Monthly Archives: April 2013

WHAT I LEARNED FROM STARTING A MEN’S UNDERWEAR BRAND

Vasumathi Soundararajan, Fashion Design ’10, chief underwearist of the new brand Ken Wroy, recounts her most salient lessons from her first year in business.

When doing market research, sales associates are the best teachers. They do like to talk. I learned all about the brands out there, and the best sellers for each age group, why some brands cost more, etc.

Some people buy expensive underwear, like $60 a pair.

 

Each buyer for a retail store starts with only 20 to 30 pieces. After all the effort of getting the buyer, that number seemed low. But it has pushed me to look for other ways to sell. Also, many of these stores sell on a consignment basis: A shop owner will give me space to display my product, and he pays me based on what I sold for the month. That can still be a great opportunity, though.

I used to wonder why brands spend so much on branding, and whether that was necessary. India isn’t so much into branding, so I didn’t expect that everything would boil down to a brand. Now I understand its importance. Certain demographics won’t even look at underwear if it’s not branded. They won’t even give it a chance.

Another thing I was not ready for was the emotional roller coaster of working for myself.

Underwear is such a small product, one would imagine that a factory could pull it off with no trouble. At every step, I learned not to take anything for granted.

In Tirupur, where my product was being dyed, many dyeing houses were shut down recently because there was no proper chemical treatment plant.

People are not used to women designing for men—it’s almost always the other way around. And they don’t expect an Indian woman behind the work. It’s a conversation starter, an opportunity for me to show that I’m passionate about it.

Vasumathi Soundararajan

Vasumathi Soundararajan, Fashion Design ’10, knows men’s underwear.

NOTES ON A SCANDAL(OUSLY GOOD RECIPE)

Hue finds pleasure in cheffery, so when Valeria Napoleone, Gallery and Retail Art Administration ’97 (profiled on p. 33 of the Spring 2013 issue of Hue), offered up a risotto recipe from her artful book, Valeria Napoleone’s Catalogue of Exquisite Recipes (Koenig Books, 2012), a night of cooking was in order. Hue, who can’t leave well enough alone, annotated the recipe for the benefit of enterprising cooks.

Risotto alla Milanese (Saffron risotto Milanese-style)

INGREDIENTS

Most of the ingredients for Risotto alla Milanese. Yes, Hue is prepping on a washing machine.

2 beef stock cubes, crumbled [Hue used 2 tsp Better Than Bouillon, a concentrated stock that tastes better than the Liptonesque dried cubes in the supermarket. Surely Napoleone has access to top-quality cubes, though.]

1 large onion, thinly sliced

80 g (3 oz) unsalted butter [For people who use sticks of butter (read: pretty much everyone), this measurement is going to mean very little. It’s 6 Tbsp or ¾ of a stick.]

350 g (12 oz) arborio or carnaroli rice [Carnaroli rice sounds delicious, but Hue could only find Arborio–still much better than standard Uncle Ben’s, which turns into horrible muck when cooked in this style. Also, for people without scales in their kitchens, Hue did the math. It turned out to be two-ish cups of rice.]

Hue loves cheese. Also the microplane, which is infinitely easier to clean than a box grater.

2–3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese [Hue, a confirmed sybarite, prefers risotto with about a cup of cheese. But then it does get a little sticky. Also, Hue used grana padano, the brilliant but less flashy cousin (“She’s a nice girl,” her mother tells all the eligible men she can find) of parmigiano reggiano, because it was on sale.]

Hue stores leftover wine in plastic bottles to take up less space in the fridge. Super classy.

2 glasses white wine [Who measures their liquids in glasses?! Hue imagines Napoleone stirring her risotto with a wine glass to her lips, then, with an insouciant shrug, upending the glass into the pan. Perhaps 2 glasses means 10 ounces?]

1⁄2 teaspoon saffron powder [For those readers who lack supermarket curiosity, pound for pound, saffron is probably the most expensive substance you will ever ingest, with the possible exception of David Bowie’s perspiration, 1973 vintage. The unit price on the supermarket tag for saffron is always five digits. It is often more expensive than gold. Hue owns neither a spice grinder nor a mortar and pestle, so creating powder from the threads meant crushing it between fingers over the pan. This was not difficult.]

