Monday, April 14, 2014

Past 18 months


It’s been quite a while since I’ve written on here but a lot has happened since last fall and I wanted to type it all out.  This is gonna be a longggg post…

The first thing is that I’ve advanced a lot in my understanding of craftsmanship, fit and construction since I made my “bespoke sweatshirt” haha.  That actualy sounds funny to me.  Bespoke sweatshirt.  Soon after I wrote that post I began constructing my first full canvas sportcoat.  Now when I was at FIT, we also did this but I had no idea what I was doing.  Here's a throwback to the night before it was due:

Couldn't even pull a proper all-nighter.  What a baby.

On my jacket, I got a B-.  When I showed Mike the jacket I made for school, he asked me, dead serious, how I passed the class haha. Anyway, so the fabric I used was this really loose hopsack wool.  I forgot what an absolute hassle loose weaves can be in that the edges fray like crazy.  On the bright side though, the looseness also allows the fabric to be molded (a euphemism for stretched or shrunk) to a very high degree.  Some of may favorite parts of the jacket took full advantage of this as you’ll see…

The first was in constructing the barchetta breast pocket.  Barchetta means “little boat” in Italian and the shape of it mimics those gondola boats you see in Venice.  


It’s one of my favorite details in tailoring mainly because it’s so subtle but elegant.  Anyway, the way that I constructed it was in a single folded piece.  If you want to see why this is such a difficult thing to execute, take a piece of paper, fold it in half and start to curve the folded edge.  You’ll see that transfers a big bubble of fullness into the middle.


A big, gaping pocket doesn’t necessarily say fine, Italian elegance.  So the way this is smoothed flat it through some water and an iron to shrink away the extra fabric in the middle.  This type of pocket can be done in other ways but this is the traditional, old school way to do it.


Another aspect of the jacket that I molded was the facing of the lapel.  Quite frankly, it wasn’t necessary but I wanted to try the technique.  So if you’re familiar with tailoring, you know the lapel almost always has a slight curve.  This can be noted by looking how in almost all striped jackets, the stripes eventually fade into the seam instead of being parallel throughout the whole thing.  This is super nit-picky stuff if you can’t tell…   Anyway, in one of the tailoring books I was following, it talks about cutting the facing straight and shrinking it to match the curve of the jacket front.  Now I didn’t consider the fact that when I drafted that jacket pattern I was going to be trying this so I found myself in the predicament of having to shrink away an astronomical amount of fabric (1 ¼” to be exact) in order to everything fit together.

A ton of work for something no one notices.  Eh, chalk it up as a learning experience.
Finally the last detail to take advantage of the fabrics properties was to give the jacket a roped shoulder, or spalla con rollina as the Italians call it.  In a nut shell, you cut the sleeve significantly bigger than the armhole and smooth in the extra fabric at certain points making it look puffy or like there’s a rope inside of it.  The loose weave really helped with easing the extra 2 ½” of fabric into the top of the armhole.


So the jacket came out quite nice when it was all said and done.  Mike and I nitpicked some things about it in regards to the fit but as far as the construction of it, it came out quite nicely.


We celebrated the day I put the finishing touches on it with a little pizza and some champagne.  Good times...


I think now would be a great time to introduce the living legend that is... Aunt Cornada.  

Cornada is the seamstress at the tailor shop.  She's in her mid-70's and has been fitting and sewing since when she was a little girl in Italy.  She has one of the thickest Italian accent I've ever heard in my life and I frequently would be hopelessly lost as she would slip in and out of speaking Italian and heavily-accented English when explaining things.  Regardless, we still managed to have a great rapport with one another and she always gave me a kiss on the cheek when she left for the day.  The best stories I have about her involve food.  Whenever she had food to share, she didn't ask if you wanted any.  She told you to eat it.  Many mornings around 10 a.m. a big baggie of unsalted popcorn would appear on the table next to her machine.

"Josh...  (points to bag) Jew eata the poppacorn."

