Saturday, 21 November 2009

CDDC Challenge Five - The Red Carpet

Sunday, 1st of November
On the Red Carpet - This week's guest judge is known for his fabulous gowns. So it seems only fitting that this challenge be all about, On the Red Carpet. Design a fabulous gown for your fabulous model as she walks down the red carpet with the stars.

Guest judge: Jim Farone

A gown for red carpet, huh. Glamour, obviously, and not too risky as celebrities usually do want to avoid being in the worst-dressed-list. I wondered would I need a model that smiles? Don’t think I have one really. I have no idea what to do and inspiration didn’t feel like coming at all. At this point I had doubts about my challenge 4 design a week went by without me doing anything much about the CDDC.

However, the challenge 4 pics were up with 2 gorgeous Sybarite dolls posing with amazing designs and my craving to get a Syb of my own got way worse again. Again I browsed thru flickr and doll boards learning about Sybs and drooling over the endless photos. The FBR (Fashion Beyond Reason) are just the type of Haute Couture I love so if I’d get a Syb and would make fashions for it the doll would pay itself back soon enough, so it would be a sort of a investment really – or so I try to tell myself as there dolls aren’t cheap.
I consider the available Sybs I crave for now: Voltaire on Superfrock site, Raja on Angelic Dreamz and the 1st Inque on ebay. The prices are all about the same – and all beyond my reach. The one I really want is actually the 2nd Inque, but since she costs about 700 there is no way I can even consider it right now. I decide to postpone the decision as I’m still not sure how to pay for Neru’s veterinary bills and the 2st Inque auction closes on ebay without a single bid. I’m quite determinate not to buy a Syb for now, but then the Inque is relisted on ebay “only” for 200pounds. The British’s pound being really low compared to euro and no risk of customs fees I cave in and bid. On Wednesday I’m still the only bidder and an ecstatic new owner of a Sybarite doll! I blow some more money on wigs at Superfrock store and start the excruciating wait for my newest “investment”.

On Friday morning I found my lost inspiration in a hospital waiting room reading women’s magazines as I waited to get the swain flu vaccination. My parents pressured me into it really as I’m in a risk group due to my asthma and as the epidemic seems to have reached a stupid panic point in Finland now. However, I was unable to act on my inspiration as I spend the night suffering the side effects of the vaccination featuring extreme headache and tiredness plus the ghastly pains in the vaccinated hand – all painkillers forbidden as they could reduce the effectiveness of the antibodies formed. The Syb wigs arrive and even though their design is beautiful, I’m a bit surprised by the coarse quality of the fibre used for the wigs. On Saturday morning I was flabbergasted to learn my challenge 4 design has won despite all my second-guessing and my hand’s still sore but the other symptoms gone. A good morning in overall.

Usually, I prefer to spend my weekends in a happy haze of quality time with my hubby. The weekends are far too precious to waste as that’s the only time we can be together. However, as the coming week threatened to be immensely busy, we did the next best thing and worked side by side on our own projects: Juhana was putting finishing touches to his thesis (still haven’t touched mine); I worked desperately with my design challenge.

For some reason this Red Carpet thing formed into bleeding mess – quite literally at several points too. On Saturday, I slaved to make this layered dress out of soft powder coloured fishnet I usually use for stockings. It was just one of those days when everything you touch turns to shit (excuse me the profanities, but they are quite necessary to express my mental state that day – and rather subtle I must say as I must have used way worse on that weekend). I redid the bodice 3 times and with that and the dozens of layers in the immensely wide skirt – went overboard with the volume again – Saturday was gone.

On Sunday I tried out my brilliant idea of gradient dying the dress and failed even more brilliantly. I had bought the fabric in one of those dodgy fabric markets in China and had no idea of the fibres used, so in the end it did take colour and the gradient effect was quite successful. However, the result was disgustingly pastel and reminded me of some grandma’s petticoats. I might be able to save it with some edgy detailing in the future, but for now it’s out of the picture. I need to start over again.

