Monday, December 24, 2007

Reflections on Chicago Show

It is the holiday season so like most of the Western World, I've been taking a little vacation. It is time well spent recovering from the Chicago fashion show, prepping for the next and giving myself space to have some objectivity about the whole thing.

Chicago was nothing if not an experience. I undertook the challenge of fashion-at-a-distance with enthusiasm and great expectation. It was a chance to see my dream become reality in a town where I don't have my usual support network. All things considered, it was definitely a success.

I knew going in that this event would succeed or fail on the strengths of the supporting cast, and in here, this show was blessed with star performances. Some of the major highlights were set and event design, amazing dance/fashion performance, live art by Rex and delicious tasting menu.

The sets which were designed and constructed by Beth Gatza, Alex Lesniewski and Stanley Lesniewski turned out amazing! Beth and Alex really put themselves out there 150% to create a beautiful space and stage. The Orphanage is already inviting, if slightly chaotic. Beth went in and rearranged the furniture to create lounges, a bar and a VIP area which brought some tasteful organization to the space. For the stage, she and Alex created 8ft high light boxes that had tree silhouettes (in line with the whole "tree theme" at the Orphanage). These light boxes also allowed for the dancer's silhouettes to cast shadows which added extra ambiance and beauty. Lastly, was the elegant runway they constructed. Lastly, Beth and Alex teamed up to construct an elegant runway illuminated with under lights to add extra magic to the dancers.

Rex himself brought another dynamic element to the evening. He decorated the whole room with his art, which was so sweet to see in person after all these months of experiencing his art through computer printouts and screens. To me, the ultimate joy of art is being with it, seeing the brushstrokes on the painting, seeing it on the wall, and in context to all the other work.

Among his world of paintings, Rex started the evening painting on a original VAGADU dress/jacket. He accompanied that with a canvas he brought along to simultaneously do a live painting too. This aspect of the event turned out well, as it was yet another part of the evening that people were able to be part of and bare witness to art in progress.

Of course, the zenith of all the hard work and months of labor was the dance performance/fashion show. The dancers; Julie Haller, Allisa Zee Hartmann, Cindy Huston, Myah Shein, Lenah Parsons, Johannah Wininsky, Carlyle Wycykal choreographed by Mary S. Burns, took my heart away with the movement and energy that they brought to the room and the clothing.

For me, the most beautiful aspects of the experience were the last minute changes that conspired to create something different than I had imagined. This was so moving because I saw the event take on a life of its own while becoming reality. I thought the dancers would emerge from Rex's projected paintings, at a certain time to demonstrate the inspiration that lead to the garments evolution. This was not to be. The girls began the dance in the audience in their own attire, danced their way up to the stage and gradually-- one girl at a time--got into their first VAGADU outfit. Eventually, all the girls were in VAGADU designs and running around interacting with each other as different Rex paintings flashed behind them on a slide show. One of my favorite pieces also happened to fit me like a glove so I decided that I should wear it and it would give me an opportunity to be part of the performance that I worked so hard to see to fruition.

Overall, it was a lovely night, one that likely no one will forget. With amazing treats to tantalize the bellies of the guest by Chefrain, a visual spectacle that was a feast for the eyes, and movement bearing clothes that left you feeling like you really experienced Rex and his world expressed by so many other artists through their mediums.

To see more photos click here: Photo set 1, photo set 2, photo set 3.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rex Flodstrom Collection

Here are some images of the main Rex Flodstrom collection. Photographs taken by John Martin.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Green Fashion Show

Vagadu is a Green Fashion Project.
Joui Turandot's designs are made from thoughtfully recycled fabrics. Chef Efrain uses cups and serving ware made from corn and other biodegradable materials. All waste from the Chicago Vagadu event will be recycled or composted. We love Chicago and want to keep it green.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Pan Asian Fusion Menu Announced!

Chefrain's Menu...

