Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Project Runway All-Stars - Episode 6

Here is the episode 6 coverage, but I have to admit I'm losing interest.  I object to several of the original choices in the All-Stars cast - perhaps more deserving designers said no - so the premise from the start has been flawed.  As well, the challenges have many times not been designed to really show a designers skill, so who has been sent home was a real crap shoot.  I want to warn you, the designer who goes home today should have been in the final based on his skill.  The fact he was sent home this early in the competition - before even Kara - is a sign that something is flawed in this competition.  Nevertheless, here is my take on it all.

This week the inspiration was the seasons and some very short sighted exec decided it would be a face to face challenge.  Each duo would have a winner and loser and the one sent home would be from the losers.  That is sort of like putting the top seeds together early in the tournament while letting the bottom seeds to battle each other - totally flawed.  Still, one would assume the judges would look at their body of work and talent in the final choice.  This week's show is at the top of my list of times I disagreed with the judges.

First - with no comment on who did what or the season I want you to pick a winner and a loser over all. Don't look at the caption noting designer or winner.  Just give it a quick scan and decide what do you think is appealing or what would you wear?  Which is top and which the bottom?  I think that's the best start.

Winter - Jerrell (Winner) vs. Michael
Summer - Kenley (winner) vs. Mondo

Spring - Austin vs. Kara (Winner)
Autumn - Mila (winner) vs. Rami

Now for the shocker.  The blue outfit in the bottom right photo went home.  Yup.  And guess what - it's Rami who has to be one of the top talents on this show all together.  Not only did I think he won the face-off with a much more original offering (and I like Mila a lot, so a real statement), I definitely did not think he in any way shape or form should was the bottom of the pack.  Of all the designs here, there were only a couple I liked and his was one. Overall my favourite was probably Jerrell's.  He ended up the winner and deservedly so. 

For the TV drama this week they had Michael and Jerrell. I like Michael but I think he was in the wrong this time.  He started with a totally different concept while Jerrell developed an over-size jacket.  Jerrell's jacket was 3/4 finished when Michael decided to can his original design and create an oversized jacket.  Absolutely not the same and it was appropriate for Winter, but the chain of events spoke for itself.  If he had started on this oversize jacket from the start, no one would have blinked an eye.  I'm very glad Jerrell won.

I don't know what to say about this competition.  There are several designers I love here, Rami, Mondo and Mila in particular.  So far they sent one of the 3 home. I actually know what episode 7 holds and again disagree with the outcome.  Add in the model host who is a lovely person, but has a terribly boring speaking voice and delivery and I wonder if this will ever go to a 2nd season.  And I am not alone.  If you check out other blogs there is an incredible dissatisfaction with this show over all.  Unfortunate as I love the concept of Project Runway and have been a loyal fan from season one.

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Designers to Watch Part Five - Abol

Courtesy of Montreal Fashion Week
There are always new stars on the fashion scene, so I had to change the label of this series.  I will add new articles to it as I see others.  I have been holding off writing on Abol as she always seemed to have something new and exciting coming up - each deserved its own moment in the spotlight - but today is the day.  The difficulty here will be what to share as we just released a full article in Fame'd Magazine in February 2012 - Bringing Art to Fashion - so I want to offer something with hopefully a different angle.

Photo by Ramses Radi
One of the privileges of being able to attend shows at local fashion weeks is the chance to be surprised by new designers you have never heard of.  Some are established, others are brand new on the scene.  At Eco Fashion Week in October 2012, I was delighted to see the first collection by Hamideh Abol.  Shown under the original Shefelt label, it was wearable textile art at it's best.   Wool felting done by hand was combined with soft, sheer chiffons and thoughtfully tinted with natural dyes.  I particularly loved the garments I label hard and soft.   They had the structured, textural wool felting balanced against yards of chiffon that floated gracefully as models walked the runway.  It was magical - like a fairy in the forest.  There were also several dresses constructed with more focus on the beautiful, textural felting that also took my breath away such as the one on the right.  It was unexpected, and when I'm watching 4-5 shows a day that's always good.  I tucked her name into my files.

