Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fashion Child Stars

We all had a dream when we were children. I dreamed too. Not so much about what I would be as about how I would dress. And to that end, I used anything I could get my hands on in our apartment to materialized my fantasies into reality. Pillow cases turned into princess' veils, huge towels wrapped around my head created cascades of long thick hair. Whatever cloth I could find in my mom's wardrobe would be subject to pinning, tying and tucking thus as to create the most fabulous dress my five-year-old hands were capable of creating.

I am obviously not alone in dreaming. Millions of girls dream. These young girls, however, were able to materialize their dreams into reality without waiting for their post secondary diplomas or full-time careers.

Please meet Tavi Gevinson. She has been a fashion blogger since she was 11 years old. She captured the attention of the world of fashion at large and earned herself a front row at the biggest designers' fashion shows:

She's grown up since then and has her own online magazine and has recently presented at TED:

Pretty impressive and admirable if you ask me!

Another young star I want you to meet is Elena Valez, a 15-year-old fashion designer. The video speaks for itself:

And they are getting younger and younger! Take a look at this 10-year-old designer Cecilia Cassini:

How is THAT of inspirational!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Creative Inspiration or Insolent Theft?

One question that most creative people ponder at one time or another is: From where do fashion designers source their ideas? The question we hear asked of designers most often is "what served as an inspiration for this collection?" To me, this question often sounds redundant for I believe that creative people take inspiration from everywhere and everything. Like sponges, they absorb the environment around them and translate it into their designs. At least, that's how I personally see it. 

Apparently, according to Tom Ford, I am not that far off. In his conversation with Guy Trebay, he explains that designer's tendency to draw inspiration from everywhere, including other designers, can result in similar if not identical designs. That is why we often see designs which seem "ripped off" or "plagiarized."  In fact, referencing other couturiers and fashions of eras past is more than acceptable. Moreover, replicating other designers' work is not all that rare in fashion and, what is interesting, it does not worry the famous American designer in the least. In Ready to Share: The Ecology of Creativity in Fashion talk Tom Ford comments on borrowing design elements from other eras and designers, "I don't think that the 70's look of the 90's will really look like the 70's which by the way was inspired by the 30's..." Currency is what's most important in fashion design. If you have a spare 40 minutes I highly suggest listening to this talk as it offers some thought-provoking points of view.

Another reason why such unrestricted copying proliferates in fashion is that fashion industry is restricted by the trade mark protection law but there is no copyright protection which could regulate the use of any given design detail (cuff, collar, etc). To put it simply, any one can copy any garment and sell it as their own, as long as they do not knock off the original logo. As a result, we see logos of the following kind:

Johanna Blakley's TED talk - Johanna Blakley: Lessons from fashion's free culture - explains that apparel is viewed as too utilitarian to qualify for copyright protection. It is considered to be a necessity rather than art. Johanna, however, argues the opposite. She sees the lack of copyright protection as a blessing for fashion design. Thanks to the lack of ownership, she argues, designers were able to elevate fashion design to the level of art. I couldn't agree more!

Incidentally, last time I was at the library I bumped into Austen Kleon's book whose title I just love! Kleon promotes the development of one's creativity along the same lines as the previously mentioned speakers. My favourite quotes from the book: 

"What is originality? Undetected plagiarism" - William Ralph Inge

"Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find your self." - Yohji Yamamoto

Contrary to common "be yourself" kind of advice on creativity - which sometines promotes channelling creativity from outer space - Kleon's somewhat controversial advice will be a relief to those of us who have been struggling to find a stream of originality within and, perhaps, may have given up altogether. Well friends, never fear! It's just that you have looking in all the wrong places. Next time you want to produce a masterpiece you might have to du-plicate, tri-plicate and multi-plicate a few hundred of other masters' chef d'oeuvres first. And that, I assure you, is a short cut!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Outfit Idea #2. Floral Dress.

Unless you have been living in a box (I will not judge you if it's a shoe box), you have probably noticed the floor-length-floral-print-dress trend mesmerizing us for the past two summers. Well I have too. However, I have been resisting the temptation of buying one because I promised myself that I would make it. Guess what? I kept the promise! I made this long goddess dress from Simplicity Pattern 2692 and would like to demonstrate two different ways of wearing it.

Dress it Up

You can turn this seemingly simple dress into a cocktail or a special event one by choosing the right pair of shoes and appropriate jewelry.

Pairing it up with your nude high heels gives the dress an immediate lift in terms of the type of the occasion to which it can be worn.

Because of the asymmetrical neckline and a fairly busy print I decided to skip the necklace. To keep in line with the femininity of the tender floral design I went with the pale pink pearl drop earrings and pearl bracelet. I like how haphazardly the pearls of the bracelet are arranged.

The subdued pastel colours of the overall outfit make it look natural yet sophisticated. Top off this outfit with a subtle floral perfume and you are fully ready for a summer wedding or an outdoor cocktail event.

Dress it Down

For a day about town swap your high heels for your favourite flat sandals (mine have a floral detail on them), skip the evening jewelry and grab a wide-brimmed sun hat. A beach tote can work just as well in the sweltering city as it does on the beach. 

I hope you agree that this outfit breathes ease and chic. After all, who says you cannot run errands in style? 

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication!" - Leonardo da Vinci

The Making of Magic

As promised, this post is my report on the 60 Years of Designing the Ballet and the Tutu Project exhibitions at the Design Exchange. Ballet is a childhood obsession of mine, which never really left me, simply moved aside to the back of my mind making space for the clothing design obsession. These days, the two obsessions have found perfect partnership in regular visits to the National Ballet of Canada and in constant admiration of the choreography, costume and set design. The DX exhibition is dedicated to the process of creation of the magic of ballet.

As the elevator took me up to the exhibition hall on the second floor I felt that I got magically transported to cloud number nine. This exhibition is pure heaven not only for ballet lovers but also, and especially, for costume designers. It features objects usually found only backstage and offers a close up look at some of the costumes worn by principle characters in major National Ballet productions. Here are some of my favourites:
a headdress from the Nutcracker
a fragment of a dress from Sleeping Beauty
Juliet's costume from Romeo and Juliet

Other costumes on display include head pieces, wigs, boots, pointe shoes (in cross section too!), a whole wardrobe from the Nutcracker, a bolero worn by Mikhail Baryshnikov and, needless to say, a great multitude of tutus including one worn by Karen Kain, the artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada.

The highlight of the exhibition for me was the "show Bible" for the Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet. 

The "show bible" is the most important document in the wardrobe for each particular production. It documents everything from the sketches of all the characters of the ballet to the fabrics swatches, trims and buttons to be used for each costume, to the instructions on how the costume was built. It is referred to when costumes need to be remade or repaired. I drooled over the bible for minutes on end and took tons of photos. 

The following two videos from the National Ballet of Canada website do a wonderful job at explaining the process of building a costume. 

What an exciting peek behind the scenes! 60 Years of Designing the Ballet exhibition gave me a privilege I do not normally get when I climb up to my seat in the 5th ring of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts! It definitely helped me acquire a new appreciation of the grandeur of work that goes into each production.

The exhibition is on until the 2nd of September. When you come, make sure to wander around the first floor of the DX. Here, you will find a fun and colourful parade of various tutus designed by artists, designers, and members of the community. This part of the exhibition is free to see and is very inspiring in nature.