  • Ahi Tuna Tartar, Spicy Ginger Vinaigrette, Wasabi Tobiko, on Cucumber Slice
  • “Clouds and Buildings” Okinawa Yam and Beet Gratin, Gorgonzola Creme
  • Gyoza Dumplings filled with Fuyugaki Persimmon and Goat Cheese, with Sweet Shiso and Sage Pesto
  • Vagadu Temaki Sushi (Served Warm): Risotto w/ Lemongrass, Edamame, and Enoki mushroom, Chestnut Dusted Roasted Salmon, wrapped in Teriyaki Nori
  • Green Tea Creme Brulee sweetened w/ Honey, Cardamom Scented Berries
  • “Cake and Man” Guittard Chocolate Spongecake w/ Kumquat and Ginger, Bergamot Chocolate Mousse, Beet Powder and Powdered Sugar Silhouettes

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Countdown

Ten days left ‘til Showtime. I arrived yesterday in Chicago and was taken off to the home of my collaborator and Chef-in-Chief Efrain Cuevas. Coming to his pad was actually the first important step finally seeing the space where Vagadu’s debut will be held. The artist collective where he lives is called the Orphanage and historically it was a school for kids. Now it is home for some wayward musicians and a chef ;-). Connected and still very much associated to a Lutheran Church, the Orphanage provides a beautiful showroom for artists and musicians to show off their talents. To me, it is the perfect venue for the Vagadu event. The space currently is set up like a 1940’s cabaret with lush lounging furniture and tables surrounded by strangely decorated trees…I could picture the likes of Anais Nin, Henry Miller and their compatriots finding themselves very much at home.

Charming as it is, there is still lots of work to be done to perfect it for the show. I will be working along side with Beth, our set designer (she does design and construction for commercial and film) to take the space to a new level of beauty as we transform it to a Rex wonderland.

Today was jammed packed with important meetings. Efrain and I rolled out of bed into 22 degree Fahrenheit weather to meet up with our publicist Jennifer from Vanguard PR. After corresponding with her for months, it is fun finally starting to meet everyone who has put such great energy and talent to making the Vagadu debut a success.

After our meeting full of strategy and planning for the crucial few days left to promote the event, Efrain and I zipped over to his web designer Eric’s office (Blueprint Design Studio). We had to give him all information and pictures for our posters, flyers and look books he will be designing. The look books are filled with gorgeous images of almost all of the Vagadu designs that were taken by my friend John Martin. These look-books/catalogues will be displayed at the Dec. 8th to invite people to view the clothing at leisure and as a guide for purchasing the items as well.

Whew! It is the end of the day and I am tired. Thanks to my terrific team back in San Francisco I can be here taking care of all the last minute details while Lauren and girls are working hard on finishing up the last of the collection plus some fun creative couture pieces that really reflect their own personalities.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

In the Dance Studio

chef efrain here from chicago
i had the opportunity to check out a warm-up at hubbard street dance center. choreographer mary burns and dancers have been piecing together movement that will make its way into the runway show and also become its own piece. 
work by rex flodstrom is the starting point for the dancers. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Clothing Meditation

As the collection gets finished up and the show draws close I thought it would be fun as a team to do some more experimental works, like clothing as stream-of-conscious.
A question that has been on my mind is "how do you create clothing as art?" It is as big a question as the general query "what is art?" but since clothing rarely is included in this conversation, it is comman that people state that their clothing is art but rarely does anyone take them seriously enough to challenge it.

For me personally, within the art-as-clothing movement there should be a distinction of craft versus art. There seems to be a lot of very talented crafts persons who make clothing. They are weavers, embroiderers, fiber arts, dyers etc., and give life to their creative design as beautiful garments and fabrics. The key here is to differentiate design and technique, which are avenues for expressing beauty, efficiency, among other things--and art, which you define yourself.

Well then, what does define an artist? To me, an artist is someone who has deep need to express something from themselves. Within them lies an ever flowing fountain of expression that needs releasing otherwise the artist suffers. Like a fish needs water the artist creates to ease their soul and as my grandfather Jean Varda said, "the artist speaks through God."

Personally, I find myself in a strange position as an artist trying to express my creative visions through the clothing design process. As a designer, I am constantly bombarded by the "final product" mindset. Questions like: Who is your customer? Who will wear this? How will it fit? Will it sell? Are constantly thrown at me. This stifles the creative process because it takes the expression away from the creator and into the hands of a non-existent entity that holds power over the end result. Overall, I don't have any problem with this way of thinking. It is important and valid and produces great clothing. But for those of us who are caught up in a world between art and fashion, a new paradigm must be found.