She also would bring in homemade wine from time to time.  You could tell it was homemade because the flavor would get less and less sweet as the week went on.  Anyway, one day I was asking her about how she made it.  She said she and her husband Alfredo would make huge batches of 300 gallons.  She said it was "for company."


"Oh, I didn't know you had a wine business..." I replied, thinking she in her broken English, she neglected a pronoun.

However, she corrected me, insisting it was "for company," as in friends and family.  So just imagine this sweet, old couple making several bath tubs full of wine.  Hilarious.

So after I finished this, I was able to help out again with the work that was piling up since I'd been devoting time that the sportcoat.  After about two months though, I'd decided I needed to push my limits again and create another jacket but this time, I really tried to innovate.

I've always been excited by a spirit of irreverence but in a certain way.  With few exceptions, I think the idea of defacing or vandalizing things is no good.  But I've always liked when it's clear someone is skilled and exercises that in a non-traditional way.  My favorite artist right now is Cesar Santos.  He's got the technical skills of a Michelangelo but is exercising them in a way I love.


I wanted to do something with the same spirit, along the lines of "you have to know the rules to break them."  Through a lot of research and experimentation, I arrived at the idea of making a traditional, mohair tuxedo jacket but with totally shredded lapels.


Once I'd weeded down the concept, it was time to think about how to actually make something like that.  To be perfectly honest, because I decided to construct it at pretty much the pinnacle of quality standards, the only "easy part" in making this thing was cutting the damn pieces.


Everything on the jacket was from scratch and hand-made.  Well not everything.  Of course the jacket itself was put together by machine stitches.  I respect tradition but there's no reason to go back to pre-electricity days of yonder.  However, even with the machine stitches, there was an extreme attention to detail.  For example, none of the seams had any backstitching to avoid the bulk.  To secure the seams, the stitches per inch was simply turned up super high and stitched for the distance of the seam allowance and then turned back to normal.  If you don't follow, here's an example:


Putting the jacket itself together wasn't anything new per se, though it was my first time making a jacket with stripes.  As expected, the shredded lapel was the head-scratcher.  So the way I did it was to make a double-layered facing piece of jacket fabric and lining and then to pull the warp yarns out along the roll line.  After I got it prepared to be sewn to the jacket front, I had a little panic attack when I realized the stitching I was counting on to hold the frayed yarns in place, didn't.  Literally, if I blew really hard at the fabric, everything would fly out of place and be in disarray.  



But then I started to think about HOW I could make this work, rather than thinking IF it could work.  I looked at the canvas on the front piece and took note of the tape around the perimeter of the jacket.  It made me realize I could stabilize the facing by putting an interfacing strip on the right side and sew right next to it.  I must say, I was quite proud of myself that day :)


There's a few other key details but instead of explaining them, I'll let them speak for themselves...




Now the completion of this jacket coincided with the completion of my time at Mike Trotta Tailors.  Basically, Mike took me out to lunch one day and told me he was "pushing me out of the nest."  More or less, he thought my skill level had advanced to the point where for me to stay there longer might have started to become repetitive and for what I wanted to do, might have inhibited my growth.  There were some things that I was hoping to have happen as far as plans for the future but nothing certain, only wishes.


I had been planning to spend two months over the summer studying in Europe at Central Saint Martins in London and Institut Fran├žais de la Mode in Paris.  I had to scramble to finish the jacket before I flew out and got to the point where the only thing left was hand-sewing, which I could complete anywhere so I was fine with that.

The flight across the pond was quite lovely.  Did I mention I got upgraded to business class on the flight over??  When I arrived, there was the whole jet lag situation to deal with but I was so excited, I just got an espresso and called it good.


Lacking a phone, Facebook actually became a necessary communication tool, not just a way to incinerate time while bored.  When I got there, I only knew one person, Edwin, a friend from FIT that's in the Fashion Design program at CSM.  He let me crash over at his place for the night when I got in...  Later that day, we met his boyfriend Liam for pizza over in Tufnell Park.  

That day, I feel in love with cider!