I found another inspiration shortly after the first failure as I was browsing for that “edgy design” effect that could save the ghastly thing. It was Rorschach ink blot test. I loved idea of using those ink blots as avant-garde patterns in a gown, but that path led to failure again. I tried printing the silk first and then sewing, but keeping the pattern absolutely symmetrical with every pintuck proved quite challenging. Besides, the effect might have been too avant-garde for red carpet, as the stuff the stars wear in actually quite classic and boring – you don’t want to be taking too big risks on red carpet and end up on a worst-dressed-list. Then again, not taking risks in this competition and playing it safe and boring sounds like a design suicide to me.

I always struggle with the play-it-safe challenges. For example the first challenge - the inauguration gown. The etiquette is clear and frigid and I went by the book – and didn’t do so well. For the second challenge I cannot blame myself – that design is still my own personal favourite – it’s easy to lose when it's simply because others are just so much better as you don’t have to beat yourself for your mistakes. The fact is there will always be people better than you in something, so it’s useless to spend energy worrying about it. The challenges 3 and 4 were right up my alley: a change to go couture and avant-garde. The more there will be challenges saying we have to keep it casual and boring, the more I’ll struggle. I just hate doing stuff that’s average and normal – that’s the whole reason I stopped making human clothes. Even on their wedding gown people want to play it way too safe.

Besides, designing for dolls has several advantages: 1) They can wear anything and still look good, 2) You can buy the most outrageously expensive and glorious fabrics since you only have to buy so little, 3) In the tiny scale you can warp the laws of physics a bit, 4) They don’t feel pain or want to be comfortable (or able to more or breathe = definite downsides of humans), 5) When you sew the garment on them – as I mostly do – you can hold the model in your hand and turn it around instead of killing your knees crawling on the floor as you’d do with a human model. One of my favourite works in human scale was an evening gown made of exquisite red silk velvet with a plunging back so deep you could see the dimples of her butt. Naturally this fully open back meant no bra and the customer had a very full bosom that needed to get a push up effect from the mere draping of the dress as the neckline was rather generous as well. I must have spend weeks hand sewing – sculpting – that garment of her and we did it. No zips, clasps or other closure, no hidden padding or lingerie, the sculpted dress gave all the support needed and I still consider it one of my finest works.   

But now I’m badly sidetracked again. Back to that rotten Sunday again. I made a basic bodice out of very stiff white silk dubioni and lined it with the same fabric. Its quite statuesque base for design and can support the front part well even with the rather low back. I avoided making it too corset like as I’ve used that favorite style or mine too much. I also made the waistline go around hips to give it different shape from my usual waistline. Then I just poured out everything in my fabric and ribbon stash and started trying out everything and anything. I didn’t know what sort of skirt I’d do or anything and I was starting to panic as the time was running out. My best friend is moving house and I promised to help on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, I have school on Tuesday, My dad’s coming over on Wednesday and Thursday and a friends who lives in Germany now on Monday. I hope I can do the photo session on Saturday, but in order to do that I should have something to photograph as well.     

Finally, I tumble across a little strip of fabric I got from that outrageously expensive up town boutique. They called it the vogue fabric, and it’s a exquisite quality silk with photograph quality prints of fashion magazine covers all over it in 6th scale. It cost 250e per meter, so I simply couldn’t buy it, but there was this tiny strip lying around on the cutting table and I asked if I buy it – even that half a hankie cost me 10euros, but then again is it very weird fabric just screaming luxury. The tailor there was making a men’s vest out of it – that’s going to be such a statement. The fabric is very similar to the one used in the Miss Sixty Autumn/Winter 2009 collection, though these prints were in smaller scale and perfectly suited for 6th scale dolls.

