Portmanteau Commentary: International oufits

Feeling French
I was waiting for the train when it noted I was feeling very French today. This may have been triggered by having my outfit liked by my French housemate and a bold and happy "Bonjour!" from a stranger on my way to work. Yes, in London! Barely believable and barely legal. It got me to thinking about my outfit, and I thought that a crane-gray vintage high collared long sleeved silk dress with a cream linen jacket, a pair of cream, rose, gray infused moc croc ballerinas and a gray and dark cream sixties hat and cream brown purpoise shell rimmed sunglasses and maybe also the brown gray linen longchamp bag did look French.

Designer Nationality
It then struck me that it was indeed Italian more than French when considering the origin of their designers. The dress is Armani, the ballerinas Arezzo (Brazilian), the heels Prada, the sunglasses Calvin Klein (American), the hat was made by an italian couture boutique whose name I don't remember as I stupidly removed the label a long time ago, the Jacket Nicole Farhi and the bag Longchamp (French) as mentioned before. That makes my outfit Brazilian, American, French but most of all Italian.

Production Origin
I then wondered where the outfit was actually made. Once I got to the office, I checked: To my surprise and admitted displaced disappointment, each item was "made" in the same country as their design, except the Calvin Klein glasses (American designer), which were made in Italy! This does exclude the possibility of adding additional countries to make my outfit seem international, which actually brought up an entirely separate point. In that respect the outfit helped me avoid the widely debated issue of production location.

Product Identity
The point is: what is it that defines the identity of a product? Is it the user, the designer, the producer, the cultural attachment or its context? A lazy way to answer would suggest that they all are contributing factors. A careful way to answer would be that it depends on the piece itself as well as the degree of existing value attachment that culturally exists in relation to the origin and context of a product. Is the label as important for a less known, still high end quality product as its fabric or origin?

My answer is that the dependable strongest variable is that which is given most value. If the quality is higher than, in comparison, the knowledge of the products brand, producer or designer, that is what carries most weight. If the context or narrative of the product carries more weight than everything else, this becomes the main value factor. For example, a vintage, inherited or personal favourite could outweigh the value of a piece being made of silk or being designed by Chanel and made in France.

"It belonged to my grandma", "It's silk", "I wore it to my graduation", "It's Chanel", "It goes well with my outfit"...
The value can easily be discovered without a complicated maths equation. Just ask yourself what would be the first thing you think of saying when talking about the piece?

In this case, my value was strongest on the context and combination of the origin. The cultural idea and pre conception of what French fashion is and the narrative involving French reaction to my outfit surpassed the value of it's make, origin, designers or my own identity. Assuming the latter is not defined by my outfit - which is another debate for another time.

Portmanteau Commentary: "Who are you wearing?" "Just QR scan me"

After having curiously found several QR Codes all over London (otherwise known as my day to work) Stuart asked me "Could you put a code on a dress?"

We had some interesting dialogues, which ultimately resulted in the concept of some further dresses for the recycling range:
The Narrative and Data Dress:
Using said QR Codes as different patterns the dress becomes it's own storyteller. Depending on which side of the fence you sit, this means either that the dress becomes increasingly interesting with each piece of information you have that is only yours to access: The password, which is individual to each dress as is the information, will be sewn into the tag.
Or, as some believe, the knowledge of the narrative of a piece might be off-putting for some. Each dress should have a different QR Code Pattern, which leads to different information about: The process of creating the dress: Blog entries on research, video of the fabric print process of this very own dress, images of the sewing process, images of the pattern of the dress (ground, not fabric).
Recycling Knowledge: Conceptual knowledge about each piece such as "has been worn in 10 countries" or "to each gallery opening of all Guggenheim exhibitions in the first week of April 2010" etc. This can be updated at the source every time.
Maybe a lending system could be introduced rather than buying, with each time the knowledge increases the price. How much is the knowledge of an experience worth? How much value did you add? The experience "overslept, had to run in the dress" might turn the value down, while some might put a higher value on the knowledge of a piece having been worn by a celebrity or in many types of outfits whose pictures they can access once they receive their password.
It would give people the chance to "recycle", to possess, value, create and buy knowledge instead of going through the often linear process of simple consumption.

