Fashion I Love

I mentioned a few entries ago that I am awaiting samples from the sewer. They finally came a few days ago and though they aren't good for production samples yet, they came out really nice and I must say, I am truly impressed at my sewer's skills and willingness to make things really well.

The first set of samples she gave were a bit rough and I wasn't too happy with the stitching. So when I returned those samples, I gave feedback on quality, as well as gave instructions on refining the design.

The last batch of samples would've been good to sell already, had they not needed any more tweaking, in terms of fit and sizing. But things are proceeding well and soon we will be able to show the new stuff to customers. And hopefully they will like (and buy) them.

I am not sure if this is of any interest to anyone reading this blog. But I just thought I'd share how it is to be in this industry. The business of making what people wear. Fashion isn't all glam. The magazines, the fashion shows and photo shoots are all part of it but a huge and often unappreciated part of it is the long design and production process.

I have been in this business since 2006. I quit a really comfortable and well-paying job at an international development organization to pursue something I was keenly interested in. I didn't know if I would be good at it (most times I still don't know if I am). I just knew I wanted to give it a shot. And I wasn't about to just grow old behind a desk, wondering what could've been.

Last year, I found myself working for a designer I so greatly admire. It just happened. I didn't seek out the opportunity. Things just fell into place. After a year working with her, I felt I had to go back to what I had started. My place wasn't in a big, fast-paced operation, but in my little home office, doing things at a much slower pace.

I've learned so much since 2006. From choosing fabric to taking care of trusted suppliers; from costing out products to finding efficient ways of keeping inventory; from customer relations to press relations.

Right now I am taking a short fashion course. I am learning about the technical aspects of design. Silhouette, lines, seams, cuts, etc.

I had a summer dress made last year. I loved the fabric and people would compliment me when I wore it. A TV host even asked me to make one for her. But I didn't. Something about the dress bothered me to bits. I alone noticed it. But I didn't want to make a copy of that dress till I had figured out and fixed what was wrong with it. The flaw in that dress haunted me for a long, long time.

Lying in bed at night, I'd sometimes "see" that dress, hanging at the very end of my closet and I would examine it in my mind, inspecting all its parts, figuring it out.

Last week, I must've dreamt about it or maybe it was in that in between stage of sleeping and waking. I realized that I needed to add a seam on the shoulders of the dress! That was it! As simple as a shoulder seam and the pattern of that dress would be perfect.

What I realize and still am realizing is that we often take for granted how things are made. We rarely pause to consider how something we bought became what it is.

Imagine the two samples the sewer sent me. I dreamt up these new products last year. Last year. Three sets of samples and the product is still not ready. Because it's not as simple as dreaming up something. You have to figure out how to make it. And when it is made, you have to decide whether it looks good enough for someone else to buy and enjoy. Even that decision is so difficult to make. Should you go through with it or just shelf the idea? A designer risks being rejected. What if no one agrees with the vision you have for that product/design? If that happens, you go broke. Sad designer.

To a consumer (as I too am), it is a simple dress we pick off the rack. It's pretty. We try it on, we feel good in it. We see ourselves walking around at a party wearing it. We buy it. We enjoy it hopefully for a very long time. But imagine all the torment, the passion, the love and attention that went into making that one dress. Well of course I am assuming we are talking about an "original" design. I put quotation marks on that word because I think we all agree that there is no truly original idea. Almost always there is inspiration taken from something else. But that is for another discussion.

What I'm saying here is that I am amazed at how something as "frivolous" as fashion can actually be so precise and exacting. There is of course the emotional part of it. The inspiration, the creative process. But then come the measurements, the pattern. The decision to put seams, darts at certain parts. Make one mistake (half an inch can make a huge difference) and you have a lousy fit. I won't even try to discuss the choices one has to make on details like where the buttons go, what buttons to use, what zipper to use. Hidden or shown? Plastic or metal? What stitch to use? What color? Ahhhhh... it drives me nuts just to think about all these things.

But it is a good process. I love the contemplative part of it. The careful consideration of details. The questions one asks: does it look nice? does it fit well? does it make the heart skip a beat? where will one use it? will it still be wanted next year? etc etc.

I am deeply grateful to be in this industry. I am deeply grateful for the things I am learning. About fashion, about people, about life. I am thankful for C and his tremendous patience with me as I figure out this business. I am thankful for the times he pretends to understand fashion-y questions I ask. And even more thankful when he pretends to have answers. Haha.

I hope that in my sharing you will have greater appreciation for that top or jeans you are wearing. I'm quite sure it took a long, tedious and loving journey to get to you.

I'm off to fashion school now! Happy V-Day! Heeha!


Anonymous said...

Happy Valentine's Day MCN! Nice piece! Hope you can design some running apparel too in the future for recreational/fitness runners. Read: longish running shorts and tees instead of singlets.

makes coffee nervous said...

thanks, anon! :) i will try. that's a tricky thing, sports wear. but yeah, would be nice.

Anonymous said...

can't wait to see your next collection mcn. especially the band-style jackets. just try not to make them too colorful. don't make them boyband jacket.

-weckl (having problems with my blog account; so it will be this way for now)

makes coffee nervous said...

hey weckl! i don't think i will be making any jackets soon! that's still too complicated for my (and the sewer's) skills. one step at a time. :)