Tag Archives: Menswear

FIT’S REALITY STARS WERE HERE TO MAKE FRIENDS

“If you get the chance to be on TV, take it!” Cathy Hobbs, Interior Design ’06, advised a group of students and alumni in the John E. Reeves Great Hall on Tuesday. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

Hobbs was one of three alumni TV stars invited to talk about their careers in the spotlight on Tuesday, in the culminating event of Alumni Day of Legacy Week. Brian Williams, Fashion Merchandising Management, vice president of alumni affairs for the FIT Student Association, moderated.

All three stars were glad they said yes to the tube.

“TV has made me an international figure,” said Sondra Celli, Menswear Design and Marketing ’78, known for her TLC shows My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding and Bling It On. (When TLC called her about the show, she was initially hesitant.) “I could never have bought this much press.”

“I never thought I’d become a gypsy designer,” Sondra Celli said. “They pulled my name out of someone’s Rolodex and started calling me.”

Hobbs, a TV reporter and finalist on Season 6 of HGTV’s Design Star, remembered the taping process as being incredibly intense. She was picked up in a van and left in a hotel without her cell phone or wallet. “It was like being incarcerated.” And she was miked constantly. Whenever her microphone was off, she was “on ice,” which meant she wasn’t allowed to speak. Oh, and her daughter was one year old at the time.

For Cathy Hobbs, Interior Design ’06, “Reality shows seemed like the shortest line between two points.”

Daniel Silverstein, Fashion Design ’10, found the auditions for Fashion Star very daunting. A casting agent emailed him, offering a VIP interview. When he got to the show, he understood that he might not be so special after all. “There were 100 VIPs and also a line of not-VIPs around the block.”

“Because of the show, I’ve sold to Saks, I’ve sold to Macy’s, I’ve sold to Express,” Daniel Silverstein said. “When I exhibit at trade shows, buyers think, ‘NBC invested in you, so I can too.'”

But all three have survived their dabblings with reality. Celli’s business has expanded by leaps and bounds. Hobbs has a line of paints, with other products coming soon. And Silverstein has already sold a million dollars worth of his product.

As soon as there’s a reality show that pits writers and editors against each other in a series of solitary, internal challenges, Hue is definitely going to audition.

Celli will rhinestone anything: glasses, shoes, even toilet paper. (Honey Boo Boo, eat your heart out.)

JOHN VARVATOS WEARS GREAT BOOTS, TALKS ROCK STAR STYLE

John Varvatos, one of the world’s best-known menswear designers, came to FIT the other day to discuss and show slides from his new book, Rock in Fashion. It’s a smashing compilation of the coolest looks from classic rock bands, and also serves as his design inspiration notebook. The book’s title is something of a misnomer though, because, as Varvatos pointed out, he’s more interested in style than fashion: “Style for me is how you carry yourself. Fashion passes, style evolves.”

Check out the boots!

Winner of three awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, including Best Menswear Designer, Varvatos is famous for designing sneakers without laces for Converse. He wore brown boots with side-button detailing and was demonstrating his unique way with a scarf. His conversation was all about rock stars, mostly acts he loved from the late ’60s-early ’70s, when he was growing up in Detroit—Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Jimi Hendrix, The Clash, Patti Smith, Keith Richards. Of Lou Reed, who died the day before, Varvatos said, “Lou was somebody who pushed the boundaries every day of his life, musically and stylistically.”

In general, Varvatos prefers bands with a consistent look over chameleons who change their appearance with each new album. There was one notable exception: David Bowie. Hue’s managing editor, Alex Joseph MA ’13, who introduced Varvatos and conducted the interview, asked whether he thought menswear tended to be more resistant to change than women’s wear. Varvatos seemed to think it did. With menswear, he said, “It’s all about the great details—the finesse, the little hidden treasure. Great fabrics, fit, and leathers.”

Appearances are paramount for rock stars. That conclusion seemed inarguable from the photographs Varvatos showed of performers like Sly Stone, Rod Stewart and The Faces, and The New York Dolls. Even if they play great music at a concert, the designer remarked, “If they’re only wearing shorts and T-shirts, it’s not as great.”

