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.