So, I decided to do a little experiment. I got most of the girls together and the first step was to choose a Rex painting from which to work from. Then, one person starts the ball rolling by grabbing whatever fabric calls to them and starts to sew--which this time was Bennie. Each person takes a limited time to execute an idea 10-15 mins max and then hands it to the next person who goes with whatever inspiration first comes to mind and then hands it to the next person and so on until it is finished or the time runs out and then it is finished regardless. The idea is to feel the design, not analyze it, judge it or think about it too hard. Hopefully a subconscious form emerges and brings new possibilities forth that are normally not allowed to surface.

As usual the project went differently than planned but still allowed us to play with the idea of clothing as stream-of-conscious.

We chose Rex's "Clouds, Mountains, Buildings" from which Bennie was inspired by the buildings to do a bunch of box pleats--you can see her in the image above measuring the pleats. I think she even counted the buildings in the painting as made the same number of pleats. From there, Lauren (below) jumped on by adding a silk scarf and some blue fabric that she attached in a bunchy form.

Next Jennifer added more blue and arranged the piece on the body form into a dress form. As seen in the picture she was first playing with a cow-neck version, which later on you see was changed.

Last in the team, Patty rearranged the fluffy bottom piece and rearranged the top and brought the clothing meditation to a close.

By then it was late, and everyone was tired.

This was a very positive exprience and we learned for next time to try and explain less of their thoughts to the next person. I realize they did this so the following person would know what to do with the piece, but in sense I was really excited to see what would result from the confusion of not knowing and just go with their gut.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

One-of-a-kind Upclose

In the book Fashion Designer's Survival Guide they mention that as an independent designer one of the things you do least of! It may sound shocking, but it is true. However, it is important for the designer to stop the managerial-crisis handling-bureaucratic duties every so often and reconnect with why you are doing this whole thing in the first place.
Easier said than done. With so much to do, it can almost seem impossible to break away and have fun! This week I finally took time out and did some draping for the one-of-a-kinds and couture brainstorming.

What makes one-of-a-kinds so great is that they have a real story to tell. Since there is no pressure in producing more of it, you can indulge in unique materials and details that you only have enough of for one outfit.

The dress to the right is derived from a Rex painting called "Frontier". I love the way sections of the canvas are broken up horizontally from top to bottom using bold imagery and strong colors. To me, each of these divisions easily translate into a splash of one fabric to another. As shown in these photos.

Please note that this is the brainstorm process. It is a rough-draft of the final product, and what you see is the outline of what needs to be developed further.

The blue piece matches the sky. And is placed in the solar plexus an important location for the sun to be placed since it gives life, and the solar plexus is a center point of life energy. This blue piece also was part of the jester vest that was featured in the MAZURA collection. You can see it below at the bottom of the blog entries.

The purple flowered blouse represents the sky. As you look at "Frontier" you notice that the sky turns purple, and the flowers are almost as uniform as the clouds.

As we travel down, we reach green mountains, the green fabric here I want to play with creating pleats that emulate peaks, and will further match the painting.

Lastly, we come to the checkered flat lands. The piece of fabric I am using (from a dear friend traveling in India) not only matches the color, but has the checked design in a lighter gold, essentially coping the checkered farmland in Rex's painting.

I decided to skip the rainbow of people because the Indian fabric blends right into the ocean. It even has a sprinkling of white dots that correspond with the blue dots floating in the ocean of the painting.

But how can I forget the people? Well, sometimes the fabric has its own story to tell, and you have to hear what your heart says. If it says add people, go for it. However, in this instance I believe this dress has enough elements to make it complete. And if I need the people, I may make some gloves or another accessory that can add to the overall experience, but not force the dress to comply to any particular mold. Or simply, the person wearing the garment represents the people. Remember, we are not copying, we are creating new works of art who's birth was brought about through another artist's vision.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Clashing with Confidence

by Andrew...

Hi! Joui has asked me to post a little bit this week as she is busy getting clothes and dancers together for the Chicago show. I thought I would give a guy's perpective on Joui's fashion.

One of the interesting things that I have seen while watching Joui's fashion lines come together is how women naturally identify with beautiful clothing.
For instance, as I was standing around after the Mazura by Design show last May, I found it fascinating to see the visceral excitement people had for different outfits. The women from the audience would come up and check out the garments, looking them over, trying to remember how they looked on the models, tensely negotiating within over whether this really outfit would "work" for them.

