Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Fabric Artist Wanted...."

I was looking on Baltimore Craigslist for apartments close to MICA, when I noticed there was an Art/Design category in the Jobs section.  Hmmmm.  Click.  One of the newest listings was headlined "Fabric Artist Wanted,"  a phrase I had never seen before.  How wonderful!  Thus began a very interesting collaboration with Todd Broadwater, a talented artist who designs video games and action figures.  He wanted a prototype of a 32" cloth doll of Slender Man-- the internet meme that has taken on an eerie life of its own.  Now he's got it up on Kickstarter, where you can purchase your own for $50.  Here is his daughter with the doll:

I worked from Todd's great drawings:

 (As I checked the scale, I kept thinking of the segment from Spinal Tap in which the set designer makes the Stone Henge gate 18 inches instead of 18 feet. Love that tiny stone gate being lowered dramatically from above the stage!)  Here's how it looked in process:
Somehow I remembered how my Raggedy Ann doll's butt was
hinged for sitting.
Here are the pattern pieces for his little suit:

And here's the final product:

Now he's loose in the world.  Do visit Todd's Kickstarter page and order your very own Slender Man doll today.  He is also offering some limited edition illustrations that are strange and wonderful.

Sweet dreams!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fashion Can Be Truly Beautiful... and Hateful

Dress by Mark Jacobs

The last time I was in NYC I picked up a "W" magazine and was blown away by some of the fresh, smart and creative looks I saw.
Dress by Akris
Dress by Alexander Wang

The prices, of course, are astronomical, but I enjoy looking the same way I enjoy viewing great paintings at a museum that I don't expect to have hanging on my walls in the near future.  And how about these shoes? 
Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere
Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci
Aldo Shoes
"W" magazine even has organic cosmetics reviews to throw a bone to people like me.  But then there is the scandalously awful side of fashion that encourages people to think they have to spend a boatload, or brandish labels or do masochistic things to their bodies to look alright.  No plus-sized models, older people or even many brown-skinned ones held up as beautiful either.  In 2013!  I have since seen "W" cover stories with titles like "What to Inject Where."  ?!  I was particularly hit upside the head by the blasé article titled "Aid to the Pore."  I came across this the same night my son was writing a paper for his English class about  the moral theorist Peter Singer, who posits that anyone living on more than $30,000 is taking from the mouths of the poor.  (All education is subversive, but some of Simon's teachers-- Montgomery County public schools-- are particularly so.  Rock on, Mr. Horn.)  I am a material woman, aesthete, and student of fashion, but I am turned off by the status-conscious, self-annihilating aspects of so much of what I see.  Perhaps the ugly side of fashion is unavoidable.  Clothing is so much about signaling to other homo sapiens, and what some people want to signal with their clothes is their power, wealth or sexual charm.  What do I want to signal?  I am working it out every day.  Stop whining and pick up an issue of BustMagazine, Katy.  Ciao, bellas!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Hello, Feet!

Barefoot Crochet Sandals by AkBro on Etsy
I am on a something of a blogging hiatus while I work on separating my life from my husband's.  (Figuring out what parts to separate and what parts to keep intact while we transition to the nesting model of childcare takes a lot of care and emotional energy.)   Meanwhile, I have also put off  the seasonal ritual of treating my feet to a lovely pedicure and letting them see the sun through sandals once again.  I was determined this time to seek out an eco-friendly spa that would not use the many toxic chemicals used in nail polish and polish remover (especially toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde ).  So my feet continue to wait.  Then today I came across this terrific blog post  in a lovely blog called Gratitude 2013 about a spot nearby in Silver Spring.  (Thank you, Universe!)
It's called The Emerald Door.  Let's visit. 
If you know of other eco-friendly spas in the DC area, please add them in the comment section.  I will not likely be able to do a big research project in the short term. 
Hello, shy feet!  No pedicure is fine too!

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Quickie...

Busy making a Slenderman plush doll for a client these days.  I'll post pics when I'm done.  Meanwhile the Dutch designer,  Johanne Helger Lund, just popped up in a facebook ad.  She uses natural fibers and organic and sustainable elements whenever possible.  Her background is costume design, which gives her clothes a nostalgic look that I like. 

Carmen dress available in several colors for 184 euros.

Here's a different view that shows the details

I think this is my favorite:

Carla dress for 184 euros

She specializes in feminine, flattering looks.  The prices are steep as you might expect from a small design house committed to fair labor conditions.  How's the Euro-Dollar exchange rate these days?  Check out her label's website,  Ecouture,  for more lovely frocks available for on-line purchase.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

It's Goodwill Industries Week!

