Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Designing Kara

While watching Vagadu's Kara Maria Line move forward to May 3rd, I have begun to enjoy watching how each member of the team brings her own creative process to the interpretation of Kara's work.

...Megan, one of the interns...

Out of all the pieces of the collection Megan jumped on the opportunity to work on jackets and dresses.

For me, it is always interesting to watch what clothing items people gravitate to work on. Fortuneatly for Vagadu, it always works out that most of the interns want to take on different projects and so it works out that everyone is happy.

With jackets, Megan took on an area where we didn't have a clear design plan in mind. The only thing we knew was that we wanted a short jacket and a longer jacket. Other than that Megan was left to her own devices.

After a few days Megan emailed me a bunch of sketches. The first picture here above was the one that we struggled with most trying to find a fabulous amalgamation of ideas and themes true to both Kara Maria and Vagadu.

I liked the the sketch of the button over jacket, but besides the military/uniform element behind the design I just didn't know how it fit into the collection.
I went back and thought about all the different design themes that we discussed for Kara like bold, strong, symmetrical shapes. And content like birds and flight, fighter jets, war, invasion, women, exposed versus covered, Middle East versus USA. With that I thought, why not lengthen the jacket and change the opening to a button down instead of a button-over jacket? As you can see in the second sketch the design then becomes amazingly similar to the look of traditional Muslim wear.

Megan took that idea and went a bit further. She decided she still wanted a short jacket. But she went more with the theme of flight versus military with the bomber jacket like Amelia Earhart wore. Then, keeping with the Middle Eastern theme she used the Muslim decorative neckline for the jacket. (I can't wait until you see it at the show!)

There was a bit of frustration and butting heads over how to make this piece come together, but I am so happy with the final design. It is the result of a creative fusion of ideas, personalities and tastes while keeping to our core ideal. This type of collaboration where unique visions come together and find expression is what makes Vagadu so fun and special.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bad Unkl Sista

What can I say but "I'm in love!"
The label is called Bad Unkl Sista and I had my first exposure to this creative venture last weekend at the External Spring Show in the SOMArts building.

It has truly been a long time since a designer, a local one at that, has deeply sparked my imagination so much that it brings tears of joy to my heart. Bad Unkl did such a thing and in honor of the week of love, this blog is dedicated to my new favorite fashion muse.

I have not personally met Anastazia Louise (the woman behind the designs) of this magical label, but her ability to passionately mix art, clothing and extravagance into a performance is very true to my own vision. Anastazia is pushing boundaries, living pure expression through her clothing and creating shared community experience through her medium.

Let me explain. Bad Unkl Sista was the last act of at least 10-12 previous designers in a runway show that lasted around an hour and a half. Amongst the other designers was a whole gamut of styles ranging from chic, wild, trendy, to just plain average. Most of the clothing line presentations followed the typical runway model; one model enters at a time, wiggles around, pouts, blows you a kiss, and retreats to the back of the stage to be followed by another model and so on. This is fine and dandy, but frankly after strutter #44 the routine feels pretty stale.

The audience reflected this, and as our attention wandered, we talked amongst each other, eyes scanned around the room people watching, we clapped but it was pretty minimal, a hoot here, a holla there, but the energy in the room was struggling to be truly engaged with the show. We needed something to move us, to captivate us all and transport us to another place.

Bad Unkl Sista knows about these things. Like a bizarre dream, when their show began out comes Anastazia (already a very dramatic woman herself) dressed in black, dancing Butoh with a gorgeous solemn-looking ballerina. Simply and slowly they moved their way towards us on the runway. And then the suddenly as if a circus let loose, all types creatures emerged, one after another until the stage was cluttered with an assortment of people dressed like Narnia-meets-The Yellow Submarine-meets tribal Africa-meets-Alice in Wonderland.

The mood of the room changed instantaneously. Trancelike, we all gazed with delight and held our breath as we took in the spectacle. Together, as a whole the entire audience was sucked into this fantastical world where bizarre is beautiful and dreams become reality.

When it was all over, you felt like you wanted to hug everyone around you, we were somehow closer, as if after having experienced a trip to the moon and making it back alive.

For me, it reinstated my own path of creating events that unify the crowds, takes them to other worlds, in a night of experiencing beauty in all forms.

Thank you Anastazia, you bring light and magic into a world that craves raw expression. You made my night, my week, my month and probably my year.

Here's to you and all the other people out there who take their craft deep into the imagination, unabashedly using talent and skill to create the un-creatable. You empower us all to live our life to the fullest and cloak ourselves as the kings and queens that we are.

