‘couture’…learning to speak the language with a native accent

•February 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It seemed too long ago that an extra excited buzz whispered through Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Only three degrees of separation brought a name of the fashion world from Los Angeles for three days. Ali Rahimi from his couture studio, Mon Atelier, I am delighted to say was here and more than once graced us with his courteous manner and knowledge.

One of the best moments during his stay was the workshop he held for the design students. He brought the collection of ‘traveling gowns’…and let us touch them! I was about to fall over with excitement. My favorite gown is the nude-colored, sheath-silhouette with a wide neckline, cap sleeves and covered Swarovski crystals. Simply put: gorgeous. Unfortunately I was not allowed to try it on, and I didn’t have an extra $13,000 or so in the bank to buy it. C’est la vie!

Rahimi made it clear before traveling out that he wanted to spend as much time as possible with the students. The Saturday morning before his departure he held a QA session with 14 of us eager learners. That was wonderful! Black-and-white and classic/old movies are one of his favorite places to find inspiration–so get watching! One of my favorite old movies is ‘Autie Mame’ with Rosalind Russel. I watched it yesterday to remember how amazing the set changes, costumes, and Russel are.

This event took place at the end of October. Since his departure four months ago, Rahimi’s name has been showing up in Hollywood more frequently. No, this isn’t thanks to little ole Fort Collins. But it is thanks to stars like Jane Lynch who has adorned no less than three of his custom couture designs for the red carpet and awards ceremonies. Also among his gorgeous clientele are Heidi Klum, Anjelica Huston, etc.

If you want to see the impressive list of those he has had the pleasure of dressing or designing for, see his website. All photos taken at the events are to remain in my possession. And always check back to the red carpet. He’s bound to appear sometime soon!


fashion and the falling whistles inspiring the beginning of changes for this one.

•October 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Two weeks ago I neglected much of my school work each day to pour energy into a design that had burned itself through my hand onto a page of my sketch book. Demanding that it be made (and made well…) for a competition I had heard of just the day before, I was resolved to take on the work to give it a form. The finished result I am proud of and secured my award in the student evening wear division–which is exciting! Waking up that morning I was selfishly centered on my spotlight on the runway for the Fashion Group International FACE (fashion and creative enterprises) Business Symposium. What a day though. The fashion show was a light dessert at the end of a six-course meal, with the largest dish being served right before. I would like to introduce and attempt to capture the inspiration of Sean Carasso and Falling Whistles.

First Carasso’s outfit was awesome: a classic denim jacket over a plain black tee hanging over the top of pale grey skinny jeans that were tucked into black combat boots. He had flown in specifically for FACE from Los Angeles and would be leaving shortly after his speech. Open introduction video and the audience hushed as piano music played, words flashing on the Denver Art Museum blank white wall. “This story begins with wanderlust. A need for adventure.” And what an adventure that led Carasso and his traveling buddies to find their path to help “young boys sent to the frontlines of war armed with only a whistle.” The frontlines are those of the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the middle of this rainforest Carasso and his friends endowed themselves as press and interviewed politicians, warlords, rebels, parents, and the children to understand why countless young ones were being beaten and given guns and forced to kill; or, if too small to carry and shoot the metal weapon would fall with their weapons of metal whistles around their necks. Did you get that?? Well I will repeat it anyway: As concerned men they sought out and spoke to several of the people who were fighting the war itself: politicians, rebels, leaders, parents. And they came out with information…and alive! How impossibly incredible is that! Using conversation to find the answer and asking questions to understand. Continue reading to find where it led, how has inspired me, in Colorado from the Congo (via California).

“Connections are not to be underestimated,” he had said as he told of his experience traveling northward on the enormous continent of Africa. The journey began when TOM’s Shoes traveled to South Africa to give away shoes equaling the amount they had sold during their first year of sales. About 50,000 pairs. Putting a brand new shoe onto the feet of a person that had not had solid protection on their soles was not about the charity aspect to Carasso. It was the crossed paths of two strangers that would not have otherwise met. Carasso also said that “fashion is the most expressive community in the world.” To which I agree. Fashion is not only about trends and the capitols fighting for fashion week coverage. It is also about statements and moving causes and conversations to inform in many creative and explicative ways–more than a color palette or ridiculously overdone dresses.

