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Tag Archives: Calgary fashion

Connections | Calgary Stampede Queens

389x421Excited to find Elfriede Holtkamp (EHC’s Founder) contributions to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the Calgary Stampede, has been published in a new book ‘Calgary’s Stampede Queens’  by  Glenbow Museum Librarian and Archivist, Jennifer Hamblin. The new book documents the history of Calgary Stampede royalty.

Calgary Stampede Queens by Jennifer Hamblin

Calgary Stampede Queens by Jennifer Hamblin

Thanks to my husband, Ian Rogan, of the LV Greyes Partnership, who on a research trip came upon the book. Following his instincts and knowing of Elfriede’s involvement with the Calgary Stampede Queen contest, wondered whether she had been referenced in the book.

As it turns out, there are a number of photographs as well as a newspaper article from 1968, making reference to the work Elfriede did. Between the years of 1964 and 1973, she created outfits for the Stampede Queen and her Ladies in Waiting (later Princesses).

Stampede Queen Diane Leech and the Princesses in 1968 - outfits by Elfriede

Stampede Queen Diane Leech and the Princesses in 1968 – outfits by Elfriede

Recalling her association with the Calgary Stampede, Elfriede explains it all began with a serendipitous conversation between her husband, Hermann Holtkamp, and Mr. Jack Gow, a member of the Associated Canadian Travelers (ACT) Stampede Queen committee, whose wife had been designing the Queen’s and her Ladies in Waiting outfits for the past six years. In talking, it was mentioned, that Elfriede was an accomplished seamstress working in Calgary. Shortly after in 1963 Mrs. Orpha Gow, asked if she would consider making the outfits.

In preparation, and while awaiting the final outcome of the contest that year, Elfriede took the measurements of all 20 young women!  Meanwhile, planning the colours and styles for the Queens and Princesses, finalizing designs and calculating fabric requirements for the Stampede Queen committee to source. By the time the Queen and Princesses were chosen at the end of May, the sumptuous wool fabrics and brocades were supplied and the work could begin.  Fittings took place in early June, a particularly rainy month in Calgary. Often travelling was difficult because of the extremely muddy conditions of country roads. Elfriede, recalls working all-night during a particularly heavy thunder storm listening to the late night news announcing concern about possible lighting strikes.

Elfriede making final adjustments to Diane's suit (one of two created for each of the ladies)

Elfriede making final adjustments to Diane’s suit in 1968 (one of two created for each of the ladies)

At the time, Elfriede’s atelier was staffed with just two seamstresses. With the very short lead time available, many hours of overtime were put in by everyone. Without the hard work of her employees, six tailored Western style riding suits, fully lined with embellishments,  would never have been accomplished for Stampede opening events in early July.

During these years, Elfriede was also asked to create outfits for some honoured guests of the Calgary Stampede including Lady Patricia Brabourne (eldest daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten) who in 1974, succeeded her cousin Lady Patricia Ramsay, formerly HRH Princess Patricia of Connaught, as Colonel-in-Chief of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (SEE PPCLI BLOG) Katharine Duchess of Kent, first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, and Norah Willis Michener, wife of Roland Michener, 20th Governor General of Canada.

Having opportunity for just a single fitting, measurements for honoured guests were sent in advance. In one instance, measurements supplied were obviously taken or recorded in error. Suspicion they were erroneous were confirmed when Elfriede met the Duchess at a pre Stampede event “and I discreetly reviewed her figure”.

Duchess of Kent riding in the Calgary Stampede Parade - outfit by Elfriede

Duchess of Kent riding in the Calgary Stampede Parade – outfit by Elfriede

For security reasons, fittings for both Lady Brabourne and the Duchess of Kent were held at the Palliser Hotel, where they were staying. On these appointments, Elfriede was chauffeured to and from the hotel and escorted to their suites. Elfriede recalls it being a special time, Lady Patricia Brabourne shared some personal thoughts and a few family photos with her, in particular a recent photograph of her son’s birthday present which was a miniature horse tied with a large bow around its belly.

