Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Now that I've given up hope, I feel much better.

This past weekend I pretended I was 18 again and stayed up waaaay past my bed time to catch the best concert of the summer. Two of my favorite bands ever are local bands, one with a small but very loyal following via rare local shows and video game soundtracks, and the other with a growing following via international tours and utterly danceable tunes. The stars must've aligned, as for the first time ever both of these bands played together, making me disregard stuff such as "sleep" and "not being around annoying people" and the like. But, it was all worth it, as the Faunts hadn't played for three years, and Shout Out Out Out Out was celebrating putting out their third record. A great time was had by all, especially by the ridiculously tall guy that stood right in front of me, considered himself the mayor of what was apparently his town, and promptly got thrown out after his stunning digestive pyrotechnics on stage. Anyway, this fantastic video (created by another local, Aaron Munson) is for one of the songs off the new album, Spanish Moss and Total Loss, and features the Shout Out Out band members and some other locals (including some of the aforementioned Faunts boys) falling off (in?) chairs. I <3 780.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Nanette Eriksen



Just when I've become comfortable with the idea of being blonde and fringe-less again, I find these spectacular photos of Norwegian designer Nanette Eriksen's A/W 12/13 (and graduate) collection (found via NJAL). Even with those colours belonging to a palette foreign to me, this collection, entitled 'I am Isis', is just perfect, bringing across exactly what Nanette intended: Egyptian imagery with a modern (but respectful) twist. I've gotta say, I now feel guilty for always rushing through the Egyptian wing of the Met (and for thinking that the Dementors' garb is so scary). I also think Nanette and Alexandra Groover may have been separated at birth. Anyway, I would love to get my hands on one of those wool jackets. Or that scarf! Sigh. Nanette, we have to talk.

(Photos via NJAL)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

We all have dreams. I know I do.


Sitting here at my desk, waiting for the phone to ring or my inbox to ding, I just looked at my profile (which you see in the top right corner under the kOs banner) and realized that I'm now living 2 out of the 3 dreams I had listed: I am now an editor, and I am now a student once again. Eek! Makes me wonder if that third dream will come true as well somewhere down the line. Or what would've happened if I had listed something along the lines of wanting to become rich and famous. Hmm...Really, the next thing I'm wishing for is to become comfortable with public speaking. I'm currently mulling over what to write an abstract on to submit for and potentially present at a Classics conference next March. Seeing as I'm doing a thesis-based Masters and will thus need to defend my thesis in less than two years, I'm sure all involved would agree that I should be able to speak above a mumble, remain at my regular colour, and remember that tricky thing called breathing. Though I think the question is, what does one wear to their thesis defense? If I can at least feel confident before I open my mouth, I think that's half the battle won right there. So, I have roughly 20 months to figure this out, but I'm currently leaning towards a clean minimalist bookish look like this A-line dress by Russian-born and Israel-based Maria Berman (found via NJAL). Other suggestions welcome!

(Photo via NJAL)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Highly localized: A discussion with Amanda deLeon

For those of you who have been long-time readers of kOs, you may remember a time when a new interview seemed to be posted every month or so. I miss those days. To me, the most fascinating part of fashion is the minds of those behind it all. Knowing the story behind a dress and, more importantly, the story of the person behind the dress somehow makes the dress more magical, more a piece of art and a historical record than just a pretty piece of cloth. And with kOs focusing on younger designers, it's incredibly interesting to watch a designer grow into their own and develop both their craft and a following. New Orleans-based Amanda deLeon is one such designer, who I first met through Etsy and am now watching via photos from various Fashion Week events and online press. Amanda's passion and commitment to her work is immediately evident in even a short email conversation, so I was happy when she agreed to do a follow-up interview to share with you. If you haven't yet, pour yourself a cup of something wonderful, read the first interview here (from over two years ago already!), and then continue to get to know Amanda through her answers below...


