Saturday, December 20, 2008

if only it were a joke

Inexplicably Conservapedia, "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia", has an entry titled "Fashion industry values", clearly written by a passionate but misguided (understatement of 2008?) teenager. On the one hand, it has had me in hysterics, on the other, it makes me cranky. I probably shouldn't give it another thought.

The entry on dinosaurs is worth a read, too. The thing I have trouble with in regards to all these (presumably land) animals squishing on board Noah's ark is geography (and in case you had trouble with that leap from dinosaurs to Noah, read the entry on dinosaurs). Admittedly I haven't read the Bible on this, but was the flood global? And how much of a sea level rise are we talking here? Because if it was substantial, how the hell did them potoroos from Australia and vicuñas from South America cross oceans to get to the Middle East? And how come the two T-Rex didn't gobble them up? I tried to find out on Conservapedia, only to find in one entry that we all "must be" Noah's descendants, and in another that a whole heap of other folks made it, too. I know which level of inbreeding I'm more comfortable with...

This entry wouldn't be complete without a message from Mrs Betty Bowers, America's best Christian; message that is as informative as any entry on Conservapedia. Enjoy:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

still 'ere

Just a quick note to pull this blog from the depths of obscurity (hell, I've even forgotten how to ping at Technorati, not that I know what pinging means) and to thank Sandra, Sam, Lynda and Holly for the emails, and Mike for the comment (some time ago, I know). To possible lurkers, I am alive, lucid even.

I just read the last post. Deary me. If Mr Kane ever visits this blog (ha!), let it be known that I am a fan of his work but not the three looks I picked on. And I really didn't mean to turn this blog into a semi-permanent Kane-hate site. Come February, or whenever it is that these women are made to walk funny again, I will make up for it, promise.

I also read that August was cursed and September was blessed. Well, October was cursed in a way that made August seem like month in Club Med if one is into one of those. I'm not, even if the trip to Finland had a definite theme running through it. This has been the worst year of my life to date. Period. All thanks to October. And I shall leave it that.

In coming weeks this blog will return to form (if it ever had any) - so many exciting news, so many exciting people that have contacted me. I will quickly mention Sam Formo, who, like Andrew Hague*, has under the guidance of Lynda Grose created something quite beautiful that deserves a blog post of its own. Soon, hopefully; I just don't want to exclude Sam from certain possibilities by blogging about the work just yet.

*Yes, I have turned into one of those academiacs who refer to self endlessly. And talk. Andrew actually has a fantastic website of his own.

So here we are, another 5000 years into my unfinished PhD, another year nearly over. But the writing is picking up speed and I sort of dare to be optimistic again. (A word I forgot in October.) The thesis is starting to have balls and they are meaty!

On the likely off-chance this is my last post for the year, happy holidays, thank you, and bring on 2009! (And let's never mention 2008 again, ok?)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

bulk (or hips full of fashion)

As a brief respite from writing writing writing, I popped over at to ogle at whatever we're meant to believe is what "women will be wearing" in the northern spring next year. Christopher Kane caught my eye, for better and for worse. This is how big he made two of his models' hips look:
Flaps. Jessica Stam may not be tallest model on the block (and this is good - I'm all for diversity of all kinds - and she may well have the sexiest walk out there); or should that be blocks? Even with those phonebook soles this makes her look 4'4. And as tragic as it may be, I now look at everything in terms of wastage; the entire collection is a nightmare in that respect. But, when Kane works the circles in sheer, the results are much more exciting:

Even this works works for me:

For this particular skirt, I think the inspiration was the reproductive organs of women AND men (look closely and try and convince me otherwise). On the other hand, I wasn't nearly as taken with Kane's use of marabou or whatever fluff edges this:

It has the sophistication of a Mardi Gras outfit cobbled together in the hour before the parade but at least the shoes match, I guess.

But, going back to the dinosauresque (bugger off, spell check) cut-outs, they remind me of Zandra Rhodes' Dinosaur Coat from 1971, in technique if not in look:

As for the writing, it's going well-ish. Admittedly the fear is building; as much as I pretend to ignore the elephant in the room (or on the screen, rather), questioning and challenging how we view and teach fashion design and patternmaking is a frightening affair.

In other exciting news, as of February 2009 I will be employed full-time. The interview, it turns out, went very well. And there are other exciting things in the pipeline, too. Cursed as August may have been, September has been blessed.

[NB: I just checked; Jessica Stam apparently is 5'10 so not as short as I thought. And according to this hilarious piece, she is known for "her trademark eyes" and "personality". I think she should sue whoever wrote the entry.]

Monday, September 08, 2008

"zero waste designers"

From White Apricot, by Laurel House.

Great to see this written about but once again, the pioneering works of Zandra Rhodes, Yeohlee Teng or Julian Roberts do not get mentioned. This amnesia by fashion writers* is a continuing concern; there is so much to learn from all three. (In a similar fashion, the current Australian issue of Marie Claire is "the green issue" which probably means that they've now ticked that box and who knows what next month brings. I hope, but not much.) Furthermore, the seminal Cut My Coteby Dorothy Burnham is once again left out. Reading it was one of those moving fashion moments for me, kind of like seeing the books by Janet Arnold for the first time way back in 1994.

On Roberts and his Subtraction Cutting Tour, the dates and places are listed here. To be on the other hemisphere...

Interview less than two hours away. My toes need liberating and a thinner neck would be good, too.

*If the author of that article reads this, rest assured this is not intended as an attack on you. Rather, it's an outburst of accumulated frustration about the fact that most 'green' fashion journalism has inherited some undesirable aspects of traditional fashion journalism unnecessarily. I do acknowledge that we are all here to learn but I do get at times frustrated at the pace of that learning. Apologies for any offense caused.


One of the comments that mainly other fashion designers have made over the years about fabric waste elimination through design is, 'Isn't it very limiting for design?' I won't give my view on that just yet (but of course I have one), but the statement itself is something I can't back up with literature - there is virtually no literature (except maybe things I've written but I have done no research into other designers' perceptions of this kind of designing and making).

So, even if you're not a fashion designer or patternmaker (evidently to many the two are completely separate things), I'd love to hear your views on this - whether or not you think designing without fabric waste is limiting to design. There is no right or wrong answer here so no stress. I may use your comments in the thesis, without permission but anonymously. Tough titties.

as i prepare for my first real job interview in seven years...