Another year, the Governor General Roland Michener and his wife Norah Willis Michener arrived in Calgary for Stampede via the Royal Train. As the spouse of a Governor General is titled, the Chatelaine of Rideau Hall, the fitting was held in their private carriage. Even with only limited time and one fitting guests of honour remarked on how out beautifully fitted and finished their costumes were.

On one memorable occasion, Elfriede remembers the Stampede Queen took a tumble from her horse. With a great tear in the knee, they sent the riding trousers to Elfriede to mend. With time at a premium and needed for the next event, the entire Stampede entourage made a detour to pick up the trousers.  Unfortunately, no camera was at hand to record the impressive convoy of ten vehicles with RCMP escort in front of Elfriede’s  atelier!   … cheers! J

Elfriede with Jennifer Hamblin, Author at Jennifer's talk and book signing

Elfriede with Jennifer Hamblin, Author at Jennifer’s talk and book signing on Tuesday July 29th, 2014 at Central United Church, Calgary.

 

 

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Lighting for your couture and tailoring studio

_DSC4789You’ve got your studio planned out, your theme, your furniture and equipment all ready to move in. Paint colors and wall coverings chosen, except you still need to decide how to light the entire space.
Light is light, all you do is flip the switch, right?

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You may not completely understand what you need for your space, but like any keen observer you can learn a lot by visiting trendy and upscale retail shops and restaurants and also professional office spaces to find out what appeals to you. And like any research you do, you should evaluate why something appeals or works for you and why it doesn’t.

What there is to know about lighting is almost overwhelming. About its various functions, about the myriad of products available, how lighting effects influence customer behavior, its reflective properties on various surfaces and so on. The great thing is that there is also ton of information freely available on the internet.

Assuming the primary existence of your studio is for work and to meet with your clients, lighting it is pretty straight forward. Natural lighting is a must, and not just because it makes you feel and look better. It has been proven that working under artificial light for prolonged periods of time cause us to be less alert and feel more stressed.

Windows near your work surface is very important, but do consider the direction of incoming light over your work so you don’t work in your own shadow. You may need to re-orient your work surfaces to achieve the most effective illumination. Light coming in from north facing windows is normally more consistent throughout the day and generally better than south facing – which can be extremely hot, glaring and tends to fade textiles rapidly.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Working evenings or during dark days, you will also need good ‘general lighting’ which means artificial overhead light. It should be evenly spaced and with sufficient coverage so that there are no dark spots in the studio.

You’ll also need ‘task lighting’ – direct light to illuminate particular working areas shadowed by equipment for instance. Next to your sewing machine, on your drawing board, beside the laptop or comfortable chair that you use to do hand sewing all benefit from additional lighting. Set up several independently switched task lights and use them as you need them. Research types of fixtures with flexible arms and with light bulbs that cast diffused light and that do not create a lot of extra heat.

Your fitting room will benefit by a source of natural light, plus artificial lighting that will flatter skin tones and won’t alter how the coloring of fabric appears. Again consider the direction of the light to prevent casting irritating shadows.

The more decorative spaces in your studio will likely be the entrance and reception area. Although you may not have a say in how this is lit, the entrance just outside your studio should be well lit inviting your clients in. Your reception area should be treated similar to a retail space. The fundamental principle being: first impressions are what count. If the entrance and reception areas are well illuminated, it underlines the assumption of convincing design and work on the inside.

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Lighting must have good color, contrast and balance between different surfaces to accomplish interesting effects which suit the mood and theme of your studio. By using several layers of lighting you can create an appealing hierarchy of light that will pull the space together bringing it to life. These layers are defined as Ambient, Accent and Perimeter, Display and Decorative lighting, and you could easily employ all of these techniques in one space.

All bulbs are rated based on the color of light they emit. This is a general guide to Color Temperature measured in degrees Kelvin (K), if you happen to come across the information.

