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Couturier ‘String Theory’ – not just a Fable!

Most of the Students at Ecole Holt Couture have heard me tell a similar version of this Fable….

Once upon a time there was a very rich man and his wife spending some quality time together on their private south pacific island. Even with its remoteness it had every modern convenience. Solar panels for electricity, running water, and even 4G Internet access. Everything you could possibly need was there. A beautiful house, airstrip, dock, boat house, deep-sea fishing boat, and several guest cottages on its beaches.

He arrived following several strenuous business trips with his wife, who had completed a major shopping spree from Paris, Milan, London, to Tokyo. There was nothing that the couple could not buy. His wife had just procured lengths of the most elaborately hand-embroidered French silk, the softest Kashmir wool, the most luxurious Italian silk velvet, and the finest English worsted. The best that could be made, very expensive and all quite unique.

Because this man was also very generous he regularly invited friends and relatives to his island, but he also invited strangers from time to time to share in his good fortune. This time he invited three young, and very promising, fashion designers to the island as a reward for their contribution to one of the many charities he supported.

Each of the three individuals saw this opportunity differently. One was very ambitious and viewed each day as potential for new business and so brought an iPhone, laptop, latest look-book, and a few new design ideas to present, just in case. The other viewed this as a good time to get on with a project or two without distractions, and so managed to pack a compact sewing machine, sewing kit (thread, pins and scissors), and some new patterns but decided to investigate locally made materials on the island to experiment with. The third accepted this, as a time to relax and not worry about anything. To absorb, and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

While on the island, which was very tiny indeed, it became apparent just how remote it was from civilization. The owners of the island were very hospitable and made time to visit with each of their guests, making sure that everyone was quite comfortable. One night they invited the three young people to dinner at the big house. Nothing but the finest was offered, the freshest fish caught just hours earlier, the best quality vegetables and most exotic fruit flown in from the nearest islands, and the finest wines.

The conversation turned to each guest to find out what their hopes and aspirations were for the future. One was confident that someday they would become world famous, so that everyone would want to own one of their designs. The other was hopeful, that with experience and some help, they would be able to manufacture highly popular collections selling around the world. The third confessed to wanting to be creative every day, to being content, and wanting to make other people happy. The others all sniggered at the third’s response, and privately thought how impractical and unrealistic that would be.

Curiously, the rich man’s wife asked more questions about why this would be a considered career choice. After all, doesn’t one need a lot of money to be able to have everything one’s heart desires? “For instance, we have everything one could possibly want, a good income, good health, and access to the best of everything. This doesn’t come without hard work and sacrifice of course”. All had to agree, and continued to enjoy a pleasant evening of good food, conversation and exchange of ideas.

Later, the rich man’s wife was delighted to show the three young people her exquisite fabric finds, knowing they would share in her excitement. As expected, all three were indeed thrilled. Also, as an almost instant reaction, they offered to design something for her using these fabrics. “Oh, but, I couldn’t just let anyone touch these precious fabrics, only someone with considerable experience”. They asked who she knew, that had such experience. “Well, I don’t really. I’m a bit hesitant about asking anyone!”

The first young designer offered to create the most fashion-forward designs, and would start on it straight away. The second, began to research the latest trends to present. Meanwhile, the third asked questions about what the rich man’s wife dreamed for herself, what were her requirements for the coming year, and what type of things she loves to wear. “This is all wonderful, but it still leaves the dilemma of who will make these amazing designs for me?”

Not to worry the first designer said, “I have some really good people behind me who will get it done right”, the second designer remarked, “I will make it myself, it won’t take long. I can usually run things up in a few hours, a couple of days at most!” The third’s reply was “I would love to make it for you, it will take some time. I want to make sure everything fits just right, and makes you look marvelous. Your fabrics will deserve the utmost attention, for the most part they will be hand-sewn”.

That night a tropical storm knocked out the 4G Internet access, the docks were damaged, and the airstrip was littered with debris from broken branches. Fuel supplies were so low that the generators couldn’t be run for more than just the bare essentials – such as pumping fresh water. Repairs would take some time.

The first designer conceded, “Well that pretty much finishes my plans, without the internet I can’t communicate with my team, my laptop battery is low and in need of recharging, but I can’t do it without electricity”. The second designer complained that without power the sewing machine was useless, and it was too late to order patterns on-line. The third said, “No problem. Let’s get started”.