While I personally love this direction in clothing, the final decision on who is featured in Fame'd is not mine and in general the magazine has rarely covered textile artists. Would it get approved if submitted?  Would someone want to shoot it?  I didn't know.  Getting the media's attention sometimes takes a special touch and this is another example on how a designer handled it effectively.  Abol emailed a short time after the show asking for feedback in several areas.  I was both impressed and charmed.  It began a chain of events that lead to the artist being featured in Fame'd.  There is no one path to follow, and it always involves a little luck, but catching someone's attention in an effective way is always the first step.  You also have to be ready for the attention - i's dotted, t's crossed, collection polished and edited to a professional level.  Abol was ready.

EFW - Photos by Peter Jensen Photography

Next I find that Abol is off to Montreal Fashion Week.  I was intrigued, and as luck would have it, was attending this season for the first time.  Then the draft of her article came in for editing and it filled in the blanks.  She always loved the arts and had been exposed through fellow students at Emily Carr to wool felting.  The designer just recently chose to walk away from her "other" career and a steady paycheck to focus on art - a passion that could no longer be denied.  When you add it all up all the small steps along the way you find examples of strength, courage, focus, drive and commitment.  Artists need each of those traits to succeed and Abol seems to have them all.  I was proud to be there in the front row in Montreal to see this show.  It was the only offering from a designer outside of Quebec except for the students in the Telio Design Competition and she did Vancouver proud.  Abol sprinted down the runway in sheer excitement at the end of her show.  If she could have flown, she would have.

MFW - Photos by Peter Jensen Photography
The challenge for this talented artist now is how to tame this whirlwind of attention into a steady and focused breeze that will move her further along.  Textile artists who produce unique and amazing one-of-a-kind pieces can have a larger challenge.  You need a clientele that truly understands they are wearing art to support your direction.  I personally wish Hamideh Abol great success and look forward to watching her evolve as an artist. This is only the beginning.

Photo by Ramses Radi
For more information on Abol go to www.AbolDesign.com.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

It's Okay Not to Change

I must be in a self-examination mode.  Lately I find hints of life lessons in everything I do and it is definitely carrying over to this blog.  One book I keep picking up and putting down is a very old one by Sidney Poitier.  He wrote a standard biography at one point in his career, but wanted to share more.  This one - The Measure of a Man - is not to be confused with the recent first offering by Vancouver writer J.J. Lee also called The Measure of a Man.

Poitier has subtitled this second book his spiritual autobiography.  I can only read it in small doses as it sounds like he dictated his thoughts and they were transcribed as is, but there are many treasures to be found.  It also gives a peek into the history of black actors in America and I find any social history eye-opening.

What stood out today as I was reading was his discussion of what he felt To Sir With Love was all about.  Every movie and play Poitier did held some deeper meaning for him and To Sir With Love was no exception.  Here is the excerpt of the passage that made me put down the book today and write:  "He also taught about self-respect, dignity, integrity and honesty, using their own lives as examples...but he also showed them that they were still the same people that they had been - only better.  You don't have to become something you're not to be better than you were." What's hard now is sharing why this had such a great impact on me without giving a long and rambling biography.  What is most important to share?

I grew up the daughter of a minister who didn't fit it.  Religion never called me and I had trouble being the shining example expected. There was also an intensity in me that was hard to control - I was difficult, couldn't sit still in church, was stubborn as a goat and just as strong-willed. I would be drawn down a new path with the whole of my being, but to finish anything was akin to torture. So this beautiful blond girl turned out to garner a lot of criticism for her parents and although they did their best - they truly cared about me - it was a very difficult situation for them. When my own kids were in elementary school, I began to realize there was a strong possibility I was ADD - not enough to cause trouble in school, but definitely a problem in daily life.

Feeling pretty much unacceptable, I graduated from high school a year early and left to study Psychology.  I was drawn to other's problems and seemed to have a set of emotional antennas that was always honed in on the people around me. The choice of studies turned out apt in one way.  It really helped me look at my issues - both personal and with my family - and at least understand the view I had of myself. It was the wrong choice in other ways.  It was partway through my Master's work that a professor helped me see I also needed the ability to let go of the client's problems each and every day or they would eat me up. It was in many ways a very negative field with only a 5% success rate. My professor shared 2 of his clients had committed suicide that year alone. I didn't think I could shed the negativity, so walked away.