Spec 35,40, or 50: 3,500-5,000 K – Good for task lighting
Cool White: 4,100 K – Reasonable for general lighting
Natural Sunshine: 5,000 K – Great for general lighting
Daylight Deluxe: 6,500 K – Very Bright (may be too bright for small spaces)

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Ambient is an overall restful and pleasant level of down-lighting. It can be adjustable with dimmer controls. Accent lighting adds depth, contrast and creates focal points upon your sample garments and design accents, but be careful not to add confusion with too many focal points.

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Perimeter – floor (up-light) and valance (up or down) light – aids in lighting vertical surfaces. This technique can direct light up on tall shelving and contributes to your space appearing to be larger, more open and welcoming.

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Display case lighting sources are usually hidden and only used to highlight small pieces. And finally, Decorative lighting such as a hanging chandelier can make a statement in itself, but be careful not to overdo this kind of lighting as it can easily divert attention away from its primary objective.

At Ecole Holt Couture School we use overhead fluorescent fixtures with additional cool-temperature track lighting and Venetian blinds controlling light coming in from west facing windows the entire length of the studio. While the fitting room has a north facing window, a crystal overhead chandelier and another fixture directly over top the large wall mounted mirror. This works extremely well all year round during the daytime as well as at night.

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Transportable task lighting is always nearby, and some students have discovered that wearing headlamps with LED lights (used for camping) and finger lights very useful for doing handwork at home where the lighting may not be as extensive or flexible.

These are just a few examples of lighting applications, but another useful technique (other than for fitting rooms) is in using mirrors, not only for reflecting light, but also for making your space appear to be larger than it is. We will explore this technique more in the future. J

 

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“My Studio is open for business!”

photo credit: thechicadvisor.com

photo credit: thechicadvisor.com

A couturier, tailoring, or any artisan studio requires you to personalize it at the same time make it feel comfortable for your clients, in addition to room for working and storage. An important part of your branding or marketing is how your client sees you in your workspace, and is a reflection upon you personally.

The minute a client comes through the door they should feel connected, easily get their bearings, view your displays, and get an overall impression of who you are. The space shouldn’t be confusing in its design or message.

A bit of background info: Retailers calculate every centimeter of floor space as potential [profit = sales dollars / costs / sq. foot]. Include moving-around-space between the displays (tables, racks, and shelving), and just the right amount of attention given to the design of the entrance, flooring, wall area, ceiling/lighting, smell and sound, they all act as the canvass and give context to the product for sale.

Basically, boutiques with wide aisles and ample space between products on display, and less product out on the floor equates to higher-end product for sale. The profit margin on these products is usually much higher per unit. A lot of attention is given to staging – lighting effects, sounds (music) and smell (fragrances) even if the customer is consciously unaware of the effort behind it.

Shops with narrow aisles, jamb packed shelves and racks, only general lighting and small behind the scenes storage space for inventory indicates a less expensive product on offer. Profit margins per unit are much smaller and therefore rely on a higher volume of sales with quicker turn over.

This is only a general guide and not definitive, but illustrates the importance of conscious design in the space. And neither scenario indicates or guarantees the actually quality of the product itself.

Studios are frequently open by appointment only or open limited hours to the general public. They may be one single open plan area. Clients love to see artisans at work dissolving the mystery of how things are created, but clearly appreciate defined parameters so they know where they, as the client, fit in.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Making your client feel comfortable during a visit to your studio is extremely important. Whether it simply means offering them a place to hang their coat, a clean sturdy wooden stool off to the side of your workbench and a place to set down their freshly brewed organic coffee served up in a perfectly clean mug, or a lush upholstered sofa with your quality printed portfolio splayed out neatly in front, freshly cut flowers and cold Perrier served in Waterford crystal on a unique coffee table. It means you have considered your client’s experience.

Every studio needs some storage space for stock and deliveries. In my opinion, it is best left behind screens or in closed off rooms. No matter how on top of things you may be, clients make judgements about you based on your timeliness and tidiness or lack of it. Sample fabrics on display is not considered inventory – you get the idea.

Make sure the entry to your studio is inviting whether it’s wide open or intimately private and make sure it speaks of the entire space. And the mind loves to make order out of confusion – so the less confusion the better. Your client’s attention will ready and not hung up about confused messages in your studio.