You've moved from selling on Etsy at a lower price point to selling on your own web shop at a higher price point. Do you feel Etsy was a good starting point to get your name out in the online world? Or is Etsy more of a self-contained world that is best for those not looking to create a long-term sustainable label?
At the time I was selling on Etsy, I was trying to begin my transition from producing one-offs to developing a line that could be manufactured in a larger quantity.  I was also using Etsy as a way to fund where I wanted my brand to go.  It helped me to afford luxury fabrics and begin my relationship with a production pattern maker.  Those two things alone are huge investments.  I knew that Etsy wasn't the correct venue for my brand, but it was a starting point.  It forced me to ask myself questions that I wouldn't have if I had started with my personal online shop.  
I was having to cut my prices so low, to compete with the other sellers, that I was practically paying people to take my pieces.  It seems that with Etsy's efforts to create a world for artisans and crafters to sell there goods to a larger market, they have involuntarily created an indie sweat shop.  It is also a breeding ground for copycats and price cutting wars.  I also feel that Etsy forces you to have a certain aesthetic.  It is not a venue for high end products, for sure.
My new interest is Kickstarter, and I've noticed some designers using it to either start new labels or fund future collections (such as George Bezhanishvili's 'Reasonable Luxury' project). What are your thoughts on using Kickstarter to fund your own label, what goal would you want to set, and what would you offer your backers?
Kickstarter is an avenue that I am in the midst of exploring.  I'm just trying to figure out how I need to approach it.  I want to have a hardcore game plan on how I would use the money.  I wouldn't want to get overzealous and spend on frivolous unnecessities.  Every cent will count.  I would like to offer backers something worthwhile.  I expect that I would give pieces from my collection to larger donations, but I would also like to offer something interesting and special for smaller donations.

Still on the thread of Kickstarter: Amanda Palmer raised over $1 million with her Kickstarter. After receiving countless questions/comments on where the money was going, she posted a breakdown of how the funds would be used to show that she wasn't walking away rich from the whole thing. Could you give us a breakdown on why the price of that gorgeous Aqua Sack Dress is $1280? After designing a high-end piece, do you ever consider creating a more affordable version to offer as well?
1 million dollars!!!  That's amazing to see that there are so many supporters that are willing to give to see others succeed!   
As for the retail value of my Aqua Sack Dress, there are so many elements that I have to consider in my pricing.  I use premium fabric, and that in itself comes at a premium price.  In the case of this particular dress, there is a lot of yardage of silk used.  I also produce my pieces locally, here in New Orleans.  Labor is the most expensive calculating factor, but it is extremely important to me to manufacture locally and to pay a fair wage.  Sewing is a dying skill and deserves to be revived in a healthy way.  My goal is to not only sell my pieces, but to help the growth of local manufacturing and create jobs.  The manufacturer that I have been working with has quality sewers and are paid a quality wage.  It's not only very important to me to produce locally, but it is also imperative that I work with a manufacturer that understands the importance of their workers and work environment.  Production patterns are also a huge expense, but well worth the cost because fit can make or break your brand.  All of these pieces would not exist if I didn't have good equipment and tools.  This equipment also needs TLC...regular cleaning, maintenance, and repair.  Now, the list gets to more of the behind the scenes expenses. I'll just list them below with notes.
  • So, now we have fabric yardage, labor, patterns, equipment and tools.
  • Photography - To create a look book, it takes hours of time setting up lights, background, etc.  It also takes several hours to shoot.  But, what takes the most time and energy is the days of editing.  I am lucky that my husband has helped me with photographing my look books, but he pays a big price for that service.  Hours of setting up, shooting, editing, filing, all on the dime of his equipment and technology that isn't going to pay for itself.
  • Model, makeup, hair - I need all of these to create a legitimate look book, and if you don't have good ones, it can reflect poorly on your brand.  I work out a trade, for one of my pieces, if I don't have the cash to pay them for the session.  However, that traded piece costs me money.  And people cannot pay their bills with a dress.
  • Sample fabric yardage - If you want to design a piece out of a certain fabric, you have to by a certain amount of sample yardage (depending on what company that you are ordering from).  Then you have to test that fabric for shrinkage, bleeding, and overall quality.  You may not even use that fabric, depending on the quality after testing.
  • Sales Rep - The sales rep needs to be paid a certain percentage for their time spent selling.
  • Marketing - Traditional and web.
  • Small stuff that no one thinks about - Studio rent, electricity, internet, insurance.  All of these are needed to run my business.
  • And last, but not least, my time, and my creativity.  I know my pieces are expensive, but they are also built with an artful mind and integrity.
I am starting to make some one-offs again.  The price point is significantly smaller because the pieces will be made out of discontinued fabrics and some fabrics I have collected over the years.  Also, the designs are not pieces that I would normally place into a collection.  These pieces will be most likely placed under a different label, but I haven't decided that just yet.
You mentioned that you use local labour to manufacture your pieces. Do you still sew any pieces yourself? Into what part of the whole process do you devote most of your time as a designer?
For now, I still sew most of the garment, but I leave the finishings (hemming, buttons, etc.) for the manufacturer.  I do, however rely on them when orders are too much for me to handle on my own.  But, I really enjoy my time at the machine.  It's very therapeutic.  I spend lots of time developing my initial patterns to send off to my production pattern maker.  It is important to have a professional pattern maker edit any issues that arise from my errors.  It is also important to have a pattern that is able to be read by anyone that is a sewer.  It's like blueprints, everyone on site needs to know how to build it.  Also, much of my time is spent researching ways of getting my name in front of more customers.
If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be?
I feel that there is lack of education on the dirty underbelly of the fashion industry.  It's not all about outsourcing to get a cheaper made product...That's not what burns me up.  Everyone, no matter what country they live in, deserves to have a job that pays a fair wage.  The real problem is that when you are getting your products for cheap, someone is paying the price for it.  Whether it be that manufacturers have to close down their factories because of lack of cash flow from having to repeatedly put in low bids for jobs, or that manufacturers are paying their employees an unethical rate.  Everyone has to be able to afford to live.  
People that have the money, are the ones with the power to turn the industry around by supporting sustainable businesses, but they are just not educated about it.  It's just a shame that the ones that respect and adore the art of fashion are usually the ones that don't have the money to support it.