In my 30's I found myself married, living in a new country and staying home with 3 kids. This is definitely not the way to deal with personal issues. If you thought you didn't feel confident before, try raising kids.  Having a family was important to me, but bullying in particular broke my heart. While all 3 suffered to some degree, my oldest was a serious target and there was no easy solution. There were many days spent crying in frustration and sleepless nights. No way around it - you do blame yourself.  IF ONLY...  We also had the first kids on both sides, so well-meaning family was always trying to "help". Every little kid moment was a possible flaw and the familial pressure was overwhelming at times. Sewing costumes at home seemed to be a good choice as I could be there for my kids and help with finances, but my inability to sustain momentum through a project caused a great deal of stress. For 5 years I struggled as I knew it was important, but eventually had to find a more peaceful road to travel.

So time to move on. That's the background. Several avenues unfortunately fed what I was struggling with instead of nurturing where I could excel. Interviewing and writing has been an eye opener for me. The very first interview I was privileged to be a part with producer/artist Denise Brillon or Artifaax was a 2 hour marathon that produced 12 typewritten pages of notes. I distinctly remember walking out the door with goosebumps realizing my passion for people and their journeys could have a positive bent. That same signal-receiving radar that wrecked havoc by always picking up the vibes around me could have a positive side.  It was an asset that could be honed to help me really hear what people were trying to tell. The very immediate time between interview and article took advantage of the sheer drive I have at the start of a project. Wow - negatives could become positives.  What a thought!

Since that day I have begun to change how I feel about short comings. Perhaps they are negatives because the right outlet has not been found.  I am trying to put them in a box where they don't belong. It's caused me to re-evaluate many things in my life. As much as I wish I was overall a more confident person with an innate political sense and a better censor on my mouth - I tend to say exactly what I think - perhaps it's fine to be just this person. Each of those traits that can have a negative connotation can also provide much needed skills in other areas. I just need to find where those skills have the chance to blossom, not try to stuff myself into a role that is a poor fit. They make me who I am and perhaps it's time to say that's okay.

I would never suggest that change is not good, just that change should take who we are and hone what is there, not lead us to try and become a different person. That is someone else's path. The road we travel should nurture who we are and despite it's ups and downs - bring us joy. I suspect for me it will be a life long journey. Putting aside those childhood messages is still very hard. That said, I've finally let go of that image I learned as a child of who my parents needed me to be and have learned to resist pressures from the outside world that tries to mold me into what they feel is acceptable. Never easy, but a fight worth having.

Here I am flawed and oh so human, with strengths and weaknesses that can both be assets in the right situation. Some will like me, some won't.  It's just life.   Time to chose to celebrate this person.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Just for the Hell of It - Scenario!

And now for something completely different!

Keeping the gears oiled as a writer is always a challenge.  The longer you do it, the more you tend to fall into patterns.  So for today, I checked several word-of-the-day sites to find one word to base a column on.  Just a way to pull me away from the norm, to step out of the box.  It took awhile to select one because many had very negative connotations and that is not the spirit of what I want to bring to my writing.  Finally one stood out.

Scenario -
1.an outline or synopsis of a play (or, by extension, of a literary work)
2. a setting for a work of art or literature
3. a postulated sequence of possible events

Image by Frya Saraci
What I love about this word is that it offers empowerment if applied to your life.  You can chose your outline; you can chose your setting;  you can chose the sequence of events; you can paint your own canvas.  While there are many things that happen we do not have any control over, ultimately there are hundreds of choices we make without thinking each day that affect the life we lead. The scenario I seem to live by is a shift every 4 -5 years in where I spend my time.  I do not know if it is my attention span as I am a bit ADHD or genetic, but it's been that way for as long as I can remember.  In addition to work changes, I have danced and performed, created custom dance costumes, taught myself to write and edit for magazines and more.  The pressure is building as I write this as I have been in my current position for 4-1/2 years.  The world is calling, where will it take me.