Later on, we got some tea and split some kind of bland looking pastry and had quite the wide range of conversation, ranging from stereotypes of fashion kids over there to what it was like to come out as gay to their friends and family.  Afterwards, we all went to the local corner store for some cans (beer) to get pissed (drunk).  Oh and you can just walk around with an open container in England like it's soda.  The beer there is so much more flavorful, even the cheap stuff.  So they led the way to some park where we drank beer, looked at the sunset over the city and watched some guy flying some kind of stunt kite, making it do all kinds of mid-air acrobatics.  Was pretty dope.

Later that weekend, I met up with a guy named Tibor I connected with literally through sending a random email to him praising his work and asking him to lunch when I was over there for the summer.  So I met him at a members-only bar built in 1732 called Blacks.


When I met him, he seemed like a really mellow, good natured guy.  He also was one of the only people I'd ever met that knew an incredible amount of both tailoring and design, as he was a past winner of a tailoring award called the Golden Shears and had also consulted for Alexander McQueen a few seasons and taught at the Royal College of Art.  As I sipped my cider, I was so happy I still had the shredded lapel jacket in my possession because he was someone that would appreciate all the painstaking attention to detail that went into it and hopefully be impressed.  Anyway, it was a good time.

So once I settled into my new pad, I started to get pretty excited for my first course, Couture Tailoring.  
What was it going to be like?  Were the other students going to know more than me?  What's the teacher's background? 

The first day of class I got to school an hour early and had a breakfast outside of espresso and spicy sausage.  The weather was amazing, kids giggled in the background while playing in the fountains in front of the school, while I read in my aviator sunglasses a book that had different artist's perspectives on what makes great art.  That hour was like a fucking movie.


Then I got my bill... L O L.  After the exchange rate, I think it came out to be a $16 breakfast.  Whateverrrr...

As people started filtering in for the start of the summer course check in, I made my way over too.
The first day was mellow.  I think we all got patterns for the jacket we were going to be making and our tutor had us all do a quick personal assessment to make sure everyone had an idea as to how to sew.  I stayed past the end of class that day and every other day that week putting the finishing touches on the tuxedo jacket I was making.  I was trying to get it in the mail ASAP to send to someone that I'd previously worked for in New York as a gift.  We happen to have about the same size so I was able to use myself as a fit model.


I got home that night, putzed around and went to bed.

I woke up at noon the next day.  Whoops!

So I jetted out of my flat and hopped on the tube to get to class.  I got there around the lunch break, no harm done.  At this point, I was realizing I was actually really advanced in my knowledge and a lot of the class might be repetitive.  We were making a women's jacket, which I hadn't done before but quite honestly, it's mostly the same.  So I just sort of did the work for the course and played teacher's assistant, helping out anyone that was struggling.  


At the beginning of the next week, I finally dropped the jacket off in the mail.  Things went along pretty well and I was really feeling in the groove in London.

Unfortunately, that weekend wasn't a good one.  At all.  My girlfriend of almost six years and I decided to end our relationship.  This coupled with the fact that I had pretty much no support structure, nor even any roommates, left me feeling the most isolated I've ever felt in my life.  I kind of hesitate in sharing that but it is what it is.

The next week more or less was... okay...  I kept my mind active by pushing myself in class and asking my tutor about more advanced stuff.  She finally took me up to the Masters floor to chat with one of her old students who was studying Bespoke Tailoring at LCF and was taking the Innovative Approaches to Pattern Cutting course.  I hung around there for a little bit and got jealous ha.  He ended up introducing me to a classmate of his Jenine, who kind of took me under her wing and showed me around town.  She used to be a fashion teacher in California.  I think some of her natural instincts came out in helping the fellow American who had a lot of curiosity about the city with little knowledge.  I helped model some clothes for concepts she was working on and she kind of acted as a bit of a fashion design tour guide, showing me how the library at CSM works, taking me to different craft markets and showing me where the fabric stores were.

The second week of the class wrapped up with a short tutorial on how to sew a buttonhole by hand.  To sew a buttonhole by hand requires a great amount of patience, practice and consistency.  So the idea of having a crash course like this, was kind of an inevitability of the course.  You can't teach tailoring in  14 days, no matter what you do.  Overall though, it was a great experience that I did take a lot from...


