Archive for the 'theories & thoughts' Category

Theories on Vancouver’s fashion industry

August 24, 2009

One of my daily reads, The Business of Fashion, came out with a post earlier this month, Vancouver’s new Fashion Cycle. I thought, cool, an article about Vancouver and fashion! Turns out the article had slightly more to do with lifestyle than solely fashion, but put a lot out there for me to think about. As part of my program, we have to design a collection in 4th year based off a niche market. In other words, we can’t just design what we “feel like” designing – we have to prove that there is a viable market and an underserved niche. A few years ago, this may seem more like a hindrance to students who think that all they want to design are pretty dresses for “real women”, and by real women, they are thinking women who look and dress like celebrities and socialites. When I first applied to the program almost 4 years ago, the concept of a niche market was foreign to me, a criteria for a school project, at best.

There is a lot to say and observe when it comes to Vancouver’s fashion scene, one that I think links a lot more to lifestyle than the traditional fashion capitals do. Vancouver seems to be starting to make an appearance on the list of “hot” cities on the international cultural who’s-who and what’s what. We’re young and have so much to build on, with tons of creative energy. What I’ve really noticed is lacking are the resources to really harness that creativity and create a strong industry base that could rival New York or London or even Toronto or Montreal (though organizations like Fashion West, formerly Apparel BC, and Fashion High are bravely trying to change that around). We don’t have a centralized location for apparel businesses. You can’t just walk out the door of a fashion company and pop down the street to look at fabrics or get retail inspiration. Everything is so spread apart in this city. I guess that’s because our infrastructure was built primarily before we even had an apparel industry to speak of. Our main purpose as a city is its convenience as a port location between North America and Asia – we weren’t built for manufacturing, we were built around trade. Of course, out of that comes what we are known for now: our beautiful landscape and natural environment. Though, when it comes down to it, what we have is, in my mind, not that unique. We’ve just marketed it well and as a city, have the right balance between an urban setting and a natural, clean, fresh environment, all due in part because of the fact that we are not a very large city in the grand scope of things. And because of this, we’re just the right size to be able to take on the new creative model. And this all leads to my theory, that we are well poised to become a big player in the fashion world not by competing with the traditional model of a fashion capital, but by paving the way for a new one: one that makes sense for the new knowledge economy focusing on holistic aspects of living, not just aesthetics. Gregor Robertson, mayor of Vancouver, is a big advocate of not only sustainability, but creativity as well:

“A world-class city needs to foster entrepreneurial and artistic creativity, and attract innovators from all sectors around the world. It’s time we ditched the red-tape, ‘no-fun city’ label and embraced a culture of creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation, to help our artistic and small-business sectors thrive in a competitive economy.”

I’m interested in how Vancouver’s fashion industry will play out as this city makes strides forward where many cities have already plateaued. Our fashion industry is not at all big, but yet, we have many internationally recognized companies based out of here. As the article on BOF pointed out, there is huge potential for a niche market in lifestyle apparel for fashionable cyclists in the city. It’s interesting how Vancouver was singled out for this – as I was saying, we are seen as a fresh city with room to grow, and our international presence is about to get bigger with the 2010 Olympics slated to take the city in just a short 6 months.

I am excited to see Vancouverites making a splash on the fashion scene through innovative ways of looking at design, fashion, lifestyle, and marketing. Fashionable cyclist wear is one idea, but there are so many others to be dug up in this city that have to potential to percolate internationally. Plus, the only fashion degree program west of Toronto has as part of its criteria that the 4th year collections be based off a niche market. It’s not just a coincidence; someone was smart, and recognized that doing this was crucial in moving Vancouver fashion forward and creating careers in a city that isn’t known for Veras, Calvins, and Karls. I myself am examining niche markets in deciding my market and vision for my grad collection. Hmm, hmm, food for thought!


My Response to Valentino in 2008

July 13, 2009

Valentino 2008 Response

Musing: What is good taste?

June 15, 2009

Through a conversation with my boyfriend on a day lacking inspiration, a spark came to me and I started to explore the idea behind the Emperor’s New Clothes, a story we should all be familiar with. This 19th century fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen brings to mind several themes that are applicable to fashion. Although my original intention was to use this story as inspiration for a collection I would be designing for my portfolio, I became much more fascinated by the implications behind the story.

In the end, the young boy cries out that the emperor is not wearing any clothes at all. The emperor is not blind of course, but did not want to admit that he could not see these magnificent clothes because the tailors had said that those not fit for the job would not be able to see this beautiful fine fabric.

I’m interested in the idea of good taste as it applies to design and fashion. This article, Taste for Makers, by Paul Graham was an eye-opener for me – it is one of my favorite reads of all time.