Writing and interviewing has changed me.  I have learned it is a passion that cannot be denied.  So to walk away as editor from 2 magazines takes away my ready outlet for publication.  It's time to consider other scenarios where I can be prolific as writer, but continue to learn and grow.  A full book is in the cards I think, certainly discussions have begun with a few people.  As well, I have purchased everything I need to self-publish, but need time studying how to use the program professionally if I am to truly do a good job of it.  This blog has been a great outlet, but it's time to take it to the next level.  What will that level be.

I also think it's time for some side interests to get me away from the computer.  I can get lost writing on it for hours and the body and mind need more to stay fresh.  As I paint the scenario for the next few years in my mind, what do I see.  Likely possibilities are a return to dance classes in some form.  Whether this is alone or in partnership with my significant other is not clear yet.  I burnt out sewing dance costumes, but the machines are still there.  Can I find a way to explore this creative outlet that is satisfying?  It's time to find out. If not, I need to let go of the fabric and machines that are taking up space and make room for a new interest.  I took piano lessons for years and have a beautiful old upright grand in my living room sitting idle.  It gives me joy just to look at it, but perhaps it's time to welcome it back into my life by playing it occasionally.  And last but not least - one of my Facebook friends has been taking drawing classes.  I am intrigued.  Is there enough interest there, I'm not sure yet.  But the idea is floating around waiting for a decision.

While this is a light column I sat down with just to stir the creative juices before I begin the articles I need to put my mind to, I hope it gives some food for thought to each of you.  One interesting book I am perusing off and on is called The Happiness Project.  I think the writer gets a bit obsessive about the whole thing, but there is a great premise put forward.  It encourages one to evaluate how we would define happiness and set baby steps to move in that direction.

Enjoy your day.  Spend a few moments looking at the scenario you have painted for yourself and see if there are adjustments to be made.  OR perhaps it's time to throw away this canvas and start with a blank one.  Sometimes it's time for a whole new direction.  Be fearless!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Project Runway All-Stars - Episode 5

This week had what I felt was yet another dumb challenge that didn't give a chance for the designers to show off what they could really do.  There have been a lot or weird challenges over the course of Project Runway that I felt drove the designers to step out of the box, but others put on limits for the sake of limits. Some non-designing exec designed it would make for good TV.  This was one such challenge.

Project Runway All Stars has had several serious misses in this area.  If you want to bring back established designers, you need to give them more challenges that will propel their careers.  When I looked at the cast of this season, there were at least 5 designers I thought could have been better chosen.  Given some of the challenges like this, I suspect those designers, if they were even asked, made the right decision not to be involved.  As well, the host is a truly lovely person but doesn't have much camera pizzazz - not her look, the way she comes across when speaking.  That's something you have or don't and is not a criticism of her as an individual.

The designers were given $150 and let loose in the park to find a muse.  The trick?  You had to get the clothes off their back.  50% of the final outfit had to be from the clothes you were given and the other 50% would come from that purchased at Moods. If you could get the person to donate the items, or if you could strike a cheap deal, you had more money to spend later.  The limiting factor in my mind is you couldn't really pick and chose a muse or what inspired you.  The outcome was shackled by the fact it had to be someone who wanted to give you their clothes.  This challenge might have made for great TV to a general uninformed audience, but wasn't designed to showcase the designer's best work.

Top design for the judges was Mondo - Anthony was sent home.  Some of the outfits were okay, but few inspired me and I suspect the designers in general were not excited about this challenge or their final garments.  I didn't enjoy this week's episode over all, but  here they are from top to bottom in my personal opinion which has nothing to do with the judges take on the outcome.

I would have placed Rami (left),  Mila (centre) and Austin (right) in the top 3.  Overall Rami was my hands down winner. I love the print he used to trim the ruffle on the blouse and felt overall the construction, proportion and design was as strong as it could be given the limitations.  Mila also pulled off an garment that was true to her style despite it all, so kudos. Austin (right) stepped out of the box as a designer to produce a final product I wouldn't have known was his and as always, he has great proportions and finish work.

