Friday Obsessions: Journelle Sale!!

While I’m a little late for their yearly July sale (most of those discounted items are gone already), Journelle currently has an amazing sale section. If you hadn’t guessed from the picture, Journelle is an online lingerie boutique. They have many great designers – from La Perla, to Huit, Ella MacPherson, Fleur of England, and Myla – as well as awesome customer support.

My recent obsession? Filling up my shopping cart with all the amazingly beautiful things I could desire, staring at them longingly, clearing my cart, and starting over. However, if, unlike me, you have a job currently with some income flow, you may want to check them out and actually buy something. There is no reason to have ugly, ill-fitting lingerie. If you shop smart, you can have beautiful pieces that fit and support you to your level of comfort. Check carefully the fit notes for each style, as they comment if the bra runs small or large. Also, don’t hesitate to start an online chat support with them – they are incredibly nice and helpful.

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Clothing in Detail: Naja

It’s finally time for another look at interesting Bay Area companies. Next up: lingerie company Naja. Founded by Catalina Girald, who seems like an adventurous free spirit mixed with a shrewd businesswoman, the company’s byline is Underwear for Hope. This might seem a bit grandiose at first, until you really look at what the company is doing. Each time you buy a bra from their company it comes with a lingerie wash bag. Each lingerie bag is sewn by women in impoverished communities. It doesn’t stop there. The Naja team trained these women in order to give them valuable skills to support their families. Often they are single mothers, and their employment lets their daughters finally attend school. The stories of some of the participants are on the website, and they are quite moving.

Women empowering women – this is the real idea behind this lingerie brand, and I think it’s lovely. A portion of all the proceeds goes to continually fund their entrepreneurial sewing school, which then produces skilled labor to continue their Underwear for Hope campaign. I think it’s a great system, with a real social conscience behind it.

On top of the great moral compass, Naja has an awesome aesthetic. I haven’t personally bought any of their lingerie yet, but after stalking them online for quite some time, I can say with confidence that I will. Interesting details abound, including inspirational quotes in their undies, contrast/patterned lining inside bra cups, and hilariously motifs for their panties. I personally always enjoy humor in my own design, and in what I wear, so finding the rare company that shares this makes me incredibly happy. Materials also matter to them; another huge mark in my book. They currently use a beautiful pima cotton for their panties, and I think we all know that cotton panties really are the best for everyday use. :)

This brand, though it’s getting lots of great press (USA Today and The Lingerie Addict come to mind), is still just starting out. Many of their styles are pre-order currently. Also, the sizes do not yet cover everyone. However, I would really encourage anyone who would like to be part of this socially conscious brand to try them out anyway. Get a few panties, and maybe one of their bras. I think you will be happily surprised at the results. Alternatively, you could also be a part of their Indiegogo campaign. 

Just for fun, I’ve added some photos below to get you in the mood to shop! I apologize, because I do not yet own any of their pieces, I had to just lift pictures from their websites and other social media campaigns of theirs.

Clothing in Detail: Everlane

I’m starting a new series of posts!!!! As you probably know, I love writing about books, video games, and a few other random topics. Well, now I’m going to do a series on clothing companies. Dah dah dah DAHHHHHH!

Production – how something is made, the quality of it’s fabrication, and the environmental/human impact a company has – is very important to me. Last year I did some research into production, conducted a few interviews, and wrote a blog post about the experience. I promised that I would pass on any companies that I felt were doing great things in the fashion industry, and while looking for jobs, talking to friends, and shopping myself, I’ve found a few. 

Some of these companies are doing great things in their production process and some of them are using technology in cool ways – I’ll let you know why I like each one. I am posting these companies because I genuinely find their business interesting, and their aesthetics are worth looking into. Since it’s a lot of information, I’ll be highlighting one company at a time.

First up: Everlane

This company really might be my favorite. They practice something called ‘radical transparency,’ which means they tell you everything. Seriously, they give a lot of information. Each item has a breakdown of company cost and then final cost to the consumer. Everlane conducts business online only, so middlemen buying prices, which greatly increases final price point, are cut out. Additionally, they are very hands on with their factories. This is what really endears this company to me. They regularly visit their factories, put on their website which factories make what clothing, and even conduct documented factory tours. In a world where most companies factory hop and stay as far away as possible from production, this model of accountability encourages and delights me.