Only recently as I have gotten more interested in expressing myself using clothing have I come around to start understanding the intensity of these reactions. That very evening at Mazura, as I modelled some of the ties in the show, I got to feel what it means to place myself ~in the vibe~ of each tie I was wearing, each paired with a model's dress. Then I started to understand what was going on here.

For me, it comes back around to the art. Do the motifs, the colors, the shapes, in one piece really express something that is true to you? Do the clothes on the outside match a psychological state in you that you want to express? If you're at the event, does that vibe the models carry resonate with you? Is it something you want to bring home with you to wear?

This was all new territory for me.

Last night I was putting together an outfit to see a friend of mine get all drag queened out in a play. (by the way, if you're in SF, go see Beautiful it rocks!) I wanted to be a little wild with my appearance. I wanted more than my standard blazer-over-t-shirt look that is rapidly becoming
de rigueur for some circles. What I really wanted was to express something about myself with my outfit.

And as I thought about what to wear, or more precisely, what kinds of ridiculous color combinations I could get away with, this old Andy Warhol quote popped into my head: "Art is anything you can get away with." I was a conpiracy of one deliberating over what I would attempt to "get away" with, and the nylon brown shirt slightly clashing with tan tie and linen jacket that got selected was my own unique expression.

This act of standing up for what YOU think looks good is a small, quiet rebellion. Yes, the colors clash, but in my eye, they look good together. What are you going to do about it?

When you're just out there, clashing with confidence, your appearance becomes less about what you're wearing, and more about what you think looks good. You're never going to look like someone else, because who else is going to come up with your crazy combination? And you get to remind yourself the whole time, who cares what they think anyway.

All that makes getting dressed lots of fun. And this is one of the biggest lessons I've learned by watching Joui-- that what you wear should be fun.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

From the Workshop

My office looked like a tornado hit. Dawn, Bennie, Patty and Jennifer had just waded through the piles of textiles, vintage clothing and other odds and ends that are the raw material for the Rex Collection. After comparing fabrics, pairing prints, and just seeing what worked, we found great pieces that fit every design. Selecting fabrics for the designs is often the most enjoyable part of the process.
Because we plan to do 3 sets of each design, many of our fabric combos will not be enough to cover 3 of a particular item. However, that is part of the beauty of the process. I will have to scour around town hoping that I will come across fabric that is comparable to the ones we chose for the originals. Then again, it is the role of the dice, and you don't know what will come up. There is always the chance that nothing will and we will have some items with the same design just different color combos.
Working with each of the girls it an interesting character study. Each one gravitates to very different fabrics and textures. What each of the interns sees in the different fabrics is fascinating, especially how they see it connecting with Rex's work. It is a continuation of their own artistic voice speaking which began from the minute they chose the designs. For instance, Patty in her own work loves vests and very structured dresses. So she has been in charge of making the vests for our collection. Dawn naturally chose to do most of the coats. I knew she loved making them, but what's more, this weekend I learned that she was in the process of creating her own line of one-of-a-kind coat collection made from remnants she has been collecting over the years. I look forward to seeing this materialize for her (silly pun).

Another item on my to-do list is some fabric manipulation. Anne showed me some techniques and ideas she has for creating my vortex jacket derived from a few of Rex's spiraling universes. The photo to the right shows on a small scale what I would like to achieve. My little bunches will be bigger and fluffier, much like a combo of the clouds and the vortex of the painting below. It is going to be exciting testing the different ways to create the many vortexes that are needed. As you can see from the orange fabric sample they are sewn togehter with a thread. This is one way to create the shape. However, I am looking to have more dimension and movement and one way to do that is to take the shapes that have been fastened with thread and then boil or cook the fabric --must be a synthetic or blend-- just enough so that it changes the chemistry enough so when you remove the thread the shape still holds. It will be interesting testing it because it lies on the line between beauty and disaster. A beautiful shape and burnt fabric. The whole Vagadu experience is a lot like this experiment, a delicate balance between art and integrity, it is an entity that must be constantly observed so it keeps its shape and doesn't get overcooked.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

$$$$$ Money $$$$$

I recently got back from San Diego. I don't know anyone in the Bay Area who enjoys the drive on the I-5 south to LA or San Diego. I certainly don't. But sometimes a long time in a car by yourself is like a good meditation session. You sit quietly and you see what comes to the surface. For me, it was a chance for to sit with all these financial questions that had been wandering about in my mind.