In wonderment, the rich man’s wife asked how this is possible without any equipment! “I have my hands, I never travel without my emergency sewing kit, and if you have a ball of string somewhere, that’s all I need.” And so proceeded to take her measurements with the ball of string, sketched some ideas on paper for her approval, and drafted the patterns on old bed sheets. After assembling the mock-up designs, they were fitted exactly to her figure. Then used as the pattern to cut her prized fabrics.

During the following days, the rich man’s wife witnessed how the garments were being created piece by piece, all with the greatest care and attention to detail. Every pattern was skillfully matched at each seam. The garments were fitted a few times making sure they were comfortable and flattering to her figure. Then – one day the clothes were complete! “Oh my, I have never in my life seen such craftsmanship, such beauty, but mostly I have not felt so comfortable in my clothes, and felt so good about the way they make me look! I could see your joy while you worked, and why you love creating such wonderful things! How can I thank you enough for what you have done for me?” The young Couturier replied, “The opportunity you’ve given me has been priceless! Here is a detailed invoice of what you have received in exchange for my expertise.” The rich man’s wife never again wanted what everyone else could buy! Do you?

(Not The End) Just The Beginning – Cheers J

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Many Thanks and Plan B │ Organizing Fashion Events 13 Tips for Success

Event planning is a piece of cake – if you’re referring to ‘mille-feuille’, French for ‘a thousand leaves’. What we’ve learned over the past five years is just how extraordinarily fortunate we’ve been to enlist competent supportive individuals, and develop solid partnerships. Professionalism, artisanship, reliability, availability, generosity, and willingness all matter.

EHC’s fashion event fundraisers are held on Sunday afternoons and therefore reflect a more relaxed, but no less sophisticated event. As a small private vocational school, our reliance on volunteers is quite significant. The love of doing it, donated time and expertise, or taking an opportunity to gain experience and exposure, are all motivators.

Here are 13 things that we’ve experienced.

1. We’re extremely fortunate to have a culture of volunteerism in our city. Organizers need to take good care of their volunteers, a large portion of them are made up of skilled and willing individuals. Everyone generally functions better when they know what to expect and what is expected of them, so providing volunteers with an itinerary full of relevant details a few days before the event is effort well invested.

2. Choosing the right venue, space for staging and seating are obviously essential. Often technicians and other behind the scenes people struggle with tight spaces, no place to sit down, few to zero refreshments, poor lighting and insufficient electrical sources, not to mention accessibility issues and parking near the venue is overlooked – don’t forget them in your plan.

3. Start planning early, as far as a year ahead of time. Set the date first, decide on the theme, book the venue and secure it with a refundable deposit. Get the photo shoot done for the graphic work and marketing. Book the photographer/videographer, musicians, staging people and caterers (some might require deposits at time of booking). Compile your own sponsorship package to initiate the sponsorship drive.

4. Choose and book your preferred hairstylists and makeup artists early. They are probably in high demand and appreciate advance requests whether they are working full-time or are free-lance operators. Free-lance doesn’t imply free time any time; it means they have chosen to work according to a schedule outside the norm.

5. Interestingly, the fun part of the organizing a fashion show comes late in the process. Choosing the looks, the garments, the models, the music and the menus can be done a couple of months to a few weeks before the event. Printing up final guest lists and programs is usually done only hours before the event.

6. In your show day schedule, allow 1 to 1 1/2 hours preparation for hair and makeup for each model. Provide healthy option, small portion nosh, and plenty of drinking water for the stylist and models as they are usually at the venue for very long hours. Strictly avoid sticky foods and foods that are prone to staining fabrics. You’d be appalled at how often simply providing refreshments for models and stylists, (and volunteers) is overlooked at fashion events.

7. Provide private space for hair stylists, makeup artists and models. Some natural light, plenty of electrical outlets, layout space for equipment for each stylist to work on a seated model, are musts.

8. Don’t forget racks for garments to be spaced and hung properly. Forget the iron, and go for a steamer if you must. Not all dressers are familiar with fabric characteristics and can inadvertently cause disaster trying to help. Garments should be properly pressed prior to the show and transported with care in zipped garment bags long enough for the entire piece to hang freely at the hemline. Shoes should be transported in clear plastic shoe boxes to identify them quickly and protect them from potential damage. Insert all accessories in labelled zip lock bags, one for each model per look for the dresser to handle and track.