One of the bonuses of working closely with factories is that they really get to know how the work is done. This means they have done a lot of research and hand picked the very best factories for each product. After exploring their website extensively it is easy to see how important quality work is to their brand identity. This means that we, as consumers, get the best workmanship possible for the lowest price without majorly screwing anyone over in the process.

As far as design philosophy goes, Everlane has a simplicity and parred down aesthetic that almost everyone can get behind. While a fashionista may not find bold statement pieces here, the quality of their fabric and ease of design makes for great staples. I own a few things of theirs at this point (admittedly not as many as I would like), as I have known about them for a couple of years, and I love them all. So far, there hasn’t been a single thing I have purchased that disappointed me. For online shopping that’s truly amazing. Also, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a womenswear only line – they have a great selection of menswear too!

Here are a few pictures I’ve taken while in Everlane clothing <3

 

Pride and Prejudice and Halloween.

Costume party YAY!!!!!! I love dressing up. In fact, thinking of a costume, putting it together, and finally getting ready is arguably just as fun as whatever event I’m headed off to. This year I went to an after-work costume party at my boyfriend’s workplace. I don’t work. I’m a student. At first, I wasn’t getting much inspiration. Ryan and his brother had awesome costumes (Jules Winnfield and Coach Hines), so I was feeling the pressure. Finally, I figured I should just do something totally different. And really, how can I get more opposite than Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? I decided to be Elizabeth Bennet.

I must comment that I love Pride and Prejudice. I got the book for Christmas the year I was 15, and I read it all that same day – and then again about 3 days later. About a year or so after that I watched the entire BBC production of Pride and Prejudice and about died. I fell in love all over again. Granted, I haven’t read the book as an adult, but I think I will always have a soft spot for Mr. Darcy.

So, I woke up this morning, started with a long dress I already had in my closet and got to work. First? Research. I looked at pictures of the BBC production on Google (ah, the interwebs, how I love you), and then got down and dirty. I pulled out my Taschen books – Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th century. Beautiful books from the Kyoto Costume Institute, they have great pictures, and great text. I looked for clothes from the early 1800s, when Jane Austen was writing. The mannequins also have hair styles of the time period, so that covered two bases.

I had some yardage of a great silk organza lying around, so I knew I could work with that. Also, it was white, a very popular color during that time period. First I pleated it in large pleats, but it didn’t look quite right. So, I took that out and gathered it in three stages. The two sides wrapping to the back of the new skirt are heavily gathered, while I only lightly gathered the front section. This produced a much more authentic looking garment, so I hand sewed it to the dress. Next, I revamped the front chest section. Before, the dress was tied in a knot at the sternum. I took off the tie, loosened it a bit, and then used that extra material to make my bonnet/headpiece.

Finally, I was on to makeup! After finding a pretty fun site about makeup during that time period, I went with a very natural look. Just a bit of blush and mascara – which I felt captured what was popular at the time.

All in all, a pretty fun day making a costume that I really enjoyed. The best part was getting to the office and having someone actually guess right away that I was Elizabeth Bennet! That must mean I did something right <3

Ikebana fun!

After a celebration at my house, during which I arranged some large bouquets of flowers, I had an idea. I wanted to try out Ikebana! If you are wondering what Ikebana is, I will enlighten you. Ikebana is the traditional Japanese art of flower arranging. Why is it special? Well, instead of mostly relying on the inherent beauty of the flowers, and building bulk in an artistic way to create an arrangement, Ikebana often uses only a few different types of materials to create an aesthetic appeal based primarily on line and composition. In other words, in a more traditional ‘Western’ approach to flower arrangement, I might get a lot of different flowers, in color combinations I find pleasing, and group them together in a large bunch. In Ikebana, I might use one or possibly two types of flowers, with accent greenery or branches, and focus on how I arrange them within the space they are intended for.

Disclaimer: I have never taken a class on Ikebana, nor have I talked to anyone who practices, teaches, or has been taught about Japanese flower arranging. However, I own a book and the internet!! So, a little backstory about Ikebana.

