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.