9. Have one dresser per model, and if possible have one assistant per dresser to re-hang garments and replace accessories after each look is shown. A lot of damage caused to garments, lost earning backs, and misplaced items, happens during the frenzy of undressing, rather than the dressing. Pack an emergency sewing kit with thread, needles, thimble, scissors, safety pins, clear nail polish, and band-aids.

10. Set up a storyboard (runway lineup) that is clearly posted with a photo in order of appearance each of model name and accessories per look where the models, dressers, and stage manager can all reference it. A personable and firm stage manager is invaluable!

11. Another insider tip to working these events is that they are all ‘hurry up and wait’ affairs. The venue is set up quickly, with various experts assembling in sequence. Be sensitive, helping hands are extremely useful when needed and a bit of a nuisance when surplus to immediate requirement.

12. Everyone needs a break and people do go missing during long wait breaks, but they should enlist a temporary replacement during their absence, or at least be tethered to a mobile phone switched ‘on’ as common courtesy. There is nothing more frustrating to a team leader than a member who goes AWOL. Unfortunately the reputation of those individuals is not easily forgotten.

13. One of the finer points is to say thank you, be thankful and let your team and supporters know that they are appreciated. If you are genuine, it is perceived as such.

The other side of fundraising events is the marketing, contacting sponsors, obtaining donations, gathering gift certificates, procuring door prizes, hosting raffles and silent auctions, and a complete mystery to me best handled by our event partner. Having a great partner is like having a right hand; for maximum efficiency, you need both a right and a left. I’m a believer, so I’m saying we’ve been ‘Blessed’ with a great partner. Nonetheless – for best results managing efficient and effective communication is crucial to success.

One final note is to have a Plan B. It isn’t mandatory to have a completed Plan B, but making notes and keeping options in the back of your head is. At each event something will go wrong at some stage. One year our photographer couldn’t make it, once our key speaker cancelled at the eleventh hour, one year extreme cold with a huge snowstorm slowed everything down, another year our modular display wall got lost in transit never to arrive, and people do become ill at the last minute. So, keep your contacts updated and your relationships healthy.

No matter how well it all turns out, someone will lose their car keys during the cleanup. Cheers! J

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Ecole Holt Couture 2014 Presents – Youtube video trailer

Watch Video

Watch Video

At EHC we are very fortunate to have talented students with varied skills. ‘You’re Invited’ was created by one such student, Amy Zia, as a light-hearted look at what we do as couturiers! But, don’t be fooled, what we do is highly professional whether for special occasions or to create a functional and personal business wardrobe.

This fashion event is created to help raise awareness and funds for Making Changes Association, who provides hundreds and hundreds of women with functional and appropriate work wardrobes each year. Their clients are all making the effort to re-enter the workforce, and perhaps have few resources to do so.

Making Changes programs include guidance on writing resumes, and networking to gain employment, to those who perhaps may never have had to provide these qualifications before.

The wardrobes that are provided are all donated, recycled, reused, and up-cycled from high quality garments that are either brand new or gently used, giving the garments a new life as well.

So although, EHC teaches the skills to create brand new custom couture made garments, we support, believe in what and how Making Changes not only uses perfectly good clothing as their main program resource, but

More importantly, we support and share their values in how they treat women and teens struggling to improve their life situations, by treating them like family. Almost all of the day to day operations are handled by wonderful volunteers who have time and expertise to share.

You are invited, to attend this event! Just click on ‘buy tickets‘, and join us in supporting this wonderful organization.
Ecole Holt Couture School will also have a booth at the event if you would like to know more about us, and become part of this wonderful highly skilled, hand-made and crafted market!

If you can’t start the video, please copy and paste the URL into your preferred browser! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phgn-NzI-Ls
Enjoy and see you at the event on Sunday November 16th! – cheers J.

To get ahead you need to get started.

To get ahead you need to get started.

 

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Fish leather!