Flower arranging first started in Japan when monks in the 6th century offered flowers to Buddha. Often, this practice continued (and still does) in the home, with an arrangement centered around the in-house alter in aristocratic society. Around the 15th century, Ikebana began to flourish as an art form outside of the monastery and seemed to take it’s inspiration from architecture and religious ideals of harmony. According to Keiko Kubo, and backed up by information I read online, the alcove, or tokonoma, in a traditional Japanese home housed art objects and Ikebana arrangements. The tokonoma is a very important aspect of interior design and is often considered the most important place in the house. With the tokonoma’s growing popularity, the aesthetic design and prominence of Ikebana also became paramount. This expanded Ikebana from being a mostly religious and aristocratic pastime to entering all levels of society.

Ikebana means to “bring life to flowers,” and it is important to treat both the flowers and their arrangements with care in order to give them a new life after being cut. There are many different styles and types of arrangements, and I will list some great online resources at the end of this article for more information. However, what is most important to me, in my untrained state, is the emphasis on line and the importance of placement. Traditionally, the arrangements were formed with three main lines, or sections, to represent earth, man, and heaven, as well as the harmony between them. This was represented by three varying lines of height within the arrangement, and the balance as a whole. The entire arrangement should reflect carefully the space it will be housed in, as the flowers should neither overcome nor get lost within the space. The arrangement should be harmonious with the space and with it’s container. This time, I was using leftover flowers, so it was a bit difficult to get everything to work, but I am pretty happy with the results. I really tried to think of having three heights, and pretty much stuck to having just a few flowers for each arrangement.

In addition to the symbolism of balance and harmony within the arrangement, Ikebana is supposed to bring pleasure and peace to the artist. Each flower is cut precisely and placed carefully, and the whole process is done with intent and pre-meditation. I definitely got into this aspect of Ikebana, wanting to practice grace, ease, and a sense of beauty. However, I somewhat failed. Clumsy as always, I stabbed myself in the thumb with some wire I was trying to utilize and became quite flustered when I started bleeding all over the green flowers. It wasn’t beautiful. However, I took a moment to compose myself, and finished it all up. I’m not one to give up, and the pleasure I got from seeing the results was great! Next time, I’ll try to once again cultivate a sense of mindfulness, hopefully with more success.

Enjoy! (I really can’t wait to get a camera that shoots raw photos and has manual settings so I can start really playing and giving you all lovely photos!)

For some more information on Ikebana, and some cool websites, here you go:

Deschamps, Sarah and Tomoko Hara. “Ikebana in the Cultural and Historical Traditions of Japan.” Modern Tokyo Times. 5 March. 2012. <http://moderntokyotimes.com/2013/03/05/ikebana-in-the-cultural-and-historical-traditions-of-japan/> (This was a really cool article; I’d highly suggest reading it. It also has listings of other websites at the bottom of the article).

“Ikebana: A bit of history.” <http://famille.delaye.pagesperso-orange.fr/Ikebana/history.html>

Ikenobo: Origin of Ikebana. <http://ikenoboamerica.com/?page_id=17#more-17> (This site has some great explanations of different styles of Ikebana.)

Kubo, Keiko. Keiko’s Ikebana. Tuttle Publishing: Tokyo, 2006. (I really love this book – I ought to because I own it! Anyway, it has some really good information and great pictures.)

“The origin and evolution of Ikebana.” Ikebana International. <http://ikebana-basel.ch/iibasel/index.php?id=46>

Teshigahara, Wafu. “History and spirit of Ikebana.” Holy Mountain Trading Company. <http://www.holymtn.com/garden/Ikebana1.htm>

“Virtual Ikebana.” Kids Web Japan. <http://web-japan.org/kidsweb/virtual/ikebana/ikebana04.html> (This is kind of fun.)

Weekend Space Case.

This weekend I got a new writing space. I’m so excited!!!! We converted an area in the back room and turned it into a super cool space where I can sit on a huge bouncy ball and write/type/research/do whatever.

As you will see in the pictures below, my boyfriend had previously put in beautiful shelves made out of shutters so that I could store all my fabric. It was literally head to toe filled with all kinds of goodies. Well, I decided to buy some large storage bins, five to be exact, fill them up with fabric, and put them under the house. That way, when I am ready to do a project, it will be an adventure to find what I want. Who doesn’t like adventures in dark dungeons with spiders, webs, sharp objects, and a plethora of other dangers?!?!? Me, ME!