What is a QR Code?
Wikipedia explains it as such: "A QR Code is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994. The "QR" is derived from "Quick Response", as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed."

QR codes can be read quickly by a cell phone and are used to take a piece of information from a transitory media and put it in to your cell phone. You can code a link to a website, type in some text, a phone number that results in a direct call, and an sms. However, as with many other simple, yet effective and basic concepts these media can be played with immensely. Here's one of the pages that generate a qr code. It's a lot of fun and has quite interesting value implications that have proven to result in deeply philosophical dialogues and I wished more people actually used them.

Portmanteau Commentary: Pledge to avoid consumerism and promote creativity

What so many people in the fashion industry don't realise is that most people don't actually care about whether a jacket has the exact shade and length of a dress or what specific hight of shoe heel is needed for different outfits. I plead guilty to this ignorance. I tend to assume that people who read my blog actually have a variety to choose from.
That's the difference between blogging about something that involves thought or a topic that involves you spending money.
Yes, the idea is to guide or suggest in the direction of you making the best choice when doing so, which is a positive thing in itself, but I am setting myself the goal now to always include advice that includes an option that doesn't require a reader to have to choose between abandoning the advice or consuming. I want to avoid having to evoke a sentence like "But I only have two pair of boots and both are suede! So What do I wear in the rain?"
When I was a teenager (late period ca. 18-19 years) I had absolutely no money to spend on clothes. I was so much more creative in terms of how to match up an outfit with what I have. It's lazy and easy now that I can actually color coordinate my shoes, dresses, coats, scarves, you name it. But there are a few rules I want to put out there that helps stay demure despite mixing up colors.
I'll talk about these in one of my next blog entries.

LL Creates: Purple Raw Silk Check Dress and Jacket

I made this dress in one evening. The challenging issue was to line up the fabric perfectly, from the cut up to the sowing. The skirt has four parts, the middle lines up perfectly as can be seen on here. The bust fits with an elasticated bit on the back that took me an hour in itself to do and re-do.

The jacket is the really lovely bit of this outfit. It has flared sleeves and perfectly lines up. The lining is exactly the same as outside, in fact, I am wearing it inside out on this picture and I didn't notice until I saw that the tuck in of the sleeve was on the wrong side.

I made this dress with Laura in mind, as the photo shoot was the next day. The skirt legth is therefore longer than what I am used to and would like my things to be. Once used by "the model" I might shorten it.

LL Creates: Snowflakes Rose Dress

Yes, it's Easter. However, the flowers in my garden are making me think of a Christmas song in German, which talks about a rose that flowered in the middle of winter (Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen). Now, I'm not religious, but it's one of the only two songs I "can play" on a Piano, so I've always liked the imagery. A few weeks ago, instead of being annoyed by the snow in London that was getting me stuck at home, I made it into a dress. I created the neckline in the form of a rose (six- seven layers) and continued the theme of layers by having a full circle as a layered back skirt which ties up to the underlying front layer as an open, flared piece.

P.S. you can tell it's winter - I'm pale as a ghost and need to wear trousers under the skirt because it's too cold to try things on.

Portmanteau Diary: Arrival of the knitting machine

For the complimentary opposites collection I was planning to knit the double layered dresses so that the circles on either side could be integrated in the fabric itself rather than be a patchworked piece. Kat had a knitting machine lying around and we took a day out in order to dust it off and learn how to make the old thing work with a lot of help from the internet.

Doesn't look like much, but considering the machine tends to get jammed up very easily, a smooth piece like this means a lot!

LL Creates: New Post Bag dress

More and better pictures coming up soon. (The tummy area of the dress does not expand like that!)