If one element is unseen, this one is no less important than all of them put together. That is to keep the air in your studio fresh. There are few things worse than being assaulted by the smell of stale food or other unpleasant odors. Masking malodour with fragrances or room deodorizers doesn’t work; it only makes matters worse, a definite turn-off.

Natural light and lighting is essential to a studio for more than just working in. It creates desired mood very effectively – just be aware of the fact that people have different reactions to lighting just as they do to colour. However, this topic will be better explored separately in another blog. Have a look at the following for some ideas of the better and the could-be-better – you be the judge. Cheers! J.

Levis Tailor Shop

Levis Tailor Shop

 

At Ecole Holt Couture School

At Ecole Holt Couture School

Anderson & Sheppard

Anderson & Sheppard

Spiro Creations

Spiro Creations

Tonbogirl Verbua Leather Craft

Tonbogirl Verbua Leather Craft

Make

Make

 

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Fast forward >> the personal touch

what you wantThe future >> what you want with the personal touch. People are becoming excited about little changes to the fabric of their lives – in their food, their environment and local culture.

We care that we are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable and the reason I love doing this work so much. It is exceptionally satisfying both as a couturier/tailor and educator. However, fashion industry people would argue that if everyone in the industry would still carry on as we do; we’d still be living in the dark ages. That might be true, but on the other hand – maybe not!

Case in point, the growing shift going-back-to-basics in organic farming and selling locally. We yearn for healthy wholesome nutritional foods, rediscovering real ‘taste’ and knowing where our food comes from! We love the personal touch.

Land and Building development is en route to greening-up by reclaiming, replanting, recycling and reusing perfectly good brick, lumber, stone, metals, and etc. products. Toxic chemicals are finally being removed from building products to provide healthier environments. Traditional crafts men/women and trades people are in high demand to achieve quality and reflect our personality in homes and gardens.

Connecting-with-nature programs are re-focusing our attention on the value of all living things from tiny bugs to preserving forests, from saving the whales to natural water sheds. We have come to realize, everything on earth belongs here. People need to be actively engaged in safeguarding our planet; we cannot  be timid or remain ignorant of the urgency in making at least small changes in our current habits.

Psychologists and sociologists are proving that our increasing dependency on social media may actually be making us more isolated, even though we depend on it for keeping in touch. We cannot do without the internet to conduct business today. All the same we still need personal engagement with our immediate community to make our work meaningful. Do you know or care if your customers are truly happy or satisfied with your product? How are you connected?

The fashion industry as a whole has been guilty as charged of being rather deceptive in capturing our attention. No one should believe magazine photos because they are all touched up to create an illusion of idealized perfection. Labeling doesn’t give you the true story in part or in full. We don’t know anything at all about a garment’s journey, who made them and where they actually come from. Yet fantasy continues to influence our desires and attitudes about everything from what we drive to what we wear.  It is no surprise then that consumers are slow in making better choices to curb this insatiable addiction to an illusion of impossible glamor, and at a terrible cost.

Consumers have become irresistibly accustomed to cheap fashion paying next to nothing in our western society, in effect undervaluing all creative labor, totally unaware that quality and social welfare is sacrificed every time in achieving this. We have become entirely detached. So it is no wonder that we are  somewhat slow to adopt a more sustainable approach to style. The popular saying goes: “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”, we all need to take another look and reassess our contribution to the well being of our own community as well as global communities.

However, positive changes are on the horizon and the alternatives are numerous! Sharing, Recycling, upcycling, redesigning and zero waste, to name a few. In practice couturiers and tailors do not waste materials, find creative ways of incorporating your cherished valuables, and are not just in the exclusive domain of the wealthy patron either.

As local artisans and crafts people we can effectively service clients in our own communities giving them exactly what they want and need and at a much higher quality – with a personal touch. If you don’t believe it, just think about  hand knit sweaters or your most valuable handmade possession which you really love and cherish – I’ll guess you still own them and loathe letting them go! Cheers! J photo shoot workshop

shopping tag

 

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Slow fashion – its your prerogative!