I know using huge patterns is a risk on the red carpet, but the colours and shine of the fabric has a very glamorous feel to it. I think the Miss Sixty dress using nothing but printed fabric was a bit much, so wanting to keep it elegant I only accented the white bodice with the print fabric allowing a half of white unprinted canvas to show and then letting the fashion magazine covers flow freely as an asymmetrical full skirt contrasting with a narrow white fishtail skirt on the other side. It seems this metamorphosis between things is becoming my signature thing along with the sculpted sewing style. I tried not to sculpt that much this time, but I did so-to-speak guide a few drapes on their way down the hips. Sorry, just couldn’t resist it. I did consider using ruched chiffons again, but then I remembered that guy on Project Runway who could do nothing but Creek gowns from challenge to challenge and I want to be no one trick pony. I’m happy to say that the gown looks new and classic at the same time. As I has to hand sew the printed silk on the bodice and the edge didn’t look crisp enough I decided the add a row of graphite grey 2mm satin finish sequins to add a little something to the dress. I could have used black sequins but somehow the graphite grey was softer and more suitable for the fashion printed theme.

During the week there more people were leaving the CDDC. I do respect their decision, but I was sad to see them go. However, I must agree that the competition takes its toll. It feels like a full time job to me and of course there is stress too. Because of the CDDC I haven't done any progress with my thesis, so I might not graduate this year after all. It’s not the end of the world as I can still send my final version to my professor from Tampere after we have moved, but I did promise myself and that’s bothering me a bit. Then again, in the CDDC I've learned that I work well under pressure and found ways to push myself towards inspiration when I'm stuck so I consider it far more important to my future career than an academic paper in Chinese guanxi networking. Master’s degree does give me a lots better salary as a teacher than Bachelor’s, so I will definitely finish what I started no matter what.

The week rolled by and friends and family came over. I sewed, ironed and attached sequins as I socialized; I took photos of the finished garment as my dad browsed thru the papers for next day’s meeting. On Wednesday evening Jing came to my place and we squeezed my dad for business advice. There are so many things to consider when starting a new business and so much work and research to do in order to make a solid business plan that we need to find financing.

And in the topic of financing my own is looking pretty bad. I forgot that I paid for my hubby’s air tickets to Paris with my visa card and the number of digits in the bill is a bit of a surprise.Ups.

Saturday the 14th of November - Done

I had just submitted my pictures. I don’t think I had ever been so pressed for time as with this challenge and I still wasn’t satisfied with the results. Maybe I was becoming more demanding as the competition was growing tighter by each challenge; maybe I just hadn’t performed upto my own standards. Well, time would tell eventually was my gown good enough or not, but all I could do was hope. I loved the fabric and the silhouette was nice but was it glorious, divide, perfection? No. At least I was happy with the concept, though I wasn’t sure was I able to communicate it well enough in my description:

"My red carpet gown is a bold and modern statement in a form of a asymmetrical dress that wraps the model in extravagant silk patterned with vogue covers. The dress began with fully white bodice and a fishtail skirt that became partially consumed by the overload of fashion magazines. It symbolises a model as a tabula rasa for a designer, and the immense pressures for stars to make it to the best-dressed-lists and magazine covers. The edge between blank canvas and the print is edged with graphite grey sequins. The metallic grey accessory colour is repeated in the chain jewellery, simple yet elegant leather clutch and the soles of the white platform pumps. I'd like to see this dress on a fresh and brave young star such as Rhianna. My model is Model Behaviour Nadja by Integrity Toys."

