Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me!

When my grandmother was alive, she was the light in the room. The energy force that galvanized everyone from my great aunt & great uncle (her brother and sister) to my mother and her sister (my aunt) to all my cousins, my grandmother was the core and the center of our family. And she also knew how to have a good time. In the weeks and then the days leading up to her birthday, she'd loudly proclaim, "Happy Birthday To Me!" And it didn't even matter if it was someone else's birthday, we knew that if she was in the room it was going to be her birthday as well. She was really some kind of special.
This Saturday I will be turning 42 years old and I have begun to utter those words my grandmother did so may years ago. And remembering the celebration of life has brought me from a dark place. This weekend past, I learned that I was not selected as a semifinalist in the Supima Cotton Runway Competition. And it really did thrust me into a tailspin of disappointment. I was confident that the universe had provided this opportunity to circumvent the defeat my business partners and I experienced with our poor showing during Market Week. This kind of recovery would have been validating by reminding me that I am headed in the right direction. It would have confirmed my gut instinct that it is kismet for me to design cocktail dresses. After all, I thought my audition went rather well. The judges seemed to like my work and my particular kind of pizazz. So it was a crushing blow when the 12 semifinalists were announced and there was no Wilbur on the list. But now, I have learned that I must, more than ever, encourage myself. It's not easy. In fact, there are moments when the demons of self-doubt and self-worth attack me. And I question if my odyssey is just some vain attempt to distance myself from the modest and my talent is only mediocre at best. But I just keep trying to move forward because I know the answers to my questions, whether they are favorable or not, are coming. With each birthday I learn more about fortitude and accepting defeat of the smaller battles with grace. And it is truly cause to celebrate. Because I know more today than I did yesterday. Happy Birthday to me!
Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Keep It Moving

At the end of last week, my business partners and I decided to terminate Marla's contract. Although it seemed like she was initially committed to the cause of getting the line on store racks, she lost steam after our disappointing Market Week turnout. Ashanti and I tried several times over the past three weeks to contact Marla so that we could strategize our next move, but our phone calls went unreturned and our emails were unanswered. We are looking into other options as far as a sales professional is concerned and are hopeful. But our success is only guaranteed by a strong team who believes in the goals of Sorta Kinda Enterprises. In the meantime, this Tuesday past, I took a handful of dresses with me and visited 3 different Manhattan boutiques that we are interested in selling to. And the idea of the old school door-to-door salesman is dead. May he rest in peace. Because each one of the style emporiums that I looked into will only consider our goods through email correspondence. I spoke to my friend Chris this afternoon about this phenomenon and both of us thought it rather ironic. Because clothing is very tactile, most of us like to see the way a garment moves, how it feels, its weight. But modern technology has eliminated an integral part of choosing one design over another. And then, what if the buyer dislikes the way my photos are styled or my choice of models. Will that influence their decision? It's all quite precarious. But I've been emailing the images to every appropriate venue possible. All I need is a breakthrough.
Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Chosen

Last year I was selected by a panel of judges to participate in the inaugural runway design competition sponsored by Supima cotton. My mission was to create a dazzling evening look utilizing the world's finest cotton. It was such a validating experience. Until then I relied on my family and friends, who may have felt obligated, to assuage my anxieties about my designs. Was I really good enough to call myself a fashion designer? But when complete strangers and colleagues recognized my talent, my journey was legitimized. And I was proud to be one of the handpicked 25 whose frocks graced the runway that very warm evening during the summer of 2008.
Fast forward several months and Supima is readying for their 3rd runway competition. When I first caught wind of the announcement, it landed in my email box via the Mad Fashionista. At first, I was quick to dismiss it. Been there, done that, blogged about it! But then I looked over the information and noticed that there was a new component. Apparently, the winning designer will have their garment featured in Bloomingdale's and promoted by Supima. Jackpot! I am diligently working to get my collection into stores. My business partners and I hired a salesperson specifically for that purpose. Unfortunately, the person in charge of designer collections at Bloomingdale's declined to place an order for this spring. Maybe this would be a way to begin a dialogue with the powers-that-be and see if I can turn that no into a yes? I felt the universe beckoning to me. My first Supima experience provided the impetus to change direction and launch a more sophisticated, luxurious line. Who knows what possibilities lie ahead for me and Sorta Kinda Enterprises? So I had to answer the call.
My model, Vanessa, and I met up at the plantation where she changed into one of my denim cocktail confections. And we walked over to Bloomingdale's where we found camera men and sound guys with boom mikes recording the interviews that the judges were conducting with each candidate. It was amazing! I saw the team responsible for public relations with whom I worked when I was a Supima cotton virgin and greeted them warmly. And I was filmed as Topaz, the camera operator who is a west coast transplant, asked me questions about my past experiences with the Supima brand. When he questioned if I was nervous, I replied boldly, "Do I look like I am nervous?" I laugh at myself now, but it seems that all you have to do is turn a camera on me and I perk right up. And on top of that, the judges seemed to really appreciate my aesthetic. All I can say is that I really enjoyed today's excitement and pray that I am again one of the chosen.
Peace & Fashion!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New Alliances