389x421To be happily successful in couture and tailoring you must become a master maker and this takes time as does developing your clientele. Gaining sufficient experience and always paying a great deal of attention to detail, wherein no element is compromised in a garment’s making, cannot be learned in a fast-track approach to learning, which is the reason why EHC’s programs are longer than typical career college programs.

Because the essence of couture and tailoring is to create a masterpiece every time, as with fine art, it is through making a multitude of discriminating choices. Understanding the intricacies of construction techniques and their application complexities is cultivated by experience. Pushing beyond your current level of creativity needs time to mature. In couture and tailoring a single garment is made to fit the client’s exacting requirements and style. As with an original work of art, cannot not be reproduced on mass and would defeat the whole purpose. In Couture and Tailoring, no garment is made on speculation; but by prearranged sale or by agreement.

Financial success at any level is basically what is left over after expenses and other related costs. In creating one item whatever profit is attained very quickly, which could either be acceptable or unacceptable. It is noteworthy to point out artists and artisans have a reputation for disliking putting themselves forward selling their expertise and generally do better in complementary business arrangements wherein they can entrust some time-consuming marketing duties into the hands of someone else. However, handing over this kind of content control to someone else is not easy – finding someone who understands your vision and can speak in your voice – is exceptional.

If profit margins turnout to be lower for ‘makers’, meaning artists, artisans, and crafts people the compensation is greater in career satisfaction (or high job satisfaction). We also have somewhat longer careers than usual, working well beyond retirement age because we love to be creative and productive at any age. To be a successful maker the secret is in being authentic. Staying creatively involved, having control over our work, maintaining high work ethics, keeping our natural and business environments healthy and sustaining our emotional and spiritual wellbeing is essential to and naturally high on our priority list in life.

A word about sustainability – defined as genuine attitudes and practices rather than ‘green-washed’ attempts or hyped up pitches to create an illusion of sustainability. More and more influential people in the industry are supporting what is called ‘slow fashion’, a term coined by Kate Fletcher (Centre for Sustainable Fashion, UK, 2007). The core of a movement dedicated to righteous ways of being fashionable. Slow fashion encompasses all initiatives taken towards using bio-degradable raw materials, recycled garments, buying from fair-trade organization and promoting slow consumption.

We all have choices, and no one way is right for everyone. But, being able to make conscious and informed choices shouldn’t be drudgery, it is a luxury, it should be our prerogative. This may also appeal to you! Cheers! J. IMG_3096

 

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Tools of the trade

389x421We all love the latest in gadgetry or digital technology which most of us want to possess even if we don’t actually use! If you’ve ever observed an artist or trades person using their tools at work, you’ll have noticed that the tools are very simple or very special but, very well used. Painters use the same brushes over and over until the bristles have all fallen out or have broken off. Cabinet makers use the same planes, chisels and mallets that perhaps they’ve inherited or started out with. Hair stylists use their favorite scissors and combs. You get the picture.It is no different with dressmakers, tailors and couturiers. Once we’ve invested in the best tools we can afford, we use them constantly, and stay with us forever if we can help it.

A few examples of tools I mean are scissors, thimbles, sewing needles, yard sticks and tape measures. Tape measures drape around your neck, get rolled up and unrolled, the printed markings become worn, and they gain a few nicks along the edges, but getting a new one is one is just one big hassle after breaking-in the one you’ve been using properly. Yard sticks are good for setting hems, marking lines, and swatting flies when necessary.
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Sewing needles sometimes become visibly plate bare in spots along the shafts, and eventually do get replaced. But to lose one is irritating bordering on disaster and finding one that became lost is a near-on victory! Using cheap needles is total waste of time because they only bend and break.
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Thimbles actually become a comfortable extension of your middle finger. I’ve used very few in my career, only replacing two that acquired punctures in the tops from repeated needle pressure, and it takes a long time to warm up to a new one so I guard mine closely. They need not be pretty, but good quality metal is essential. In the studio, holding up your middle finger is not a rude gesture – it means ‘have you seen where I left my thimble?’ without speaking.
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Scissors and shears become your pride and joy when you’ve invested in high quality tempered steal. Purchasing them really hurts at the time, as they’re rather expensive items – which no one else will understand the value of, and hard to justify when you’re just starting out. Good ones will last 40 to 50 years and longer if you take good care of them!
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We don’t use special pattern drafting tools either, just the basics. Straight edge or T-square, triangle, pencil and eraser. We go through proper tailors chalk like crazy. Pens are banned from the studio. We use ordinary un-waxed wide width white butchers paper for drafting, only using tailors card for patterns we plan to keep and reuse – this 92lb card stock is sold in rolls and is extremely heavy and somewhat expensive.