So like usual, to start our project we went to Urban Ore. This is an amazing spot that has lots of interesting, and bizarre, things for cheap. Including lines of toilets, heaps of old windows, and bathtubs galore. There is even more amazing stuff inside, just ignore the slight (or overpowering sometimes) mouse smell and shop, Shop, SHOP! And, it’s all recycled. Finally, guilt-free shopping. We have used them quite frequently for home projects, and the results are always unique and beautiful. Or at least we think so. We ended up with some type of closet door contraption, already painted a beautiful blue, that Ryan converted into a tabletop for me. Stick on some cleverly designed folding legs, and I have a beautiful, space-saving, work table. I love it!

I added some magnet boards on the wall to start hanging research material, so pretty soon I’ll be in business. If you are ever in the Berkeley/Oakland area, I would highly suggest checking out Urban Ore, and see if you can find the hidden Gats graffiti <3 (pictured below).

The Suit: man’s body dissected.

vitruvian

This semester in school I am taking a Menswear Tailoring class. The suit has become almost a fetish item for me – I don’t know if I like anything better than a man in a really well-tailored, beautiful suit – and so I’m very excited to be enrolled in this class. The way the suit flows on the male form, with its classic lines and illusions of perfect musculature underneath, really intrigues me. For instance, the collar of the suit stands only 1 inch, in order to allow at least a half inch shirt collar to show above and give the illusion of a longer neck. In San Francisco, with our casual and sporty attire, I don’t get to see men in beautiful suits that often, but when I do, I can’t help but stare.

So, given this predilection on my part, I’m going to start a regular posting about the tailoring techniques and theories that I learn in class and research independently as well. I don’t know how often ‘regular’ is; we will have to see :)

First up – the dissection of the body according to suits. It turns out, according to my teacher, that suits really come from principles derived from Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. All men are squares (pun intended), and the suit enhances and is built off of that square. Each line in the suit jacket pattern is derived from a certain percentage of the man’s height. Because men are supposed to be a proportional 8 heads tall, each natural body line corresponds to a certain percentage of 8. The chest is at 1/4, the waist/elbow at 3/8, the hip at 1/2, and so on. In fact, in earlier era’s of the suit, men used padding to try to achieve the perfect proportions (more on the history of the suit at a later date). It’s sacred geometry in clothes!

A naturally curious individual, I started measuring the men at my disposal. They aren’t squares. I am the most squarish among us. However, just looking at the line of their body, they follow the 8 heads model pretty closely. The waist was about 3/8 of the entire height, and the hips fell pretty much right on the half way line. On the other hand, I don’t seem very proportioned at all :( My half way point fell right below my crotch line (I guess I have a really short body). Now granted, my household does have some pretty superior men, but still, it was pretty interesting to see where this theory falls short, and where it is upheld.

How does this translate to the suit jacket? First I make a 90 degree angle, with the corner becoming the center back neck point of the pattern. The jacket length will be half the height of the man (so if he is 6 feet, or 72 inches it will be 36 inches long), minus 4 or 5 inches for the current trent. Then, taking into account the missing “head” measurements, the waist will fall at 3/8 the total height, plus about an inch for movement, the hip will fall at the halfway mark, and so on. That means for a 72 inch man, to calculate where I would put the waist line would look like this:

72 / 8 = 9, This calculates how many inches for each “head” in the 8 head model.

The waist line is at the 3/8 head mark on the body, or 9 x 3 = 27 inches. However, on the pattern, we don’t take into account the first “head.” So 27 – 9 = 18.

At first glance I will put the waist line tentatively at 18 inches down from the squared corner. However, men don’t hold still, so I can add about 3/4 of an inch for movement purposes. That puts me at 18 3/4 inches for my waist line.

Anyway, even though the measurements don’t always work out exactly like this, and it depends on the man for whom the suit is intended, it is interesting to know the math behind the perfect suit. Perfection rarely does correspond with reality.

Clothes Done Right.

I love clothes. I love clothing so much, I am currently getting my MFA in Women’s Fashion. However, I don’t really like the clothing industry. As a potential designer, the unethical and downright horrible aspects of the clothing industry make me think twice about getting a job. I mean, it’s one thing as a consumer – my personal impact is relatively low, but as a designer I feel as though I have a huge level of social responsibility. Yet also as a designer, I have almost no contact with what is really going on in factories and production.

