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. 


smidge girl said...

The dress and shoes and fabulous, and I love the model you chose. Thanks so much for keeping this diary. (I know it must really add to your workload!) It is so interesting to read what you go through week after week. The amount of work that goes into this is staggering. I can see how it could get overwhelming for people. Writing the descriptions must be one of the most difficult parts, but yours are always so lovely, and add so much to your design. Well done so far, and good luck with the rest of the competition:)


Lisa said...

Em'lia, I am blown away by your designs- this red carpet gown and the one on Antoinette doll- with the amazon look, are stunning. I think you underestimate yourself on the ho-hum challenges- this gown is lovely, & stunning. The intricate care you give to detail is inspiring; I wish I could sew like you do. This is the perfect way also to get your name out there before establishing your doll design business. You spoke of your degree work/thesis, but you are doing something just as important, following your dream & passion. I too did the 'safe' thing for many years & wasn't happy- but since designing the furniture in 1/6 scale & working with Bespaq company to put it on the market, and opening my own shop, has been a dream that is a reality- so go for it! You have what it takes- passion, artistry, and most of all- a good business approach to it as a business & not a hobby that pays for itself. GOOD LUCK- I'm rooting for you!

em`lia said...

Cheers, guys! I'll try to keep up with your high expectations! LOL. I'm in a huge kerfufle with the Audrey Hepburn challenge though.

Janina said...

Thank you very much for all the additional insight on how the gown was made and what your thoughts about it are. I am looking forward to seeing more of your Sybarite- I saw the little picture on dolly daily before this huge discussion broke loose and I almost forgot about it- but please tell us more about how you like this doll and what you make for her!

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