Salt [Hue only had salted butter, so no extra salt was necessary.]

DIRECTIONS

Make the stock in a saucepan by dissolving the 2 beef cubes in 1.5 litres (21⁄2 pints) boiling water.

The sliced onions right after going into the pan.

Fry the onion in 50 g (13⁄4 oz) [Note: a little more than half] of the butter in another saucepan or heavy casserole until transparent and soft but not colored. [“Colored” must mean browned. Whoops, the heat was too high and the onions browned along the edges. Oh, bother.]

Stir the rice into the onions for 1 minute, then stir in the white wine and the saffron.

Allow the risotto to fully absorb the liquid. Add a ladleful of stock, stirring constantly, allow this to absorb before adding the next ladleful and continue in this way for about 20 minutes (20 minutes cooking time is essential for a good risotto, do not overcook!). [Hue realized too late that the pan was not big enough. A deft switcheroo solved that problem.]

Stirring in the broth does get tedious.

When there are few minutes left to reaching the cooking time, do not add any more stock but allow any excess stock to absorb. The rice should be cooked but still firm to the bite. [Hue erred on the side of too firm, leaving a cup or two of stock left in the stockpot. It was a wise choice. At this point, the dish seemed a little bland, so Hue stirred in another teaspoonful of the Better Than Bouillon.]

Add the remaining butter in knobs, one by one, and the Parmesan. Season with a little salt if necessary and serve immediately.

Serves 6 [Actually, it served two quite nicely, each taking a moderate portion, then hovering over the pan with large spoons, gobbling madly. And still there were leftovers for risotto pancakes in the morning.]

The finished meal. Diet food!

BEHOLD THE 21ST CENTURY SHOE OBSESSION

Sometimes the most beautiful works of art never see the light of day.

That fate befell Hue’s feature on Shoe Obsession at The Museum at FIT, that homage to droolworthy footwear which (sadly) closed April 13. Hue’s spring textile issue just got too jam-packed for a spread on shoes, even those as gorgeous as those The Museum displayed.

But in the age of the internet, nothing ever dies, not really. Loyal reader, clasp your hands with glee: you can read about Shoe Obsession here!

INSIDE THE JEWELRY DESIGNER’S STUDIO

Independent jewelry designers can often be found at the bench, hammering away at itty bits of metal. But corporate designers work much differently. Charu Mehta, Jewelry Design ’11, associate jewelry designer for the Adelington Design Group, part of Fifth & Pacific (formerly Liz Claiborne), gives Hue Too a rare glimpse into the mass-market design process, using a pair of Kensie earrings as an example.

First, the design team shops at high- and low-end stores for inspiration. They liked these resin earrings—and neon is hot right now—and wanted to create something better.

Back in the studio, the designers make dozens of sketches, based on materials chosen by the product development team. The design director picks the best one—in this case, the one on the lower right. She thought the teardrop shape with just one ring of stones looked special without costing too much.

Next, Mehta makes a clear and informative technical drawing that is sent to the manufacturer.

The manufacturer takes a “first pass” at the earring, and the designers tweak it. In this case, they wanted the blue resin piece to look shinier and asked for it in a range of colors.

Mehta’s work is done when the showroom sample comes in. This piece, in Kensie’s Spring/Summer 2013 collection, sells for $38 at Lord & Taylor and Macy’s.

HUE HEARTS MOVING PARTS

In the Spring issue of Hue, Assistant Professor Sean Cormier shows off FIT’s state-of-the-art textile-testing lab. Manufacturers of clothing and other textiles subject each item to rigorous testing, to make sure it doesn’t tear too easily or wrinkle too much or burn too fast or fade too strongly in the laundry or rub off on an unsuspecting sofa… you get the point.

The pictures tell the story pretty nicely, in Hue’s humble (and insanely biased) opinion, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, then this video of the testing lab’s machines in action, at 24 frames per second, is worth almost 2 million words. That’s almost twice as long as the longest novel in history, In Search of Lost Time. You’d be a fool not to watch.

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