...I am also writing up findings from my project. I've drawn a diagram that looks benign enough - for a moment even I thought, 'Is that it?', after four years* - but when you really start thinking about it, it completely challenges what we conventionally perceive fashion design and patternmaking to be. Mostly patternmaking, though. But enough of that for now - no, I won't post the diagram and no, I won't elaborate just yet. Having seen others present my thoughts and ideas as their own a lot this year, I don't feel safe sharing just yet. Once the thesis is in and all avenues for publication have been exhausted, I will share as much as I can. But here is something to think about; what we say about how we teach patternmaking at UTS:

In first semester first year:
"This subject introduces students to the basic technical skills essential to begin interpreting design into a three dimensional form. Students participate in workshops that incorporate flat pattern-making and garment construction where they learn the various techniques, finishes and specifications required to generate fashion design and concepts into realised outcomes."
In second semester first year:
"This subject aims to further develop understanding and technical abilities in flat pattern making and garment construction. This allows students to gain a critical understanding of block construction and the possibilities of producing more complex design solutions through pattern development. The content preempts the design subject in the following semester."
As for those exhibition photos, soon I hope. I don't have any problem posting them, and it is my full intention to share all the patterns here, too, but I do need to clear a few things up before then. No insecurities as far as plagiarism goes; all the garments have too much of my handwriting to be of much use to any creatively challenged company out there, and like one of the posters in the exhibition stated, I'm more than happy for anyone to copy as long as they waste as little fabric as me in the process. On the posters, I thought they made rather clear what my project was about so I was somewhat baffled when someone commented on my exhibition "of trims and notions" (buttons, zips, etc). Please. When I informed the person that fabric waste elimination through design has been my topic of inquiry for the past four years, the person doubted this was even possible. Yes, the walls were covered in no-waste patterns and yes, the person visited that space. Ok, like this:

For the record, the bit of pattern is from a square-cut pair of pants, not unlike Thayaht's tuta:

(Thayaht's tuta from Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto)

But in principle only - I'd like to think I was a little more creative when it came to some of the leg shapes (seven different versions, of which I used three in the final garments). And I couldn't get the fit how I wanted with a triangular gusset, hence the curves in it. But more on that later.

After August 2008 turned out to be the crappiest month ever, here's hoping for a fantastic September and rest of the year. And fingers crossed for Kim who is likely to be released from hospital next Tuesday; by then she'll have been there for more than five weeks.

*Yep, four years since I put my PhD application in. And unlike some, my topic has not changed from what is at the top of this page. It's a long time to think about one thing.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

i like my style and wordle

It's highly narcisistic and a huge procrastination-enabler, but I can't stop obsessing about

My favourites include MKNYC, Peterkempe and koeque.

Totally addictive.

And thanks to Zoe, another time-waster: Wordle. Here is my blog as a word cloud:


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

is this a test?

(Off-topic and too personal but it's my blog so there)

I wrote this in an email to a friend today:

"And being on the edge of a breakdown of some flavour or another doesn't help in that respect, either. Fortunately I've yet to flush my underpants, something a friend of a friend did at a late stage of her PhD; she realised her mistake just as the panties disappeared from view. But it can't be far off for me, either. Once recently I put the coffee grounds in the cup rather than the coffee maker, and stared at it all for nearly a minute knowing something was wrong but couldn't work out what. "

Maybe it's selfish, but when at the final stages of a PhD, one does not expect to have to deal with a friend's near-fatal accident and recovery that will take months, possibly years (but that she will recover is a small, happy miracle that we didn't dare dream of just over a week ago), and then, the death yesterday of another friend from advanced, inoperable, terminal cancer that even she didn't know she had less than three weeks ago, when I saw her on the day of the opening (and was too busy to talk to as she came early to say she couldn't make the opening as she was not feeling well). The exhibition comes down on Friday and I can't wait, simply because I associate most of its duration with so much sadness it's almost suffocating. The past fortnight has felt like some cruel endurance test thrown at my friends and me by the universe.

Pat: love'n'quacks - I miss you so much already and so do the ducks of this world. Thank you for letting me into yours.

(It seems banal to even mention it now but in reference to an earlier goal, I shaved off nine minutes from my time last year in City2Surf. I didn't quite meet my fund-raising goal but $900+ is still pretty damn good, don't you think? Thank you, everyone!)

Sunday, August 03, 2008


So, I've survived my first ever exhibition. I will post some photos within the next week or two, and am happy to report that the response was quite positive on the night. More importantly, having made the garments, I've got an entirely new sense of this kind of making. It's empowering: I now know I can design everything from now on like this.

A number of people (including many women) on the night asked as to whether I'd be selling the work. I will, I think, produce on a made-to-order and -measure basis, but not until the thesis is out of the way. Being a winter collection, I think February would be an appropriate time to begin taking orders. Some further thinking and planning is required in this respect but if you are interested, shoot me an email. As for getting into wholesale, I'm not interested, at least not for now. Been there, done that, got burned, etc. And I think made-to-order discourages impulse buying, something we are all sometimes prone to. Having to fork out cash for something you won't see for some weeks hopefully makes you think about whether you actually need it a bit more. I only want to make and sell something if the wearer absolutely loves it, and will keep loving and wearing it for a considerable period of time.

Now for the five kilos I lost in two weeks...

Thursday, June 05, 2008


The date of my exhibition opening will be Thursday July 31. Put it in your diary. I have. I won't get into how that makes me feel (except to say it's not all bad). I do hope to see you there.

The City2Surf fundraising has got off to a really good start. Thank you everyone!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

turtle run

The project is keeping me from posting, and this is even more off-topic than usual, but definitely worth a post.

August 10 will see my fourth City2Surf, a 14 km run from the city to Bondi Beach. This year I'm doing two things differently: I'll start training before August (I've already started) and I'll be running for charity. The Australian Conservation Foundation is my charity of choice, and perhaps unrealistically, I'm hoping to raise $100 for every painful but fun kilometre. You can donate at my Everyday Hero (not my choice of name) page here; please do. The Mary River Turtle is just one of the many species benefiting from the work the ACF does, and who could say no to a turtle with this haircut:

(Photo: Chris Van Wyk)

Other aim: to cut 2 minutes from my time last year. I was that much over from qualifying for the fastest start group this year: peeps who finished in 75 minutes or less last year. I spent longer in the portaloo queue along the way so that's one thing to avoid. Quite possibly I was the only male not to use the large trees in Rose Bay, but let's see...

But, please donate. The turtles won't thank you but I will. And do consider walking or running on the day. If you'd told me five years ago I'd be describing a run as fun, I'd have laughed. But it is.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

on plastic bottles and water

Operation Migration's blog is part of my daily routine. A May 24 entry is a reprint of an article by Dr David Suzuki and Dr Faisal Moola:

The water that comes out of most city taps in Canada is pretty clean. Yet many people prefer to spend money on bottled water, believing that it is somehow safer. Now we’re learning that the stuff in plastic water bottles may be more harmful than anything in our tap water.

'Bisphenol A' is just one chemical that’s been in the news recently – and in many plastic bottles. This compound mimics estrogens (human female hormones) and has been linked to breast and ovarian cancers and childhood developmental problems. It is found in clear, hard polycarbonate plastic commonly used in household and commercial water coolers and some reusable bottles, and it’s just one potentially harmful substance associated with plastic containers.

The presence of chemicals isn’t the only reason we should try to wean ourselves from the bottle, though. For one thing, bottled water is expensive, costing more than a comparable amount of gasoline.

Unlike most nations on Earth, Canada has vast quantities of fresh water. Have we so polluted our water that we feel compelled to pay a lot for it? And from beginning to end (and for plastics, that end is a long time away), plastic bottles contribute to environmental problems.