To keep up to speed on Amanda's goings on, 'like' her Facebook, follow her blog, and check out her website. While her Etsy shop has now been closed, remember that Amanda's online shop is up and running!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Columna Cerului

When looking for a photo I had downloaded for an upcoming (re-)interview (!), I came across InAisce's S/S 13 lookbook. I don't even recall either receiving it or downloading it, probably as that would've been my first day back from the Montreal/NY excursion. Needless to say, it's a good thing I went into that infinite abyss that is my downloads folder. Anyway, Jona is obviously still sticking to his established aesthetic, while at the same time introducing some new ideas as he expands the womenswear (and footwear) selection. I, for one, still think that blazers and jackets are his forte, even moreso* when they have fantastic titles such as 'Occam's Blazer' (2nd above, left). My favorite (and newest want) is the Atman Blazer in grey (or 'haze'), which what appears to be a zip-off section (or, if I know Jona, a hook-and-eye-off section). Sigh.

*No one has told me otherwise (see * here), so this word shall henceforth be a staple on kOs!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reasonable Luxury

It appears that it's time for the annual brief mention of George Bezhanishvili. Though I'm a couple months behind schedule, it's perfect timing, as George just recently launched a Kickstarter project to fund his S/S 13 collection. I really like the idea of designers using public funding to succeed, and was waiting to see a well-thought out campaign like George's to see how it could work. I was quite impressed to see that the point of his Kickstarter, entitled 'Reasonable Luxury', was to produce his collection entirely in New York (where he is now based), to both have a quality product and to produce local jobs. And George immediately went above and beyond, laying out exactly what he would spend his Kickstarter money on in a colourful bar graph (below).

Now, what George offers to his backers isn't what I would've expected for a designer's Kickstart campaign, but, on second thought, it totally makes sense. I was picturing actual pieces from the collection, but aside from a couple of scarf options, a couple accessory options (keychains and a bracelet), and a wool coat from a previous collection (top photo), the bulk of the reward options for backers are collages, mood boards, and postcards. And I think that's really how a designer's Kickstarter should be set up. If a designer offered pieces from the collection being funded, it wouldn't be any different from a pre-order, and the money raised would have to be used to produce and ship the rewards rather than fund production for potential non-Kickstarter customers. Kickstarter is the new way for artists to continue their work (you heard it here!), and so it should not be thought of as a new online marketplace. And really, the whole idea of becoming a backer is because you support someone's work at least in theory if nothing else, not to get something back for that exact dollar value anyway.

Personally, I wish I could afford the $2900 pledge (wool coat) option, which includes a VIP invite to the NYFW showroom presentation, to be guided personally by George. However, I will still go for one of the cheaper mood board options, as I (have no other choice financially, and I) find that mood boards really allow you to view a designer's thought process, even moreso* than clothing on a hanger. It even makes you feel like you're a part of the whole creation process somehow. Though, to be able to do both in one fell swoop (and accompanied by a handsome man and a glass of champagne at that) would be fabulous. Indeed, one of the highlights of my multiple NY experiences was being shown through the Verlaine studio by one of the designers (a very handsome man, along with a glorious glass of water). There's just something about knowing that a particular pattern/colour scheme started from the toll multiple dye jobs took on the bottom of a pot. Anyway, if I could give one piece of advice to designers wanting to make a potential customer a lifetime devoted fan, it would be to do something like George is attempting. It might even be worth $2900.