As Advocates for Peace, wearing the whistle around your neck sparks conversation [conversation-conversation-conversation-conversation]. ‘What’s the whistle for?…What’s going on in Congo?’ And the foundation works from the US to the local level in Congo. The people rehabilitating the children are native, speak their language and understand their culture. No Americans over there. It is important for the team at Falling Whistles to be the silent partner and for those closest to the children to make the difference. Connections. With people, with information, with the children and standing with people like Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Gwenyth Paltrow as advocates. All through a whistle that is a weapon for some, a voice for others. Be a whistleblower for peace in Congo. (Thank you Carol for putting Sean across my path.)

[Pictures cut from Falling Whistles’ introductory video, found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8iXHZ84Ml4]

[Quotes and information from Fashion Group International FACE Business Symposium keynote address, Sean Carasso Denver, CO October 9, 2010]

the re-make of old footsteps along an up-cycled path

•August 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It is such a pleasure to find an item at an amazing price. One of the best lessons I learned from my mother is how to shop…really shop. When the topic of shopping is discussed, there will be differences of opinion on what it means to really shop. For me, this means unburying or walking across the deal that would provoke an Oprah ‘O Love!’ kind of exclamation, or it really is stealing (minus the very small price tag attached). It can also be somewhat of a sporting challenge. If I’m not out in 20 minutes with something I love (I mean LOVE) at a price I love (LOVE), the score is a 6.5 out of 10. When it’s LOVE-LOVE that would be a 12.5 out of 10.

With the excitement of finding such treasures, making them into a better creation can only improve the discovery. Below are some of the re-creations from great items designed and created by talented companies, and re-made for you by me. Lady’s Polker Night short formal: polyester skirt from Goodwill $2.50; top from one of my mom’s older gowns, less than $5; chiffon strap from friend’s old formal (free to me). Regal Thought summer dress: cotton shirt $2; rayon blend skirt from dress $10; sash from strapless gown $1. Black and Tan casual or formal little black dress: top from friend’s formal (free to me); cotton jersey knit skirt with elastic waistband $0.99. Yes, this dress provokes an ‘O Love!’

And of the items hanging patiently for the clock to turn back, or the seams to grow in the closet of course there can be found an other use. Above are samples of redo-s of pieces of my wardrobe that I just could not give away otherwise. Romance in Spring occasion dress: Charlotte Russe top $13; silk skirt $16. Lady Stealth evening gown: Paris Blues brand denim shirt $5.99; polyester chiffon skirt from gown $2.99. And this one is definitely an, ‘O Love!’

Please enjoy more of my creations, recycled and original, at my BurdaStyle profile page! Enjoy finding ways of change and improvement to your wardbrode rather than throwing out and buying all new. Slice, pin, tuck, and sew your way to newly fashioned pieces, which we will hopefully be finding more of in the industry. Upcycling: it’s in the now and the future.

the fashion of Men and its comfortable sameness of control

•July 23, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Since the end of the 19th century there can be traced an unmistakable resemblance between generations of men’s suits. Sure, they were under different names and titles, fabrics and uses but still that persistent cut and drape follows itself through the decades of “trends.” Before the English Drape and boxey cut and those adamant lapels of the suit arrived, men were quite the peacocks of fashion. Their decoration of yards of fabric, plumage galore in feathers, satin, ribbons and…heels? It’s like every day was a wedding in the 18th century. And so, it must be questioned: Did men find the comfort zone with their fashion (for which perhaps women are still searching)? Or did the spool finally end its roll with a fine habitual taste for sameness (in other words: they’re stuck and won’t get out)?

I found this charming piece of design news from 2007: Tom Ford wins the Person of the Year for the DNR Menswear Awards. December 10, 2007 issue article headlines: Anchored in traditional tailoring, his new collection brings sex appeal and a fashion edge to classic men’s wear. To that I agree. Wow do these fit male models look like a mine of black gold in a suit that is like an equally lavish dinner where prices are not listed. You bite it, you buy it. And I admit that a well fitted and tailored suit on a well fitted and styled man has been a favorite look in my album. Perhaps it would be insulting to expect more of a men’s line other than a line of [handsome/sexy/expensively embellished/etc] men?