 Well, I just had to wait and see meanwhile preparing myself to the next challenge to come.
22nd of November  - the Scores are up
It’s midnight and I check my emails before going to bed. The winner has been announced and it’s Louos with that gorgeous red dress with Chinese embroidery. It was my favourite too and I’m so happy for him. I think he absolutely deserved to win, not only because he had the best design on this challenge, but also because it was his time to win. Louos does great designs that are always young and fresh, and it’s about time he got the spotlight. I came second with 3 points less, but I’m still in the lead with the overall points. Here are my scores and  judge comments:
Shane: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 4 Construction: 4.5
This is one of those dresses that could put a celebrity in the best dressed category or the “what was she thinking?” category.  You took a real risk here and from my point of view the gamble paid off.  The dress flows beautifully and the print is fantastic.
Diana and Janet: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 4.5 Construction: 4.5
Superb presentation and the designer's notes helped a lot to understand the depth of thought that went into this.
I could see the work that went into that fitted bodice and the whole ensemble.  And to make it detachable was an added plus.  Interesting!
Judith:  Theme: 5 Originality: 4.5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5
Striking use of a very clever print! Excellent choice of colors for this doll. Extremely well thought out design for the Red Carpet!
Jim Faraone: Theme: 4 Originality: 4 Creativity: 4 Construction: 3
Fun fabric overlay
Total 72/80 Ranking 1st in the overall competition, 2nd in the challenge
I was so happy to finally impress Janet and Diana as it’s really hard to get good scores out of these two ladies. That felt more rewarding than actually winning.  I was a little disappointed with the guest judge though, as he must have been too busy to put real effort into his comments to any of the contestants, but then again it could be just be that we were too spoiled by Rob who gave us his heart and soul in his commentaries. Jim Faraone really left me wandering where the 3 for construction came from. Anyway, in the whole the risk paid off – that print might have easily landed me in the worst dressers list but I was able to pull it off after all the setbacks and that’s priceless. I know I need to work hard on the next challenge in order to keep my lead, though. 

Saturday, 7 November 2009

CDDC Challenge Four - On the Fashion Edge

19th of October – Challenge 4

The challenge 4 clue was delivered one day late due to internet trouble and now we have until 2nd of November to complete it. The next judge is Rob Thompson whose work I’m already familiar with from flickr and the challenge is:

On the Fashion Edge - This week's guest judge is an amazing doll artist. His OOAK creations are always on the cutting edge. This week you must create an avant garde casual outfit (no you don't have to use an Avant Guard doll). This outfit must be edgy...think Alexander McQueen.

Hmmm. “...think Alexander McQueen” This sounds like the best challenge for me up to date! Together with John Galliano Alexander McQueen is one of my favourite designers and as a tribute to these talented men I want to do something totally outrageous! Alexander McQueen is all about exaggerated form, unusual materials, pattern and texture, unbelievably artistic (and painful) shoes and weird head gear. I think I’ll be making a business suit that will attempt to corporate these attributes. Off to work it is then – but not before I’ve picked up some antibiotics for my cat Neru who’s quite ill.

I made two sketches and liked both. I think I’ll let the materials I find to dictate which one I’ll make. I think I’ll add both of them to the list of fashion I want to produce in my own fashion line in the future. I also instantly knew I wanted to use the new Elise Jolie as the model as she is very Alexanger McQueen type girl with her severe look and heavily sculpted features!

20th of October - Trouble with Fabrics
Tuesday. My only day of schools and my new official fabric shopping day. I leave home early so I can browse thru every fabric shop in town before my Cantonese lesson. First shop is a dead end, but from the second one I find amazingly thin and soft faux leather, golden fabric with 3mm sequins and some weird stretchy lace with printed patterns. None of them crucial for this challenge, but they could be useful later on so I byu some anyway.

The third shop I got to is the one that saved me the last time – maybe I should head here first from now on, but with these up town prices one does hope to find it elsewhere. The challenge 3 materials cost me around 100 euros since in this boutique some fabrics cost 1800euros per meter! Not the ones I’m using though, but the fact is I need to start selling my works to be able to afford to continue in this competition.

I buy 15cm of burgundy raw silk and am happy to see the nice seller gives me 7cm extra due to an imperfection in the fabric, then finest silk chiffons in burgundy and dusty teal. On my way out I fall in love with a patterned silk in the same colour scheme and even though it wasn’t a part of the plan, I simply have to take it too and make some redesigning to fit it in. I decide to change the skirt a bit and make a tulip skirt to cover the original idea of ruffles skirt. 

All fabrics bought and I’m still early for my lesson in Cantonese which is good since I haven’t done my homework again and I really need to prepare to chapter in advance. The course is taught in Mandarin Chinese, as the teacher doesn't speak any Finnish or English really, and the book is meant for native Chinese learning Cantonese. This meaning no English and that in the 3rd chapter of the book today we are already discussing establishing different types of bank accounts, what interest rates they have annually and so forth. To quote my British friend: “It’s a bid of a kerfuffle really.”