Unfortunately, while I could now put "Central Saint Martins" on my resume, my mind or talent level really hadn't been expanded an incredible amount.  

"Well, I've got two weeks to do my research for the next course.  Let's see what we can do..."

For the next course, New Approaches to Fashion Design, we were to come t the first day of class with a lot of research already done and a clear direction we wanted to explore.  Since I started researching, I kept being drawn to and fascinated by images of scrambled pornography.  There was just something about this theme that really resonated with me and hit me at an emotional level besides just a pretty picture.


Before I came to London, I don't think I would have ever given myself permission to use something as potentially offensive as that as an inspiration point.  But there was much more of an "I don't give a fuck" attitude there that started to assimilate into myself that I just decided to embrace.  Like the first image of a portfolio I saw from someone who had interned at a very prestigious house was of an uncircumcised penis.  So you know, I'm not trying to mimic someone, but if scrambled porn excites me, then let's run with it.

So I spent the next two weeks filling up as much of my sketchbook as I could with different developments and ideas and started to fill up my computer with pictures of obscured, fuzzy and distorted women and men getting off.  I tested out all sorts of ideas.  Two of my favorites were based on line drawings I did, one an embroidery of a woman in ecstasy, but almost fading out of the picture, the other a collage of these as a print.



A little less than a week before class I got together with Tibor again to get his feedback on my research thus far.  I met him over at his flat in Angel Islington and he took me around to two of his friends studios, Kristian Aadnevik and Anna Valentine, both of which were doing very inspiring work.  We ended the day with dinner at the restaurant inside Harvey Nichols.

After nearly two weeks, I was more than ready to get out of my routine of going to the library and fabric stores during the day and toiling in my room alone at night.  

The course was called New Approaches to Fashion Design: London/Paris.  It was a really small class with only I think eight of us.  I was the only American again, which was becoming really cool actually. The first day, we introduced ourselves and showed our past work and some of the research we'd been doing in anticipation for the course.  Everyone there was so talented...  I was so excited.  Not to mention our teacher Aimee, used to be one of the art directors at Balmain and had won all sorts of awards for her own personal stuff.  Kind of a big deal.


So right off the bat, after she saw the amount of research I did and how I was already translating that into design details, she immediately told me to stop.  She said I had nowhere near enough research and inspiration to justify design development yet.

So the next day, my assignment was to go out and get 100 more images and not from online.  She gave me a few places around London she wanted me to hit up.  So I snapped all sorts of pics of movie stills, posters, textures, people, etc.  When it was all said and done, the next day I had a thick stack of 125 fresh images.

"Now we're talking..."

So we whittled down the ones that really spoke to me and came up with a much narrower focus.  We more or less scrapped the initial inspiration for the time being because she wanted me to be open to really allow myself to be lead by my inspirations more.  Here was one of my four inspiration boards:



Aimee really pushed us to really and truly draw on our direction for our collections from the images we had.  Really think about what it is that excites you about the images.  Is it the colors, the shapes, textures?  This sounds a bit Fashion Design 101 but it's very easy to already have a preconceived notion about where you want a collection to go.

One common element I noticed in several of my inspirations were colors that faded to black.  It just seemed cool to me so I explored it...

Probably the two most freeing approaches she introduced had to do with drawing on a muse and not even drawing at all, but rather taping your inspirations directly on your muse.


The last night of the course in we were to let loose our ideas for a collection.  Man, did I let it fly...


The next day, I showed up with 80+ figures that took up an entire table.  Yes, I got carried away.


At this point, I began narrowing down what I wanted the collection to be about.  The ambiguous way that I illustrated was something new to me too.  When I was interning at Theory, I did pretty much all the technical illustrations.  One time Olivier gave me a sketch with some squiggly lines around the shoulders of a biker jacket.

"What're these right here?" I asked, pointing to the figure.
"I don't know!" he said.  "We'll see..."