My school, for some reason, almost entirely leaves out ethical and sustainable production of clothing. In fact, they don’t really seem to want to talk about production at all. Maybe as an undergraduate, with a bit more freedom to schedule extra classes, I could take a few courses in sustainability, but as a graduate student, it just doesn’t happen. And when I try to bring ethical questions into the ‘classroom,’ usually the teacher changes the subject as soon as possible. So what do I do now? Well, try to educate myself of course!

I had the good luck and connections to get a few interviews with people working within the field of factory auditing. Basically, these are companies that go to factories around the world to check out that standards are maintained and Codes of Conduct (COC) upheld. The first person I visited told me a lot about the industry, and mostly how it’s just not working. There is a standard that most companies want upheld – SA8000 – but the reality is most factories don’t uphold it. And there isn’t much incentive or help to change.

The current system works like this: Fashion Company A (FC A) goes to Factory 1 (F1). They place an order, on rush of course, because everything in this industry, supposedly, has to be fast. During F1’s production of FC A’s order, an audit company comes in to check that they are maintaining SA8000’s mandates. They aren’t. FC A then withdraws the rest of their potential business and moves on to F2 (Factory 2). FC B (Fashion Company B), then replaces FC A at F1, and the whole circle starts again. This is not a sustainable model. Instead of actually investing time and energy into factories, and helping them raise to the level of upholding standards, right now companies just factory hop.

But large companies don’t really care that much. Why? Well because the current system means that first, they are not legally responsible for the factories that produce their merchandise, and second, by quickly moving around factories, they create a system of underbidding that makes their products cheap to produce. Of course, this underbidding and rush ordering means that the quality suffers, and, most importantly, there is no way to uphold the SA8000 standards and still make money. My contact at the auditing firm, a firm who has quite a few large businesses employing them, said that currently not a single one of her clients is doing it right. She thinks that instead of the ‘punishment’ model currently in place, companies should stay committed to the factories they are currently working in and help them improve.

So, are there currently any other models out there? Well, there are a few.

Another woman I talked to owns a small fashion/accessories/yoga business called Cheppu Himal. She operates on a whole different system, but says it is really only possible because she is a smaller business. She started and owns her own factory in Nepal, and works directly with the people in the village she employs. This way she ensures that her workers are treated fairly, standards of living and health are maintained, and she can even benefit the community by putting together scholarships, etc. for the families she works with. This is possible because she has a personal relationship with the people there, and it is small enough for her to oversee everything. Not only was she kind enough to tell me about how her business is run, she also really encouraged me to look into how to run an ethical business and to be inquisitive about alternatives. For instance, how far back into the production line do I want to control? Do I want to look at the farmers growing the cotton? The silk worm industry? How the rayon is produced?

After talking with both these women, it seemed to me that the most important aspect of maintaining ethical production is to have some sort of relationship with the factories. Change can happen through financial rewards and will probably happen more effectively and efficiently than through any type of punishment.

What if I don’t have the capital to build my own company up from the ground (I don’t)? Or what if I don’t have the time, or am already an existing company? I think that Fair Trade USA is doing a pretty good job addressing these issues. They really encourage a relationship between the buyer and the producer, and even require a certain level of commitment on both halves before considering them for their program. Instead of ditching factories that aren’t meeting their requirements (which are great), they work together to get them up to par. Of course, they are currently working with factories that are already doing pretty well for themselves, but who knows, hopefully it will spread. They also partner with other auditing companies to cut down the cost for both the factories and the buyers. Awesome. In addition, when visiting their office, I got to see a lot of cool new stuff produced under the Fair Trade USA requirements, and even got some swag. Double awesome.

So what does this mean for me, or you, as a consumer? Well, right now it is hard. Often the companies working with Fair Trade are producing clothing that, for lack of a better word, are super hippie or yogi. Not necessarily my style. However, if we keep watch, and reward companies that try something new (I always check to see if Fair Trade companies come up with anything a bit more to my taste and then purchase it) perhaps we will start seeing more interesting, mainstream clothing produced in ethical, meaningful ways. Not just t-shirts.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll try to check back in on this subject periodically and share any cool companies I find that might be better to purchase from than others!