In the evening at home I do some more sketching and start to dread I’m playing it too safe again. I wanted to do something brave and outrageous, but instead it feel simply classic and boring. In the end, I’d rather be punished for going too avant garde than doing well by making it conventional and boring. I thrive to create something new - even though I do know there is nothing new under the sun. Rob, our guest judge for this time, gave a lot of emphasis to the edgy side of this competition. He asked us to watch Alexander McQueen’s Autumn 2009 the Horn of Plenty show as a inspiration.

The Horn of Plenty is one of my all time favourite fashion shows, but I didn't mind seeing it once more. Besides, I've only seen it before as a slide-show and watching the show on video was awesome. I got more motivated to push myself further again. I did watch Spring 2010 show as well and those hoof like armadillo shoes simply blew me away. There were two words in my mind: constraint and exaggeration. Many Alexander McQueen’s clothes are like straitjackets on runway forcing the model to move in a peculiar, bound way and I wanted to incorporate that in my outfit too. Then again, when you look at the McQueen clothes in a store without the runway styling, they are quite wearable after all. So, just like with the warrior woman design from last challenge, I wanted to make the accessories bounding – almost bondagelike – and the fashion itself wearable and more commercial.

So I made leather gloves that morph into a purse that is chained to high leather collar, together giving the effect of shackles – either it’ll be a huge flop or some American designer with no regard to copyrights (they have no legislation to protect intellectual property in States - can you believe that?!) will rip me off and make huge money with it! LOL. I think the accessory set has a nice fetish feel to it.

For footwear I designed a hybrid between the controversial Nina Ricci shoes that caused a turmoil at the Olivier Theyskens Autumn 2009 show (might I add I’d never wear those but I love them no matter what other people say) vs John Nouanesing’s bloody table combining them into a kinky shoe made of blood – it is Halloween when we submit this challenge in after all. ;) 

Before I start sewing I make the staining test to all the fabrics I’m about to use. I sculpted two pairs of blood shoes out of two component epoxy putty (I also sculpted my thumb so the blood shoe is quite a fitting title for the project), one set of soles for sandals and another over a pair of discarded FR boots that I shortened and took apart. Under the platform there is a pool of “blood” (just paint at this point) that provides balance and instead of heels there will only be drops of blood about to fall. The painting takes time as the shoes need dozens of layers of thin acrylic paint for the blood effect. While waiting for the layers of paint to dry, I make the shackle purse out of the soft faux leather I found yesterday. It worked out quite nicely and has a very kinky feel to it.

To make a stain test at home:
- Cut strips of fabric and tie them around expendable barbie's leg
- Pour boiling water over it
- Let it dry over night
- Check for stains 

The staining test is ready, but one of the fabrics has stained badly – it’s the burgundy raw silk I need for the jacket and quite crucial for my design. Usually I would just swap fabrics at this point, but I don’t have time to hunt for a new fabric or redesign my fashion so I resort to the almost as bothersome process of sealing the colour. The process goes:
- Wash the cloth 3 times with bleaching washing solution in really hot water.
- Then rinse it in the shower with in turns with hot and cold water for 15 minutes or so.
- Let is soak in vinegar over night
- Iron it while its still a bit moist
- Repeat the staining test and hope for the best - this time it worked.
This treatment should stop the staining, but it it does take away lots of the fabrics colour as well. So instead of burgundy jacket mine became closer to brick red, but at least my doll is safe from staining.

A pool of BLOOOOOOD... 
Happy Halloween! 
(Just the anti-staining treatment 
- don't worry, I didn't get this desperate.)