This was a lot different than I had learned to do things, where you consider each and every seam and detail.  Aimee split up the process into two modes: art direction, where it's very ambiguous and free and just getting interesting ideas out, and fashion design, where you interpret the art direction into actual details, prints, seams, stitching and fabrics.


This was the end of the London portion of things and next up was Paris!  That weekend, I got on a bus headed south...

When I got off the bus, it was a little daunting.  I knew just enough French to piece together the direction of the subway.  When I got there, the machine that sells the tickets kept declining my card.  I know there was money still so I figured I was doing it wrong.  So I went to the attendant to see if she could swipe it through on her machine.

Nope.

I kind of started to panic a bit.  I only had pounds, not euro, my debit card wasn't working, I had no phone and couldn't get to where I was supposed to stay.  I didn't know what else to do but to ask someone where the next subway stop was and try again.  As I was walking there, several areas smelled like urine.  I'd heard about that before I came and it's definitely a function of charging to use public restrooms.  So I finally got to the next stop.  Moment of truth...

I went up to the attendant and was able to get out, "Je voudrais... cinq jour..."

"Ah, oui, cinq jour..."

I gave her my card and crossed my fingers.

No worries at all.

So I was pretty relived.  I had to find my way to my hostel now so I started looking at the subway map on the wall.  I nice thing about having lived in New York and then also gotten used to London's tube, navigating a subway quite simple, even in a different language.


The hostel I was staying in way amazing considering it was only maybe $30 a night.  Now there were five other beds in the room but who cares.  Right when I got in, I made friends with this one Asian guy who was staying in the same quarters.  I let him lead and he took me over to some Chinese food at a place around the corner.  Good times...

The school the course was at, IFM, was mega small.  Not just compared to Saint Martins, but even to my little high school in Cincinnati with 120 people in our graduating class.


The impression we had from London was that we were going to be doing to more technical design work of what we developed while in Paris.  What we ended up doing instead was much more zoomed out and focus on who were as designers.  Our tutor Jayne really helped draw out of us what some of our core values as designers were.  For example, we looked at all of our senses, not just sight, to see what things we found exciting and pleasureable and didn't hold back.  We looked at what scents we liked, what kind of flavors made our mouths water, the textures we liked to feel and the sounds that moved us.  We also took time to consider the 6th sense, however you termed that, be it intuition, instinct, that feeling in your gut or something else.

Initially this was a bit frustrating for some of us.  We had just come from a week of super intense inspiration and creation at CSM, all of which we could include in our portfolio, and here I was philosophizing about how I loved spicy food.  But I decided to just go with it.

One of the other days, we met up at Printemps to simply wander around and look at the way things were presented there and the clothes.  We were supposed to pair up with a buddy also so my new friend Gabriella and I started wandering around the store going from floor to floor.

That day was very self directed.  We had a big map of Paris with various boutiques and departments stores.  The two of us were rather driven and decided to try to visit as many as possible, even though our assisnment was to just do three or four.  I mean, its Paris.  You gotta walk until your feet hurt, no?

It also just so happened to be excellent weather so we were able to have a salad and wine lunch outside and commiserated that we wished they were more intense at the school haha.  Thinking back that was a really amazing day.

The following day, we started to look a lot deeper at the list of things we liked sense-wise.  Since the class was so small, we all got to have one on one meetings with Jayne.  We started talking about the patterns and continutity between things that excited me and she saw that while I favored more subdued colors and shied away from loud patterns, I was really drawn towards rather intense, vibrant favors, like espresso and very spicy food, and strong scents, like evergreen or leather.  While very stimulating, these are also the most initmate of all the senses, being enjoyed either only by one person or someone very close to that person.  She justified this by bringing up the fact that I talked about how one of my favorite details while out on a market research trip in London was a velvet stripe on the inside facing of a black-and-white herringbone Haider Ackermann jacket.  This detail was "like an intimate conversation between the designer and the wearer."


Nice.