Wonderful gadgets, fancy sewing aids and swanky drafting tools are a boon for sewing hobbyists. DIY stores offer a specialized tool for every conceivable do-it or fix-it job you might ever do at home. As appealing or impressive as they might look they’re not necessarily manufactured for the professionals. However, it seems everyone wants them and they do look terrific on the collector’s shelf!
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Are you a Couturier, are you a Tailor?

389x421Watching a video about makers of fine watches on the Isle of Man, they make every segment of these watches from scratch. It takes several months to create one. Only about a dozen are made each year – and yes they sell at £100,000.00. The present day master at Roger W. Smith, said he doesn’t understand today’s world of fast and cheapness.

He lives in a world where you need to be aware of and think about everything to make a thing of such beauty. Although Roger W. Smith makes mechanical art, it is totally functional too.

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But, what he said resonated with me enough to respond, “yes, in mine too”.

In my world, it is not about how fast and how cheap you can make something. In my world you definitely think about the quality of materials and quality of workmanship. In my world, you put your heart and soul into everything you make…

Ask yourself:

Did you design it?
Did you plan everything with your client in mind?
Did you take every measurement?
Did you decide upon each seam placement?
Did you create the pattern with every stroke of the pencil?
Did you decide which fabric was best to use for each layer?
Did you think about and decide how best to support each component?
Did you perform the fittings on your client taking every curve and detail into consideration?
Did you create every segment with all of its detailing and embellishments?
Did your creation serve its function as well as its form?
Were you satisfied that every element was just right, even those that are hidden and will never be seen?
Was your client satisfied?

If you said yes to all of the above, then congratulations – you are a couturier, or congratulations – you are a tailor.
In my world, not everything sells for $100,000.00. It would be very nice, I have to admit, but price is between the client and the couturier (or tailor)! – J

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To inquire about enrolment contact info@ecoleholtcouture.com

 

 

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Creating is exciting, mastering is satisfying.

70x76I love and need to do something creative with my hands, whether playing the piano, sewing, cooking, gardening, sketching or doodling. Using my hands and engaging my mind are perfect partners for what I do in couture sewing and bespoke tailoring. I’m never satisfied with good enough, I strive for perfection every time. And, learning continues long after you master the fundamental skills and techniques. Couture and tailoring as a career has never become dry and continues to evolve.

In fashion making, including alterations, businesses surveyed (2012) – 56% required expert hand sewing skills, 33% custom pattern making skills, 89% custom fitting skills, 56% customer service skills, 33% required design and styling skills, and only 22% need machinist skills. Clearly, machinist skills at the bottom of the list.

Wow, a whopping 89% could really use expertise in custom fitting skills!

It doesn’t help, I think,  that many young people are misinformed about the business of professional couture sewing. As a result are reluctant to get into a field of fashion design that they think is just monotonous and slavishly laborious such as seen in those factories exposed recently in overseas countries.  In fact, couture sewing and tailoring is really very creative and fulfilling. True, the hours are sometimes long, but each piece that you work on is different from the last, unlike production work.

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Facebook

Glamour and sex appeal is continually portrayed in fashion media and gives a false impression of the reality of working in fashion. Fashion is exciting, but true career satisfaction from comes from within and from the recognition of a job well done, along with the financial rewards. And while haute couture appears quite sensational on the surface, it is just like any business that requires education, experience, dedication and investment to be successful. Did I forget to say, you need ‘Passion’.