At EHC we are always looking to use 1) natural fibers, 2) environmentally friendly and sustainable fabrics, 3) to recycle, re-purpose and up-cycle already-made garments. And every now and then we come across very interesting new products! We are thrilled with sea fish leather, which is prepared from skins that would otherwise be discarded from commercial fish processing. Sea fish leather comes in all manner of surface textures and colors – and NO, it really doesn’t smell of fish at all!

Dress Code 2012 EHC Fashion Event

Dress Code 2012 EHC Fashion Event

Stanley Major: “The attraction of the leather has to do firstly with the re-use of a product that is normally discarded. The scale patterns, although different for different species of fish, all share the characteristic of having no counterpart in the animal world. The environmental aspect of the leather is also of interest to consumers” www.sealeatherwear.com

Please read the rest of the article: The Reel Truth About Fish Leather!

Glazed finish fish skins

Glazed finish fish skins

 

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EHC – Calgary Richmond Knob Hill Community ‘business of the month’ October 2014

As we plan and prepare for the fashion event we also sometimes have other news to share. Ecole Holt Couture has been selected as ‘business of the month’ for October, in its home community of Richmond Knob Hill in Calgary.

Ecole Holt Couture’s Founder, Elfriede, has owned and operated her Couture and Tailoring business in this community for 60 years, and 7 of those years as Ecole Holt Couture. The school is well rooted and plans to stick around right where we are.

As with Making Changes Association, EHC’s community partner who we are raising funds for in support of their programs, it is a well rooted organization that has been active in Calgary for over 32 years.

Making Changes Association is one of the few remaining volunteer run organizations with only a handful of full and part-time employees in Calgary. Community donors, corporate retail and service partners along with volunteers help MCA to thrive. Their business model is proven sustainable and still feels like a large family, which is one of the reasons we love to work with them!

This time of year is very exciting for us at Ecole Holt Couture not only because of this annual event, but what the event means to us. We primarily experience working with the volunteers of MCA and witness how this helps others. It also gives our students a chance to expose their skills and talents to others during their school learning experience – not having to wait until they have graduated.

Speaking of Graduation, this is the time for EHC’s presentation to four year graduate’s of their well earned Diploma! Because we are a small school, this is the perfect opportunity to have an official convocation ceremony with like minded individuals who can appreciate what has gone into this award.

Many returning guests of the event may have been following our students for years through this event, and have an insight into their skills and talents ahead of the game.

Hoping that you will consider joining us on Sunday November 16th! Thanks Great News Publishing and Cheers! J

the knob hill review 2the knob hill review 1

 

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Ecole Holt Couture Fashion Show 2014

following our love affair with silk

following our love affair with silk

What is couture and haute couture all about really? We love addressing this question, and try to share as much insight as we have time for during the couture runway show at Ecole Holt Couture’s annual fashion event.

Now in the middle of preparing for its annual fashion event fundraiser for Making Changes Association Calgary, according to the event website, there is one month and 10 days left to Sunday, November 16th show time.

We began planning this next event the day following the last one, and set this date last November to secure the venue for 2014. Right after, we debriefed to identify the successes and malfunctions while everything was fresh in our minds, which then determined the changes in structure for this year.

Our themed photo shoot for the posters and banners took place three months ago. The EHC fashion event website is active, and tickets available for sale. As we sat around the table with our students, we noted some brilliant ideas for next year’s event while we brainstormed ideas to promote this show.

You might say that it would be a bit of challenge to keep track of last year, our current year and next year’s plans, while we are so focused on the present school term, and you would be entirely correct. This is entirely an extra-curricular activity. We depend on our community partners and volunteers to pull this event off every year, hoping that everyone had a positive experience and offers to help out again.

If it were not for the countless individuals who are incredibly supportive, and the great number of volunteer hours, we would not be able to continue the event each year. As a matter of principle, we do compensate professional services we receive, and appreciate that those services might perhaps be at a special rate for this cause.

All the proceeds from the event are passed on to Making Changes Association.

To say thank you to everyone is only a fraction of the gratitude we feel for your support, so we find it very easy to be appreciative to all of you, and thank you once more!

If you would like to become involved with the fundraising event, or sponsor the event please have a look . We do promote our event sponsors through social media (Facebook and Twitter) and recognize special donations.

 

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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.

days like this

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.

Creative-Lighting-Solutions-LED

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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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

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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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