I made this dress based on the same pattern as the tree names dress in order to create a classic contrast to the "fabric" of the piece. I used two clear sacks and matched up the side pieces in order for the writing to be read continuously. The dress is used with a flesh colored dress-body underneath.

LL Fashion Label: Photo shoot with Laura

This one was more relaxed beforehand but I had a lot less control as most of the stuff wasn't discussed, I left it to "the professionals" as it were. We shot in Steve's studio this time and I had met a lovely make up and hair artist, a friend of one of my mother's oldest friends, Amanda. Laura is the sister of Kat, a fellow designer and knitter. This photoshoot included six dresses, as the previous one: The lampshade dress, the blue striped silk dress, the sandline dress, the tweed dress, and two new dresses: the new clear post bag dress, and the purple raw silk check dress and jacket.

This was a new Post bag dress that I had made the night before. I also made the strapless raw silk purple dress with the jacket the day before, so I was exhausted and spent the time that didn't need preparing asleep on the studio sofa.

LL Fashion Label: Photo shoot with Nelly

Nelly was moving back to Bulgaria two weeks after I came back from Zurich and I had to organise the photo shoot within that time. We were planning to go with a key dress called the "puddle dress" to be used for the landing page on the home page and unfortunately the sample machinist disappeared for a week, which ruled this out. However, a location was decided on after much discussion on the feel and impression of the dresses I fell in love with this wall:

Photography © Steve Bliss http://stevebliss.zenfolio.com/p425039145

We shot on the last day before Nelly had to leave and after preparing the room I sat in the Kitchen doing my day job (remotely).


My favourites can be seen on the website, but I had some other favourites that I couldn't use for several reasons:

LL Creates: Hélio Oiticica

Unfortunately I can't find a picture of the actual piece. It's a three dimensional yellow piece made of wood that's quite hard to photograph but is perfectly geometric as can be seen in my calculations for the dress itself where I need to you the measurement of shoulder to shoulder as A1. I'll upload it once I've found an image. You can sort of see it in the background, floating in the air.

The name of the piece is "Relevo Espatial", made by Hélio Oiticica in the year 1960.

Trying to figure out the dimensions of the piece and how it could translate into being cut mainly from one piece of material in order to avoid as many sewing points as possible where there would be none in the piece itself.

The first few drafts were out of proportion, the placing and direction of the layers are wrong and the buttons are of course totally wrong. The drafts show the feel of the dress or jacket quite well. The back should have another layer appearing from the right arm fabric which leads to the pointy end on the left side. (The name is spelled wrong here...)
Although not as good a drawing, this one was done after the creation of a piece with "shitty" fabric, where I had to mark down several technical differences that come up between a sculpture and the human form. I therefore changed the pattern to suit and flatter the female shape as the form that is equivalent to the straight shape of the sculpture translated into a piece that can be worn. However, the proportions are to be mathematical. Neck to Neck: A1. Right arm 2xA1. etc The most difficult bit is the neck, which as per calculation should be 2xA1 as well, which is only possible if folded, but should still be a high neck.

LL Creates: Mauricio Nogueira Lima

This painting was another that immediately feel into a crying out to be interpreted as a dress. The divide of the upper body and the skirt with the folded belt seemed imminent to me.
I'm not sure about the finish of the arms and neckline, it's quite futuristic and might distract form the simplicity and beautiful purity of the belted area. Am still mulling over that and am tending towards a U-Neckline and no arms to enhance the square frame of a canvas.

LL Creates: Ivan Serpa

In the Style of Hervé Léger this painting cries out to be interpreted as a sexy, flattering bandage dress.
During the times when I was coming up with ideas for the recycling range for SFG I orgered a ten pack of white sports bandages to create as first seen done by Heike Makatch in the (bad) film "Nackt" in 2002, a time when I had two pair of shoes and could not have cared less about fashion this outfit stuck in my head. I couldn't find a better picture and since "Nackt" means "Naked" in German, porn film come up when I look for it in youtube. Its not really worth seeing, this dress and the fact that it's a bad film are the only things I remember. It's the green dress with the bandage "belt".