To start, the manufacturing process is a factor in global warming and depletion of energy resources. It takes close to 17 million barrels of oil to produce the 30 billion water bottles that U.S. citizens go through every year. Or, as the National Geographic website illustrates it: "Imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil. That’s about how much oil was needed to produce the bottle."

It also takes more water to produce a bottle than the bottle itself will hold.
Canadians consume more than two billion litres of bottled water a year, and globally, we consume about 50 billion US gallons a year. Unfortunately, most of those bottles – more than 85 per cent, in fact – get tossed into the trash rather than the recycling bin.

The pollution from plastics affects our air, land, and water. Many plastic bottles end up in landfills or get incinerated, and burning plastic releases toxic chemicals into the air. Plastic that stays on land or that is buried can take hundreds of years to break down, and even then, it doesn’t completely biodegrade.

One of the most disturbing things is what happens to plastic that ends up in the oceans – which is about 10 per cent of all plastic produced, according to Greenpeace. About 550 miles off the coast of California, a massive, expanding island of plastic debris 100 feet deep and bigger than the province of Quebec, swirls in what is known as the North Pacific Gyre. In a recent column for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s website, writer Heather Mallick described it as "a hideous chyme [semi-fluid mass] stretching and pulsing in the sea like an underwater gob of spiky phlegm."

Plastic doesn’t biodegrade; rather, it photodegrades, which means that, under sunlight, it just keeps breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. The tiniest bits of plastic, called nurdles, enter the food chain when they are eaten by marine animals and birds. Nurdles also soak up toxins, adding to the poisons consumed by animals and every creature up the food chain. More than a million birds and marine animals die every year from eating plastic waste or from becoming entangled in plastics.

If the environmental damage caused by plastic bottles or the existence of potentially toxic chemicals in the bottles isn't enough to make you avoid them, how about some reasons that hit closer to home?

First there’s the fact that many bottlers get their water from municipal supplies. Coca Cola filters and bottles water from municipal sources in Calgary, Alberta and Brampton, Ontario for its Dasani brand. Pepsi's Aquafina comes mostly from Vancouver, British Columbia and Mississauga, Ontario. That's right: they're taking your tap water and selling it back to you at a markup that can be as high as 3,000 times the price you pay for it through your taxes.

There's also a danger that governments may use the growing reliance on bottled water as an excuse to avoid their responsibility to ensure we have access to safe drinking water. The federal government must address any existing concerns about drinking-water quality with enforceable standards designed to protect human health.

If you're worried about chlorine in your drinking water, put it in a pitcher and let it stand overnight to allow the chlorine to evaporate – or consider buying a carbon activated filter for your tap. To carry water with you, fill up your stainless steel or glass bottle from the tap, and enjoy.

Water is a precious resource that belongs to all of us. Let’s not take it for granted. And let’s not put it in plastic.

Reprinted from “Science Matters” a column by Dr. David Suzuki, PhD and Dr. Faisal Moola.

Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and chair of the David Suzuki Foundation which he founded. He is Companion to the Order of Canada and a recipient of UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for science, the United Nations Environment Program medal, and Global 500. Dr. Suzuki is Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and holds 22 honorary degrees from universities around the world. He is familiar to television audiences as host of the long-running CBC television program 'The Nature of Things', and to radio audiences as the original host of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks, as well as the acclaimed series It's a Matter of Survival, and From Naked Ape to Superspecies. His written work includes more than 43 books.

Dr. Faisal Moola is the Director of Science at the David Suzuki Foundation. He is a practicing scientist and has published widely in scientific journals on many topics in the areas of wildlife biology, conservation, and environmental policy. He has conducted research in some of Canada’s most significant wilderness areas, such as the great northern Boreal Forest, the old-growth rainforests of British Columbia, and the Acadian woodlands of Atlantic Canada. He has also been a university lecturer.

I'd heard of the floating mass of plastic in the Pacific before, and understand it's not the only one of its kind, either. The BBC has reported on the risks posed by invisible, broken down bits of plastic in oceans for a few years now.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

it's here!

I met Janet Hethorn nearly three years ago in Denmark, where she asked me if I'd be interested in contributing a chapter to a book she was planning with an associate, Connie Ulasewicz. It was around this time last year that the final drafts went in. Waiting for me at my desk today:

(Finally, an excuse to use the built-in webcam at work. The book is available here.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

feel my pain

This is how I'm feeling about the literature on practice-led research in design at the moment:

And to describe how my methodology chapter is coming along:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Katherine Hamnett sample sale

From today through the weekend. The email directed to her website and HerSpace for more details but I couldn't find any, so here they are:

Dates: 15 - 18th May 2008
Times: Thursday 15th 6-9pm Saturday 17th 11am-7pm
Friday 16th 11am-8pm Sunday 18th 11am-5pm

Entrance: £1 - includes prize draw

Venue: The Boiler House (Near 93 Feet East)
Old Truman Brewery
Brick Lane
London E1

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

polyester recycling and plastic bottles

Before I got a permanent bottle for water, I was averaging buying one or two bottles of water a month. It wasn't too bad considering I drink between one and three litres a day, depending if it's a gym day. I bought a water filter last year which made tap water heaps more drinkable. Recycling is all well and good but when you think about the non-renewable raw material and the amount of energy that goes into one plastic bottle, for it to contain half or so a litre of water for not very long, well, it's just not a very efficient use of a very durable material, is it? So, I tried to make the most of each bottle that I bought. But no more. Mine is aluminium, and I wash it once a day - by hand. I do have a dishwasher but hardly ever use it. Earlier, another council in Sydney announced they'll ban bottled water to reduce waste. Of course there was a reaction from the bottled water industry, one that didn't acknowledge the problematic nature of recycling.

From Ecotextile News, more worrying news about the issue. Apparently the demand for fabrics made from recycled bottles is so high now that some manufacturers of recycled polyester textiles have resorted to buying new, unused bottles directly from bottle manufacturers. As the article points out, this has implications for companies using these textiles that don't have full knowledge of their supply chains. It probably is easier to keep things transparent the shorter those chains are.

On a lighter note, if you're still not convinced that the era of the plastic bottle is coming to a close (like mobile phones, we didn't carry water bottles in the eighties), this (#76) might help.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Another "eco-fashion" blog and I can't not link, nor shut up about it: "Evergreen Effect". I get immediately suspicious now when I see a plant motif at the top of the page. And with good reason:
"I wouldn’t want to be caught alive sporting the same outfit within a month."
"So to satisfy my curiosity, I launched a web search on eco-fashion. After a couple of hours of surfing the Internet, I’ve actually placed a number of orders on the various shopping web sites that market such products. I haven’t received the package yet, but I have high hopes about it."
I don't know; maybe it's meant to be a joke and I'm not getting it - the writing really is that silly and uninformed, and every cliche is recycled (excuse the pun) ad nauseam. Mind you, in the above post, the anonymous author admits to hearing about "eco-fashion" "a couple of weeks ago" but still, missing the point that badly... I know I shouldn't care, but I do.

