Fashion Book List

Despite Winter Quarter being the busiest quarter of my entire 4 year college career, I’ve taken a step to flourish my leisure reading as a de-stress mechanism. Also, partly due to the fact that I recently started an online course with Parsons, I thought it may be a good cue to expand my knowledge in fashion history/business/people etc.

This is a list of my all time favorite and recently acquired infatuations of fashion books. Some had given me a very throughough understanding of fashion concepts, others are just good for a laugh. Better still, they all shaped me into the person I am today.

  1. Man Repeller: Seeking Love. Finding Overalls. — Leandra Medine

Founder and editor in chief of the Man Repeller site: a humorous site for serious fashion, Medine reveals hilarious life episodes and her passions for fashion in this autobiography. Having read and followed MR for a few years, I really grew to appreciate Medine’s mix of humor and culture with fashion. In her book, she reveals that Man Repeller stemmed from a shopping trip with her friend after a bad break up, where they found items in a Forever 21 that will instinctively shun the opposite sex. From then on, Medine launched her site and encouraged women to embrace their true selves, to follow their love for fashion despite all.

Medine also highlighted her relationship status from middle school till marriage. Her bad break up with the love of her life to casual dating to finally marrying the same guy that had broken her heart.

This was an excellent read when you are feeling dull with life. Medine’s self-deprecating and brutally honest humor never fails to make me burst out laughing on the bus.

2. Fashion Design research — Ezinma Mbonu

This was a great resource for me prior to my study abroad at Central Saint Martins. Inspired by my fellow classmate from a draping class in Shanghai a few summers ago, I started to explore fashion research. At that time, I couldn’t really comprehend what it meant to do creative research. From a scientific standpoint, (I was well versed in researching peer-review articles through my psychology training) does that mean I find everything I can and read about them?

So yes, without much clue about creative research, I bought this book from Amazon. Here, CSM graduate Ezinma Mbonu, introduced an array of research methods: from primary research to color palette to fabric research to collaging methods. It was truly a gateway for me to initially understand research in the fashion context.

Then of course came CSM, and everything just fell into place.

3. The Teen Vogue Handbook

This is basically my textbook. As required reading material for my online Parsons course, it introduces the different sectors of the fashion industry.

Featuring designers, photographers, the Teen Vogue team, digital pioneers, the Handbook is an essential guide of how to make it. Though every one has different paths and experiences, one thing is certain: it is not always glamorous, and talent is nothing compared to years of hard work, dedication and underrating positivity.

My favorite part of the book was from Karl Lagerfeld’s interview:

“Be informed, not only about fashion but also about art, history, and music. […] In the days of the internet, it is easy to be informed. Also, speak other languages. Show that you are interested in things, that you want to learn. And never look bored. It can be boring sometimes in the world of fashion.”

I guess my love of ‘different things’ is putting me on the right track.

4. Girl Boss — Sophia Amoruso

Founder and former CEO of the online fashion retailer, Nasty Gal, Amoruso is not your typical boss. In this biography, she shares her journey to success from being a penniless, high school grad with no formal experience in business.

Tired of her receptionist job at the Art Institute in Cali, she started scouring vintage stores and reselling items on eBay, launching the Nasty Gal brand. Today, the brand carries new clothing, shoes, accessories under their original label along with a couple other designers.

Amoruso’s book was a powerful message to all girls: You can be your own boss if you work very very very hard.

 

This is it for now. The list is ought to grow! Stay tuned.

 

Art Talk with Curt

Looking at my wall of R + D, collage pages of crinoline, skeletons and Irving Penn’s wife in nude, we started talking.

My art professor Curt congratulated me for Friday’s showcase and asked me how I felt overall. Smiling and nodding to his applaud, I told him I was happy that lots of friends came to support and that I was somewhat satisfied by the final piece.

I expressed that my original plan was to create three pieces, but due to the time constrains, I changed course and decided to create one quality piece instead of three mediocre ones, thus causing a slight disappointment. Curt agreed.

We looked at the wall imagery.

Curt pointed to my sketches and traces of dinosaur skeletons. He expressed that “not to be mean”, but he found the imagery of such sketches to be far more interesting than the actual 3D piece. I was mildly surprised but agreed to his comment in the sculptural context. The sketch had an interconnected skeletal tail as a left arm, collaged onto the dressform, with a jewelry-wired mock up as the torso, acting almost as a tunic, completed by my muse whom I ‘discovered’ from a B&W photograph of a young Victorian-era girl. He said I had leaped out from my boundaries in the collages and sketches and wished I had done so with my 3D piece. I protested that would force me out of the realm of fashion. But again, my work wasn’t exactly a garment.