In a short question-and-answer session after the interview, a student asked about the future for menswear. “Menswear is evolving faster than ever before in its history,” Varvatos said. “Women’s wear is getting stale. Men’s has much more newness.”

SHIRT HAPPENS 15: IN WHICH I BID MENSWEAR 142, SECTION 5A, GOODBYE

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

For our last class, we brought together a potluck meal; Professor Blackman put down a paper-and-fabric tablecloth, and we feasted. I had mashed up some purple potatoes which ended up looking decidedly gray and did my best to market them to my fellow students.

“Purple potatoes are in vogue, you know,” I said, while scooping up what everyone else brought.

A student turned to me and said, “It’s really good—”

“Oh, thanks!” I replied, before he could finish.

“—that we’re finally done,” he said.

Professor Blackman asked if any of us had lingering questions, then proceeded to grade our shirts, which were lined up on dress forms at the front of the room. He popped open the top button and inspected the collar band, then lifted the arm to see if all the seams came together perfectly at the armpit. Then he scribbled some notes on a scrap of paper and pinned it onto the shirt.

When he got to mine, a sudden nausea overtook me and I averted my eyes. With the dickey, the grade didn’t matter: I had given him all that I had time for. But I had poured my soul—not to mention my weekend—into this shirt. I really wanted an A. I knew what was wrong with it—the hem was all bunched and the collar still wasn’t right—I just hoped he wouldn’t look very closely.

I plucked the piece of paper off my shirt and read it.

Your stitches are too small.

Stitch on band.

B+

He had drawn a diagram to show me exactly what I had done wrong. I felt a wave of disappointment, followed by a counterwave of appreciation. He really wanted me to sew the perfect shirt, even if I hadn’t done it in his class.

I hung my shirt back on its hanger and went home.

Ta da!

Me, wearing the shirt I made

SHIRT HAPPENS 14: IN WHICH I GLIMPSE THE NATURE OF GOOD WORK

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

My final shirt was due December 15. And, given that my practice shirt had seams in the shape of cowpaths, plus a nasty tear in one shoulder where the seam ripper got greedy, it seemed important that I do a new one.

After having been to the fabric and trimmings stores a dozen times and sewn at least ten collars, I finally started getting used to the process. And I found that, when I stop griping inwardly for a moment, sewing is actually kind of relaxing.

The trick is, you have to take your time. You have to be really careful. You have to do everything exactly. Sewing a shirt is not forgiving, and it takes at least 10 hours (or in my case, about 20). If you keep wishing it were over, you’re missing the point, because you can buy a nice shirt in about ten minutes for less than you spend on the fabric and notions.

Controlling the sewing machine

And if you do each step with precision, as all worthwhile things must be done, the shirt you end up with is more than a shirt; it’s evidence of honest labor.

And still, one rogue splash of coffee and it’s only evidence of carelessness.

SHIRT HAPPENS 13: IN WHICH LADY FRUSTRATION PAYS A VISIT

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

How many collars do I have to sew before perfecting one? Don’t ask.

Innumerable things can go wrong, and I’ve seen them all. If the collar band isn’t cut to be perfectly symmetrical, there won’t be enough free material to attach to the shirt. If the curve of the collar doesn’t match the curve of the collar band exactly, the seam won’t hold all the plys. If one of the visible stitches is off by a few millimeters, it won’t look right on the other side of the fabric. If an edgestitch falls a millimeter in either direction, the whole collar looks sloppy. And edgestitching is like riding a Segway alongside a cliff. We all know how that turned out.

Each collar takes me about two hours to cut and sew, sometimes longer. And it doesn’t become apparent what a mucked-up job I’ve done until the end. It’s incredibly dispiriting.

Collar ID

A pile of ghastly collars (plus Professor Blackman's perfect one on top)

After making too many DOA collars, I came in last weekend to get one right. And though a few stitches fell off the seam, I must say that on the whole, it didn’t look terrible.

There comes a point when “just better than terrible” is good enough.