An exhibition you should go and see if in Sydney:
I did, and there was much beauty to enjoy.

From New Zealand, Untouched World, who now also have a UK site. They offer clothes rather than fashion, sort of like Patagonia and Kathmandu's enact®. I got the catalogue for the latter yesterday and was impressed that most of the zips and buttons use reclaimed materials. Or perhaps rather, I was impressed that they thought to mention that in the catalogue, as well as be clear which styles didn't have those components.

A promising-looking blog for all things DIY: DIY City Blog. The most recent post when I visited was on Katharina Ludwig; her intentionally temporary jewellery makes some pretty strong statements about where we are at, don't you think? Ditto her ice jewellery. Oh, and the organ bottles - they remind me that I finally got a permanent water bottle, an aluminium one from Kathmandu, saying goodbye to plastic bottles for good yesterday.

Oh, and my fabrics, lace and threads arrived yesterday from NearSea Naturals. I got two different colour-grown cotton ginghams, two organic cotton laces (the manufacturer is Eurolaces and an Australian company, Ecoyarns, also stocks them) and organic cotton sewing threads. I've worked out a plan as far as sewing threads are concerned for the collection and will blog about it shortly. Perhaps not the most exciting topic but needs to be done. Like fusible interlinings. Anyway, I'm very pleased with everything and after a go with the threads on my overlocker, I happily report no problems whatsoever.

Finally, Mike at Cultures In Between has the new site up and running. Go and visit.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

future of fashion?

A Google alert (a glert?) took me to Andrea, upset her design was not a finalist in Seventeen's Design Contest. While I sympathise, I do need to state my view that being competent at sketching is not a prerequisite for a successful career in fashion design. Madeleine Vionnet. Case closed.

But, let's have a quick look at the finalists. Most make claims of originality, creativity, uniqueness, etc. Little is evident in any of drawings. Most could come from the same store - any store, in fact, on the high street or in a mall. Now, not in the future. The finalists, I believe, have drawn what they know, not what they could imagine (I hope). I find one of the more difficult aspects of teaching fashion design is to try and push a student into the unknown, the unsafe, the uncomfortable. To save a teacher somewhere the trouble, I'd recommend none of the finalists choose a career in fashion design. This may sound mean, but I think giving such advice is kind (and justified). It reminds me of the audition episodes for Idol, where people who really can't sing are told so.

Maybe I am being mean. Seeing those drawings, I must admit, does make me a bit angry. Not at the contestants but the state of things - that the creators of such generic outputs would think they are being original. I don't think the finalists are to blame, for they are only a symptom.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Browsing through the Environment section at the Sydney Morning Herald, I came across Miranda Devine's terrifying account of the horrors that (presumably) she suffered at Bunnings:

Without plastic bags we would all buy less, goes the thinking. But, of course, we won't. Hence you have the ludicrous situation at Bunnings where a customer buys a small, but nonetheless unwieldy bag of potting mix (in dirty plastic wrapping), a tape measure, a paint-sample pot, marker pens, pest oil and a bottle of Thrive, and is expected to carry it all out of the store in her arms, thus making filthy her white shirt, because Bunnings is a good environmental citizen and no longer provides plastic bags, or only reluctantly and for 10 cents a piece.
10 cents? Plastic bags cost that in Finland in the early nineties. But, don't let that stop us sympathising with Devine's filthy suffering, while feeling "paranoid" about malaria(*) and mourning the loss of mood lighting. It's all just terrifying, isn't it? And here I was worrying, after doing a quick count yesterday after seeing a local road in complete gridlock on a Saturday. More than 80% of the cars had one person in them.

To ease our terror, some happier finds on the net. Alchemy Goods is another company making things from waste. Of particular interest to me, of course, is this statement about the bags made from old billboards (mine is from a different company):
We then created a new bag design that minimizes waste material in the pattern.
Based on my experience, bags would lend themselves well to a zero-waste approach. And there is something nice about making things from waste and not wasting any of the waste.

'Fashion Conscious' opens this week at the Design Museum at the University of California Davis. I can't remember if I've mentioned the associated blog - worth a read, even if somewhat product-focused. And a reminder that the symposium is next Sunday.


(*) I assigned this article as a reading to my students a couple of years ago for a tutorial discussion. Of course it's easy for me to say now, but I was careful not to colour any student's opinion about it prior; just read it and we'll talk about it in class. My, was I unprepared for the response. The hostility (towards the author) was almost frightening, but in the end we agreed it was a good example of a selective use of stats to push a particular political agenda. I look forward to reading what she has to say about flame retardants, found in high concentrations in Peregrine Falcons in California. The reason I bring up the Peregrine? Its global population plummeted in the 1960s and 1970s because of DDT. Since recovering, the falcons have adapted to city life, nesting in skyscrapers worldwide. They may be one of the more efficient means we have of keeping pigeon populations under control. I do remember an article about upset locals somewhere in England complaining that children had been subjected to the sight of a Peregrine killing a pigeon (can't find it now) but it's not really a discussion worth entering into, is it? Happy Sundays.

Monday, May 05, 2008

clarifying the terminology: research involving (design) practice

After a meeting on Friday, my focus at the moment is the methodology chapter and in particular the issue of rigour in practice-led research. It's not something I'm too concerned about but I do need to articulate very clearly the sources of rigour in my project. Over the weekend I was updating my readings on the area and came across this very helpful paper by Kristina Niedderer and Seymour Roworth-Stokes: 'The role and use of creative practice in research and its contribution to knowledge'. The table on page 10 is particularly helpful in clarifying the terminology, much of which is currently used interchangeably, perhaps erroneously. The timing of reading the paper was somewhat serendipitous as only on Thursday I had a minor epiphany in regards to my project, while reading about someone else's.

I don't know that practice-led is the correct term to describe my project. On Thursday I actually wrote at the beginning of the chapter: "My project: not practice-led research but rather, a project that includes research-led practice". This realisation came about whilst reading about Maarit Mäkelä's project in the book she co-edited with Sara Routarinne: The Art of Research. Research Practices in Art and Design. (The website has the subheading different to the book I'm looking at right now.) The chapters covering various projects, including Mäkelä's, focus mainly on art rather than design, although the closing chapters by Stephen Scrivener and Michael Biggs do bring the book back to design somewhat. Anyway, Mäkelä's project to me reads very much as 'practice-led' but as a result, my project does not. For a start, my project includes an exhaustive (and exhausting) literature survey of garments that waste little or no fabric, both historical and contemporary. As the literature survey both precedes and informs the practice, I'm not sure 'practice-led research' is the correct term for my project - the practice does not lead the research but does contribute to it significantly.

Going back to Table 2 in Niedderer and Roworth-Stokes's paper, and the first category, 'Research Involving Practice', I do identify with the context and purpose. In my project, "practice plays a lead role in the investigative process", and "informs theory building within research to gain new insights, knowledge or understanding". (And this reminds me why it was so easy to embark on a misadventure to the world of Grounded Theory more than two years ago... It made sense, even if inappropriate.)