If you are anything like me, you get excited about creating things yourself, find peace and tranquillity in stillness and quiet concentration, thrive on a balance of keeping your own company and sharing quality time with other creative people and have an eye for detail and beauty. Often I become inspired and find myself lost in imagination. You see a need and know deep down that you can succeed at something that you really love doing.

One of the most rewarding times is when you reach the stage in your career, when you no longer question your abilities or skills. When you know that even when you haven’t done something before, you can figure it out! Excitement builds within me with every new project, especially the challenging ones, and then to see the joy your clients express when they get what they dream about.

...working on a wedding gown early in my career...

…working on a wedding gown early in my career…

To see other people awaken to their passion, is always a thrill as an educator. Doing what I do is the cake, doing what I love doing is the icing on the cake. Sharing what I’ve learned is the eating of the cake. – J.

Pattern cutter, maker, engineer

 

Artist-hand-mind-maker

kelsey

Creative expression your living heritage

 

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Pattern cutting, pattern making, pattern engineering.

At EHC pattern engineering

At EHC pattern engineering

Whatever you call it, is interpreting a design with an eye for detail, making pattern templates used to cut the cloth before any construction can begin. We often get approached by outside students of fashion and designers alike asking for theses pattern making skills.

We still draft patterns by hand at Ecole Holt Couture, an essentially combined science and art form without the aid of CAD programs, specifically for haute couture and bespoke tailoring – which is what we teach. Pattern engineering is integral and essential to a successful business as a couturier and tailor whether you work from home or operate a studio or boutique.

Every pattern is based on an entirely unique set of measurements first to create a mock-up or toile for design and fit adjustments. This ensures perfect fit, efficient use and adequate quantity of expensive and specially made fabrics for the final garment.

Interpreting the designer’s ideal fit and flair is what sets great pattern-makers apart from the masses and enables them to command high salaries. Being detail-oriented, style-conscious, perfectionistic, and hard-working, enables pattern-makers to earn upwards of $100,000/year in New York or Los Angeles as of 2013. Freelance pattern-makers may earn up to $40/hr or more in LA. Pattern-making services usually charge more than this, however. The time it takes to make any type of pattern is extremely difficult to predict, and few predictions are accurate.

The importance of having the skills to make original patterns cannot be understated. The following are comments made by professionals in the fashion design and production field.

Pattern engineering is at the cutting edge of design, processing flat designs into 3D form is as important as the design itself, and fundamental to the success of any design. Without the technician the designer cannot produce. Pattern cutters are equal to the designer and are crucial to success.

Even though pattern cutters work in collaboration with designers for many years, the credit normally goes to the designer. However, no famous designer would ever claim that their design was created without a great team behind them as they work hand in hand on every function to achieve final goal.

Cutters understand and are interpreters of what is in your head as a designer. Behind every designer is a very creative pattern cutter, a sort of marriage between art forms and expertise. They provide many more options than the obvious ones to achieve a design.

Pattern cutters are just as creative as the designer, but perhaps more practical. However, not enough technical people being trained for the fashion industry as the actual manufacturers move into other countries. There are plenty of designers around, but not enough technical creators.

Pattern cutters are open-minded and know the foundation rules, and understand how to break those rules. They can turn tailoring ideas on their head, are methodical and use good sense.

We live in a fairly celebrity obsessed society and perhaps most people want to be the high profile designer. But maybe you are the type that will follow your love and spirit for cutting. Pattern cutting is actually a highly respected career that you can make a decent living out of. (See: Canada. USA. UK. )

As a pattern cutter you won’t be on television or have a famous name, the same as if you’re a football coach or in the pit crew of a formula one race car – you are the support team. Pattern cutters are the unsung heroes.

It is very satisfying seeing a project through from the concept, its procedure of cutting and fitting, all the way to the runway or see someone wearing it, or in the shops.If you become a top pattern cutter you will become an even better designer, the best training ever to become an even better designer.

They are real gold to a designer, who needs to create what people want to buy and what they want to wear. Imagine if you are a designer and find pattern cutter you absolutely love, then you can feed all these wonderful ideas to them to be interpreted.