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In fact, I wasn’t sure how to label my piece. It wasn’t a garment, since it wasn’t wearable. It didn’t have zippers, the proper seam allowances or fasteners, either was it properly sew. It wasn’t a fully developed sculpture either, making me referring it to ‘my work’, shunning all labels. We dived into this identity crisis and dissected the differences between art and design.

On Artist vs. Designer

I asked whether he thinks I’m more of an artist or designer. For sure as an artist, he replied. He pointed at my loose craftsmanship: the fraying black denim ties on boning hoops, the uneven machine stitches, the carefree drapery and unfinished hemlines. I nodded and laughed at my own craftsmanship, but not a bit disgraced.

I revealed and admitted that I am by no means a meticulous crafter. And this is a concern and somewhat obstacle for me since as an aspiring designer, I need to sew and construct functional garments. I shared my experience talking with established designers and their emphasis on technical skills. Curt nodded, agreeing that at the entry level, it is indeed important to gain as many skills as possible, but how I utilize them is another issue.

Curt shared an anecdote about his dreams of becoming a guitar player growing up. Only in high school did he realize he will never become a guitar player because he simply wasn’t good enough. And that was ok. I wondered if that was a cue for me to give up. I wondered if my repeated concerns about identifying as a designer, the insecurities of garment construction and craftsmanship are indicators for me to change goals. I wondered what else will I work towards.

As my thoughts run amok, Curt added that my dilemma will absolve itself through time. And that, it is usually the experiences that change our course of action and not merely thoughts from our head.

I wonder if I can think it through and find what I truly want.

On Wants vs. reality

We highlighted the distinction between ‘what we want to become’ and ‘what we really are’. I thought about social media, arts, advising, research, psychology, fashion design, illustrating, all the disciplines I touched upon but do not master. I thought about what I am actually good at and what I love doing.

I love arts and creative research, concept building and reading references. I love fashion. I love making things that present my thoughts. My thoughts are the backbone and essence of all creations.

In reality, my professional experiences lie in advising, social media and lab research.  I thought of the clashes. I thought of improvements. About my piece, about life.

On Improvements

Critiquing on the actual piece, Curt expressed that within the contexts of fashion, my piece was by far the most interesting compared to previous years, mainly due to the creative research behind it. My heart melted to the compliment. But he also noted that in a gallery context, it is unusual and unnecessary to show sketchbook pages on the walls. It is more interesting to make the audience work through my thought processes on their own and make the piece more interpretive.

It is when the audience gather clues themselves, through their own analysis and arrive at-  the artist’s intended message, that makes an artwork ‘interesting’.

On Life

Curt asked me where I will go from here. Misunderstanding his question, I went on talking about making more pieces for my concept. He meant after graduation. With mild embarrassment, I revealed my exciting and reckless plan of moving to New York City. Curt then shared his NYC travel plans in 2 weeks and how he had already planned out all the galleries and shows to visit. We went crazily excited for a while.

He shook my hand really tightly and wished me luck. I reciprocated the handshake with as much might as I could. He told me that he really enjoyed talking with me in our critiques and really challenged him to think. He said I have a lot of potential and passion and thinks that I will do great in whichever path I chose. Of course, being my usual self, I wonder if he was just being a nice teacher. But, regardless, it will be a lie if I was not feeling pleased.

And with that, I departed from the gallery.

The Truth Behind that 10 Dollars Dress

For some reason, the issue of sustainability in fashion has been popping up everywhere in my life lately. Not that I was completely unaware or unconscientious about the issue previously, but for some unseen force of attraction, I have been gravitating towards the topic through multiple informational interviews and fashion podcasts.

Sustainability: To keep a ecosystem or an industry working in such a way that the environment is not depleted in natural resources for the long run.

The conversation sparked in a coffee chat between me and an Art school grad, Peter, who went to NYC to pursue fashion design. My lovely art adviser connected us via email, and the click was almost instant. Peter shared his intern experience in NYC and touched upon the amount of waste produced in the fashion industry and how it has been corrupting the entire ecosystem. He reflected that although clearly he is passionate about fashion, merely designing for the sake of producing collections to sell is not his calling. He suggested me to listen to the American Fashion Podcast during my downtime to learn more.

Listening to his advice, I tuned in the podcast while working over night alone in my studio. An episode featuring Simon Collins, the former Dean of Fashion Design at Parsons, pointed arrows at the vicious cycle of fast fashion.