Next, using objectivity, reliability and validity as the criteria, identifying the sources of rigour in the project should be a breeze. Or so I always (optimistically) believe.

As an unrelated aside, I haven't entertained the thought of designing within the Australian industry for some years now - not much or seriously anyway. Yesterday, a friend asked if could bring in my portfolio to the company she's working for, as there are signs of imminent expansion. I could, I replied, if I had one. The closest equivalent I have is my press book. I had my first look in about three years last night (I should have taken a photo of the dust) and it was almost as if I was reading about someone else. And how things change. Exactly 18 months after this was written, I was applying to do a PhD and got on the road I'm on now. No regrets, of course, but it's strange to even think of myself as a potential designer again. Sure, I am designing as part of the project but it's in my little academic ivory tower, not in the real world where things actually have to sell. Not in the real world where designers have to churn out hundreds of styles every year. Not in the real world where what always seem to ultimately matter, at the expense of everything else, is profit. Anyway, I'm taking the book in; if nothing else, my friend and I can have a giggle at how young I looked. Oh, and I'm still exhausted.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

reviewing the reviews

[Amended later, with big thanks to Helen from Sassybella: Patty Huntington is blogging over here. Thank goodness.]

Well, not really [this was in ref to title, not Patty], but I do wonder what's going on at the Sydney Morning Herald. More than 30 shows took place from Monday through Wednesday, and yet now, on Thursday morning, only seven shows have been covered in any detail. What's more, only the established labels seem to attract the reporters (and same goes for UK Vogue). The young'uns are invisible. And while the index, in the 'Life & Style' section, is a good thing at the SMH, I found one article about RAFW under 'Entertainment'. Of course what I'd really like is to see it all covered under 'Business'. I am not holding my breath. has managed a couple of blog posts, here and here. Perhaps the best thing out there is Australian Vogue, but with local mags one always wonders about advertising revenue and objective reporting...

To end another short post with a positive, Treehugger has reviewed Kate Fletcher's book here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

a few good distractions

Then it gets sillier. No comment - I won't pick on this any further.

The Sydney Morning Herald's coverage of RAFW is indexed here. I had grand plans to stay informed but it just couldn't sustain my interest for more than ten minutes. Is that bad? (Under other circumstances it might have but at the moment writing and making are bigger priorities.) And where the hell is Patty Huntington? I'm probably hopelessly out of the loop; who does she write for now? None of the SMH reviews I read were by her.

As she had a sale on (I was meant to advertise and forgot), I bought more fabrics from Jill at KimoYES last week. They arrived yesterday, and there are some true beauties. Photos to come. Maybe. I've got a backlog of stuff to get from the camera to the computer to my journal, of things happening in the studio.

I've reread much of the literature on practice-led research in art and design in the past few weeks; my notes on many texts weren't satisfactory to work with for the methodology chapter. It's a fuzzy picture, but some clarity is starting to emerge. Namely that consensus is scarce in the field. But that's ok. I'm still pondering the common practice of lumping art and design under the same roof but perhaps there is value in trying to see the common elements rather than get stuck on the differences.

I do have a growing list of real topics to blog about, but later in the week is likely. A few good things beckon in the studio.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


This sums up the past four days as far as the thesis goes:

What was I doing? Like that saint whosiwhatsit, I was summoning the birds, of course:

Yep, still organising photos and feeling guilty I haven't written a single word on a Sunday. I managed about a thousand yesterday. The Rainbow Lorikeets were down south, but the same birds frequent the tree next to my studio window. I doubt their colours will ever cease to amaze me.

To my own detriment I once again bought the Sunday papers, only to be faced with images of Dannii Minogue looking like Joan Collins (two weeks after an image of Kylie Minogue looking like Joan Rivers) and Amy Winehouse looking like... Amy Winehouse. Anyway, Mia Freedman responded to that blog about fashion magazines and a claim that she allegedly once sent the work experience to buy her son a banana. High drama, indeed. As for Rosemount Australian Fashion Week, there were some sounds of discontent from some. Each to their own. I worry about the young designers who enter, expecting naively (but understandably) that buyers will flock to them. Many aren't aware that the established labels have been selling summer for the past four to eight weeks, and the show is more of a PR exercise than an active selling tool. But, good luck to all.

I was playing with one of the kimono panels yesterday and pinned it to a year-old shirt toile. I liked what I saw. Most of the small piece will become the back panel (the side seams are displaced to the back in this particular shirt) and the rest will become an applique on the front and the sleeves. I photocopied the fabric, cut up the copy and started pinning to work it all out. As Japanese as the fabric looks (it's red and white shibori), the way I cut it up strangely echoes this:

It's a bat my nephew cut out of paper in December, but I saw a face in it, and it will be a recurring motif in the collection. (To see the bat, you need to rotate it 90 degrees clockwise.)

Happy Sundays, the aim is for 500 words today.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

things that made me laugh while in melbourne

Yeah, I know, I was there almost two months ago, but I was tidying up my albums now so here they are.

Seen on the street when I caught up with Di for breakfast:

The following two were in a toilet cubicle at RMIT. Now, you may wonder why I had a camera with me in the toilet. Keep wondering.

And finally, not funny but nice. Sunset at St Kilda. I was staying with my friend Mari and we rode bikes from Port Melbourne to St Kilda purely for this. Riding a bike for the first time in 15 years was pretty funny at first - you might not forget but you do get scared! Anyway, only later I discovered through Emu that St Kilda has one of the few mainland colonies of Little Penguins, like the one in Manly in Sydney. Damn, I would have kept a closer eye on the water.

(I've since paid closer attention to toilet walls and will try to keep a camera with me more.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Earth Pledge FutureFashion revisited

Just linking to an excellent post by Jill Danyelle (she of fiftyRX3 fame and of about the show, quite passionately pointing out its shortcomings which I alluded to in three sentences. Jill later elaborates further here. After reading another lot of moronic blog entries about guilt-free (their claim) sustainable shopping and cute (their claim) eco-chic bits of crap these posts have restored my energy and faith. Eco-hating - I like it.

She also questions the press-fluffy statements from Loomstate regarding their recycling of tees with Barneys. "A fresh take"? Wasn't it in 2000/2001 that Walter Van Beirendonck, under the Aestheticterrorists brand, was selling old promo tees, with his own prints simply printed on top of the sponsor's logos? The website has them down as from 2002 but I know I bought three from the collection just after I'd been retrenched in October 2001 (they weren't cheap so the package helped!), and wore one on a flight to Peru in December 2001, and being three months after 9/11, the airport officials in Lima were somewhat concerned about the word 'terrorist' on my chest. Ill-advised on my part, sure, although I've yet to hear of a terrorist group that uses fashion as an identifying element, not counting concealing scarfs in menacing videos. But I digress. Anita made a good point the other day about the current fad for all things eco (too often their claim); it's almost as if everything that has gone on before has been forgotten and every press release erases any history that existed.