Imaging doing something you really enjoy for 8 hours every day. Pattern cutters understand you before you’ve even said something, even presented with a vague sketch. You don’t want to get rid of a good pattern cutter – ever!

Designers will come and go. That’s just the way it is. A creative pattern cutter will have great job security. If you are good, then you become in some ways, the mainstay of a successful creative studio.

You work with someone else and add your input to create the final garment. You turn great ideas into reality. There is a huge need for creative technologists in every single area of fashion design including pattern cutters, seamstresses, etc.

The fashion industry has changed, certainly from local manufacturing, but the front end part is not moving anywhere – business always need to be very close to the market that they are operating in.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough publicity of the icons of the past – we need more publicity of these very creative people. Careers for pattern cutting and sewing are still very much alive; you just never know where you will end up working – for a high street shop or next to a designer.

Comments condensed from video:
Sally Smith, one time Design Director, Coats Viyella
Michael Terry, Design Director and one time Executive Director at Dewhirst Group based in the UK,
Amanda Wakeley, Designer
Betty Jackson, Designer
Nicole Fahri, Designer
Ren Pearce and Andrew Fionda, Designers recently well known for their innovative cutting techniques for British Fashion Council.

Many books are published on the subject, but it is rare for a pattern-maker to become a professional through teaching oneself. Apprenticeships are almost unheard of in North America, but would serve well to improve the transition from student to professional status. Because this occupation is relatively unknown outside of the apparel industry, there is a serious lack of pattern-makers who can accurately interpret designs in LA, and possibly other fashion capitals.

pattern cutter

 

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Is creative expression your living heritage?

Why is it that my love for creating and sewing stuck with me in this time of plenty? In this time of embarrassingly rampant consumerism when you can afford to buy almost anything – why bother!
The greatest satisfaction I get is from things that I’ve created myself, paying close attention to their purpose, quality and design. I appreciate and love to see beautiful things that are made with great skill, passion and attention to detail by other creators.
It may be from an unbroken history of skills transference that my mother, grandmother, and aunts all learned. To take care of themselves and their families included sewing, and the usual cooking and cleaning. Very importantly, they also learned how to manage money equally as well as how to manage with very little money.
Toys were crafted from available bits and pieces that not only entertained once completed, but enjoyment was extracted from the making of them. More than just quilts, other household furnishings too were often made – drapery, cushions, slipcovers and kitchen linens. And, wool and linen fabrics were home spun and woven in our family.
Clothing was sewn for rapidly growing children, if not for the ‘grown-ups’ of the family’s work and casual wear. Although, going further back into history, in my grandparent’s day, all adult members of the family wore clothing made by its female members, or the family’s tailor.
My ancestors had beautiful well-crafted clothing for every season. Nothing like the perpetuated images of amateurish, ill fitting, home-made sewing disasters that quickly comes to mind from TV programs such as ‘I Love Lucy’ of my childhood. Far from it! Fabrics were incredibly durable yes, but they were also wonderful lustrous wools and silks, furs and leather, linen and crisp cottons that stood up to wear and tear.
Everyone made an effort to look their best all the time, wherever they went; they took pride in their appearance. Clothing fitted extremely well, and was mostly alterable especially for children as they grew. New garments were re-purposed from ones that had a previous life, taken apart and redesigned. Handed down dresses and gowns with laces and embroidery, and suits with handmade buttons were all precious.
There was also a sharing of labour pool. Those that had become expert in one area, would trade with others of differing skills. It was personal. It was holistic, productive and meaningful.
Growing up with an appreciation for and practicing the skills I’ve learned from my mother who has always been a professional couturier, gives me immense satisfaction. To share them with young people wanting to learn, who haven’t had my advantage, is what living heritage is all about – the future.

“…here is to the future!” – J

hand beading on silk

hand beading on silk

quilted matlasse collar

quilted matlasse collar

hand twisted wool edging detail

hand twisted wool edging detail

hand made buttons

hand made buttons

french lace over silk

french lace over silk

 

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