Monthly Archives: April 2012

SHIRT HAPPENS 6: IN WHICH I TAKE POOR NOTES

[In the fall, Jonathan Vatner, Hue staff writer,  took an introductory menswear sewing class. He has been blogging about his experiences on Hue, Too.]

Let it be said that Professor Blackman is a clear and patient instructor. Anything important he repeats five times, each time a little louder and slower. Yet, much like ancient manuscripts, my notes are often indecipherable because of heartbreaking lacunae. How can that be, you ask? Shouldn’t I know how to take notes?

I hereby present my defense: all the reasons I take terrible notes.

1. I needed to go to the bathroom or eat a sandwich during the lecture.

2. I heard the instructions but got overwhelmed by the terminology.

3. I couldn’t see the demo.

4. In watching the demo, I didn’t have time to write everything down and promptly forgot it.

5. I was panicking at the time.*

Chaos!

A page of my anxious scrawl

*Time-Limited Panic happens when something has gone wrong – I’ve broken my thread or jammed my machine or didn’t realize I hadn’t done all the homework or I thought a classmate looked at me funny. Time-Unlimited Panic occurs without a stimulus, and follows such common internal scripts as “I’m Going to Get a D,” “What on Earth is Her Name?” “I Wonder if Everyone Can See the Stain on my Pants?” and “In What Universe is This Considered Unskilled Labor?”

FINALLY, FIDO HAS SOMETHING DECENT TO WEAR TO THE OSCARS

Hue thinks the one thing missing from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is outfits for dogs. Fortunately, FIT filled the gap on April 18 with its Fourth Annual Pet Fashion Show, when dogs took the runway in outfits so fashionable they need a warning label. The designs came out of FIT’s Pet Product Design and Marketing certificate program.

A dog in a blue dress

Vivi the Pomeranian in a blue feather harness by Coty Farkas

Form and function don’t exactly intersect with these stunners–but form and cuteness make a sturdy bond.

A dog in a pink dress

Lily the Papillon in a pink taffeta dress by Cheryl Jackson

Hue is quite taken with dog fashions but wants to know where the cat and hamster fashions are.

A Shih Tzu in a black and silver dress

Phoebe the Shih Tzu in a black taffeta dress by Cheryl Jackson

And the winner of the Best of Fashion Show Award is…

The winning dog garment

Chewee, a Leonberger, wearing a suede leash and matching suede-and-boa-embossed leather patchwork coat, by Dawn Deisler

JULIE AND JULIA AUTHOR FEELS AMBIVALENT ABOUT CRUSTACEAN MURDER

Julie Powell is perhaps best known as the younger of the two protagonists of the film Julie & Julia, Nora Ephron’s paean to French cooking, 50 percent based on Powell’s acclaimed work of “bliterature” by the same name.

On March 8, Powell stopped by FIT to read from Julie & Julia and chat with students, faculty, and sundry fans. Hue wasn’t sure why she didn’t read from Cleaving, her 2009 memoir about marriage and meat-cutting; maybe she was nostalgic for the early days of her fame.

Powell at the podium (well, it's technically a lectern).

Hue could see why Ephron & Co. cast Amy Adams in the role, though Powell had always imagined/hoped it would be Kate Winslet.

She read from a chapter about “the morality of slaughter,” aka killing lobsters in the name of delicious eats. Hue tried not to feel bad for the ugly guys, and wondered how Powell managed to write about so many delicious meals without overusing the word “delicious” or resorting to the archaism “toothsome.”

Those who caught the film will recall the moment when Julia Child hears about Powell’s blog and is furious about it. Powell said she faced a lot of that censure from Child’s clan, especially Judith Jones, her esteemed editor.

“[Jones] says I’m an exploitative hussy,” Powell said. “But after my book came out, Mastering the Art of French Cooking was on the bestseller list for the first time in 10 years. You know what? A thank you would be in order.”

Powell’s current project is a novel. “I’ve written two memoirs now, and that’s enough,” she said.

SHIRT HAPPENS 5: IN WHICH I DROWN IN FABRIC

[In the fall, Jonathan Vatner, Hue staff writer,  took an introductory menswear sewing class. He has been blogging about his experiences on Hue, Too.]

To many FIT students, fabric outlets are no doubt the proverbial candy store, minus the empty calories. To me, they’re the proverbial haystack, minus the manageable size of the haystack.

Death by fabric

And people LIKE this?

It’s not that I don’t like shopping. Drop me into Loehmann’s and I can find half a dozen workable outfits in an hour.

Shopping for fabric, though, I had more criteria than I could handle. It had to be lightweight enough for shirting, 100 percent cotton (so it wouldn’t burn under FIT’s industrial irons), not twill, not stretch (which would be difficult to work with), not too light a color (you can see imperfections in white shirts from across the room), with a texture or a print but not a pattern (too difficult to line up), and with a “right” side and a “wrong” side (meaning I needed to be able to see which side would face out). Also, it wasn’t supposed to look cheap—a criterion which I am clearly not qualified to judge—and it should cost less than $15 a yard.

After an hour of searching, surprise surprise, I found nothing. It was like looking for organic silk plaid dress shirts with a 22-inch neck. For less than $10. At Barneys.

Not only was the thing I was looking for seemingly absent from every fabric store I visited (in pouring rain, no less), but I suffered decision fatigue from all the choices, even though none of them were actually choices.

Did I need pink sateen? No. Did I need a white paisley damask? No. Did I need 97-percent-cotton-3-percent-lycra blue gingham? No. Did I need a heavy cotton printed with drawings of scantily clad handymen? Well… not for this class.

Alexander Henry's handymen

I bought it just to read the articles, I swear.

NGO SUPPORTS WOMEN AND THEIR COWS IN BANGLADESH

The spring 2012 issue of Hue profiled three alums who update traditional crafts into designs that feel very now. Just as the issue was going to press, Hue found another.

Richa Agarwal, Fashion Design ’97, Production Management ’99, is a project manager for Aarong, the top fashion brand in Bangladesh. (See note at the end of this piece.) In 1978, the top brass at BRAC, a now-billion-dollar umbrella organization that fights poverty through empowerment, saw that Bangladeshi women needed a market for the silk garments they were sewing. They decided to sell the silk themselves and cut out the middleman. Thus Aarong was born.

Aarong is now perhaps the most recognized fashion brand in Bangladesh. It employs 65,000 craftspeople, mostly women, from 2,000 villages to create the clothes. And 80 to 100 designers work closely with the artisans to teach them how to make each new fashion. All but 5 percent of the clothing is sold domestically.

“65,000 is a decent number,” Agarwal says, “but there’s millions more who still need employment.”

Aarong does more than sell clothes. A lot of the rural women artisans were buying cows with microfinance loans from BRAC, so now–to support these women–Aarong operates the second-largest dairy in Bangladesh, and BRAC runs three feed mills, a livestock vaccination program, and an artificial insemination business (for cows, not people).

The nonprofit’s success has spawned copycat brands that also draw on hand work. But counterintuitively, Agarwal is thrilled. “This is really good for the industry. The more of these brands that emerge, the more work artisans have.”

*Note: Agarwal recently left Aarong to become director of product development at Eileen Fisher.