Saturday, October 31, 2009

Oh, Project Runway, you're so crazy.

Fashion industry is not exactly the place for things like cultural sensitivity, respect for women, and common sense. Then there's the guest judge Nick Verreos. This dude, I hear, is an FDIM professor. Wow. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The challenge was to offer a complementary outfit to each of the designers' best looks -- for everyone but Logan, it meant winning looks. Logan realized that he never won a challenge, moped, created this:

and was promptly ridiculed, accused of plagiarism by Althea (who made a collar out of zippers for Christina Aguilera challenge), ridiculed some more by the judges, and sent home. He stayed on longer than I expected considering his consistent failure to make anything interesting.

Too bad they didn't send two people home, because Christopher's gown totally deserved it.

Leaving aside that this dress just got sick all over itself, it is the same damn silhouette he keeps sending out week after week: fitted top, bell skirt, with the side of his "I'm just a poor farmboy with no formal training and look at me, here competing with all these designers who hobnob with celebrities and know what "smocking" means" speech. Seriously, if he's not out next week, I'll have to blog about it indignantly.

Oh, Althea won with this:

Despite being accused of plagiarism by Irina who felt the wide-sleeve sweater was too close to her Aspen look. Because Irina invented wide-sleeve sweaters, apparently.

And speaking of Irina's Aspen look, this is the complementary look:

Not crazy about the dress, love the sweater. The guest judge, aforementioned Nick Verreos, loved the whole shebang -- at least I think he loved it and thought that his comment was a compliment. What he actually said was "this is something a Russian ex-model married to a millionaire would wear" and then during judging added something about "arm-candy". Apart from general misogyny, I found the ethnic aspect of this comment especially unpleasant, doubly so since it was directed to Irina, a woman of obvious Russian extraction. So thank you, Nick Verreos, for contributing to the stereotype of Russian women existing primarily to be trophy wives. Clearly young Eastern European women are not objectified enough.

But older Slavic women fare much worse: Gordana, who is a Bosnian Serb, has been treated horribly by the judges (especially Heidi) this entire season. Clearly, being middle-aged and Slavic are crimes in fashion industry than can be paid for only by frequent humiliation. Nick Verreos, good sport that he is, joined in the fun by calling her outfit something "an office worker in Warsaw, Poland" would wear. As a negative thing, even though I suspect that Nick is not personally familiar with Polish fashions, and for all he knows they might be quite snappy. But he went with the lazy (and dated) Soviet-era stereotype of a drab drone. He also apparently noticed that Gordana had a Slavic accent which he interpreted as Eastern Europe, but of course didn't bother to find out the country or the ethnicity or anything about the woman -- he just went for the laziest insult that jumped to mind. Well done, Professor.

Meanwhile, the jacket:

Notice the pleats and the seaming at the waist and the tailoring of the collar. I like the longer silhouette and the swooping hem, and the wonderful detailing. I wish the judges noticed the tailoring of this piece, but they were too busy thinking of ethnic slurs, apparently. I would love this jacket, with skinny pants and a bright top.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More on Etsy

As promised, here's another installment on Etsy designers and sellers. There's definitely many good reasons to support independent designers and handmade products, from social justice, environmental, and political viewpoints. Of course, these are of little consolation unless these items are fashion-forward, good-looking, and affordable.

First, some shoutouts to some of the favorites I already blogged about:

1. One of my very favorites, Layla of Ledthread. Love her designs and her philosophy.

2. Idea2lifestyle -- always fanciful and inventive and flowing, natural materials and reasonable prices.

3. Weatherread -- structural and gorgeous. I'm so buying one of her shirt-jackets as soon as finances allow.

Now, on to some new loves:

1. Nanda. You can't find more beautiful and more affordable freshwater pearls. Gorgeous jewelry design too:

Simple, gorgeous, well-made, and under $20.

2. Morelle bags.

Check out this Morchella in purple suede:

It's a beauty, as well as other morelle's bags. Bonus: it's not a stupid status bag, but a functional art piece.

3. Artlab. Pricey? A tad. Everything in this store is AMAZING? Also yes.

For example, a scarf:

Or a shawl. Or a wrap. Whatever it is, it is cozy, adorable, and versatile.

