letting my standards plunge at the end. I’d rather spend 100 hours making something awesome than spend 10 hours making a piece of junk.

update & studio setup

It’s been a while since my last post, so here’s an update: I’ve refined my focus and have nailed down a concept for type of clothing I’ll be designing. It stems from my earlier post about activewear, but is evolving into more of a “fashion meets function and vice versa” type of thing. Basically the idea is to deliver the performance of activewear into fashionable everyday clothing, and conversely give style to more activewear type gear. In theory, you could go straight from work to the gym if you wanted to. My hope is that my clothes won’t prohibit you from going on a long, brisk walk during your lunch break. And of course, I’ll be expressing my style ideas through my designs. I love that I can incorporate many of my favorite things into this idea as inspirations: anime, sci-fi, video game character designs, etc. So I have been working on sketches and sewing “prototypes”, which is why I’ve been absent from the blog for a bit. There just isn’t enough time in the day anymore!

I’ve embraced stretch and knit fabrics and have been experimenting endlessly (and will continue to) with different types of jersey, wickaway fabric, interlock and sweater fleece. I’ve even got a stash of really cool “power mesh” which is basically stretchy, supportive mesh that I’m planning to use for insets and cool design details here and there.

I also realized that I really needed more table space. It’s really important not to let stretch fabric hang off the table as you cut into it, and with the huge pieces of fabric I’ve been getting, it was becoming tedious to move everything off my table just so I could cut something. Also, my old cutting mat was smaller than a lot of the pieces I was working with, and I was going crazy shifting things around. So I bought a new HUGE cutting mat, and a new table to extend my workspace – I love it!

One other addition to the studio is a Bernina coverstitch machine! I am still mastering it, but it is capable of producing really professional looking hems on knits/stretch fabric. Like all my machines, it was a hand-me-down from my amazing Mom, and I’m so thankful! As requested, here are some pics of my new studio setup:

new coverstitch machine (front left) and new table (foreground)

my old table is how free to house the new 42" x 30" cutting mat

sewing machine and serger live in front of my inspiration area & misc tools

pattern weights

I followed this online tutorial from Five Green Acres to make some pattern weights for my knit fabric sewing projects. I can’t believe how expensive it is to buy similar weights at sewing supply stores. It was quick and fun to make these, and they turned out so cute I may make some as bean bags for the little kids I know. Another thought: I could add a little tail and stuff them with catnip to make toys for MIDI the cat!

update: new designs

I’m taking my new idea (fashion meets active wear and vice versa) and running with it. I’ve got a cover-stitch machine en route to me as I type this (thanks completely to my mom & dad – the most supportive and positive parents anyone could hope to have – I’m so lucky!) and I’m rearranging my studio into a workhorse setup so that I can design and produce items efficiently. Yesterday I made some pattern weights (since a lot of knits react badly to pinning), I’ll post about those later. I’m so happy to finally have a concept I can really refine and build on. I’ve been doing a ton of research and designing on paper, some examples below.

inspiration board: balenciaga, marco de vincenzo, vera wang, marchesa, etc

inspiration board: lulu lemon, stella mccartney for adidas, hussein chayalan for puma, alexander mcqueen, alexander mcqueen for puma, dolce & gabbana etc.

design for cropped shrug with elizabethan-inspired pleated collar, layered tank and roomy crops

design for gathered sleeve hoodie w/ kanga pocket & contoured coloring

design for contoured top with puff sleeves and stand up collar and contoured shorts

design for hand painted shading on sleeveless hip-length crewneck

design for flutter sleeve cover-up tunic with stretch-mesh victorian inspired collar

my beef with active wear

Lately I have been working out a lot at my gym, taking a bunch of fun classes and paying more attention to active wear options out there. I am finding that there is a real lack of cool athletic gear available specifically for gym fitness classes like cardio and dance. The only style options available seem to be yoga themed (with graphics like Om symbols, Buddha heads, tribal designs, cheesy repeating patterns) and boring solid color pieces. I’m looking for more modern, sophisticated, even techy styling, and the best I can find is the Stella McCartney Adidas gear – I’m not willing to spend that much on workout clothes, and even that line is fairly standard – mostly tank tops and leggings, some cool jackets and cover-ups.

Also, yoga pants are great for doing yoga, but for cardio/dance classes I’d rather have some space in my clothes for movement and air flow. Most active wear companies like Lululemon and Athleta carry 99% yoga gear, and maybe one pair of roomier lightweight pants. Then there’s Nike, Puma and Adidas, but their apparel is mostly for running and cross-training (whatever that is) and seems to be styled for football/basketball players.