The creative process often requires me to seek out the expertise of skilled artisans in other categories of design. For instance, last season for the "Just Zip" collection I commissioned my dear friend Comfort B., a shoe ornament designer, to create the zipper flowers for one of my dress styles. Once I formulate a concept for the collection, I have a very clear idea of how I want to develop the "story". This season my vision centers around the dandy - a refined gentleman who places particular importance upon physical appearance. And since a hat is often an important element of a dandified look, I needed to find an accomplished milliner who could translate men's styles, like the fedora, into something enchanting for women. So I asked my girl Yvette from church, who wore some killah styles for our Easter production, if she would make an introduction to the person who created her artful chapeaus. This Saturday morning past, I sat face-to-face with Otis Damo'n Holley, the young man responsible for those hats. He showed me a slide show of several of his creations and I was simply floored by his talent. When we spoke, it was as if we had worked together for years. We discussed my ideas for Fall 2010 and I shared my sketches, fabric swatches, and exactly what I wanted this collection to convey. And we've settled on 2 different hat styles to adorn the models when we photograph the collection in January. I am very enthralled with the notion of forming new alliances and working with undiscovered talent. I cannot wait to see the final outcome and how all my seemingly disparate ideas will come together. But there is much work to be done before that happens. Gotta get back to the grind.

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rewriting The Scene

So it appears that Roger and I will not be collaborating after all. When we met, he remarked that he could tell I liked being the boss. But, honestly, being the boss is no picnic. As the heads of a business that has yet to take off, my partners and I are responsible personally for all the expenses including taxes, model fees, production costs, etc. We are, essentially, magicians who somehow do our best to turn a dime into a dollar. The business has not generated any revenue since its inception in 1998. And all of us work unsatisfying jobs on the side, funneling our monies into Sorta Kinda Enterprises. It is SO not glamorous. Honestly, I started my own line because I could not get a job in the industry. And although I lacked the experience, I was no longer interested in putting my dreams on hold. So I stepped out on faith. And I was willing to take that leap of faith with Roger. Unfortunately, he was not honest. When he did not return my last 2 phone calls after Monday's initial meeting, it became painfully apparent that we were not on the same page. My friend Kathryn M. was intuitive enough to caution me and point out that taking on a partner does not a fairytale make. And she is absolutely right. The decisions we make in desperation never end well. And blindly offering Roger a partnership before "courting him" was a sad, desperate attempt to decrease our production expenses. Better to have learned that lesson now rather than later.

On a sunnier note, today was the first fitting with my tailor, George, and my fit model, Ila, for Fall 2010. And it went very well. Even Ila, who seemed quite unimpressed when she glanced over my sketches last week, said she couldn't believe how great the muslin looked. I am always excited to see my ideas translated from the page to an actual garment, especially when it's done with precision and attention to detail. And I am just pleased with the initial outcome. Despite my money woes, my creativity is running rampant. This collection, in particular, has ignited an eruption of clever ideas and challenged me to explore further my notions of what is bold, modern, and classic. I have definitely hit my stride and I am going to continue to ride the crest.

So sometimes the script of our lives calls for a rewrite, but somehow we are where we need to be when the next scene takes place. And I am patient enough to see just how the story ends.

Peace & Fashion!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Act 2: Scene 2

So today I met Roger. Roger is a handsome and very tall (6'5") gentleman who hails from the island of Jamaica. He says that he's been sewing as long as he can remember. And he picked up his skills from his mother when he was a young 'un. He's worked in retail here in the Big Apple for Marc Jacobs among others, but now has a private clientele that he sews and designs for. He and I first chatted online some time ago when he sent me a message after noticing that we were cut from the same cloth, so to speak. Although we dialogued cordially, we lost touch. This Saturday past when Roger saw me online again, he sent me a quick "Hello." Unfortunately, I had not taken my ginkgo that morning because Roger had to remind me that we had exchanged pleasantries some time ago. But we quickly picked up where we left off and the conversation transitioned to the telephone. Something resonated for me during our talk and once I looked at photos of his designs I thought there might be a real connection. I've always been the lone creative prong in our business and for quite a while I've secretly wanted to work with someone who shared a similar aesthetic. We would be able to bounce ideas off of each other and come up with designs that are doubly fantastic. Plus, Roger's sewing skills are off the hook. We would follow in the footsteps of other great fashion partners like Badgley Mischka and Lazaro Hernandez & Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler. After meeting Roger, it became clear to me that he might be the one to help elevate Sorta Kinda Enterprises to the next rung. Now I just have to convince my business partners that there is not only a need for another musketeer, but we could forge a clearer path with someone of Roger's caliber. Wish me luck!

Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Something New, Something Blue

Early Thursday morning my new fit model, Ila, texted me to say that she might be late to our afternoon appointment with George. No worries. It gave me a little time to sort out finishes and details and purchase alternative fabrics for some of those details. I realized that the denim I'd chosen was just too heavy and stiff. There would be no movement. And the foiled leather skins that I purchased, although really amazing, would be all wrong with my latest cocktail confections. So instead I chose a more supple, lighter weight denim and went with a luxurious silk faille. Most people don't know a faille from a taffeta, but you can definitely feel the difference. And it's about $15 more a yard! Trust me it's not only going to feel more fabulous, it is going to look more fabulous.

Working with a new fit model, a new tailor, and different denims has me feeling somewhat trepidacious. Let's face it, venturing off into the unknown is always a little unnerving. But 11 years ago, I made a decision to pursue something I really loved. And it constantly calls for me to press the refresh button and start anew. While keeping things status quo makes me feel very comfortable, there is no growth and no evolution. And there is definitely no way for me to become the successful fashion designer I am meant to be if I am just maintaining. So the initial feeling of dread gives way to the excitement of possibilities. And that is why I try to welcome newness into my world. Because I know that I am only moving closer to achieving my goals.

Peace & Fashion!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Making Lemonade

There is an old adage that goes, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." And I am stirring my pitcher as we speak. AND I've added a little Bacardi to my brew. Because at times like these you've just gotta spike the punch. Yesterday afternoon, I was speaking to my seamstress, Alaina, about some of the details on the first sample for Fall 2010. It seemed like a normal enough conversation that we've had several times since we started working together this April past. But something happened. And I am not sure what. Because waiting in my email box early this morning was a "Dear John" message from her saying that she could no longer work with me. It sent me into a tailspin. What was I going to do? How could this happen to me - AGAIN? I left a voice message and sent an email begging her to reconsider. At the very least, I pleaded for her to finish the piece we discussed yesterday. Especially since she'd spent the entire Monday completing the preliminary pattern. But all my cajoling was for naught. Alaina is moving on with her life. And I've got to move on, too. So I called the number listed in an ad posted in my trade newspaper, Women's Wear Daily, that offered quick and efficient patterns and samples. Less than 5 minutes later, I was surrounded by sewing machines, cutting tables, and pattern pieces hanging from the ceiling at 7th Avenue Fashion Design. Amid the clutter and seemingly controlled chaos, George and I discussed construction, fabrication, and measurements as we dissected my sketch. We exchanged business cards and I assured him that I would return on Thursday with my new fit model, Ila, in tow. Time is something very precious that we all have very little of. I've got to make the most of what I have before January when we will be photographing the "Fine & Dandy" collection for Fall 2010. How I will pay for these samples is still a mystery, but I am stepping out on faith. Just like Alaina is starting anew, so must I. And after I finish this pitcher of liquid courage, I'll be ready to turn the page to the next chapter of my odyssey. Bottoms up!
Peace & Fashion!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Something In The Air

After my self-imposed fashion detox, I have begun to feel more like myself again. My creativity is in full throttle. And I am happy to report that my seamstress, Alaina, and I are beginning the work for the Fall 2010 collection. I think the crisp autumn weather may have unlocked a treasure trove of ideas that's given my vision a focus & clarity that has been absent over the last couple of weeks. Or maybe it was that epic fever I suffered this Monday past which caused uncharacteristic hallucinatory visions? Whatever the reason - I am in possession of a tote bag spilling over with sumptuous wools, the sheerest silk organzas, the most exquisite silk/wool, the softest foiled leather skins, and the fiercest premium denim. My sketches are taking shape and I have created a story for the season that has my intrepid fashionista borrowing from the boys. The title of this collection is Fine & Dandy and the theme is based on the English Dandy - that very well turned out gentleman who wears clothing with finesse and style and panache. I searched the web to find contemporary images of a dandy and, once found, I translated them into something sexy, yet attainable for the modern woman. I applied motifs that are common for the dandy, such as the bow tie, the dress shirt, and the pocket watch with chain. But the shapes & silhouettes are very womanly. Some are voluminous, while others are body conscious. Each style will be named after a music diva's songs - just like spring 2010. And since I am "youtubing" a lot of vintage Diana Ross circa the 1970s, I have chosen her for my musical inspiration.

As Marla & I diligently work to get the spring 2010 collection on store racks early next year, I continue to follow through with my dreams and goals. And it requires that I tap into my reserves and commit to what I love most - conceptualizing and sketching beautiful new dress designs that women will hopefully covet. And sometimes the outside noise can wear me down and distract me. But I am never down for too long because there is something in the air. And it beckons to me to just keep on.

Peace & Fashion!