Middle of the pack garments for me include Mondo (left), Anthony (centre) and Kenley (right).  As you can see, I am at odds with the judges as I have both the winner and the person sent home here.  I love Mondo and always appreciate his work, but just am not taken by this offering.  However, it is totally his aesthetic.  Anthony is such a great presence on the show, I am sorry to see him leave. His design was not inspired, but I don't think it's the worst.  That said, I am not sure he had 50% of the garment made up from the clothes he collected, so that might have been the deciding factor.  Kenley always has great fit to her work and has matured as a designer.  I was glad to see her get away from polka-dots and that 50's silhouette she continues to produce.  Nice to see her do a slim shape in a different print.

Bottom of the pack this week for me all get the label, "What Were They Thinking."  I cannot help but love Jerrell (left) as I love anything ethnic inspired. There were several elements here with possibilities, but overall it didn't come together.  Michael (centre) is also hard not to be drawn as a person.  Just so heart-on-his sleeve.  As I listened to him talk during the construction process I felt myself drawn into the concept, but when it appeared on the runway I knew it didn't fly.  In particular the top does not have the right structure - it falls down and wrinkles under the right breast - and the shorts were a bit too much like underwear.  Kara (right) is again a lovely person, but I think has dropped the ball many times.  She would have gone home if I had been a judge.  She is a solid designer in some ways, but not an inspired or innovative designer.  Week after week she has floated in the middle ground, a sign that perhaps this is not the show for her aesthetic.

The episode 6 review will go up in just a couple of days, but I am going to warn you that one very deserving designer goes home.  Where this show will end up I do not know, but overall I am not impressed with the focus of the challenges and who is left behind as very talented artists are cut.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Semaine de mode de Montréal/Montreal Fashion Week F/W '12 - Behind the Scenes

I have been looking forward to writing this all week.  Semaine de mode de Montréal/Montreal Fashion Week F/W '12  was a real eye opener for me.  Vancouver has a huge pool of talented designers, but the backing for a fashion week is very limited, especially in financial sponsorship.  This was my chance to view one that enjoyed a much larger support from both business and the fashion community at large.

First I want to mention Josiane Betit and Sophie Des Marais from MFW Press who held my hand and guided me expertly through the week with a smile on their face.  I couldn't have asked for more.  Now to the event. When I arrived on Monday at 5 to check in, imagine my surprise to be in a line 25 deep of media registering for that first night.  That line continued on well after the first runway show was finished.  I also did a rough estimate on seats and came up with an approximate figure of 450.  In addition there were general admission viewers standing during each show - a rough guess would be between 50 and 200 depending on the designer.  So the sheer numbers that needed to check in, get tickets, line up and move in and out every hour were overwhelming.  Somehow all involved managed to achieve this throughout the week with great patience and each time the process sped up just that little bit.  I loved that fact that all seats were numbered.  This solved the problem of racing in to get the best seat.  I walked in holding tickets, assured of my placement.  Every show I also saw Josiane and Sophie moving through the crowd dealing with any small issue that arose.

Josiane Betit & Sophie Des Marais 
The runway and seating

I was also impressed with the way Montreal Fashion Week handled media.  We had our own room to relax in between shows away from the noise of the large lounge.  In it were 2 internet stations, one with 5-6 laptops available for general use and another table with power bar underneath for those who brought their own.  Wi-Fi was in effect for both.  There was a seating area to relax in and a table with bottled water and a complimentary espresso machine available.  As well, for those of us camping out through all shows, they offered food packaged uniquely in a white cake box that included a sandwich or wrap, at least 2 salads, a fruit/cheese/cracker cup and a dessert.  As many of the businesses were closed early in the week, it was a life saver.  I was also the beneficiary of a few free drink coupons which were turned in for my favourite - sparkling wine. Total decadence!  I love bubbly.

For those who loved the party atmosphere, there was a very large club-style lounge with tunes spun by a live DJ.  Standard stations to visit each night were a place to you your make-up done and a photo wall for professional pics.  There were also changing displays such as the stretch denim clinic by Second Clothing with acrobats showing off the true flexibility of these comfortable Yoga Jeans.  Another night there was an amazing French Macaroon display.  I had been reading about these decadents treats everywhere to happily gave a couple flavours a try.  It was worth it - they were delicious.  In  a black curtained hallway connecting the media room to the lounge there was a great display of art from fashion illustrators around the world.  Of course there was the bar staffed by 3 very friendly men who easily kept up with the strong demand for wine, beer, bubbly and cocktails for the thirsty crowd.