So I’m thinking of exploring the idea of creating a line of active wear with 2 main goals:

1. Create active wear with “activity” in mind – not just yoga or running. Pieces should facilitate movement, release body heat and be highly functional for indoor cardio, specifically group fitness classes, because thats how tons of people work out these days. This line should be reasonably affordable, because your workout clothes should be necessary, not frivolous. And to me, $100 yoga pants feel frivolous.

2. Create active wear that motivates you to work out – this means people should look good in their workout clothes! It may seem silly but this is a big deal: for most people, the hardest thing about working out, whether it’s going for a run or a yoga class or the gym, is just getting there. Nothing de-motivates you faster than squeezing into a pair of yoga pants that sausage-izes your thighs and squishes out your muffin top. Especially if you’re going to a group fitness class where you’re staring at yourself in the mirror the whole time. How can you feel comfortable enough to work out if your every imperfection is on display? But, put on a cool outfit, and you’ll want to get out and show it off.

With all of this in mind, I’m going to try to come up with some good ideas in this area. I’ll be able to bring in styling influences from some of my favorite sources like industrial design, architecture and anime, so the idea is interesting me more and more as I think about it.

recent sketches

I’ve been trying to generate some ideas lately, I’m sketching almost everyday. Here are some sketches I’ve been working on:

Kurosawa’s 100th birthday

Yesterday would have been Akira Kurosawa’s 100th birthday. He was a brilliant and innovative filmmaker from Japan whose iconic movies are as much studies of humanity as they are explorations of light, form and movement. He was a master among masters – so many highly regarded directors cite Kurosawa as an inspiration. Here are three of his films no one should miss:

1. Shichinin no Samurai “Seven Samurai” (1954)

If you’ve never seen a Kurosawa film, you might as well start with the one everyone (but you) has seen. It’s got everything: action, love, sacrifice, all written into a feudal era plot that is still relevant today. This film was famously remade as The Magnificent Seven (1960), also a great film.

2. Rashômon (1950)

This film is known for its use of an innovative story telling technique where multiple people deliver conflicting accounts of an event. This technique has since been used by many others and has become known as “The Rashômon Effect”.

3. Dreams (1990)

One of his later films, this is an intimate telling of short stories based on Kurosawa’s own dreams. At different times they are eerie, sad, hopeful, frightening and comforting. My favorite is the first story about a boy witnessing a kitsune (fox) wedding in the forrest.

On the Kurosawa Wikipedia page, you can read about his reputation as a demanding “Emperor” of a director, and an obsessive perfectionist. After watching his films, it seems that his work only benefitted from these qualities. So aside from the visual and emotional content of his films, I’m also inspired to strive for perfection and expect the best from my own efforts.

how i made an origami necklace

I recently made an origami necklace for a friend’s last day at work. People seemed to like it, so I thought I’d post about how I made it.

- Origami paper (or paper cut into squares about 6″ across)
- Thread
- The longest needle you can find (or several needles taped together)
- Ribbon (optional)
- Folding bone (definitely optional, but really helps if your paper is thick)

Step 1 – Follow this diagram to make 11 or 12 origami balloons (make more for a longer necklace). If using less than 16 balloons, (which will make it difficult to get the completed necklace over your head), be sure to make the open version of this necklace.

Step 2 – Double thread your long needle (or two needles taped together) with a long piece of thread, including 8 or 9 inches extra for tying. String the origami balloons together into a chain. Be careful not to crush the origami as you push the needle through. I found it easiest to use the tip of the needle to pre-poke a hole in the closed end of the balloon, and round out the hole a bit so my taped needles would fit through.

Step 3 – You have two options:

Option 1: Closed Version
Remove the needle and tie the ends of the thread together. You can embellish the knot with ribbon (or anything you want) to hide the connection point.

Option 2: Open Version
Remove your needle, hopefully your thread is long enough to have a 5 or 6 inch tail on either end. Attach a length of ribbon to each thread tail (you can thread the tail onto a needle and sew it to one end of the ribbon). You can embellish the connection points with buttons, ribbon, etc. Done!

This is just what I came up with, you should definitely get creative and add your own flare to it. You could thread a pretty bead between each balloon, or make a totally different shape out of origami to begin with. Enjoy!