I remember being younger and watching Fashion Television on TV and being unable to comprehend the beauty behind haute couture. I saw it as ugly and perplexing as to who would design clothes that people could not wear. Gasp, I would say now, understanding the purpose and wonder behind couture. But, if children are so innocent that their minds are yet to be tainted with societal and cultural ideas of beauty and fashion, then are they the true purveyors of taste?

I know that the fashion industry as a domain defines what is groundbreaking, innovative, and what constitutes good taste, but if they are the only ones who see the beauty in something, is it still beautiful? Whose opinion matters?

I think that for me, the best feedback is one that satisfies the industry, my instructors, my fashion peers, my non-fashion peers, my boomer parents, my 20-something guy’s guy boyfriend, my 19 year old kinda-interested-in-fashion-but-looks-like-every-other-19-year-old sister, and my 17 year old teenybopper sister who spends her time playing video games. I have often found that my desire to satisfy everyone makes it hard to achieve a consensus but makes me more sensitive and empathetic as a designer.

Why I Dropped Out of…Class

June 8, 2009

Earlier this year, I started to seriously consider the idea of traveling to London, England sometime during the summer to take a short course at Central St. Martin’s, one of the most prestigious fashion schools in the world. Last month, I decided to go for it, and booked a week-long class for August. I said to myself, I can’t back out now, the class is booked and paid for.

Except that I started to doubt whether or not the trip would be worth it, in financial and personal terms. I guess the lure of having a credential at a world-famous design school was what pushed me in that direction in the first place, added to the fact that I love learning and have the the intense desire to travel and experience different cities and settings. Many of my friends took trips to Europe this summer as well, making me feel even more trapped in Vancouver.

In the end, I decided to cancel my booking for several reasons.

I fell into the belief, like many others in my generation, that certain experiences and material objects are what define us, and to a certain extent, that is true. But, sometimes we let that override the things that should be important to us, and to me, those things are: love, passion, and freedom. In order to obtain and maintain these things in the life that I envision, it is a prerequisite that I be financially stable and that my personal finances are in order, and that cannot happen if I place my worth on an experience just to add this school’s name to my resume. There are many more experiences that are much more important to me than a week-long trip.

“Life is really simple, we just insist on making it complicated.” – Confucious

I could easily see my life become complicated if I forget about what is important to me and chase after a life that seems right or cool or interesting, although it seems that this is automatically the stereotype of anyone in fashion, and that if I do not subscribe to it that then I must not really be into fashion, or that it is the wrong career path for me.

It’s a strange thing to love fashion and be a designer while trying to live a life that goes against the very grain of what fashion now stands for. I sometimes find myself consciously having to pull back from the lures, but once I do, I find that I am not chasing an identity, but carving my own, and that is always a lot more fun and interesting, I think.

Now, to get to the things that will make a difference in my life: making small strides every day in developing my work as a designer, connecting to the whos and whats of the design world, and just enjoying the moments and moving one step at a time toward the future.

Piece of My Mind / “Stuff”

May 13, 2009


I am in the midst of cleaning out not only my closet and giving it a complete rehaul, but my room as well. Humans have the unique ability to acquire LOTS. OF. JUNK. I am definitely no exception, but am making it a priority to live as simply and streamlined as possible.

This post from Think Simple Now was really enlightening. My parents are notorious pack-rats, and growing up in the environment that I did, I came to the realization early on that I didn’t want a lot of stuff. I saw the impact having lots of stuff had on them in physical, emotional and spiritual ways, and I knew that it was not the way I wanted to live.

Sometimes it is a bit of a struggle. I am in a highly materialistic industry, let alone society. Fashion is built on seasons, and on acquiring more stuff. I want to appear stylish and creative, professional yet artistic. It is a part of playing the role. It’s not as if I don’t have enough clothes, though. I just don’t have the right clothes. I like fashion. I appreciate art and beauty. And yet, having so much junk, I’ve realized, makes me appreciate the things I love less. I really don’t need that much stuff. In fact, I won’t even miss any of it.

Of course, some things I just can’t get rid of for their sentimental value. I keep all my childhood projects and work in a box, but other than that, I have been trying to be as ruthless as I can about my stuff. I promised myself that I would not start buying anything else until I have finished getting rid of what I don’t want now. I have my eye on some pieces that I actually need. This was a good opportunity to finally be able to see with clarity what I actually have and figure out what I actually need to be living my desired life.

In the article, Tina speaks about moving residences as the opportunity to take stock of what she had and let go of some of it. Perhaps this is what prompted me to try to clean out what I have acquired over the past almost-21 years of living in this house, as I am anticipating the way I want to live (independently, simply, and passionately) and preparing my life for that moment. I have had to let go of 4 garbage bags of clothing, which, I have to say, was mostly not mine in the first place.

