Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fresh out of the Oven! Four Reconstructed Blazer Vests....for your viewing pleasure.

In preparation for summer sales and other events, I want to show you the results of four different reconstructed blazer vests that I have just finished! (as seen in other blogs) These vests are the much anticipated follow-up from the vest created for the Discarded to Divine event.

Each of these garments also have the added benefit of being adorned by the beautiful scraps of textile artist Ana Lisa Hedstrom.

Each of them are for sale! If you are interested in seeing them live they will be at ARTWEAR this weekend at the De Young in San Francisco. Otherwise, you can contact me personally to find out pricing and other details at: joui@experiencevagadu.com.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What does it mean to be Green?

It's 2009 and sustainable green-ness is all the rage. I love it. Mostly, I'm wondering what took us so long. Not to give myself too much credit here, but I've been on this track from the very beginning with Mazura in 2007. I want to write a little here about what it means to be green in my fashion world.

There are four major areas that need to be addressed when looking at sustainability of fashion: materials, labor, transportation, quality/waste management. To make things more complex, these factors don't exist individually, but rather they all impact one another.

First category is materials. At Vagadu, we only use fabrics that are donated (second-hand), found, or purchased from a second hand source. In other words, we don't buy anything new unless totally necessary. The few areas I do sometimes have to buy new materials because I haven't found a consistent source yet are; zippers, interfacing, structural reinforcement, and thread.
That equals something like 90 percent used materials that would otherwise go to the dump or sit around in someone's closet for eternity. I love working this way because it creatively deals with a big problem in the world of overflowing landfills. Although many designers are now taking the admirable step of using recycled fabrics and organic cottons, these are still more energy intensive techniques than material reuse.

The second category is a HUGE issue and that is labor. As you know, most mid-size to large design houses use factory workers in other countries to produce their garments. This allows companies to pay low wages in order to keep their production costs down and to provide cheap clothing for us. While this system doesn't have to be detrimental and there are some very good factories out there, for the most part sweatshops are bad for people and the environment. At Vagadu, we are taking a different approach entirely. We are working to bring clothing back to the individual with one-of-a-kind pieces. So it doesn't make any more sense for me to ship to China than it did for Valentino. It wouldn't work with our fabric sources anyway, we never have more than small amount of fabrics so it takes constant care and creativity to finish each garment with the fabrics we have. All garments are currently sewn by me or my interns. However, in the future,I would like to hire in-house seamstresses to work with me to create the pieces. Then, I know that no one is being exploited or treated badly under my label. Not only that, working together with the seamstresses we can collectively reduce waste, time and energy used for creating clothing.

Third category is transportation. This area is huge, and actually applies to all of the other areas too. Because I buy or get my materials locally, construct my pieces locally, and sell them locally, there is very little carbon footprint in the transportation of these garments. Most big companies buy their fabric from India, ship it to China to be made, ship it back to the U.S. to be sold, etc. By the time you see these items they have traveled thousands of miles! That said, as Vagadu grows, I will be selling in different parts of the country and world and the transportation issue will have to be addressed. I am hoping to use the most eco-friendly transport mode when the time arrives.

Last, I look at quality which intersects with waste management. What this means is that the original quality of a garment dictates how long it stays in use or in someone's home instead of in the landfill. Unfortunately, many companies like Old Navy and Forever 21 make items that look good for a couple of washes, maybe even up to a year or so and then pretty much fall apart and then you dump them. They were cheap, so you aren't totally sad when this happens, but this is not a green way to think. These clothes were made to be disposable. The low prices that draw the customers in here are an illusion, because the clothes don't last, and the cycle is perpetuated. At Vagadu, we are taking the steps to make sure all the collections from now on are of the highest quality we can achieve. Because we want these pieces to last like your grandmother's clothing...for generations. We are encouraging people to buy less, and buy better, in the hopes of phasing out the idea of disposable clothing for good.

These are just my ideas of what constitutes a basis of green clothing and in Fashion it is still not fully agreed upon what constitutes "green". The closest thing there is would be possibly the "Fair Trade" label but this means little to small designers like myself that produce everything locally in the U.S. I am optimistic that hopefully we will have an organization like CCOF is for farmers, for fashion designers. Until then, it seems it is up to individual companies and designers to define what being sustainable means to them.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fun Hairpieces out of Recycled Materials!

This week I am showcasing another fun inspiration from one of the interns, Jessie. Pictured here are some hair pieces she recently made for her sister's wedding.

I find many things about these pieces inspiring....
One, because they are a fun way to dress up the hair without being too fussy. Second, they could be made from things readily available around the home or from items that could be purchased easily.

You could make these so easily in fact, I decided to explain step-by-step how I would make them (and out of reclaimed items of course!).

1: First lets look at the netting in the photograph above. You could obviously go to a store and buy it, but why buy it when you can get it for free! Buying fruit is the best way to come across an assortment of netting in various colors. Oranges, avacados, garlic, or other items bought at Trader Joe's will do the job. Once you have your netting just cut a piece of it to the size desired and now you have your veil!

2: Second find some scrap fabric around the house, or ask a friend (you will be surprised how many people have little sewing collections full of scraps) or go to a place like SCRAP in San Francisco where they have tons of fabric remnants that are for dollars if not pennies depending on how much you get.
Once you have your scrap fabric piece experiment pinning it into various shapes. Once you find the shape you like, pin it to the netting piece and sew a sturdy row of tightly formed stitches so that everything is connected.

3: Third it's all in the little detail. Find something fun to throw into the middle of the piece. In the photo here it looks like a feather was used, but you could put a beautiful button, a fake flower, a dollop of acrylic paint, a decorative bead, whatever. Whatever detail you choose can attach it with thread or a hot glue gun.

4: Last, you need a way to attach it to your hair. Most people have bobby pins around, or you could use a hair comb, a headband or clip. Depending on what you fastener you choose experiment with either sewing the hairpiece onto it or using a hot glue gun. Then...Voila! You have a fun hair piece made by you!

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Rope: An exciting new way to use it!

On VAGADU I like to take time to showcase interesting and creative work by the people who collaborate with me. This week my intern Sarah is on the spotlight.

Sarah is attending SF State, and for one of her classes they asked the students to create a garment out of non-traditional materials. Last year, my intern Megan--who also took the class--created a dress out of deflated bike tires. Other than the constant smell of rubber, it was a fun idea that really pushed her and the other students to think outside the box.

For Sarah, rope was the material of choice and as you can see from this picture here, and she sure knew how to manipulate it.

She isn't sharing all secrets on how to make this beauty, but I will tell you that she completely stitched the dress together by hand. I know she isn't lying because she came to the studio for weeks with raw fingertips! Note: Don't kill your fingers! When sewing with rope use thimbles!

I love this idea because I think we all could find or discover rope in our garage, at our parents house or wherever. It can be cheap, and is durable. If I had made this dress I might have hot glue gunned it, (depending on what it was for) just to save time, but ideally, thread is the couture way to do it.