While Collins is a fan of H&M and a consultant for their sustainability strategies, he reflected that the brand is in no means a savior to the problem. He also mentioned the undeniable convenience of fast fashion for people with lower income (aka. college students).

Fast fashion and cheap clothes has been so ingrained in our daily lives that it is extremely difficult to change our shopping habits at once. Being constantly broke college students, most of us can only fuel our passion for fashion and style through shopping at H&M, Forever 21, Zara and maybe occasionally sale at Aritzia and Nordstrom Rack. We are glad that these stores exist to offer that $10 party dress when we are in need, while we throw the issue of sustainability behind the back of our heads.

So we can’t just blame it on the factories or the designers. We as customers hold responsibility. Bloggers and Influencers who encourage a completely different outfit every 3 hours hold responsibility. We as millennials shopping online excessively just because shipping was free hold responsibility.

So, what can we do?

  1. Well, first thing is the dilemma between NEED vs. WANT.

Ask yourself candidly do you really need a new $20 dress for this party tonight? Or can you move your creative juices and assemble an outfit. Are there at least 3 occasions you can think of wearing this particular garment? Are you impulse buying after work because you spilled coffee all over your MacBook? Are you blindly following trends?

2. Then, while trying the dress at the fitting, ask yourself again.

Does this satin navy mid-calf dress really look that much different from the midnight blue velvet skater dress you bought 2 weeks ago? How is the fit? Are you lying to yourself that maybe after losing 10 pounds, it will fit just right? Does the material even feel nice or does it just look nice and won’t even last 2 machine washes?

3. Lastly as you approach the cashier, think about your depleting savings and poor children.

Your bank account is bleeding. How much you will save by refraining to buy a $20 dress in a year (say, twice a month, then it’s $480! That’s enough for enrolling in a online course at Parsons). Then think one last time about all the crying children in Bangladesh trying to sew up this dress late at night…

Thinking about our shopping habits is just as important as spreading the knowledge about sustainability. After all, every social change start with ourselves. Not everyone is an outspoken activist, not everyone has the platform to express our views, but the littlest thing like not buying a dress can spark unexpected ripple effects in your community and beyond.

Young, Beautiful & Glorious

I meant my gal friends.

When your week schedule is packed like sardines, a party should do the trick. So last Friday, we went to a student organized party at Washington Hall, all dressed up fancy and drunk of course.

Besides the fact that the music was average, and the hall was half empty (as predicted), we still had a lot of fun. The thing is, it’s really about the people.

As long as you are with the right people, you will stay young, beautiful and glorious.

No kidding.

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Blurry Glory, not sorry
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Was laughing because An couldn’t take a proper pic
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View from the Top (2nd floor)
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My beautiful ladies

Sparkly Romper: Urban Outfitters

Marble Ring: Moon Lab

FRD: On Maria’s Dior

Maria Garcia Chiuri debuted her first collection with the prominent and storied Christian Dior this week. The former co-creative director of Valentino had definitely brought some of her whimsical emphasis on fairytales and fantasy in her new show.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found fashion reviews a little…hard to read. This is very likely due to my lack of experience and fashion vocabulary, which I here so openly admit.

Of course, we should always learn from the best, in order to create the best work! So hereby, I announce my very first Fashion Review Dissection (just because I’m learning how to cut a sheep brain in class lately, highly interesting). In brief, let’s call it FRD.

So, here we go. (Mario..)

“Chiuri successfully softened the corseted stricture of the Dior New Look—the daunting carapace that faces every designer at this house—by using supple fan pleating to create peplums, volumes in sleeves, and swirls in skirts. Things went in and out where they should for a house that does “feminine” waists. The ankle-grazing ballerina length of the New Look was honored, too, even if that was in wide “Tuxedo” culottes, Chiuri’s answer to masculine-feminine tailoring that opened the show.”

Sarah Mower, Jan 23rd 2017, Vogue Runway

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Chiuri started with the Bar jacket

“Chiuri successfully softened the corseted stricture of the Dior New Look—the daunting carapace that faces every designer at this house”

Most of you may know about Dior’s New Look, one of the most signature look crafted in the 20th century by Mr. Christian Dior himself. As Mower wrote here, all succeeding creative directors and designers had been trying to recreate and reform the New Look and the Bar Jacket. See Raf Simon’s debut here.

So, it was natural, almost expected that Chiuri had created her own interpretation and take on the piece.

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Pleats + Bar

“by using supple fan pleating to create peplums, volumes in sleeves, and swirls in skirts.”

And her version of the Bar and the New Look was very feminine. Adding layers of tiny pleats, forming a peplum. Peplums refer to the layer of raffles at the waist, see other examples here. The pleated skirts are sheer, very much following the pre-fall trends.