I feel like these changes in my life are at the same time a reflection of me growing up as well as a stepping stone for me to grow up. This letting go of material things is paving the way for me to acquire more intellectual and creative awareness, something I believe makes sense for the world right now. I think that people are going to be streamlining their lives, as we move into an increasingly technology-driven world, where information and communication will take the place material goods have in filling that void in our lives.

This change will no doubt be reflected in my design philosophy as I go into fourth year in designing my grad collection. I know that I will focus on creating clothes that are beautiful, functional, and well designed so that they retain their worth season after season, year after year. I want my clothes to be treasured as well as worn. I want them to be high quality. As the economic downturn has taught us, bad times make people think more carefully about what they buy. I want people to think about what I design, and still buy it. I want them to love it the more they wear it. I want my pieces to have true value, to not be thought of as frivolous, but as a necessary and worthy indulgence that aids in their lives, not detract from their dreams, values, and lifestyles.

Inspired!: Creating happiness

May 11, 2009


Inspired! is my start to the week: a piece of advice, aesthetic inspiration in art and fashion, or just something that makes me want to get up and do the week right. Today’s edition looks at inspiration in leading a happy life.

For those of you who haven’t yet been on TED, check it out. It is a media communication platform that first came out of a set of conferences on Technology, Entertainment, Design (though the talks range far beyond that). We used it as a resource in my first Creativity and Innovation class this semester, and it was first introduced to me in a design class about a year ago. As I was browsing recently, one talk really stood out to me as it brought up issues that are both interesting and inspiring.

The gist of it:
Being stuck with one choice creates happiness. Hmm, seeing as how I stuck with my choice of going to design school and I am immensely happy with my decision, I’d say that theory rings true. This is inspiring me to make lifestyle choices and to stick by them, rather than worry about what I would be missing out on.

What else?
The view that human misdeeds come as the result of overhyped view one has of the difference between one situation’s ability to bring happiness and another’s. Agreed.

One more thing…
How I was able to bring this back to fashion: this manufactured sense of want for material things in the hopes that they bring happiness moreso than not having these things is what makes the economy go ’round and ’round. It all comes back to sustaining what we have created out of ourselves.

Watch it, Dan Gilbert makes a good case. Examine why you strive for the things you strive for, so that you have the awareness to be able to go beyond that in creating and designing an authentic life.

I was also inspired by his ability to grip an audience. I wonder if I could do that someday. What would I have to talk about?

Piece of My Mind / Slash Careers

May 6, 2009


Piece of My Mind has a little bit more of a personal angle – my musings, updates on my life, and in today’s case, thoughts on a book and the theories it presented to me, and how they relate to my life.

The aforementioned book is One Person, Multiple Careers by Marci Alboher. This is the first time I’ve heard of the “Slash Effect”, basically the premise is that one person can have multiple careers that all contribute equally to creating the life one desires.

After reading this book, I thought about what I would see being my primary career and what would be my “orbiter” career. Growing up, I always felt so limited when forced to choose one single career path. The people I most admire are the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, people who are good at many things. I wanted to be an astronaut, a writer, an architect, a designer, and yes, a superhero.

The book itself isn’t amazing, but it did open my eyes to the idea that not only is the “slash effect” okay, but it will soon be readily embraced. Not only that, but it aids in creating a satisfying and fulfilling life.

The problem is, although I’ve narrowed my field of interest down to fashion, the fashion industry in itself has so many careers that interest me. Mainly this summer is a huge opportunity for me to explore what fields I want to get into, which you’ll get to see through this blog. My greatest hope for my grad collection is that it strongly connects to the part of the industry that I want to head towards, and will perhaps aid me in making that decision, and if that happens to change over my lifetime, I’m cool with it.

I love the excitement of not knowing what the future brings, and am anxious of the uncertainty that lies ahead. Right now, I guess I am a student/part-time photo assistant, but in less than one year, that will all change. I know that I do not lie with the majority of college students, who basically “freak out” at the thought of graduation – I am eager, because I know that opportunity is aplenty, and I can make and carve my own identity in this new world where people are defining their own lifestyles and careers. I love that feeling. Now, if only I could decide…this blog really is a way for me to connect with my own interests and to share them with others.

I highly recommend reading this book especially if you are the type of person who feels confined at the thought of doing one thing only, even if you are extremely passionate about it for the reason that you have more to offer doing other things as well. The book was a great way to solidify the idea that it is okay and beneficial for me to head down that way, and took away a lot of the unease I was feeling about heading into the real world.