IFM's approach was much more poetic than New York or London's.  While frustrating at first, it actually helped me way better articulate what I believe in as a designer.  Here's a bit of a manifesto I came up with for my Powerpoint presentation:

Inspirationally, I am excited by the paradox of having a respect for tradition and, at the same time, an attitude of irreverence and subversion.  This tension of opposites mingling together excites me.  Four recurrent themes to my work are elegance, nonchalance, rock n’ roll and the poetic.


As a designer, I believe a strong foundation of knowledge about garment construction and how to manipulate fit sets a sturdy base from which experimentation and new ideas should be proposed.  In turn, a great source of admiration for me are those who understand this at an expert level but still push to propose new ideas rather than falling into what is traditional.

The other project were did in the short time there was to make a presentation of the six senses.  Powerpoint slides felt to inhibiting so I opted to make a video.  I worked all night on it, trying like bloody hell to get the right way to represent sound in an effective way and wrestled with my computer to get the perfect solution.  I also got a some help from a British architecture girl that was staying a bunk below me into the wee hours of the morning as far as making it better unified.  I was really happy with the end result:


Our time there wrapped up that Friday with a lecture about French culture and fashion and how it related to the rest of the world.  We finished up our time there by snapping a picture that day and going out to dinner together.  I went out on a limb and tried beef tartare, which essentially is just a scoop of uncooked ground beef.  Once I got past the mental block I had for it, I actually enjoyed it.


I had already decided to go back to London after Paris to get lunch with Aimee.  Unfortunately, we had to reschedule four times.  I shouldn't say it was so unfortunate because it gave me an opportunity to get a good amount of design development for the collection I started with her so in the end, I saw able to get better feedback.  However, I was running low on funds already and was only planning on making a pit stop in London for a day or so.  When it stretched out to a week, things got tight.  Tight enough that I actually had to sleep in the common area of my hostel one night on the couch because I found out I had just enough money to get home.  A friend was gracious enough to wire me a bit more to keep me afloat for a few more days but that was a really challenging few days.  Finally, things worked out and I was able to meet up for lunch with Aimee.  It was great to chat with her outside of class.  I showed her what the direction I'd started to take in interpreting the work she help coax out of me and she had nothing but positive things to say.

Though I had enjoyed Europe, I was so ready to come back to America.  Flying back was a really easy experience and I even got upgraded to business class again!

I took full advantage of this drank a ton of free alcohol and reclined in my in-air La-Z-Boy seat watching the documentary, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's.  On the flight, I thought about a lot of things I'd experienced and learned...

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that there is no “best” culture, only different values and priorities with inherent strengths and weaknesses.  For example, when I was studying at IFM, the point was brought up that nearly all style movements (Hippies, Teddy Boys, Hip-Hop, Rock n’ Roll, etc.) originated in Anglo-Saxon culture.


This doesn’t make English and American cultures automatic fashion leaders but only highlights that we place a very high value on proposing new ideas.  Italian and French cultures place a higher value on concepts like mastering past traditions and creating harmony.  This comes across in the prestige of the Made in Italy or France garment tags or the unity of Parisian architecture.


In working with people from Asia, they’ve explained to me that their culture values obedience and discipline much more so than in the rest of the world.  A huge vulnerability people face is not recognizing that certain cultural values can become weaknesses as well.  That individualistic, leadership-focused American spirit can make teamwork and collaboration more of a challenge than it would be to someone who identifies with a collective cultural philosophy.  The culture of obedience amongst many Asian cultures can be greatly advantageous in mastering highly technical and complex skillsets, yet it can inhibit creativity and lead to lack of innovation for fear of breaking the rules.

An equally important lesson I’ve learned though is that every person living within a nation’s borders doesn’t necessarily share the same values and to lump all people of a nationality together indulges a good amount of stereotyping.  Wisdom comes from multiple perspectives.  In my experience, the most fascinating people have exposure to many different cultures and have consciously chosen what values they want to take on rather than simply letting their place of birth dictate it.

I had a layover in New York and took the opportunity to deliver the jacket I made to Olivier at Theory. It turned out to not be a bad thing in the end that it didn't get delivered when I was over there.  They had just had their Spring/Summer 14 show a few days prior so when I arrived, the studio was super quiet.  When I knocked on the door frame and poked my head in, Miriam and Olivier were both there, just kind of leisurely doing stuff.  It was perfect.  So here I was with this big, red, beat up cardboard box with a prestine tuxedo jacket inside.