Meanwhile I make stockings out of the green siphon and another pair for Antoinette from the weird lace I bought as an impulse purchase. The stocking lead me to design another outfit for Antoinette using the faux leather and to ponder which one should I use for the challenge. Maybe the Antoinette one is too basic and simple: just a sort of a leather qipao with a corset belt and motorcycle padded shoulders. I suppose I’ll just make a few of them for sale after the challenge 3 scores are up. I know I'll be needing the cash with Neru's veterinary bills piling up on my desk.

24th of October - Done!

I can’t believe it. The challenge 3 scores haven’t even been posted yet and I’m done with my challenge 4. I finished the garment yesterday and took the photos and submitted them today. Done. Weird. I just wonder if my design is too tame – or too kinky. LOL. Well, I suppose there’s no use to ponder about it as it’s submitted already. Now I can hopefully just concentrate on my thesis. It’s not like I want to, I’m totally bored with the topic at the moment, but I suppose I have no choice – I did promise myself to finish it before x-mas. Graduating would be kind of nice if I plan to move to another city and this current situation where my spouse works in another city and I study in another sucks big time. So, like it or not, I’ll have to start reading thru a pile of cripplingly boring books while I wait for the challenge 3 results.

Note: I never got to my thesis as Neru's state started to decline rapidly leading him to be hospitalised and me too emotionally devastated to do anything but cry and worry.

7th of November – The Scores

Exceptionally the scores came one day early on Saturday morning and I woke up to find an email announcing the winner – me! I was so surprised my first reaction was to got to the site and check the scores as I really though it must have been a mistake. Maybe it was the last challenge winning email that had just got into a loop in the system or a prank or something. But there it was on black and white: I had won. Again. A little squeal escaped me. And another. I just can’t believe it. I send SMS to my family as it was rather too early to call them on Saturday morning and kept squealing all thru the phone calls that I got in return.

It was not only that everyone had done so amazingly well on this challenge (there were plenty of designs I had picked the winner before my own) but also, that for the first time, I had been second guessing my design up until the last moment of submission time. I had had several inspirations and also almost finished another design for Antoinette – only the shoes were still in progress because of the severe illness my baby cat Neru had gone thru during these stressful and exhausting week. However, I will not go into the details here and now as I don’t wish to relive those moments ever again. But, for all those who have been there for me and worried about him with me all those days I’m happy to tell Neru is quite healthy now and is playing along with other with his usual vigor.

But to get back to the point, here are my scores and judge comments for challenge 4: 

Shane: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5
Absolutely wonderful interpretation of the theme. Your colors and your lines are fantastic! This is an amazing look!

Diana & Janet: Theme: 4.5 Originality: 4.5 Creativity: 4 Construction: 4.5
Diana: So much thought went into every element of this. I was particularly taken with the details, such as the shoes (and soles!) and the shackled aspect of the purse. Woo hoo!
Janet: Bravo on the jacket. It is both tailored and sculpted. A little goth for me, but that theme is carried in three different places, so I like the consistency.

Judith: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 4.5 Construction: 5
Where do I start? Love the caramels, the rustiness, the richness and the boldness of this design. The blood heels are frighteningly captivating, her tailored jacket is beautiful, leather accessories are fabulous, very defiant, punk, edgy, the hat adds the perfect touch of elegance and sophistication.

Rob: Theme: 5 Originality: 5 Creativity: 5 Construction: 5
Fantastic use of form and function! I love the structure of the jacket, with the hidden volume of the ruffles of the skirt. This fashion feels more like it was sculpted than sewn; a fabulous use of skills for each fabric. The accessories are not only well thought out, but scream Avant Garde with the fashion forward edge that I have been looking for in this challenge. I am not a big fan of fall colors, I prefer bold bright colors, but everything works so well in this fashion. I love the use of the various textures playing against each other, and the shoes are extremely runway! Well done, I am impressed. I would buy this fashion in a heartbeat.

Total: 77/80 Ranking 1st

To be honest I’d never do this well nor would be able to exceed myself with these designs without the other designers in this competition. It is the constant thriving to keep up with these amazingly talented designers that keeps me going. Thanks to all of you and all those who are rooting for me! Couldn’t do it without you!