Jinah, a very enthusiastic marketing/branding mind is working with me to find out how VAGADU is going to make money. Making money is obviously of utmost importance in any business, but for me it is something I want to go about very carefully.

One of the questions I need to answer in the development of the plan is; who is my target customer? How much money do they make? What are their professions, interests? I have been reading a terrific book called The Fashion Designer's Survival Guide and it says most designers want to make clothing for a high-end clientele. This is very appealing because you can go crazy on beautiful fabrics, spend time on wild designs, and still make some money. In my first business MAZURA we were lured too quickly towards that type of customer.

I think another reason designers gravitate to the high end is that you have to be a lot more calculated and clever to explore other markets. When I started thinking about my ideal customer, I decided the answer is, well, someone like me. I am designing clothing that I like, and therefore my customer should be somewhat similar. And if this customer is like me, they are creative, have interesting jobs, appreciate art and don't make much money. Yes, despite the snazzy website, VAGADU is not a goldmine, ...yet. That said, I need to make clothes that someone like me could afford.

In the car to SD it hit me, I will not make items that I myself or my collaborators couldn't afford. As a community project is important to create by the community for the community. The economic elite have enough boutiques catering to their fashion interests. Almost as a political gesture I want to provide choices for women with a taste for unique clothing, but at a price that your last name doesn't have to be Getty to afford.

But again, how am I going to make money doing that? For VAGADU to thrive and continue uniting artists, musicians, dancers, chefs, we need to be financially viable too. As for the fashion, the other side of the spectrum is the mass-market clothing model. In other words disposable clothing. It's cheap, cute, lasts a year, and then you toss it. I call this the H&M model. I don't believe in this either. VAGADU's designs are going to cost more. They are hand made, limited edition, essentially pieces of art. They are made to last if you care for them. So paying a little more is a good investment. Yes, they will be more than a $100 jacket. But when you buy that ultra cheap top that you will throw out in a year or it will simply fall apart, you are supporting some sweatshop in China that abuses their workers. VAGADU is about reshaping typical shopping mentality, that your clothes represent you expressively and politically. When you buy VAGADU you are acquiring so much more than just another attractive item in your closet. You bought something that was made with inspiration and love for humanity. I think I would compare my model to the slow food movement. Perhaps this is the slow clothing movement. It's an investment, its good for you and the planet.

Even with all these considerations, if VAGADU sold to local boutiques or even Bloomingdales the revenue would be pretty small. That's because designers have to sell wholesale to stores so the stores can make their profit. That equals pretty expensive clothing for my customer, and I still go to bed hungry. The only win-win situation is selling at my events. That means, I need to market VAGADU as a traveling showroom. A wandering peddler who has a national reputation that people save up just to get the latest from us as we travel from city to city. This is a different business model, and Jinah is going nuts trying to analyze my competition, which isn't many if at all. VAGADU may be more of a movement than a business. For you, this means make sure to come to my show, because that dress probably just won't be available at a boutique near you.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Meet the Team, and the New Collection!

This has been an exciting period at Vagadu!

The concepts for the collection have been chosen.

The designs will probably change, but for now we have 13 pieces for the Ready-to-Wear line. Two dresses, three jackets, two vests, two shirts/tunics, one jumper, three pairs of pants. We will also have at least one Couture piece for "le gran finale" and...most excitingly, we will have a dress that Rex will perform live art on. In other words, the night of the fashion show, Rex will be painting whatever inspires him using a dress as his canvas. At the end of the night there will either be a silent or live auction for someone to walk away with this wearable creation!

To be honest, this was my first time designing a whole collection in a very organized and systematic manner. And thank GOD! I mean if I was going to take the Vagadu line to a new level beyond my own spontaneous and organic way of designing (which was how I created for Mazura)I was going to need a talented, strong design/production team to make this happen. As Donna Karan says, " Make sure the people behind you are better than you are and you are all on the same page."