Best of all, you took an ordinary night and made it extraordinary. You are a magician, you are Ix Chel the Mayan Goddess of Creativity, the dreamer, the artist who out of nothing makes something. From the malaise you awaken us; you startle us, frighten us in beauty, daring us to pinch ourselves, wondering where you came from, the tribe we strayed from, the lost city that birthed us and now is found again. Thank you.

Her blogs are great too, check them out at:

Friday, February 8, 2008

What Was I Thinking?! Part 1:

Wow, from deep winter emerges the spring in SF! Such an early entrance into the warm season, they say this week it should get up to 64 degrees! I don't know about you but it just seems strange. Anyway, this confirms why I have decided to sell my car this week, in an effort to honor our planet and take a personal stance for a sustainable future.

Beyond climate change, in the studio we delegated the fashions this week and are busy making mock-ups, drafting patterns, and getting stuff done!

Therefore, since I always get a lot of positive feedback when I explain the creative process of creating a garment, I thought I would take this opportunity to explore the making of the "Vortex Hoodie" from the Rex Floodstrom Collection.

This piece really is a labor of love and vision. Derived from the painting "Light" featured in the photo here, the swirling shape hypnotized me into the neverafter. The feeling I got from the "Light" was comforting and inviting. I wanted to make a garment that reflected that value. I decided on a hoodie, because for me they are comfortable physically and psychologically. Something about covering the head that not only leaves you feeling protected but also soothed. Much like the painting, which is beautiful and comfortable to the eyes, the hoodie is easy to wear and relaxes the body.

Next came the task of figuring out how to make the swirls that I would attach all over the hoodie vest. Instead of one big swirl (like the painting), I decided I wanted lots of little ones to give a multi-texture element to the jacket. As mentioned in earlier blogs I first hand stitched swirls into fabric, and then pulled the tail of the thread tightly, which created a rouged effect in the fabric.

Once I got the hand sewing technique down, which I thought I would only have to make about 75-100 individual swirls,.....I was way off! It actually turned out to be around 300-350 individual swirls. Each of which was hand sewn onto the vest.

Originally, it was supposed to be a jacket with sleeves. However, after swirl #245, and I hadn't even touched the sleeves, so I decided to go with the vest because there were other things I had to work on besides this garment. In the end, I am happier with it being a vest, because otherwise it might have become too bulky.

For the last step of the jacket, once all the pieces were sewn, I took fabric paint, watered it down, and painted watery swirls all over the hoodie. This part was the most fun, because I used about 3 types of white fabric for the swirls, so it was fascinating watching how the paint interacted uniquely with each swirl.

One of the conceptual added bonuses of the piece is how when worn the black lining in the hoodie creates a universe effect around the face, which allows the face itself become the swirling vortex. The wearer, not the jacket becomes the art and the clothing is just the frame for which it is displayed.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Recycling not just for Clothing but a Way of Life

This week I have been away in San Diego visiting family, so things are a little slow in the studio. One thing I am really learning about is that the fallow times are just as important for the artist as the making times. Taking time off to relax and do other things actually allows more creativity to flow through you, fresh ideas to inspire you and new energy to fuel you.

I want to take this time to talk a bit about living a conscious life outside of the studio, and resources to apply to your everyday life outside of fashion.

One of the ways I was able to revisit the fashion/clothing world was to find a context within it that I could believe in. Creating clothing just for it's own sake is fine, but in order to motivate this whole process I needed more of a sense of mission, I needed to see how through my craft I could bring positive change to the world. This way, my art can be true to my values.

Part of Vagadu's social mission is to use creative re-use to break the cycle of constantly purchasing and discarding endemic to America's consumer-driven culture.

Magazines like ReadyMade and Craft are great publications because they challenge their readers to get creative, crafty and prove that great design doesn't cost a fortune, in fact it is readily accessible from things that we already have in the home.

VAGADU really isn't just about making fabulous clothes out of next-to-new materials, it is about a way of living that responsibly and creatively deals with our excesses. And if we can't reuse our all of our stuff, how to respectfully dispose of them that is gentle with Mother Earth. Here are some thoughts:

Stop Junkmail before it gets to you! Even though I have made some great cards from terrible magazines that I never ordered, it is better for the planet not to make paper products that go directly into the recycle bin. I signed up for this service and they stop your junkmail and plant trees to offset the effect. The company is called Green Dimes

If you live in the Bay Area and you have interesting junk that you don't need, a thrift store might not want, you should give it to my favorite place for getting materials for VAGADU called SCRAP (Scroungers resource for reusable art parts).