And check out this jacket, made from a pair of pants:

I rest my case.

4. Vilte operates out of Lithuania, and creates exquisite beauty out of silk, wool, and bamboo fibers using unique felting process. I have one of her scarves, and it is the most beautiful accessory I own. Really truly.

Consider this:

The texture and the colors are just so rich, and the pictures really don't do them justice. It's much more breathtaking in person.

5. While on the subject of scarves, I should probably mention Flutter, a source for ruffles, buttons, and natural fibers.

And adorableness:

6. And to add some clothing to all these accessories, I'd like to mention Hier Apparel -- edgy, modern designs, very interesting sensibility. Look almost basic, but always with an interesting twist. Like this jacket -- check out the button collar!

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Just watched the new HBO documentary on garment district, "Schmatta: From Rags to Riches to Rags". Very pleased with it, since it combines two of the things I'm keenly interested in -- fashion and history of organized labor. The film does an excellent job covering the beginnings of the garment district and its immigrant roots, the 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company that took lives of over 100 young women -- workers who were locked inside the factory -- and how that fire became a catalyst for organizing workers (especially women) of the Garment District. There's plenty of documentary footage -- from terrifying to uplifting, as the film deals with labor unions gaining strength and their role in the rise of the middle class of the New York City. Oh, the golden days of unions wielding real political clout! Children of early labor activists are so wistful when they talk about that time.

Then it gets depressing again, as we are shown gradual weakening of the unions and downright union busting by the Reagan administration, the export of jobs overseas, and the overall deregulation of market that resulted in even more losses in domestic jobs and rise in exploitative sweatshops overseas. It is shocking to see that in 1965 95% of clothing sold in the US was made in the US, and soon after 1993 ratification of NAFTA agreement by Clinton that number dropped to 50%. Now it's only 5%.

The documentary then touches on the issues with sweatshops, concluding with the fire in a textile factory near Dhaka, Bangladesh, that killed dozens of workers, most of whom were girls between 12 and 14 years of age. They were locked in the factory, in an eerie echo of the 1911 tragedy.

Another thing I found interesting is their commentary on disposable, cheap clothes produced by Forever 21, H&M etc. -- the idea that if people demand cheap clothing, there's just really no way for the American garment industry to recover, simply because it is impossible to pay minimum wage while making $10 dresses. Stronger unions and stricter market regulations, with limit on exporting jobs to the overseas, seems to be the key to recovery of the local industry -- but of course that would mean that Target and Walmart prices will become the thing of the past.

This is something I've been thinking about quite a bit -- I try to get a good chunk of my clothes from indie designers (which reminds me: I'm due for another Etsy post), since they are a) local and/or b)likely don't have a sweatshop. Yet, I'm not entirely ready to jettison all bargain retailers from my wardrobe (I don't have a lot, but a few) -- primarily because I don't feel that shifting all ethical responsibility to the individuals instead of governments is fair, and the admonishments to 'vote with your wallet' results in an unpleasant situation where every political decision is expressed via buying stuff, which I think largely misses the point. Still, I hope that the US government will take steps to bring manufacturing industries home, and then I won't mind paying a few bucks more for my shoes.

In other words, this documentary is highly recommended. It's playing on HBO (and On Demand).

Friday, October 23, 2009

Project Runway

Last week I was way too annoyed about Shirin's elimination to say anything coherent. Judging this season has been puzzling -- they eliminated three good designers (Ra'mon, Epperson and Shirin) while keeping Christopher, Logan, and Nicolas. Now Nicolas is gone, because of this:

Not necessarily a bad piece as such, albeit boring, but it was meant to represent Greece.

Christopher stayed in despite his take on Santa Fe:

When I think American Southwest, I think pastels and flippy skirts.

Then there was Logan, who despite weeks of people gushing over him failed to produce much in terms of, you know, designing clothes. Here's his version of Hollywood:

He's not wrong -- this is the sort of thing many younger struggling actors and models wear. But even in that vein, the jeans could fit better and be interesting, and the tanktop should've been flowy and embellished, and an interesting structured cardi could've lifted the whole outfit into something other than C&C California clearance rack.