So, without further adieu let me introduce to you the rest of my crew:

LAUREN, who I talk about constantly, my right-hand-woman, and my "executive intern" has been an amazing asset. Everything I lack in process and technique she fills in. On her end, she says I inspire her to explore creativity in a way she never is allowed in school. Lauren is getting her MA in Fashion Design at the Academy of Art SF. This is her last year and Vagadu is honored to have her as part of the Chicago team.

I have to say that the Academy puts out some great talent because I have two other fabulous ladies who are getting their degrees there as well. BENNIE is getting her MA and has a knack for spotting problems in the production process. Her sewing is superb and her grounded-practical personality is great because she helps keep me organized.

PATTY just joined our team and is a getting her BA from the Academy. When I first saw Patty's portfolio, I was shocked to see how similar her taste is to mine. She loves layers, vests, and versatility. In her interview she brought a skirt that she had made that you could wear not only as a skirt, but a top or a jacket! She is a designer after my own heart. She understands my dilemma: if I can't wear an item at least three different ways, I'm bored!

JENNIFER has graduated from FIDM and now is working for Levis. Incidentally, this year she is going to start a manufacturing plant here in the Bay. I am so excited for her (and me) because by the time she gets her factory going I will be looking for a place to produce my clothing. Vagadu will never be made overseas unless we are putting on a show in Bangladesh. It is all about being local. Local artists, local manufacturing. And the Bay Area needs some local manufacturers. Most designers either have to make it in-house, or send it to LA or NY if they make it in the USA. Jennifer has an entrepreneurial mind like me and is definitely filling a badly needed niche.

Simply put, DAWN is a master seamstress. She has years of experience. She teaches sewing, she does custom orders, and she loves to make jackets. When Lauren and I heard this, we were so excited! Lauren hates making jackets but loves pants. Dawn doesn't like making pants. Obviously, she is a great compliment to the team.

ANNE is a recent graduate from Savannah Arts College in textiles. She will help us figure out the best way to add fun effects to the fabrics either with screen-printing, hand embroidery, dying or other manipulating techniques.

Now that you met the production team let's finish off with a tad more about the collection. One of the many design themes is pockets. In line with Rex's simplicity, the overall style is "utilitarian style with flare". Pockets symbolize this to me. As a woman on the go, I need pockets in my stylish pants, yet how many pants do I own that are pocket less? Too many. Also, jackets, I have always envied men's sports coats that have the breast pocket lining. Vagadu's coats will have pockets in the lining, and everywhere possible without rendering the look "cargo" or military.

As I see it, Rex's art is not about indulgent strokes nor excess elements. Within the multitudes and masses, there is order, unity and direction. Therefore, as designers we're keeping that in mind as we go. We can still play with color, texture, shapes, but we must continually maintain direction and purpose to our choices. Like his art, we will intend a deeper consciousness to the clothes and the collection as a whole.

One way I imagine doing this is by painting or silk-screening Rex's poetry inside the clothing. His verse puts to words the feeling behind the paint. I just love the idea of a person stressing out after a hard day at work and as they open their coat, they see printed an excerpt from his poem Spirit of the Land:

The universe is art
It can't be bought or sold

Behold we're as old as heaven and earth

From a grain of sand

To stars expanding

Reading that might trigger you to consider what this dance of life is all about. We could all use a reminder.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Save the World, Follow Your Dreams!

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive. -- Howard Thurman

Isn't it funny when life throws you little curve balls to test your convictions and reasons for doing your chosen profession? It just happened to me, and although I had a completely different direction I was going to take this week's blog, this is on the forefront of my mind and it is important for me to share my experience as a creative person/entrepreneur but also a world citizen.

I watched a movie this week called Zeitgeist. You can watch it online and after two friends sent it to me I decided to finally give it a look.

I am still recovering.

To explain what I mean, my friend Brandon summed it up nicely by saying, "It makes The Matrix, Fahrenheit 9/11, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Brave New World, V for Vendetta, The Island, et al seem like watered down Sunday morning cartoons. Tells an interesting story connecting religion, finance, politics and war. Enter at your own risk. "

He was definitely right about the risk. This film paints such a profound sense of corruption and foul intentions that are at the bottom of our culture that I was left feeling utter despair.