From one of my many social networks this recycle resource guide is very helpful for those of us who want to make a difference.

21 Things You Didn't Know You Can Recycle

1. Appliances: Goodwill accepts working appliances,, or you can contact the Steel Recycling Institute to recycle them. 800/YES-1-CAN,

2. Batteries: Rechargeables and single-use: Battery Solutions, 734/467-9110,

3. Cardboard boxes: Contact local nonprofits and women's shelters to see if they can use them. Or, offer up used cardboard boxes at your local listserv or on for others who may need them for moving or storage. If your workplace collects at least 100 boxes or more each month, accepts them for resale.

4. CDs/DVDs/Game Disks: Send scratched music or computer CDs, DVDs, and PlayStation or Nintendo video game disks to AuralTech for refinishing, and they'll work like new: 888/454-3223,

5. Clothes: Wearable clothes can go to your local Goodwill outlet or shelter. Donate wearable women's business clothing to Dress for Success, which gives them to low-income women as they search for jobs, 212/532-1922, Offer unwearable clothes and towels to local animal boarding and shelter facilities, which often use them as pet bedding. Consider holding a clothes swap at your office, school, faith congregation or community center. Swap clothes with friends and colleagues, and save money on a new fall wardrobe and back-to-school clothes.

6. Compact fluorescent bulbs: Take them to your local IKEA store for recycling: .

7. Compostable bio-plastics: You probably won't be able to compost these in your home compost bin or pile. Find a municipal composter to take them to at

8. Computers and electronics: Find the most responsible recyclers, local and national, at

9. Exercise videos: Swap them with others at

10. Eyeglasses: Your local Lion's Club or eye care chain may collect these. Lenses are reground and given to people in need.

11. Foam packing: Your local pack-and-ship store will likely accept foam peanuts for reuse. Or, call the Plastic Loose Fill Producers Council to find a drop-off site: 800/828-2214. For places to drop off foam blocks for recycling, contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers, 410/451-8340,

12. Ink/toner cartridges: pays $1/each.

13. Miscellaneous: Get your unwanted items into the hands of people who can use them. Offer them up on your local or listserv, or try giving them away at or giving or selling them at will also help you find a recycler, if possible, when your items have reached the end of their useful lifecycle.

14. Oil: Find Used Motor Oil Hotlines for each state: 202/682-8000,

15. Phones: Donate cell phones: Collective Good will refurbish your phone and sell it to someone in a developing country: 770/856-9021, Call to Protect reprograms cell phones to dial 911 and gives them to domestic violence victims: Recycle single-line phones: Reclamere, 814/386-2927,

16. Sports equipment: Resell or trade it at your local Play It Again Sports outlet, 800/476-9249,

17. "Technotrash": Project KOPEG offers an e-waste recycling program that can help you raise funds for your organization. Use Project KOPEG to recycle iPods, MP3 players, cell phones and chargers, digital cameras, PDAs, palm pilots, and more. Also, easily recycle all of your CDs, jewel cases, DVDs, audio and video tapes, pagers, rechargeable and single-use batteries, PDAs, and ink/toner cartridges with GreenDisk's Technotrash program. For $30, GreenDisk will send you a cardboard box in which you can ship them up to 70 pounds of any of the above. Your fee covers the box as well as shipping and recycling fees. 800/305-GREENDISK,

18. Tennis shoes: Nike's Reuse-a-Shoe program turns old shoes into playground and athletic flooring. One World Running will send still-wearable shoes to athletes in need in Africa, Latin America, and Haiti.

19. Toothbrushes and razors: Buy a recycled plastic toothbrush or razor from Recycline, and the company will take it back to be recycled again into plastic lumber. Recycline products are made from used Stonyfield Farms' yogurt cups. 888/354-7296,

20. Tyvek envelopes: Quantities less than 25: Send to Shirley Cimburke, Tyvek Recycling Specialist, 5401 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Spot 197, Room 231, Richmond, VA 23234. Quantities larger than 25 , call 866/33-TYVEK.

21. Beds and Box Springs: Don't put your bed on the street! For a fee they will come and pick up your old be and boxspring and carefully break them apart to recycle all the materials.

Thanks for reading...let's not feed the landfill monster any longer! If you have any other ideas I have missed, be sure to write me and I will add it to the blog. Happy Creacycling!