I included a process book and thumbed through it with him, showing him how I riffed off of some of the shredded fabrics from their Resort collection and all the steps that went into the making of the jacket.  Finally, a bit anxious, I pulled the carefully folded jacket from the black tissue paper cradling it.

"Wowww!  It's so impressive!"

He tried it on and it was a damn good fit if I do say so myself.


"I have to think, but, I think this might be the best present I've ever gotten!" he said in this French accent.  "Let's go show the men's studio."

So I looked back at his assistant Miriam, made a happy face and shrugged my shoulders, and followed him out.

When we came back, I asked him if he had time to thumb through some of the work.  So we went through all of my research and development thus far.  He stopped me early on as I was mentioning my inspiration to ask if I'd ever seen work from the artist, Thomas Ruff.  I knew I had heard that name before because when I had a beer with someone in London who did freelance knitwear work for Vuitton, she asked me the same thing.  In fact, the page we were on in my sketchbook actually had "Thomas Rough Ruff" scribbled down so I didn't forget to look him up.

The fact that this was brought up twice, I took as my cue that I need to be more knowledgeable about contemporary art.  I showed him some of the ideas I was playing with with different raw silks, he said maybe it would be a good fit to intern with his friend, who's a very well-known designer in Paris.  Of course, I was incredibly excited about this but I'd learned by now that things don't always go as planned so I tempered my excitement a bit.

I stuck around for a little bit after going through my work to just chat while they worked on a project for the CFDA and Bloomingdale's where they had to design a football helmet to be auctioned for the Superbowl.

Finally I left the studio and headed toward LGA to make my connecting flight back to Cincinnati.  No business class upgrade this time, darn haha.

The first few days back were a bit confusing as to what I was going to do next.  I had a few good leads as to what I thought might turn into an internship overseas, as I really, really want to get international work experience.  Besides that though, I needed a way to save up money again.  I'd already worked retail and there was a 0% possibility I could ever go back to the lack of activity and boredom that goes along with selling clothing, especially high-end stuff.

So I updated my resume and set out to find a tailoring job, which has very limited options.  Knowing I had to do more of a sniper instead of a shotgun approach, I carefully crafted cover letters to two places and delivered them in person on nice cardstock paper.  To make a long story short, I got interviews and job offers at both places by the weekend and started as a tailor at Nordstrom on Monday!


My mind and long-term career trajectory are fully in the design world.  However, the phase of my career development right now includes getting the best eye for fit, construction and craftsmanship that I can, which the position with Nordstrom contributes to.

While it's a full-time job, I'm used to working way over 40 hours a week.  After I graduated FIT, I was spending a good 40-50 hours at Theory and another 20 working at Banana Republic on nights and weekends.  When I was with Trotta, I split my weeks between there and Saks, working at one or the other every single day, meaning the only days off I had were a few holidays a year.

My schedule is too inconsistent to be able to accommodate a second job so to keep myself sharp and active, I've spent the fall developing the summer's work as much as possible.  I also made friends with someone who works as a stylist at Nordstrom, Julia, who's an incredibly talented illustrator and also works as an adjunct professor at UC teaching drawing.  She helped me out a ton as far as rendering my final looks into believable illustrations.


After working pretty hard over the fall, I finally wrapped things up before the year's end.  Here's the full collection from inspiration, research, design and development and tech illustrations.

So I've come quite a long in the past year and a half and have had some pretty big life changes.  As much as I'd like to wrap things up a really awesome story about how I finally got a chance to intern abroad, despite having my CV forwarded by several talented, well-connected people, I'm still hitting a bit of a wall despite running through plans A, B, C, D, E, F and H.  Now granted, there are a few barriers that make it much more difficult that don't have to do with my skill level, like not being a student in Europe, but I know people that have found ways around this.  So hopefully the right opportunity arises soon but we'll see how things evolve.