For the record, one of the three tees went to charity after it stretched out of existence, one I still wear (the same as Walter is wearing above) - on optimistic thin days - and one is filed away for posterity. It has more holes than cotton jersey in it now, but there are too many memories attached for me to let go of it.

while reading a manual for aspiring fashion designers...

...I feel compelled to point out that a garment will rarely contain one of these:

It might include a yoke, however:

(If you do know of a decent fashion design manual out there, do let me know.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

long leg panty girdle

When I first heard of Mara Havinoviski's 'Patterns for Fabric Economy' (1969), I got very excited. A trawl through the websites of various Sydney libraries came to nada, and in the end I organised an interlibrary loan. Not sure why but I always feel guilty when I do, like I'm bothering the librarians, although it's all done impersonally through the library website.

The book arrived last week, from the Washington State University library. It smells of old book, or Santa Claus's armpit, to the extent that I have to keep it at arm's length at all times. At most I can only read it for five minutes at a time. More worryingly, I can't seem to understand half of it. The tables, the diagrams - it's all gobbledegook to me. The images of pattern pieces, which should have been self-explanatory, baffled me to no end, until I saw on another page that they were in fact the pieces of a 'long leg panty girdle'. Whatever that is, I think my collection needs one. We all need one.

But, I will persevere. The book is essentially about fabric inspection and usage, and tackling fabric waste in the traditional way, and I think Tyler's book probably covers most of this in a more user-friendly manner. I do like Havinoviski's writing style with its own idiosyncracies like the frequent CAPITALISATION OF SIGNIFICANT STATEMENTS. And thanks to Havinoviski, I'm now aware of 'Parkinson's Law', which just about explains the universe to me at the moment.

Monday, April 21, 2008

still on copying

Still on the issue of copying/interpreting/adapting other people's ideas, I had a chat with a friend yesterday. She started a new job some time ago and is very happy where she is. The 'designer' at the previous place hardly designed anything - the range board was filled with tear sheets from magazines and print-outs from various online boutiques selling high-end designer gear. My friend was part of the team responsible for copying these ideas - or adapting them for a less expensive market, whatever you want to call it. I call it copying.

Now, she is still part of the design team, looking at a range board full of original sketches. What's more, the company targets others they've discovered copying their styles, mainly through the online designer boutiques. Yep, the same ones as above. My friend is responsible for notifying the ripper-offers with a letter promising legal action if the copying continues. A complete reversal from where she was, and one she's most pleased about.

My experience is that those online boutiques have made copying easy without having to buy a sample garment; you usually get detailed front and back views, and any tricky bits are usually also featured in detail shots. Of course it's no good for companies trying to be on the first wave of a trend as you are copying what's already on the retail racks, but for the countless middle market brands it seems to work just fine. And if there is one saving grace in copying from a photo as opposed to copying from a physical garment, it's that you are then keeping your fits consistent - presuming you are working from a block. Many companies, mostly at the most mass level of things, still have huge budgets for sample buying and the garments are copied as is, most of the time. What a waste. Apart from the ethical and moral problems, the practice completely ignores the huge resource that the past seasons' work represent. Every season is a fresh start but not in a way I'd describe as positive.

Experience has taught me (in both industry and as a shopper) that people return if they've found something that fits them well, particularly for pants. With the 'starting a fresh' approach, you don't stand a chance of building that dedicated following. You might just get a letter from my friend.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

you say inspiration, i say...

With RAFW around the corner, the bets are on: who will attempt to 'reinterpret' Givenchy's eyelets from Spring 2008? (Copying is such a strong, accusatory word. Besides, if it's in a cheap fabric, it's not really copying now, is it?) Many in the industry have no doubt that the suppliers in China have been busy for the past six months reproducing them, but let's wait and see. Nicole Phelps over at wasn't too taken with them, but Vogue Paris devoted a number of pages to the collection some months ago.

Looking at the schedule, it's good to see Therese Rawsthorne on there, as well as Romance Was Born, Friedrich Gray and Tina Kalivas. It's not so good to see the somewhat mad person who last season ripped off a friend to the tune of thousands. I worked for this person briefly some years ago, but got fed up with the twenty SMS I'd receive between 10pm and 6am, daily. Strangely last season's collection was essentially the same as four years ago, so I'm a little curious as to what will come down the runway this time. As a change of pace from last season, let's hope the outfits stay in one piece for the duration of the exits, at least... This company is another contender for the 'How to go broke [painfully] slowly' category as defined by Kathleen Fasanella.

rank in three parts

I know I said I'd wait till next weekend with washing the jeans. I buckled. One pair came out of the freezer only on Friday and yet today smelled like the Devil's afterbirth, left in a warm room for a month. Mind you, only if you stuck your nose close to it, but still. So in they went, with a whole lot of other dark stuff, minimal detergent and softener (half doses of whatever the instructions ask for) and cold water, of course. They are now drying on hangers around the place. I did take photos and will post later. But what now as far as washing goes? Next laundry date for the jeans: October 20. Gross, isn't it? But let it be known that I haven't got any weird skin infections from the waist down in the past six months and frankly, that's good enough for me.

Reading the Sunday newspapers (a bad habit that has to go), I was glad to see Melissa Hoyer of the Sunday Telegraph pointing out ten or so successful Australian women fashion designers. In response to Nicholas Huxley's ill-advised comments earlier (in the same publication!), of course, which in a way was odd, given the glowing column miles the Fashion Design Studio usually gets in the Terror. The Sun Herald didn't go there at all.

Also in ST was a story about 4 Inch Heels Only, an anonymous blog from within the small, blow-dried and tandoori-hued Sydney fashion magazine community. Apparently some of the larger publishers are hell-bent on uncovering the blogger's identity - but not as hell-bent on putting out a decent fashion magazine, I presume. I haven't bought Oz Vogue since the nineties when it was full of articles I'd read in US Vogue months earlier. Mind you, I haven't bought US Vogue since the nineties, either. A chopstick in the ear is a much quicker way to self-lobotomy than flicking through all those ads. Anyway, the fuss MagHag has caused reminds me of a party years ago, where my friends and I were one table away from the Cosmo girls. One friend, a popular designer at the time, knew them all, and whispered to me at one point: "Just look at them all, single alcoholics with coke habits, and they are the ones writing those tragic articles about how to get a man." Of course it was a gross exaggeration on my friend's part; not all of them were writers, I'm sure. (And should anyone get upset by what I just wrote, let me assure you this took place when pod shoes were in: no current staff implied.)
(Photo by David LaChapelle. The one at top, inexplicably from Webster's Online Dictionary.)