I was left coming to terms with the notion that a powerful business/media/government elite were complicit in brainwashing the country into a state of fear in order to promote war abroad and destroy civil liberties at home. The movie provided a sweeping new take on the reality of so much that has gone wrong in our country in this new century. And with awareness, I had to ask a question about my own responsibility. How can I just sit here with the information I hold & watch everything going on today? How dare I create fashion when I could be out in the streets educating and mobilizing our communities? I felt selfish for even having the desire to create my art, my passion.

But that's just it. Society may be corrupt, scandalous and greedy. There are so many pressures on all of us to fall into line, to work in soul-crushing 9-5 jobs, to dutifully shut up, consume and be content. My hat goes off to those folks that this schedule and lifestyle works for, but it's not for me.

They say the personal is political and when I found a paradigm that fit my social, political and artistic desires, it felt right. Vagadu is my dream. And I am going for it. Doing Vagadu for me is positive change. As a citizen I recycle, compost, go to thrift stores, my company recycles and creates beautiful clothing from the excesses of consumerism. The events celebrate local artists, and embrace them in a form that allows outsiders to experience their art through different mediums and senses. Vagadu is not just clothing, it is an experience and a community builder. And although it maybe a fun experience, it is NOT entertainment. Television has brought a lot of good in the world however, it has taught us to always seek out entertainment, that allows us to sit back and watch. Passive. Not Vagadu-- art is bi-directional. You take part. You wear it. You hear it, eat it. You will be inspired to make your own. It is a celebration of creativity, art and the belief that the world is good and that people are good.

Movies like Zeitgeist are important and useful tools to get people thinking outside the box. And although I don't agree with everything in it, or even it's approach, it is definately worth watching. However, for me, its message is too dark and actually leaves me with the same feelings I get after watching local evening news....cynical, paranoid and ineffectual. I believe if we all focused more attention on the good, the beauty of the planet and our species, that love not fear, would inspire us into action. We all have gifts to share with the world, but few of us take a chance, dare to fail, dare to shine, to live the life we always wanted.

I may not be Cindy Sheehan or Al Gore in my way of contributing to society, but I am so happy doing what I do, and it is contagious. Wouldn't it be revolutionary to live in a world where everyone woke up in morning completely excited to go to work? Every person felt realized that they were living their passion? It would be another planet.

So there you have it. A simplified idea of salvation, but for me, Vagadu allows me to give back. It's ironic when I say that because Vagadu is also my mother's name. So, just like my mother gave me life, Vagadu sustains my soul.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Zen and the Art of Creating a Chicago Show

Wow! This has been an amazing week. It feels like months have gone by with the amount of things that have gone on in preparation for the December 8th show in Chicago.

First off, we have a featured artist! His name is Rex Flodstrom and his paintings are everything I could of asked for as inspiration for the new collection. Thanks to Craigslist, I was able to quickly penetrate the Chicago arts scene from 2000 miles away. I was overwhelmed by the talent that showed up in my inbox from a single post! ...Craigslist --oh how I love thee!!!

Back to Rex. Rex's art spoke to me on a number of levels. Looking through his works, I saw many themes and styles emerging again and again, for instance, the phases of the moon. This quality of recurring themes in Rex's work is what I will draw on to design the next collection. As a designer it's exciting because within the repetition lies an opportunity for expansive creativity in the clothing. The unity in Rex's work is creates a foundation where its limitations support artistic flow.

Rex's style is to divide the canvas by horizontal plains where he begins from the bottom-up with: ocean, people, farmland, mountains, sky, clouds, sun and moon. Each plains' shapes are numerous and uniform---masses of people solely differentiated by color, otherwise all the shapes are the same, dido on the mountains, and the clouds...oh the clouds! They remind me of Colombian painter Botero; plump and yummy, slightly infantile yet so compelling.

I've had a chance to talk to Rex about his process which is described here:
He paints life through his soul. He strives to capture moments in time and emotions that come forth. Various forms of spirituality and and the patterns in nature influence him. An expression of universal form and spirituality is felt within the brush strokes. Many pieces are inspired by the naturally occurring rhythm and geometry of our world. His paintings convey oneness and unity, while hinting at multiple realities beneath the surface. His art expresses something words cannot begin to account for. He observes the work as meditations created for this physical realm. (Excerpt from a show at Metaphors Gallery Arlington, Il).
Check out more of Rex's Art

So is it any surprise that I am drawn to an artist who is exploring deeper forms of reality that connects us all? On a personal note, this year has been pivotal for me in understanding my own sense of oneness with the universe. (pause here for reflection). Hot damn! Vagadu's first line is going to be loaded with style and soul...literally!

