Friday, October 2, 2009

Blogging Project Runway: Blue Velvet

So for this episode's challenge the designers had to create two looks in the color blue to be sold as part of the I.N.C house brand from Macy's.
I was particularly interested in this challenge because I was recently approached to become a vendor for Macy's. It was a fantastic opportunity, but one I have to put on the back burner, because I do not even have at this point the resources necessary to produce professional samples, let alone the production I would need for an order from Macy's.
Designing for mass market as a mental exercise is extremely interesting.
I tend to be a fairly theatrical designer, because the first stuff I designed were costumes for my dance recitals, plays and Halloween costumes.
I am also a big fan of Cosplay, Gothic Lolitas and period costuming, so no surprise there.
Paring down my aesthetic for mass market is a huge challenge. I am kind of "Hot Topic" for adults, like Thomas Wylde I guess. I could see my stuff being sold at Maxfield's in LA, Colette in Paris, or Harvey Nichols in London if they sold plus size clothes, but Macy's is a GREAT opportunity for any designer.
Another issue to consider is that a lot of people in the fashion/ retail industry are women and they do business as if they were shopping for themselves and carry their own needs and wants and taste into business. The person in charge of minority vendors in this case, is very into the whole "What Would Shelley O' Wear" thing. I am SO not a Shelley O designer.
I love the First Lady and have all the respect in the world for her. But she is entirely too conservative and East Coast/ MidWest preppy. I am not that because nothing in my sensibility or life experience echoes that aesthetic. I am a fossilized Goth/Punk, former dancer/ actor and stuff, from Mexico City with very British (as in Camden and East London), Southern Californian (as in LA), Parisian and Japanese influences. No Kennenbunkport or Martha's Vineyard in my context, I must say, much to my mother's regret. And I do not think that is a bad thing. Like Tim Gunn says, a chacun son gout. On top of it Macy's price point is brutal for an unknown designer. They want to sell retail at under 100 bucks per piece which means that they have to be 50 bucks wholesale and 25 in total production costs in order to make a profit. This translates to having to manufacture in China, Sri Lanka, India or El Salvador or bust to also meet the quality they are expecting in the garments. To do that you need to have huge orders and serious cash behind you. And as of yet, I do not.
But translating my taste to mass market is going to be a huge challenge. One day.
The brief for the challenge also specified that the two looks they had to create had to be blue... EEEEKKKKK. I do not hate color as much as most other punks/goths do but the color has to almost emerge organically. Having a color thrown upon me like that is hard. Of all shades of blue I guess I would have picked indigo as in dark denim or ink or midnight blue. To me those would have been the most elegant.
I go to Macy's all the time and know the INC line for both straight and plus sizes pretty well. And they do carry cute, quasi-on-trend stuff.
But here is what they came up with...

Althea.. This looks would have NEVER passed muster with the buyers at Macy's. I usually love her work but the skirt was WAY too short for a suiting look and the construction and tailoring were shoddy. Seriously. Just look at the fit. And if it looks like that on a size double 00 model, what do you think it will look like on a size 14 when they grade up the pattern? INC DOES go up to 16 in their Misses AND 26, if I am not mistaken, in their plus.


I love the idea of a high-waisted pant and this one was decently executed. The top was actually pretty cute and Marc Jacobs-ish. There was an issue of fit with the pants and they were not well fitted at the waist and crotch leading to a bit of the "insane crotch" effect which I was amazed HRH the Duchess of Orange (she's back) did not comment on. I like the more muted palette though and the fact that it was not an in-your-face blue.

Carol Hannah's:
It really was not all that. I mean to top looked a bit simple and cheap in a Rainbow kind of way, and the skirt was far from a universally flattering fit. Only women with trim middles are flattered by high waisted garments. We are in the minority. When designing for mass, you are designing for a majority, so that is what you have to keep in mind. That size 14, apple-shaped, 5'2 chick in the sales office of your apartment complex? THAT is who you are designing for. NOT a 5'10 size 0 model. Capish? If you don't that garment will end up on the clearance rack at the GOODWILL. It was well constructed and sewn though.

Like Randy Jackson would have said in American Idol, that was just a'wight for me. Not blown away, not grossed out. It was ok. It would sell but not fly out of the shelves. As with most of what she does it was well sewn.

This was the winning look. It is a lovely dress. It was beautifully constructed. Very good design and pleasing muted palette. The problem? The freaking bust line and neckline. It was well constructed, that is not the problem. The problem is that bust line will not work for ANYONE over an A cup. Since the majority (yet again you are designing for mass market, not models) of women over the age of 14 are a B cup or more, that dress will yet again, despite its cuteness, languish on the clearance racks. It's one of those cute on the hanger, self-esteem bomb in the fitting room dresses. It is a cute dress though. Add some wider straps and a real V neck and it could work:

This one was the highly maligned disco ball pumpkin pinata or whatever. The neckline was a bit Little Lord Fauntleroy, I have to say. The fact that is was shiny did not help, but it was not quite as bad as they made it sound... If you go to Macy's they actually have a lot of shiny, satiny, ballooney mini dress tunics in the INC, Rachel Roy and BCBG lines. I know. I go though those racks almost weekly.

I actually LOVED the idea of this dress. I love menswear re-interpreted as womenswear and the idea of a Thomas Pinkish blue pinstripe and white collar and cuff shirt as a dress is something that I would buy immediately and full price. The better to wear it with a boyfriend blazer or cardigan, tights and ballet flats.
The problem here was construction, fit and the shiny nature of the fabric. The styling was also not 100% up to par and a bit lazy here...which surprises me coming from Epperson:

This guy is out to sabotage and throw under the bus every single partner he gets, isn't he? He has an issue with letting other folk have their time in the limelight, I am afraid...That is not nice. I know, I know... It's a competition, capitalism, every man for himself, yada... I can not help myself. My Daddy taught me Noblesse Oblige (the name of my label BTW) and I take it to heart.
The design I have to say was not thoroughly thought through (wow,that was hard to write) The ruffle placement and fabric choice were kind of awkward although there is nothing wrong with the idea of ruffles of their own accord when they are well done. Just ask yet again, Marc Jacobs. I think that when you are making or creating something a bit of your soul goes into it (I know I have watched too many "Tales from the Darkside" and "Twilight Zone" episodes. But the thing is MY soul is in my sketches and garments and you can see it clear as the sun. So I know it is true for other designers) and since he was so negative about the design and ruffles I think that was translated into the garment:

I freaking HATE that she was eliminated. I have seen her past work and love it. She went to a good school (El Centro in Dallas, the Dallas version of my fashion alma mater Ghetto Mesa College in San Diego. It's not Parsons, Otis or Central St. But I learned my stuff) and really wanted to see a Bryant Park Collection from her. Probably one of the few ones I would have bought something from, along with Chris March's and Jeff Sebbelia's and Korto's. But the judges were overly harsh with her and did not see that the simplicity of her little shift dress would have made it a pretty decent candidate for the INC line (and it would actually have made that vendor selection person happy. It is VERY Shelley O). They have it in for "different" people this season. I really did not think her dress was bad at all:

As I said designing for mass market is not as easy at it seems and requires a lot of thought. It is a trial and error process and it's something that they most definitely do not teach in fashion schools. Coming from a one-on-one, Etsy, or even Couture background it is a huge readjustment. But I do not think the judges in this case with the exception of Michael Kors (even the lady from Macy's) knew all the variables they had to take into account to predict the potential commercial success of a garment in that context.

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