But back to real writing.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

more fabrics! and two milestones

The fabrics from KimoYES arrived on Friday and I'm very pleased and excited: they're simply divine. What's even better, Jill from KimoYES emailed me with as much background to each one as she could. I'm not alone in thinking that designers and manufacturers have a power to encourage a stronger consumer engagement with a garment, which in turn might get consumers to want to hang on to their garments for longer, caring for them better, maintaining and repairing them (or having them repaired). My talk on Thursday, based on the paper I presented at Dressing Rooms, was about designing garments for repair and alteration, arguing that decisions by the fashion designer and patternmaker can facilitate and enable future transformative practices (repair and alteration) in a garment. I also think we can help steer consumers towards less environmentally damaging laundering practices. I used my Viktor & Rolf jacket as an example. The care label says: "Do not wash in water, do not dry clean." And I haven't for the two years I've had it. Instead, my dry cleaner sponges (with what, I don't know) the cuffs and neck which tend to get dirty quickly, given the light colour of the jacket and the fact I rarely wear collared, long-sleeved shirts. Presumably the washing instructions stem from the high metal content of the fabric (19%, with 81% cotton). I love, too, that pressing the jacket is pointless. I just pull it back into shape when I put it away. The thought that has gone into the buttoning and buttonholes is nice, too: the top hole is a regular keyhole, the middle is set into the waist seam and the bottom one is fake.

But back to the vintage kimono fabrics. Below are my photos with Jill's comments. Wherever I end up using them, the garment will come with all of this information, too. A bit like the Dutch project Made-By, where you can enter the garment code on the website and get its entire production history. What a fantastic idea; let's hope for lots of companies signing up. As for Jill's fabrics, they come from old, damaged kimono; she salvages what she can for sale as well as her quilting work. She also mentioned an artist who often gets the bits that are too damaged for sale; he happily uses them. The condition of the fabrics is excellent, despite their age.

Left to right, top row:
#3254 (black/white). 70s
#3518 (fine navy wool with pink) is from a woolen kimono - I'd say from the 70s
#3856 (grey and black) is an ikat meisen silk where the threads are dyed before the weaving process (hence the irregular pattern). This fabric would be from the 70s
#4167 Ikat wool. This is from a roll of kimono fabric that is old stock. 70/80s

Left to right, bottom row:
#2747 (pink with black/white/red) 50s/60s
#3282 (red/pink) 80s
#2785 (black/grey/white) - can't tell you much about this one. Suspect that there may be some hemp in this fabric. What do you think? I don't know how to test for it. [I'm not sure either; I know the smell of burning cellulosic fibre, cotton/linen/hemp/etc. but not sure how to go from there.]
#3159 (red shibori) Red rinzu silk which has been patterned using shibori. This is probably machined rather than done by hand. Typical 70s

Oh, the milestones? My younger brother turns 31 today; Happy Birthday! There is no card in the mail but once my PhD is dead and buried, I will get into that habit again, or at least try. And I checked the receipt for the jeans again: six months today. Perhaps I'll wash them next weekend.

Friday, April 18, 2008

"Is It Still Fashion Design If You Use a Butterick Pattern?"

In short, no it's not. It's copying, and it's a little bit illegal, I'm sure. Fair enough, I know a few 'designers' guilty of this, but that doesn't make it design. It's product development at best, but even that can have an inherent integrity to it; using a bought pattern has none if you're in business. Copying is rife in Australia (remember that stupid copyright case over two unoriginal dresses by Lili and Review?), and not just at mass market level. But just because others do it doesn't mean you have to.

Using a bought pattern poses some more serious problems for a business than just a loss of integrity and potential legal implications. Commercial patterns, aimed at home sewers, usually have so much wrong with them in terms of construction and fit that I just wouldn't bother. And in the case of vintage patterns, bodies now are quite different to 30-40 years ago (we're fatter and our proportions are different, too).

On a more fundamental level, coming up with a sketch (whether your own or from the envelope of a bought pattern) and merely choosing a fabric for it is not exactly design, either. Or it's what I call 'colouring book design', and you don't need a design education to be able to do it - it's what any home sewer does. The people behind AFV (of St Louis; check out that classic MySpace photo of Ashley in the friends section - I've saved it for a friend who is building a catalogue of silly MySpace photos but that's another story...) might not be fashion designers but let's hope they are clever at business. And let's hope they have a competent patternmaker adapting that vintage pattern to contemporary manufacture and contemporary bodies. Because if they don't, the company will end up in this category. (I was actually looking to see if Kathleen Fasanella had a post, 'How to Go Broke Quickly', as in the book. She may well do, I only looked for about thirty seconds.)

I found the story at Fashion Indie (and disagree with the author); it's also where I got the image of the Butterick pattern. Bit of press fluff on the label here. And some images, though I couldn't work out which is meant to be the offending piece (there was some odd boobage going on with one dress but I doubt that related to the Butterick pattern).

Now there's half an hour I'll never get back.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

on the flipside

Over the past few month I've talked about the two pairs of jeans that I bought in October, of 'raw' (=unwashed) denim, that one's not meant to wash for the first six months. Whilst a gimmick in many ways, I thought it was a nice, unintentional way of steering people towards more sustainable laundering practices. Perhaps, but the story has a flipside.

Peter* brought it to my attention that the kids in Sweden (apparently denim is huge over there), and probably elsewhere, aren't washing their jeans for six months to a year, just like me. They then discard them. He also mentioned an eminent fashion historian who does the same. (I am so tempted to name him, or at least burn the books I have by him.) I have no illusions of reaching any of these people through this blog but please, if you know anyone that does this, perhaps educate them about the resource-intensive processes that it takes to turn a cotton field into a pair of jeans. Sure, most probably give the jeans to charity (let's hope) but it's kind of like kerbside recycling; the stuff disappears from our view and we feel a lot better, having 'done the right thing'.

But do we ever look at the amount we are recycling? Could we do with less? Although I drink three or four bottles' worth a day, I buy roughly one bottle of water a month and keep refilling it with filtered water. But that's not the solution, either. Finally, I am about to swap to a 'permanent' metal bottle. The thought of chemicals from the plastic leaching into the water (I don't know enough here...) is somewhat off-putting. Apparently it happens over time. With the jeans, what is it about having washed them that makes them so unattractive to people? Whatever, it's depressing.

*I gave a talk as part of the postgraduate seminar series yesterday (and bombed beautifully); some other excellent comments came up, too. I'll try and post an account of it all over the weekend, but first I have an assignment due at 5pm.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Last night two fabrics from Hemp Gallery were waiting for me when I got home:

Denim, of 55% hemp, 45% cotton (not organic or otherwise less damaging; just plain old naughty cotton, I presume):

Satin, of 60% hemp, 40% silk (of the type where the worms die, unfortunately):

Both are a very nice quality, with selvedges that I can easily incorporate into the garments externally. The denim has what some would regard weaving faults all through it, namely discontinuous warp yarns, with the ends hanging loose all through the fabric. I don't mind them, though, and may leave them as they are. The satin is fantastic; it's almost plastic-like on the shiny side, like in the photo, and completely matt on reverse. Oh, and have I said it before that I'm not a big believer in fabrics having a 'right' and a 'wrong' side? Fabrics have two sides (or faces), as far as I'm concerned. So to have two very contrasting but equally usable faces is very exciting, and creates more scope for design.