I am extremely interested in people who are living the “slash effect”. I would imagine quite a few people in fashion do – I’d love to know more about them. I think I will investigate this – will require a follow-up post and some research. P.S. If you are reading this and are happily living two careers, I’d love to hear from you.

Earth Day Musings

April 23, 2009

We’ve all heard of the 100-mile diet. (I have this weird thing I do – basically for everything going on in the world, I like to find a connection to fashion, because well, usually they are staring at me right in the face.) We had mass globalization happen. And then we have the eco-movement, which has spawned all sorts of initiatives to make processes and activities more green, including the 100-mile diet (food), hybrid cars (transportation), eco-friendly homes and materials (shelter), and of course, the growing prominence of local designers as being trendy (fashion). Four of the necessities in life (maybe I should’ve used “clothing” instead of “fashion) are all experiencing change as a result of the eco-movement, but one thing I have been thinking about is creative services and whether they will be affected.

This is of particular interest to me as I figure out where I want to live and work, whether to stay in Vancouver or not, in a year when I graduate. Because of the increasingly connected nature of the world, people who require services can now get these services from anyone living anywhere. It is hardly a requirement to be located in the same vicinity, although I’m sure there are benefits (. This means that “talent” can manifest itself in companies everywhere, not necessarily in the fashion capitals of the world. And, “talent” does not necessarily have to go to these fashion capitals to be successful or to make a living. Does this mean a major shift in the fashion industry? In 20 years, will we still even have fashion capitals, or will it be a fashion free-for-all?  

This weights heavily on my career and life decisions, as I, like most people, seek the best opportunities for what I do. Then again, it is not just about job opportunity, but also travel and experience, being able to see how the fashion industry works in different cities. So maybe its not that hard a decision.

P.S. Hope you all had a good earth day!

2010 and fashion

April 14, 2009

I am in a lucky position to be able to witness the effects of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games on the fashion industry and Vancouver’s tourism and economy.

Plum came out with a t-shirt design contest for Qolo, a new line that celebrates Vancouver just in time for the tourism boom to generate a whole new set of customers.

Aritzia has created a line, Park Life, in a licensing deal, as have numerous other companies.

And I’m sure that as the time comes nearer, even more fashion companies will try to take advantage of this onslaught of people coming into town as well as residents who feel the urge to celebrate living in Vancouver.

This makes me think of tourism-themed apparel as a selling point. Back in fall semester when I had Textile Design, I was first introduced to this idea by my instructor, who said it was a very lucrative business because the people who buy are usually big corporations giving away gifts that are unique to the city. Think: Hawaiian screen-printed shirts, I Love New York tshirts.

Will Vancouver be fashionable enough for people to want to wear items that scream “Vancouver!”? And with that comes the question, what is Vancouver? I think it is time to rethink and reinvent the wheel, because a lot of the traditional Vancouver images and icons are out of date and tacky, and Vancouver to me is a very young and fresh city full of a mood I like to think of as relaxed vibrancy.

I think a city becomes fashionable to wear when it is considered world-class, and world-class is gauged in my eyes when the biggest luxury companies and top fashion retailers have flagships within these cities. Vancouver is definitely heading this direction with a whole new wave of stores popping up around the city now and in the near future (Sephora!).

I think this a great time for someone to run with this idea in creating tourism-themed apparel in a fresh and youthful way that is trendy and fashion-forward. $$!

Not a fashion designer

January 22, 2009

I’ve finding myself more and more fascinated with communicating fashion, helping great ideas succeed. The only class I’m taking this semester, Product Development, allowed me the insight that I could aspire towards becoming a product developer or a creative director, but not necessarily would I call myself a fashion designer. The term is overused, and therefore, has lost its meaning, and cheapened the meaning of design.

A lot of people, I feel, are makers of fashion, but not really designers. Design is the cross between art and engineering.

My favorite designer still remains Madeleine Vionnet, after I first did a project on her work back in second year. Design doesn’t have to be flashy and loud – Vionnet’s work proves that.

When someone takes previous ideas and merchandises it to look new for the purpose of SALES, that’s not a designer. The people I admire most are the ones who are a hybrid between designer and product developer.

I would love to be able to call myself a designer, but I don’t have the patience to engineer clothes sadly. The more I learn and the longer I’m in the fashion industry, the more in awe I am of well designed clothes, but the further I stray from wanting to create that myself.

Also, while I still remember, it amazes and saddens me how little most people in fashion seem to know about history, both of clothing and of the world in general. There are many things in the world that I look at and see a need for reform. Maybe this has something to do with my new mission – to communicate fashion, helping the great ideas rise about the stupid/mediocre ones. Whoever said there’s no such thing as a wrong answer never found the right one, and whoever said that all ideas have validity clearly have never witnessed a great one, or lack the imagination in seeing its potential. 😉