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Adore Those Raffles

“The ankle-grazing ballerina length of the New Look was honored, too, even if that was in wide “Tuxedo” culottes, Chiuri’s answer to masculine-feminine tailoring that opened the show.”

There Mower said it, it’s in fact an exquisite collaboration of the feminine and the masculine. All black, still following the gentle X silhouette, expressed in an androgynous pair of culottes and a sharp jacket. And of course, don’t forget that big mosquito on her face.

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Tuxedo + Culottes

Besides the Bar Jacket and New Look reference, Mower also touched on the familiarity of using imaginative prints and embroidery on the skirts, resembling her years of work at Valentino.

“Some of the spirit was familiar, a melding of her Italian-virginal styling with Dior-isms. Fresh-faced nymphs trod the Dior pathways in low kitten heels and boots, wearing ingenue ball gowns with wispy lingerie straps, and a vast variety of poetically playful garden-referenced headdresses by Stephen Jones.”

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Valentino Red on Quilted Satin
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There you go: Those Valentino Prints
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Referencing Horoscopes and Starry Skies
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Whimsical

 

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Garden Look

There were mixed comments in the crowd. Some of it worked, some didn’t. Well, I think is indeed a very heavy reference to Valentino, but it that necessary a bad thing? After all the essence of Dior is actually very…romantic, like Valentino. Yes, one is French the other is Italian, but isn’t the romance and passion transferrable?

A brand doesn’t change with mere time. It also evolves with the creative director, and I think Chiuri has every right and freedom to insert as much ‘Valentino’ she wants into her interpretation of Dior.

And I mean, they are all very damn pretty.


More on The Dior New Look:

http://www.fashiongonerogue.com/dior-bar-jacket-new-look/

Born on this day in fashion history: Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga, Part I

Going for that Champagne

 

Hi friends, life has been good! Besides severe seniorities (aka “I am graduating in a few months, why should I study” syndrome) and the brutally cold Seattle weather, all is well.

I just came back from a Christmas trip back home to Shanghai and Taiwan, and I definitely indulged myself in all kinds of cheap delicious food and shopping. Life is too good back home, with all the time in the world reading Japanese novels, playing piano and painting, that I shred a few tears on my way back to the States. But responsibilities are responsibilities…

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And this responsibility very much include UPDATING MY BLOG. So, here I am, dragging my fashionista friend and partner in crime, shooting in the beautiful alleys of Capitol Hill.

I’ve been a little obsessed with Burgundy + Champagne lately, partly due to my critical friend’s advice (You know who you are) to move away from my usual ALL BLACK witchy style. And to my surprise, going full-on girly and sweet is not too bad.

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Les Nereides ring: Christmas Present from dad

 

Now that I am a senior, and I am practically graduating in 6 months (OMGGGGGGG, mental breakdown), life is at its many intersections. But no matter what happens, my love for fashion and creative design will always be there. Somehow it will all work out. I guess, when in doubt, just keep calm and do fashion (and drink some Champagne).

 

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Cream Sweater: ZaraPleats

Maxi: FIFTY PERCENT from Taipei

Black Shoulder Bag with Tassels: I.T HK

Burgundy Maxi Coat: SPAO from Taipei

Burgundy Booties: Zara

Flowery Crystal Ring: Les Néréides

PHOTO: Wendy Wei

#MyCSM

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To this day, I am still talking about London. It was THAT amazing. The 3 weeks at the legendary Central Saint Martins was life changing. Not only did I learn immensely from the most prominent fashion tutors, I also made talented friends from all over the world (14 countries to be exact).

So you may ask, what did you learn in 3 weeks?

Well, quite a lot actually. Here is a list of 10 steps of the creative design process I learned from Central Saint Martins. Hopefully, it can bring some insight to other fashion enthusiasts and emerging designers.

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Last day at CSM
  1. Go on the streets for Creative Research

What is research? The old me may think web search on runway shows and mood boards. That is one way to do it, but it is not comprehensive at all. Creative research is about getting on the streets, drawing and taking pictures. It’s about visiting galleries and museums, and being mesmerized in the art work, finding that connection that sparks your design inspiration.

For our project, we spent the first few days visiting the Tate Modern, Newport Gallery, Dover Street Market, Portobello Market and Spitalfield Market, constantly taking pictures and sketching. We also collected unique items such as vintage postcards, fabric pieces and trims, anything that seemed interesting.

This is known as primary research.