Yesterday I also placed an order for a whole heap of vintage kimono fabrics from KimoYES (above and below). Most are silk, and I'll mostly use them as linings, I think; I loathe ugly linings in otherwise nice garments! The very narrow widths, typical of kimono fabrics, will create some interesting challenges for design and patternmaking and likely I'll be combining several fabrics in one garment. And yes, the aim is for zero waste in the linings and interlinings just as much as in the outer fabrics. Being menswear, I stuck to the more abstract, geometric prints; I also wanted to avoid an overtly Japanese feel within the fabrics. But, given the zero waste nature of the kimono, these fabrics create nice links to the long history of zero fabric waste fashion (yes, I use 'fashion' differently to some writers; all will be explained in the thesis).

Overall the fabrication is coming together quite well. I'm still debating bamboo; it's just doesn't seem as environmentally sound as some claim (it's viscose, essentially) and the anti-bacterial claims seem a tad fishy, too (it's viscose). But we'll see.

On a less positive note, I had the samples from another supplier laid out last week when a friend came over. His response: "Did you buy new tea towels?" I laughed; that pretty much summed up my feelings of the strange checks and stripes that still feature heavily on some 'green' fabric suppliers' collections. But it's bound to change, slowly.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

men better designers than women?

I can't not write about this although initially I wasn't going to. On Monday, Nicholas Huxley (whom I've met and who is quite charming in person) made the following comments in an article in the Daily Telegraph:

"Girls are designing more for themselves and for their girlfriends. They do ruffles and minis and more frou-frou looks. It is for the way that women are dressing today. They are dressing to go out shopping for men. It is cheap and nasty."

Apparently, the four males chosen for this year's fashion week are designing garments that are "intelligent", "slick", "stylish" and "classy". Apparently these are (subjective) attributes that female designers are incapable of incorporating into their work.

Then it becomes strange. Rachel Wells of The Age in Melbourne blogged about it, and while there are some outraged comments, some men, and more bafflingly women, have come to Mr Huxley's defence. According to quite a few, there is nothing wrong with these comments.

I do wonder how the female students at the Fashion Design Studio at SIT are feeling. I do wonder how the female teaching staff there are feeling, too. And I do wonder how these comments will wash with the institute's management.

Two years ago a journalism student at UTS interviewed me for an article about this very phenomenon: men claiming they design better for women than women do. He passed me on to this 2005 article in the New York Times. From Tom Ford: "Men are often better designers for women than other women", citing objectivity. If you think that's bad, just wait until you see the comments from Michael Vollbracht. Elsewhere, I remember an article (I think in a 2006 fashion supplement to The Times) Donatella Versace was asked why there seemed to be more succesful men in fashion than women. Her response (more or less, from memory): not many women seemed to study fashion design. Just read the stats in the New York Times article...

On a positive note, at least we know these people still exist in the 21st century, which should empower us to do something about it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

the fashion designer

"This designer is about the most unhappy and unnecessary species of the day. He is uncreative by profession, unprepared for any task but copying, and unaware of the possibilities of his profession. There are practically no schools to give him an adequate training, because there are no adequate teachers. The designer lives on what he calls inspiration - a good and wholesome word which, by common consent and abuse, was perverted into the contrary of its original meaning. Inspiration, as the designer understands it, is far from the sublime moment of spiritual communion with divinity; to him it simply means the copying of insignificant and meaningless details from past epochs or foreign countries, which he cements together into that pastiche called THE STYLE."
So wrote Bernard Rudofsky in 1947, in 'Are Clothes Modern?' (p. 223). Now why does this sound so familiar?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

from a camel's toe to an elephant's vulva

This has nothing to do with anything but had me in stitches, and it sort of does relate to patternmaking, and Kathleen points out an important aspect of sustainability: beauty. Of course it's subjective and in the eye of the beholder, and while I see beauty in the processes and the skills employed to create the final outcome, it's there that I don't see any. If this appeared on a dark street, I would run. The outcome reminds me of all those 'clothes for the disabled', designed by physiotherapists, doctors and what-nots, where function overruns form to the point of creating a segregating outcome that reeks of 'the other'. I applaud the noble aims of the project (more than a year old; I hope everyone has recovered...) and would love to see it rerun with a designer involved (I'm presuming there wasn't one).

Oh, the title? Read the comments following Kathleen's post.

Friday, April 11, 2008

deep immersion

The past couple of weeks have seen me writing more intensely than at any other point during the project, except for a couple of isolated periods where I was working on the book chapter or one of the conference papers. And it's been great, as nerdy as that sounds. Hard work - incredibly hard work! - but there is also a sense of accomplishment that comes with that hard work. While all the chapters are on their way in one way or another (and how excellent it is to have a chapter outline that is unlikely to change dramatically now), I've been concentrating on the contextual review of the project, or Chapter 2 (Chapter 1 is the Introduction, well on its way, too). Chapter 2 looks something like this (I've left out the lower level subheadings here):

Chapter 2: Designerly Fashion, Fashion Creation, Sustainability and Fabric Waste
2.1 Designerly fashion, fashion creation and fashion design practice
2.2 Fashion design and sustainability, fabric waste
2.3 Zero fabric waste fashion creation

So, the chapter is a contextualisation of the project and I also attempt to define 'designerly fashion' and 'fashion creation' (see Nigel Cross and his usage of 'designerly''). During the project I've discovered that 'fashion' has been defined and discussed by sociologists extensively (Yuniya Kawamura's Fashionology from 2005 is a good start) but rarely has anyone asked fashion designers or other fashion industry practitioners what fashion might mean to them (or that it might be something different in a design context). I find most sociological explanations insufficient (though useful) for an investigation into sustainability and fashion design, hence my attempt at formulating a designerly understanding of fashion. Mieke Leppens in her 2000 PhD thesis actually noted the same problem with the sociological investigations of fashion, and I've since uncovered a series of studies that remedy the situation somewhat.

Sustainability - I don't know what I would have done if Kate Fletcher's book hadn't come out this year. Well, of course I do - I would have been referencing her website extensively. And if you are new to sustainability, be sure to check out lifetimes and 5 ways. These get discussed in the book, too, but the websites are informative as well. As for that last post, I did grossly simplify, in (an emotional) response to a scathing review of a paper I wrote nearly two years ago but only just got the feedback for. (For the record, the other reviewer was very positive overall.) I might post the reviews here later...

So, Chapter 2 is fast nearing completion (pending me getting my hands on the Fairchild book), and the exhibition for the collection is nearing fast. Next in line is Chapter 3, which is very much about the practice-led methodology in the project. I'm not as nervous about the methodology chapter as I might have been some months ago; I think the rationale for the method is getting set up quite well in Chapter 2. As for the collection, there will be some controversial pieces, I think at this point, which I'll blog about closer to the exhibition. The exhibition will not be merely that; I see it as an opportunity to have the work 'audited' by experts from within research as well as practice.

But, back to deep immersion. The unfortunate side effect is that I'm back in a Central Pacific time zone, waking up just before 3am. But, I will finish! (Pep talks to self - first sign of madness?)