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.