Once you discover an exciting image (or item), you go on and capture more images relating to that original image. It doesn’t have to be a concrete concept at this point. Just go with your feeling. Maybe it is the structural elements in this image that excites you, then try to recreate other images or find objects that resonate with that particular structure. Maybe it is the color scheme, then find other images that go along with the colors.

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Past student work: Research + Development samples

2. Print Research on Large A4 Paper

After accumulating a sufficient amount of visual research, print them out on large clear A4 size paper. Only on a large scale can you see what really fits and what doesn’t. Edit out images that don’t have the right feeling (or put them aside) and continue onto secondary research.

For secondary research, you can look at books, magazines and other images you may find on the internet relating to your original image. Don’t look for designers’ work or runway shows. Designers’ work are their own interpretation of their concept, and it won’t bring much help in forming your own concept. Look for images, shapes, reoccurring color schemes, structure and techniques. Photocopy images on large A4 size paper and compare them with your primary research. Again, edit out images that don’t fit.

3. Collage Doesn’t Have to be Pretty (at first)

Once you have found more images relating to this ‘feeling’. You can start collaging. Work in an A3 size notebook or card. Start putting your visual research images and form collages. Tape down images with temporary masking tape. They don’t have to be pretty at first. This is perhaps one of the hardest lessons I learned.

This process is all about experimentation. Collages are not the final product, your designs are. So, at this point, just play with form and structure. Play with rotation and composition on these pages. Tape them down, adjust, move on.

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One of the many design studios

4. The Photocopy Machine is a Godsend

What if you run out of images to cut? Just print and photocopy more of the same images you found! You can also play with scale and color. Try photocopying images in super large and super small scale, try color and greyscale.

You should also photocopy fabric pieces and trims. Instead of buying actual materials at this point, simply shove the fabric onto the machine and copy it 20 times (again try different scales). Use that to further your collaging process. (This is like the smartest trick ever)

5. Form Your Concept

At this point, you should have a pretty clear idea of the ‘feeling’ you are forming. This ‘feeling’ will be your baby concept. Once you have identified your concept, you can go back to the library and do more secondary research and continue with the experimentation.

You can start experimenting by making fabric samples. Is there a particular technique or color scheme you are focusing on? Try to recreate them by making small fabric pieces. Sew them together and shove it into the photocopy machine, copy it 20 times and collage.

More student work: Playing with fabric samples

6. Editing is Refining NOT Rewinding

Through collage, fabric samples, sketching and other techniques, you have developed your concept and design ideas. Here comes the editing. Brutally rearranging elements of your work and taking out irrelevant images is extremely important.

Even if you really like a particular image, don’t keep it if it doesn’t make sense! If an image fits well into the context, but it has horrible resolution or composition, take it down and retake it! Be critical about your work and constantly question if your images are following your concept.

Don’t be afraid of editing. Don’t be afraid of taking things down, even if this mean going back to the first page. For me, I was constantly redoing my pages every hour. I could be done with 8 pages but after critique with my tutors, there could be only 2 pages left. It is quite painful to watch your work taken down, but all is for refining. Even if you are taking images down, you are still going forward in the design process.

7. Listen to Your Tutor vs. Listen to Your Heart

Sometimes your ideas will clash with your tutor’s comments. Your tutors, being respected professionals in the fashion industry will most probably know more than you.. SO, always listen to your tutor and try their suggestions first. If it really doesn’t work, then argue another way. Show your tutors that you have taken in their feedback but it just doesn’t align with your vision.

8. Trace + Sketch + Design

After collaging and experimenting, you can start sketching. If you have developed interesting silhouettes through experimentation, you can trace them onto vellum or tracing paper and transform them into more garment-looking designs. Note that the actual designing only happens after a longggggg process of experimentation!

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Presentation Day with my Tutor

9. When stuck…

When you feel lost and stuck in your project, take a short break and review your past pages. Show your peers and see what they think. Ask what kind of feeling or sense do they detect from your work. If they are describing the exact feeling you are crafting, you are in the right direction! If not, continue to adjust and edit!

You can also observe what your peers are doing with their project. Is there a technique or experimentation that you can try as well?

10. Work Hard, Play Harder

Designing should be fun and playful! To me, designing is about experimentation, trial and error. At times, it can be intense and you don’t know if your concept even makes sense, and just want to rip it all out. But it is all part of the design process. Work hard, but play harder with your ideas, and it will surely take you somewhere.

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Granary Square, CSM campus. On Fridays, there are food trucks

These 3 weeks at CSM was incredible, I will do it all over again in a heart beat.

If interested, definitely check out the CSM short courses here!