How the volunteers kept up their spirits dealing with the large crowd, I do not know.  All tickets had assigned seats, but there was always someone who tried to bluff their way into a seat they didn't belong in.  No problem - it was dealt with quickly and efficiently.  Several volunteers also had the back breaking job of rolling up the plastic protecting the runway before each show and rolling it back out after  the show was over.  Rolling it up was never a problem as we were all in out seats, but after the show many times impatient ticket holders wouldn't sit for the extra couple of minutes. I never once saw one of the volunteers lose their patience with anyone.  They just did the best they could and continued on.  I cannot say enough good things about these volunteers as each and everyone had a smile and a kind word for me.

Francois-Charles Desbiens
Designer Stessy Chenai

A back-breaking job

2 Cuties on the runway

The shows were amazing overall.  It's not possible to love the design aesthetic in every show. Taste is very personal. It's human nature to love some and not others. As well, some shows presented marketable collections which don't have the same impact.  So when I attend weeks like this, what I want is for there to be variety.  The current show I am watching needs to differ from the last in some way and I need a few of them to down right surprise me either in presentation, construction or ?????????  Montreal Fashion Week managed that easily.  There were very artistic and edgy shows contrasted with more wearable lines.  Straight runway shows were alternated with exhibitions and others used unique formats  While the last show featuring 3 designers was presented in a way that made it difficult to view the individual garments at times, it closed the week with a bang as the unusual presentation and atmosphere that took us all by surprise.  Kudos!  The perfect way to close a successful fashion week.

There was a media wall set up as you exited the runway area on the left for taped interviews with a variety of those involved in fashion week from local media to those working the shows.  This gave a chance to not only catch those they wanted to interview on the way out of the show while their thoughts were fresh, but  it let us all get a glimpse of the process and stop to hear a bit of the interview if we were interested.  As well, there was an Designer's lounge on a small stage in the corner of the lounge.  I think this probably worked well for those who wanted to tape a video interview after the show, or for those who knew the designer to catch their eye and say congrats, but as it was in the main lounge, the music was a bit loud for writers as our interview process is a little more intimate.

Now for the negatives.  I don't care how amazing an event is, there is always something.  For those who know me you know what's coming.  The sound level in the main club-style lounge and during several of the fashion shows was absolutely too loud. It was uncomfortable, made networking difficult and I heard some complain they had problems with ringing ears afterwards.  I am fortunate that I invested in a pair of custom ear plugs with vents a while back so I can hear those I talk to and yet not be bothered by the noise level, but it is still more comfortable not to have to wear them.  The high noise level is a strong trend now that I keep hoping will eventually pass, but it mostly likely will not not any time soon.  Anyway, there it is - I've said it for all those who commented to me, but not the organizers.  If more people would speak up, perhaps the change would come a bit sooner.

Other than that, the only concerns that arose were outside of the ability of Montreal Fashion Week to control.  One silly inconvenience was that the only 2 mirrors in the women's bathroom where women seemed to flock to primp were right over the only 2 sinks available to wash our hands. Obviously designed by a man. Sorry, I forgot to get a picture of this. As well, there was an ice slick on the sidewalk out front that was hazardous, but again, that was the responsibility of the Bonsecours.  Locals seemed to have no problem, it was just the out-of-towners who struggled to navigate it. It also took a few days to get a feel for crossing those cobblestone streets.  Overall, I thought the Bonsecours was an amazing location to hold fashion week at.  The large spaces provided a layout that worked extremely well and I love perusing the boutiques on the main floor the days I was there early.

Would I go again?  Absolutely!  I enjoyed myself immensely, was treated extremely well and felt given the sheer numbers attending, they did their absolute best to make it work.  Again, kudos to all involved and thanks for making my week so enjoyable.  Hopefully I make it again next season.

Note -  Want to see videos of individual shows?  You'll find the links on the SMMTV page at - http://montrealfashionweek.ca/smmtv/index.php?lang=en.