There are some wonderful mega thrift stores in the area where you can pore over racks and racks of merchandise and find inexpensive things to surprise and delight.  They all look like non-profit charity organizations, but they are not made alike.  For example, Value Village and Unique Thrift are for-profit organizations.  They contract with non-profit organizations like the National Children’s Center and Vietnam Veterans of America, who collect the merchandise and provide donors with the ability to write off their donations as charitable.  I am glad the National Children’s Center and Vietnam Veterans of America have found this means to support their charitable work.  However, as an eco-fashionista, I was sad to see the Value Village on New Hampshire Avenue in Hillandale begin featuring a huge Hallowe’en shop with hundreds of new, cheap costumes made overseas.  As a for-profit entity, this just made good business sense:  they realized everyone was scouring thrifts for costume ideas and elements, and they made sure everyone could find something to buy.  From an environmental point of view it undercut the goals of reducing, reusing and recycling.
Goodwill of Greater Washington is an exception to the for-profit thrift model.  The organization exists to provide job training and placement.  And 91% of DC Goodwill’s funding goes directly towards their job training and employment services.  What a great way to do a lot of good with your clothing and furniture donations!  Also, I think, because of their non-profit soul, they are likely to stay truer to their important environmental role.
Below is a video about Goodwill and, after it, a lot impressive facts about their work.  If you’d like to learn more about Goodwill of Greater Washington, find their nearest store or donation center, or get involved, please visit --or download their free mobile app from the iTunes app store.  My friend, Kristina, recommends heading out Columbia Pike to one of their Virginia  sites as their are many great eateries along the way.  Salvadoran food anyone?  Go Goodwill!

  • In 2012, DC Goodwill provided job training and placement services to over 3,200 people in our community.
  • DC Goodwill successfully placed 228 people into new jobs in 2012 and employed over 600 in its retail stores, contract services and administrative support divisions.
  • After 90 days of employment 86% of the individuals DC Goodwill placed into jobs last year still retained those jobs.
  • Some of the companies where DC Goodwill graduates were placed in 2012 include Allied Barton Security, Accenture, Safeway, George Mason University, Jiffy Lube, Securitas, Virginia Commerce Bank, Fairfax County Public Schools, PNC Bank and Marriott.
  • Over 80% of the people in DC Goodwill’s contracts division have a documented, severe disability.
  • DC Goodwill is also a job creator. Every retail store we open creates between 25 and 30 new jobs.
  • Whenever someone donates to Goodwill they are also repurposing and recycling unwanted household goods. In 2012, DC Goodwill diverted 20 million pounds of goods from area landfills.
  • DC Goodwill donated almost $70,000 in Good Samaritan vouchers to other nonprofit agencies in 2012 so that the populations they serve can secure free clothing and shoes from Goodwill stores.
  • Goodwill serves people with a variety ofdisabilities including emotional, developmental, physical and mental.
  • Goodwill serves people with a variety of disadvantaging conditions including those with a lack of education, those trying to get off welfare, ex-offenders and the chronically unemployed.
  • In January the unemployment rate in the District of Columbia was at 8.6% compared to 5.5% just five years ago.
  • The unemployment rate in DC’s Ward 8 still exceeds 25%, which is the highest area rate in the country!
  • Sunday, May 5, 2013

    Introducing Calamarie

    How about this weather?  And the gorgeous spring blooms?!  It is the perfect time to highlight a jewelry designer who makes beautiful, colorful things using natural products.  In 2009, Columbia-native and U.S. State Department employee, Catalina Lemaitre launched Calamarie, a company dedicated to eco-friendly jewelry made by Columbian artisans.  Her designs do wonderful things with orange peels, seeds and even silk cocoons.  Here are just a few of her designs.

    I bought a purple orange-peel-rose bracelet a couple of years ago and can attest to its durability.  I am now attracted to her many hair accessories.


    She has an extensive on-line store, ( plus you can view her jewelry in person at the National Museum of Women in the Arts gift shop, Coco Blanca at National Harbor, On the Purple Couch in Silver Spring, and Pure Moxie in Leesburg.  EVEN BETTER, there's a "Meet the Designer" event Tuesday May 7 from 11am to 4pm at the National Museum of Women in the Arts gift shop.  Take a long lunch and see the exhibit of Anna Archer paintings there too.