*Question: Does anyone know of any issues/outstanding warrants on the word 'moreso'? I used it in a draft of a research proposal for a scholarship application, and it got crossed out by two separate readers. Why?!!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dark Cross

The theme of this summer seems to be thunderstorms, bringing to my attention the fact that I had never considered what a good thunderstorm outfit would be. The clothing has to be breezy, as it'll be hot and muggy. It can't be too voluminous, as more wet material equals more sogginess and slower walking home. It has to be waterproof, and yet not made of something that would stick to you (since it'll be hot and muggy). It has to be a colour that won't stain from running makeup/sweat/colour from bag or other layers, a colour that makes you visible to cars when daytime suddenly turns dark, and a colour that doesn't make you look like you're in a wet t-shirt contest. It can't have any pockets that would contain disintegratable things. The shoes can't be flip flops in a serious downpour, they can't be something that will get wrecked from walking through river-like conditions, and they can't involve socks. The bag has to be waterproof, completely sealable in the event you have an electronics or a book you actually want to read/keep, and able to open immediately to get your keys out.

In other words: stay where you are and wait it out, always wear a Chromat suit (see video below for details), (and/)or take off your clothes.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Working Titles

My Internets-fast (courtesy of NY-5) had the very unintended outcome of missing Barbara Í Gongini news, being that there is a fantastic mid-season sale on some pieces. Thanks to an update on Barbara's NJAL page though, coupled with the welcome end of the horrible heat wave that had sapped all* interest in fashion/clothing out of me and a too-long couch-shopping excursion that had me running for the hills (particularly any hills without furniture), I found out the news the long way by heading over to the Barbara's site. There I discovered some wonderful new teaser A/W 12 photos (on the new blog), and some pieces in the shop that I absolutely must have (or at least dream about). 

Visiting the shop surprises me every time, as Barbara's pieces are so basic and yet so spectacular and convertible. I'm particularly in love with the dress that reminds me of the ArtLab Andromache,

the long sleeve that converts into a halter dress (similar to my beloved complexgeometries two-faced dress) (and comes in black), 

and the hooded sleeved circle scarf/cardigan (that also comes in black). 

Brilliant. Looks like we're going for the cheaper couch so I can get one more pre-grad school purchase in. And speaking of, anyone have any thoughts on the Ikea Kivik sofa?

*With the exception of the desire to wear my new Marie Saint Pierre S/S 12 skirt every day. That thing is a lifesaver in 30+ degree weather, particularly after a check-up appointment that ended in some unexpected injections and very colourful bruising! I <3 MSP!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

SHIN, S/S 12

This collection very well may have been on the website for quite some time, but today is the first time in a long time that my semi-regular searching for any new SHIN produced any results. Just the other day, I nearly walked out of the house in my SHIN wool jacket with attached scarf, until I realized that it was June and I should fight the cold weather by refusing to acknowledge it. Now, mere days later, it's the hottest it ever gets here in my hometown (though not nearly as hot as the end of our NY trip, thankfully), and I'm wishing I could trade in the wool jacket for some of these SHIN pieces instead. Those asymmetrically hemmed pants in particular are fantastic. Here's hoping they reopen the online shop. 

By the way, does anyone else think that this jean jacket (which has elbow slits to match the knee slits of the leggings) would be right up Queen Michelle's alley? I know I do...

Monday, July 2, 2012

no. 306

One trend both me and my man noticed in NY was the high/low skirt. I had originally thought this was a good idea when I saw the style in 2D photos. However, I must say it looks pretty ridiculous in the ultra-3D winds of Manhattan, particularly when the winds are created by the subway grates below the skirt's wearer. It may seem similar on paper, but a windblown asymmetrical skirt hem does not have the same romantic effect as windblown model-ly hair or a floating plastic bag. Unless we're talking about a mullet, or a shredded black garbage bag caught on barbed wire.

Having said that though, I have absolutely nothing against dresses with (2D or 3D) trains, such as on my mono Scarf Dress, and this, Genevieve Savard's no. 306 Silk bag dress. Indeed, this convertible beauty has just made My Top 3 Want List. Been a while since something squeezed in there!

