Friday, January 30, 2009

Apron Fun!

As bigger projects are currently brewing in the creative kitchen, little, fun things come through pipeline that are def worth exploring!
One of these projects I just finished this Friday: a creative apron-cap set designed for my friend Thomas' Hot Dog Stand.

First off, let me say this is no ordinary Hot Dog Stand. Thomas conceived the idea when he was at Burning Man and as he watched the sun rise he thought. "Wouldn't it be great to have a hot dot right now?" Thus was born "Sunrise Hot Dogs".
He has since configured and built the best traveling hot dog stand around, but was missing one key ingredient....a proper uniform. So I came to the rescue with my bags of scraps and wild ideas.


Creating the basic design had to be simple and practical--I mean it is an apron after all! Therefore I knew that it was the embellishing that held all the promise of creativity.

Since the title of his company is Sunrise Hot Dogs, we decided it would have a wild-looking sun rising out from beneath the pockets of the apron. Creating the sun was easy and fun since I have tons of scraps and even itsy bitsy scraps that work perfectly for applique technique as seen in the picture above.

Once I found the right combination of fabrics I laid them on the base of red fabric and played with the arrangement of the colors until I found a design I liked. Then, I pinned them to the red and used gold thread to quilt over the patches in a flame-like fashion. The result added a very fiery and alive look to the cloth strips. I love the abstract threading on it, for me it adds the little extra je ne sais pas, that makes the piece complete. I often find myself doing little details like this in all of my work because it adds a painterly quality that allows random expressiveness to shine.

I also took a photo of the backside of the apron before I lined it, because sometimes it is very neat to see just the raw thread marks without the distractions. As you see here, it is def. interesting. Note the light wrinkled effect above the sun portion. Even though it is hard to see where the flames were sewn (due to using a red thread as a base thread), it is the result of all the crazy flame stitching and could be the inspiration for other fabric manipulation techniques.

Not much more to say except I think he will be the hottest hot dog vendor I've ever seen, and it sure to bring happiness to those hungry party goers!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mixing florals with plaid....a great New Year's Eve combo!

I wanted to share one of my favorite new additions to my wardrobe. It has come as an afterthought so I don't have any "before" pictures of the dress before her makeover, but nonetheless I thought it would be a fun item to explore due to its boldness and flare.

As many of you know I am a queen of the discard, and I find it especially easy to take old styles and rework them into something new and glorious. This past New Year's Eve I knew I wanted a fab. dress but didn't have anything I wanted to wear...imagine ;-)!!!!

So I looked through my stockpile of items and found this broken down 1980s dress my dear friend Sarah gave me because--as she puts it-- it was so crazy, of course Joui would love it!

And she was right.

Although, I had forgotten about it because it needed its zipper replaced and was a little big, so I had put it aside until further notice.

Then came December 30th 2008 and it was the perfect solution for the problem at hand.

After fixing the imperative details, I sat around thinking of how to retrofit this garment to have the extra "Joui " touch. It is so bold, that I could and would wear it without any other changes. Somehow on that day I was inspired to go further. In homage to Vivian Westwood and her genius with plaids and formal wear I decided to pair this bright green wool plaid fabric to the dress.

But how to add the green? I considered many thoughts; applique designs, a sash belt and bow, basic trim, etc. But the one that was most appealing finally was the ruffle. I wanted a bold, stiff ruffle that could stand on its own so when I decided on the width of the ruffle, I added some fusible interfacing so that it really was sturdy. I also cut the fabric on the straight grain instead of bias to add even more strength.

I then started playing with how to place the green ruffle. I thought perhaps I would have it follow the two bust lines of the bodice, but that didn't seem right. I found that following the seam from the left of the bodice all the way down to the waist worked really well.

But then what? It still needed something else. Located on the right hip, was a very large bow sewn onto it. And although bows are totally in style, I thought it should be removed and be turned into a matching hat....hey and this was before Aretha Franklin showed off what a bow on the head can do at the inauguration!

Back to the green ruffle. By chance, I had made the ruffle long enough that by the time it reached the waist, there was about a half a foot of fabric left. I also noticed how it naturally wanted to curl around to make a spiral. So, taking it as a sign from God, I decided that a ruffle spiral at the waist was the perfect solution! However, the spiral needed something to pop out from the middle of it. I played with various other clashing fabrics, practiced making fake flowers and so on, but nothing felt right. Then I remembered these sequined flowers I had bought a year ago waiting for the right opportunity to use them....and the moment had come! The flower looked perfect as the final touch of the focal point. I was pleased!

I wore the dress out for New Years Eve and felt amazing! Not surprisingly, I got many people saying it was the best outfit they had seen all night!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Discarded to process: taking boring clothes and making them cool!

I just finished another clothing project that I am excited to share with you about. It was created for the St. Vincent De Paul's "Discard to Divine" charity auction. This fabulous event asks professional and aspiring designers to transform discarded, donated clothing into couture fashions. The pieces are auctioned off to raise funds to help the poor and homeless at their annual fashion show and auction.

I participated two years ago and loved it so much that I was eager to contribute again.

For the first step, I had Maurice (my terrific intern) go to the St. Vincent shelter to pick out whatever clothing inspired him.
For me, it added another challenge of not knowing what clothing he would chose and whether it would be something I could work with or not.

I was actually happy not to be blown away by a collection of amazing fabrics here. So when Maurice brought back some mundane items, I knew my creativity had room to blossom.
The selection was as follows: one tan blazer size 12, one sage green blazer size 12, one navy blazer size 10, one frumpy blue dress and a rainbow colored skirt.

I was especially uninspired by the blazer situation. They were so neutral and boring to me. Generally I go for much brighter things, but even the multi-colored skirt wasn't pushing my buttons. It reminded me too much of those bad 1970s crochet blankets that were so popular.

After much deliberation, and practical thinking I decided the mundane could work to my advantage and focused more on form than color to carry the piece. I went with the basic construction of the tan blazer as a base. I liked the idea of reworking its original shape.I was inspired here by Martin Margiela and the way he boldly reworks classic styles to make them cutting-edge and unexpected.

From a practical point of view, I decided that the form of the garment would be a vest. Because they almost fall into the accessory category and they are easy to add to almost any look. They are also easier to fit on different body types. And anyway, besides having fun with the project my goal was to make a fabulous piece and it be very accessible so that it sells and for good $$$$....this is a charity and in the end it is really about helping the poor.

Back to the process--the tan blazer was a size 12, so I had a lot of fabric to play with. I started pinning and tucking and folding and playing around with pleats and darts and gathers until I found a shape that appealed to me. Then I decided that it needed volume and shape around the collar. To fix this, I took the collar off of the green blazer and ruffled it and added it to the vest. Then I decided it need yet more volume and I took fabric from the frumpy blue dress and ruffled it asymmetrically around the collar as well.

I liked the navy blazer and somehow decided that it should go around the bottom of the vest, and it had the effect of smoothing and simplifying the top in a calming way.

One of my favorite details are the front pockets which I added the cuffs of the tan blazer to the pocket flaps (as seen in picture to the left) For me, it has the effect of being funky and surprising--plus--the added benefit of coordinating the top to the bottom of the vest.

Overall, the piece is stunning. Trying it on, I looked so good it was hard for me to give it up. It is the kind of item I would wear all the time. My hope is that whoever wins it feels that way too and gives it an exciting life like it deserves.