En fin, I am excited! My creative team headed up by Lauren Hume are truly inspired to make Rex's world wearable. Next week we start on production ....this is were things get juicy! The designs start becoming real, so come check in next week to see sketches and other insights, and of course meet the design team.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Reflections on the first collection MAZURA

Vagadu is my new fashion line. I started it to bring together my love for fashion and art. I have been designing clothing for many years, and so of course I think of my designs as art. But I also wanted to design clothing that celebrates and participates in art. Let me explain.

It all goes back to my grandfather, the Bohemian artist Jean Varda. Varda made brilliant collages of celestial cities, curvy women, and funny looking fish, and worked around San Francisco with Henry Miller and the Beat Generation in the 1960's. For quite a while, I have thought that Varda's work has not been given the recognition it deserves. And being an artist myself, I saw that the best way to honor my grandfather was to draw inspiration from his work in my own designs. My first company did just this. It was a collaborative effort called MAZURA, and we premiered our Varda Collection in May. MAZURA no longer exists, but the fashions live on and this blog allows me to explore the creative process and meaning of translating art into fashion.

So... what is Vagadu, then? It just came from one of those "ah-ha" moments where everything made perfect sense (it is also the name of my mother). I liked making clothes this way so much that I had to create a new fashion line to draw inspiration from other visual artists for new, one-of-a-kind fashion pieces. Because the artist for the first collection of Vagadu is still under consideration, and both lines are based on the same premise I feel this blog is a great way for people to understand how Vagadu will be designed. As time goes on, I will start giving behind-the-scenes looks at the ideas going into the first Vagadu line, which will be debuted this December in Chicago.

Here I will describe one of the Varda fashions in detail, and a little general commentary about the whole collection.

When we (my then partner Masumi Patzel) took on Jean Varda's work, the first challenge was to choose which collages to use as muses. He was extremely prolific and so narrowing down took some time. I took a week or so just staring at different collages that I had printed out and let outfits come to me from a slow, observation standpoint. Over time, it became apparent which collages would be used since I could imagine several fashion pieces from particular artworks. This was key for me because I was already envisioning the fashion show where models would emerge from one painting and would interact with each other as if we--the audience--has stepped into their world.

One of such collages is the untitled golden collage that first appears above. This piece has an amazingly rich pallet, and the figures inside of it are regal as if we were entering a fantastical Egyptian court. As I worked with this collage idea after idea came to me (and still do). In fact, four of the pieces from the collection are derived from it. My favorite from the four is pictured to the right. This piece was one of the first I started and the last one to finish. It combines both literal and conceptual elements, and is one of the strongest designs from the collection.

The top of the dress came from a terrible disco-era-early-80's dress. I loved the sparkles and the beautiful scoop of the neck and knew that once removed from the original garment it wielded potential. The somewhat wispy texture of the fabric also represented the airy white shoulder garment from the Orange Woman in the collage. Although you can't see the back of the dress, the halter's sash is polka-dotted which match the arms of the Orange Woman as well. The stripes in the dress make another such obvious connection with the collage. The skirt originally was knee-length and straight across. The v-shaped cut of the skirt was the last element added to the dress which not only adds more dimension and flow to the piece and is also in the style of Varda.

As you can see in the image that follows, Varda uses triangles in the pelvic area of the women in his art. Cubuesque, it is a symbol that reinforces the raw femininity of his women
that is necessary since he rarely defined the breasts separately (a more typical symbol of women). Therefore, adding the v-shaped curve to the dress was appropriate. Moreover, it emphasizes the red and yellow slopping pelvic decor that are derived from the colors in the Orange Woman's skirt. The last note I want to make about this piece is its origins. The sash came from a dress, as well as the skirt, the yellow fabric is fringe from a curtain and the red is a remnant. Depending on the wearer, this item can be worn as either a dress or a tunic or a designs let the wearer decide. But flexibly is key to the majority of my clothing pieces.

I will be posting about once a week at first, so if you like hearing about my creative process, or want to learn more details about the upcoming Vagadu line, check back in soon.