Prochaine gare: Home

My fifth trip to NYC brought with it many lessons, particularly as I was not alone this time and acted the part of tour guide (albeit rather poorly). Also, the trip started with a full day of travel to Montreal, four days in Montreal, and a full day of travel between Montreal and Manhattan. Meaning, I was away from my bed (and thus a good night's sleep) for far too long, and someone else had to witness the incoherence/temporary psychosis New York can induce in even the most well-intentioned Canadian. Not to mention that the trip ended during a heat wave that nearly caused me and my man to live the rest of our days in the well air-conditioned Uniqlo on 34th Street (in reality, we should've at least stayed for tea). At any rate, here are 5 of the more important lessons I learned:

1) If your destination is hot and humid, pack only light, breathable, and moisture-wicking clothing. Then, remove and leave half of what you packed and bring travel-sized laundry detergent/Febreeze instead. Also, don't travel to somewhere that's hot and humid in the summer when you live in an Arctic tundra. If you do so, chances are you'll have to immediately leave that art show gig you were looking forward to going to but couldn't physically stay at on account of needing to breathe and staying conscious. It's no wonder Amanda Palmer frequently takes her clothes off if roughly 45 degree Celsius venues like the Momenta Gallery in Bushwick is the sort of place she can be found in. What doesn't make sense is how Neil Gaiman manages to still look so cool (literally and figuratively) in such a place (picture unavailable due to inability to work a camera and/or brain under such conditions). Sigh.

2) If you pack light summer dresses that you know you'll be comfortable in because they're loose and flowy, do not wear those dresses on the days that photos will be taken. The comfort was but momentary, and those photos where I look 15 pounds heavier than I actually am last forever. Ironically, I lost at least 5 pounds/2 inches after sleeping a night in my own bed, so if I wore any of those dresses today and took photos, it would look like some sort of before/after ad.

3) Always opt for the oddest sounding drink, especially when you know it's not available at home. A table in Old Montreal loaded with assorted maple paraphernalia including maple lemonade resulted in a very refreshing rest before entering the hottest circus tent ever. The best beer I've now ever had is Dieu du Ciel's 'Pouliche', described as a half sour noir aged beer. Sounds gross, but I was hoping the sour would result in a sour cherry flavour. Turns out, it tasted like Coke mixed with a borderline stout. Fantastique! Lastly, I finally got a hold of a Dogfish Head Midas Touch, after finding it on a menu here at home and then being told it was no longer available in the country. Made from ingredients found in 2700-year old drinking vessels in a tomb (...of King Midas), it was well worth the wait.

4) I definitely do not like clowns.

5) I should always spend all my money in Montreal before going to New York. I had nearly forgotten that I wanted to visit one of Marie Saint Pierre's boutiques in Montreal until we were looking up addresses for a shopping/brew pub trip into the city. As the Quartier du Musée location was right by a metro station along our predetermined route, I didn't feel too guilty dragging my man and the in-laws to what would likely be another too-cool-for-us shop (i.e. I don't think any of us felt that we fit the bill for Reborn's expected clientele). As it happens, when we got to the door of the boutique, I needed to be buzzed in, so the family hightailed it down la rue and left me to deal with the scornful glares that tend to accompany such retail establishments. And yet, once I was buzzed in and had shyly walked up the steps in front of the till, the next half hour or so was nothing short of a lovely experience. The sole consultant working was so helpful, told me all about the collection and the current sale (great timing!), was interested in knowing how I came to know about the label, and suggested pieces for me to try on within my budget. She even disagreed with me (politely, of course) when I said I was probably a size large. The result was that I happily walked out with a medium (size '2') piece that was the staple I had been missing from my wardrobe (a simple long black skirt), at 50% of its retail price. The space itself was also rather lovely, reminding me of a minimalist cross between the Alexander McQueen boutique in Manhattan and an upscale wedding dress boutique (in fact, the basement is a wedding dress boutique, but I didn't have a reason to take a peek). I could've spent much more time and money there (particularly as I found out afterwards that the leather rope detailing was faux leather), but now I have a new shopping destination and have rediscovered my new favorite label. As such, the photos above are of the upcoming F/W 12 collection, and the photos below are of the current (and on sale) S/S 12 collection which I had somehow failed to post before, and of which my skirt is a part.