Irina won once again -- this time with her take on Aspen. I like the trousers and exaggerated cowl; not crazy about the cutout back on the sweater (last thing you want in your winter wear, am I right?) and the Rachel Zoe furry vest.

For my money, however, Gordana should've won. Her take on Manhattan:

The necklace is painstakingly detailed and detachable, the dress is simple and elegant. Heidi admonished Gordana to be more confident. Blogosphere talks a lot about how unsure Gordana seems to be. Gee, I wonder if being randomly abused by the judges for the most of the season has anything to do with it. Poor Gordana can do no right -- first, she was in the bottom three for no reason, then she was scolded by Heidi AS SHE WON a challenge. I hope she makes it to the final three!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oh, TV

So my penchant for silly TV will probably surprise exactly no one: when I have the brainpower to pay attention and follow complex plots, I would rather read or watch a good movie. So the TV I watch is usually of the kind that requires minimum of cognitive ability. Hence, Rachel Zoe Project.

I love this show. It is awesome, because you have a bunch of people running around being stressed, while a good portion of their days is occupied by going to various stores and boutiques and "pulling" outfits and jewelry. Yes, for free: celebs, who actually can afford Chanel gowns for Golden Globes, don't have to pay for them. The irony, it burns. (They also cannot pick their own free gowns -- this is why Rachel Zoe is in business.) While they're not pulling outfits, they go to fashion shows (in Paris!), organize photoshoots, and endorse product lines. And have vertigo attacks, even though no one knows what vertigo is.

So last night was the season's finale, in which Rachel relinquished (some of) her company's reins because of the aforementioned vertigo -- and that spells promotion for her associate Taylor (the only person at RZ who actually works hard and is conscientious), so yay for Taylor. Also, Rachel's husband Rodger (who comes across as very patient and sweet) gets to be in charge of the business end of things, and it looks like he would do a better job than Rachel who is incapable of picking who gets to go to Paris with her and has the assistants battle it out.

Also, this episode covered a hilarious photoshoot for V. magazine inspired by Olivia Newton-John's "Let's get physical!" (yes, really), for which Rachel's assistant Brad (who tries for adorable but comes off as annoying more often than not) goes to American Apparel (yes, really) to "pull some accessories" -- headbands, wrist bands, tights, legwarmers. There a sales clerk repeatedly asks him to 'gay marry' him, and Brad makes faces at the camera. The photoshoot is a success, and features Chanel leg warmers. Oh, TV!

Friday, October 02, 2009

I cannot shake the feeling...

... that people pining for good old days and how POLITE everyone used to be thirty-fifty-hundred years ago are simply missing the time when women and minorities didn't talk back. Because really, as far as public discourse is concerned, it is a lot more inclusive and aware of social justice and people's right to self-identification, and that makes our present the most polite time in history. I'd take a person who's not sure about how to handle a salad fork over someone who uses gendered and racial slurs any day.

In other news, Project Runway -- most boring episode ever, even despite Michael Kors' long-awaited reappearance. The challenge was to design a look (in blue) for Macy's INC line; I think I have a shirt by them, but it doesn't strike me as a line with well-defined aesthetics. So the outfits were pretty non-descript. The winning dress by Irina was nice enough; the rest I just don't remember (except for the teal disco pumpkin).

I loathe Nicolas' habit of saying how 'worried' he is about someone. God, but he is unpleasant. I really wish he would go home (and he would've, if it wasn't for immunity). Irina seems like a good designer, but I dislike her tendency to attack other people; this week it was Gordana (god, people, lay off Gordana already, what is that?) It was appalling, frankly, especially when she turned on her during judging AFTER they were informed that they had one of two highest scores. Why would you throw your team partner under a bus WHILE BEING PRAISED is beyond me; it's not even self-defense, it's self-defeating behavior, and when humiliating other person is more important than winning, I wonder.

In less boring news, Christopher experienced his first case of harsh criticism and suffered a complete meltdown. I'm not gloating at his misfortune, but I wonder if one bad experience will completely kill his confidence. Time will tell.

Oh, and Louise went home. I started out really liking her, but oh well. I miss Ra'mon.