I researched the actual thick bandage Hervé Léger uses but as it's the type that usually comes as an elbow or foot set bandage, finding a supplier that produces them in stripes was near impossible and I've therefore decided to use the bandages and die them in my bath tub to the exact color specification of the painting.

LL Creates: Milton Costa

As mentioned previously, I sat down to create sketches in order to get my family's approval, or "blessing" (in a non religious way).

In the initial sketch I looked at using pearls to create a uniform detail that could be used as buttons and all "borders", but it was too disruptive in reference to how the painting itself looks, so I have replaced this with using a thin stripe of black velvet. The fabric that I decided goes best to truly describe the texture and vibrancy of a canvas painting is raw silk.

Label Lira Leirner: Deciding to go public

Making dresses had been, for the most part, compulsory as nothing fit me or looked like I wanted it to be.

However, during my granddad's exhibition at the House Konstruktiv in Zurich I had an epiphany, which was a combination of the following.

1. I had a conversation with an investment banker, one of my granddad's closest friends and also one of the main sponsors on the board of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which owns the collection now. The conversation was about "interests" and he told me that he was also on the board of the Houston Ballet. Although this might make him sound like a cultural elitist, he is not at all. He isn't interested in any other, often considered "high culture" (for example classic music or opera etc) and comes from a simple background.

That's when I noted that he takes what he is truly interested in and gets actively involved beyond minimum and simple consumption. While others would have just visited a lot of exhibitions and maybe, maybe gotten on a mailing list to be invited to vernissages, he is on the actual board in order to support art and actively be involved and influence it. Rather than just visiting performances, he supports the Ballet Center. Rather than passively consuming, he actively contributes.

Together with the other points it made me realise that I was still in a middle stage. Rather than just consuming fashion, I was creating it. BUT as I was doing this privately and only for myself I still had another step to do. This conversation made me see that I was still not quite pulling my whole weight within the fields that interest me.

2. I had found an H&M dress to wear at one of the vernissages that was just like one of the paintings of the collection. H&M not really being much of a shopping point for me since my skater days at age ca. 17, made this a surprising find and was meant to be a fun outfit "pun". It worked really well, but it made me realise that I had started seeing some of the pieces of painting and sculptures as dresses... the images in my head wouldn't go away! I wanted to do a Leeroy on it and just make them! Obviously too much family politics were involved so I decided to paint and draw sketches for approval before spending heaps on perfect fabric (I'd want to do it justice!).

3. During a shower I was mulling over some comments that had been made regarding me "shoulding" have studied fashion, working in fashion, doing fashion... and other verbs all along these lines. I don't exactly remember my train of thought but it snapped in my head and I realised that if my family still owned the clothing factory "Bona", that I would, if it had stayed within family, been the only one really suitable to take over from all cousins and siblings of my generation due to both business aptitude (referring to my day job, too) and fashion interest. I am probably wrong, but that was my thought. Just then I thought to myself "Why does it have to be family related? I should just start my own company."

4. My day job involves creating companies and doing their taxes. I know it's not a scary thing and easily managed, so when I came back to England I set up everything within a week. I created the website brief on the first day I came back from Switzerland and talked to Russel, who I know does web-hosting and is a good web-designer and Stuart's mate from Uni, and he started on it within the week. I created and discussed a business proposition with Steve Bliss, a photographer I knew had done fashion shoots before and who I knew from a photo shoot he'd done of our team at my day job. He was on board. I talked to my best friend and asked her if she could be my first model, payment would be a dress. Most definitely on board. I asked Stuart to create my logo. Also on board. Received a cheeky list of essential production contacts from a friend who is a production coordinator: pattern cutter, sample machinist, small collection machinists, label creators, graders... the lot. I talked to them and got a quote in. Last of all, I incorporated my company. And the next step towards active contribution away from consumption was done.