    Did you know that only 5% of the art currently on display in U.S. museums is made by women artists?  NMWA finds those we should see more of.  Take a long lunch and enjoy some great art and great jewelry design.  Happy Spring!

    Friday, May 3, 2013

    Overdressed and Underpaid

    In response to the recent garment factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 500, Terry Gross of  Fresh Air did a great interview yesterday with Elizabeth Cline, the author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.  The interview started with Cline's own love affair with unbelievably cheap clothing (fast fashion) and described how her thoughts changed over the course of her long investigation of the fashion industry. 
    Elizabeth Cline and too many clothes
    She wrote the book before the latest factory disaster, but she had gone undercover as a garment buyer in China and Bangladesh and had noted the obvious safety problems- especially in Bangladesh.  Despite sending auditors to monitor factory conditions, the big clothing retailers (H&M, Zara, Gap, JCPenney, Wal-Mart, Sears, Target, Disney...) have failed repeatedly to ensure safe working conditions.  The government of Bangladesh is not doing enough to protect its citizens either.

    In the drive to produce cheaper and cheaper clothing, manufacturers have willingly moved into developing countries where the costs are absolutely rock bottom.  Workers in Bangladesh make about $38/month according to Cline, which is even below the $200+ made by Chinese workers.  The quality of textiles and clothing has also declined as the race for the lowest price continues.  Clothing retailers are also changing inventory more often and promoting shorter trend cycles.  All this has lead consumers to shop more often for cheaper goods and to consider buying, say,  a $15 item for one party or event-- disposable fashion.  Enormous volumes of clothing end up in landfills or thrift stores.  If they don't sell within a month in thrift stores, they are often collected in large bales and shipped  to African nations where are they sold to second-hand clothing merchants.

    The transport alone of huge volumes of clothing is hard on the earth.  When you consider the high toll of growing water-hungry cotton, of producing petroleum-based polyester and of chemically processing textiles in countries with dismal environmental controls, it frankly gets a bit nauseating.  I am tired for Mother Earth.

    But that is me.  The author was much more skilled and graceful on Fresh Air.  She presented the facts gradually and ended with a gentle account of how her own habits have changed (less shopping and more carefully chosen items that she keeps longer).  She also added this final thought:  "I'm 100 percent convinced this is the turning point.  There's just something about the number of the pictures. I feel like it's too bad of a tragedy for the brands to bounce back this time."

    (See Elizabeth Cline's list of ethical fashion designers and resources on the book's website here.)

    Friday, April 19, 2013

    DDOE Puttin' On the Ritz

    I went to a terrific event on Wednesday.  DC's Department of the Environment (DDOE), as part of their Earth Day celebrations, produced a fashion show at Union Station that highlighted sustainable fashion.  There was a good crowd there:

    DDOE Director of Community Outreach, Sharon Cooke, started off with a rousing welcome and said they were going to let us all know that vintage/thrifted clothing is earth-friendly, inexpensive and fabulous.  The three women behind me, who had dropped in on their lunch hour, answered "All right then!"  signaling that they were ready to see the proof.
    Crystal Morton, Crystal Lewis and Regana Smith enjoying the show

    The models were a mix of professionals, DDOE staff and vendors' friends:  men and women of all ages, races, shapes and sizes walking with attitude and looking great.  (Scroll to the end for a mini-fashion show.)  The mood was joyous as people cheered their friends and applauded the looks.   There was a tremendous range of styles, and the looks were beautifully put together top to bottom.  They also suited the different models wonderfully well.
    Punctuating the four segments of the show were a large number of statement pieces by Isagus who makes things out of gift wrap bows, trash bags, stuffed animals, Barbie dolls, bunting and anything else that she decides to intercept on its way to the landfill.

    The vendors represented and some shots from their booths follow.  I'll profile many of them in greater depth in the days ahead.
    Necklace from Fia's Fabulous Finds
    Hats from Treasury
    Accessories from Mercedes Bien
    Upcycled Carpet Purses and Tagua Nut Jewelry from Toro Mata
    Top Shop Silver Minidress from Martha's Outfitters
    Wrap Blazer from Thorough Threads
    Men's Accessories at Blue's Hard Goods
    So!  What did Regana  and our two Crystals think of the show?
    "I would definitely wear those clothes." 
    "I have already picked out a suit for my husband." 
    Congratulations to event organizer Robin Graham for a showcase of DC sustainable fashion at its best. 
    Robin Graham of DDOE in Earth Day hat from Treasury