Tom Ford’s debut brought a level of excitement to men’s fashion not seen in years.” [Colavita, p.19] And the excitement was (drum roll)…more of what the market has seen (more or less solidly) over DNR’s century-long coverage—maybe minus the 70s. It would be pleasing (to me) if it were admitted that so little alters in the world of men’s suits that the price tag is the only real change: “Oh, another zero? Yes, that is trendy,” says the elite male who has bought a mirage of the same suit since 1991 yet is at the height of style each time. And it’s like magic, or rather fashion.

I continued reading through this issue of DNR to find Dolce & Gabbana one of the style icons of the year (of course!). And what was then quoted slightly altered my thinking of centuries-old apparel.

“[Men’s wear has] changed in every possible way. Men love fashion. They love themselves and they aren’t afraid to show off.” (Gabbana)

“Men’s is really about style.” (Dolce)

“Yes, but it’s also fashion. It’s a different kind of fashion than women’s because it’s…based on more details.” (Gabbana)

Perhaps the expectation isn’t about how much of a suit can change, but how much of the details can be controlled. And by manipulating the details to produce more or less control, the more of a man the suit has styled, or rather the style then suits the man. Slight spoiler: Next year’s men’s wear line will feature the suit, for the image has become the man of today…and tomorrow.

Quotes and news from DNR Monday, 10 Dec 2007, pp.19 & 22. Articles written by Courtney Colavita, www.dnrnews.com.

[Conversation of men’s wear courtesy of my friend known as Gwen.]

reusing the unused, recycling to uncycle some vicious trend.

•July 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Since beginning my degree in apparel design I have been amazed and shocked at how much needs to be used by one market in a single year. To illustrate, an example: first time bridal gowns. I, personally, love weddings! The looking and designing of gowns that have a half-life of but a few hours is as fun as the reception. There are necessary seasonal trends in gowns, but where do items of clothing go after the party? Some are deposited into a savings account otherwise known as a garment bag in a closet to become a lovely artifact of family history. Some are preserved…mhm. And others are given to a friend or sold or (dare I say it?) tossed out.

Years ago my mother had a great idea of remaking wedding and vintage prom gowns tossed into the category of thrift stores, and I half listened to her. A few weeks ago a friend at school told me about this girl who had a great idea in Seattle of remaking older gowns (vintage or recently used). Mom, you were forecasting a trend there and now Amanda Vernell has made Twice Blushed a name for herself and the bridal gown world.

“Lovingly hand-made” is how Vernell puts it and I think that is apparent as she takes a dress through her design process. Every bridal dress deserves a second half-life, in my opinion. It is a new dress with a pleasant twist and some tucks.

[Vernell portrait and bridal gown images from Twice Blushed gallery]

carving in the forest while gun powder is waiting to explode

•May 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I do plan to become a designer—independent, freelance, or under an established brand. It’s not the same animal when it comes to business and salary, but from this pair of eyes the word ‘designer’ just needs to be in the job title. Reflecting on my soon to be graduation due date (it’s a girl!) an equal amount of worry and excitement has been focused on one personal problem: Is there room for me?

This thought has squeezed its annoying medium-sized bombshell into my powder stock of creativity threatening to destroy not propel it all across the college finish line into the world race. How many brands of clothing can any one person recall? (I’ll ask around and get back to you.) And how many newcomers each year? How and where does one keep up with the info constantly juiced like breakfast oj into the computer screen? As some can probably see, my confidence was waning…where was I going with this? Ah, yes…the room.

A personal revelation occurred in that place of the brain that fires like gun powder. Statements are simply the expression of an idea from one individual to another. In the cluttered word forest of fashion I have decided to carve a bit of room for myself, my statements, my designs one at a time. There is some room there that I need to find and I am so glad that you could join me.  Changing the world versus changing my world, we’ll see if they are mutually exclusive.

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe.  But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche