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Lesson #2 – Petite is Powerful – tips for a great fit.

If you are like me, considered a petite size, then your proportions are slightly shorter from the shoulders to the waist than a standard size, and you all know what I think about ‘standard’ sizes. But being ‘petite’ may also reflect that you may perhaps be relatively shorter in stature than most of your contemporaries in North America. Not at all if you are in most parts of Asia and in some parts of Europe.

Wearing off-the-rack and ready-made garments always seem to appear slightly ‘off’ because, petite manufactured garments are mostly only adjusted for the above mentioned variance, or worse – adjusted for shorter arm and leg length as well which may not apply at all to you (or to me). These adjusted variances may greatly reduce the choice in ready-made or off-the-rack for you to look amazing.

If you want to look your perfect-size ‘perfect’, then every component needs to be made in proportion to the whole. That doesn’t mean a petite cannot wear a large pattern print, or conversely that being tall you cannot wear small prints. Only that the proportions must be adjusted accordingly as is true to haute couture and bespoke tailoring.

In this example, notice that in her riding jacket all the components – lapel size and stance, buttoning, pockets, sleeve length (and armhole circumference), waist cinch, and jacket length are all relative to proportion. The trousers again are the right length and leg width. Any one of these elements out of proportion will throw the whole look ‘off’.

A petite can look positively overwhelmed or underwhelmed because of the lack of choice. Remember that in garment manufacturing, realistically it can only serve a small section of the market offering a limited range of ‘sizes’ to be profitable. That pretty much excludes the other 90% of the population. It is not you, you are a perfect size.

Cheers! J

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy New Year 2016!

We posted this one year ago, but still a good story to illustrate a point about the value of couture sewing skills…Happy 2016! I’ll leave this one with you as well: Without Craft, inspiration is a mere weed in the wind.

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

Ecole Holt Couture 2015 Fashion Event opening welcome

Ecole Holt Couture 2015 Fashion Event opening welcome

 

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Tuesday March 31st, 2015 – Back to class

We’ve just left two weeks of Spring break behind us. Well, it wasn’t so much a break as quiet work-time to catch up for most of us here, and part one of the final Certificate exam is being written today. The programs are pretty intense, and if you do get behind even for one or two days, the work piles up incredibly quickly. Students all work very long hours for the duration of the programs, and as an administrator as well as instructor, my job doesn’t end at the close of class either. It usually runs late into the evenings and into weekends replying to emails and keeping up with necessary paperwork. It didn’t get any easier when Ecole Holt Couture became a designated Private Vocational Training institution licensed by the Alberta government of Advanced Innovation and Education department.

We often get questions about EHC’s programs and the equivalency of its certificate awards to other degrees. So here it goes.

Both Ecole Holt Couture programs are recognized by the Advanced Innovation and Advanced Education government department of Alberta, Canada.

EHC’s Dressmaking Certificate program is designed for self directed employment as well as the prerequisite program to enter the EHC Couturier/Tailoring Diploma program. The Diploma program is designed for self directed employment or free lance work, as well as entry level positions for apprenticeships. As such, there is no equivalent to our Certificate and Diploma programs. The entire curriculum is unique and original, written by the Founder, based on her education and 60 plus years of professional experience in the trade of couture and tailoring in Europe and Canada.

The reason that Ecole Holt Couture was established and its sole existence is to preserve and pass on traditional practical skills with its related professional technical knowledge not currently being taught in fashion or design institutions. As we’ve ventured to more modern approaches, focusing on off-shore manufacturing and marketing, the nature of educational programs have evolved to meet the demands of the fashion industry.

What is being left out is formalized training in couture and tailoring. Expert mentoring, the transference of knowledge and sharing of experience, not least of which is teaching the fundamental skills for a couture and tailoring career alternative – not typically included in the ‘industry’ statistics today.

So where are the statistics for couturiers and tailors to be found then, if not in the fashion industry? In our research, we have found them to be placed squarely in the arts and culture sector as craftsmen and artisans. see Cultural Human Resources Council

At EHC we do not teach quick and easy step by step do-at-home projects, that follow trendy designs adapting ready made patterns for sewing enthusiasts nor do we teach how to manipulate CAD programs. This training is meant for the serious career-minded individual to gain the expertise to take an original design idea and craft it into a fully formed product, by your own hands. What then is the exact degree equivalent, remains a good question. Cheers! J

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in College degrees

 

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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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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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Artist: Hand-Mind-Heart Maker

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.

He who works with his hands and his head, is a craftsman.

He who works with his hands and his head and his heart, is an ARTIST”.

– St. Francis of Assisi  ***

As an Artisan, your personal philosophy and way of making a living, and everything you do makes you and how you do it totally unique.

Professional high or ‘haute’ couture and bespoke tailoring are careers more akin to siblings than to cousins, both are born from the same roots, require years of training and experience, are extremely creative, hand-mind skills based, and are clientele specific, but neither profession is given much attention within the fashion industry, or the crafts or arts disciplines, which makes it extremely difficult to find statistics on, or to find applicable practical business marketing plans for and both are very difficult to find training facilities or mentors for.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada lists these collective industry skills separately under several reference NOC headings: Couturier, Fashion designer 5243,  Tailor, Dressmaker, Furrier, Milliner 6342, Artisan and Craftsperson 5244, and Patternmakers textiles, leather and fur 5245, Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers 5243, Inspectors and graders, textile, fabric, fur and leather products manufacturing 9447 (listed under ‘fitters’). Each of these descriptions combined covers much of what couturiers and tailors do as self-employed and small business owners, but they also actively manage their independent business. HRSD says the National Occupation Classification should be updated next by 2016.

Couturiers and Tailors serve a ‘niche market’, a focused, targetable portion of a market addressing a need for a product or service that is not being addressed by mainstream providers. Marketing activity is perhaps more important for niche market businesses than for any other kind, because the niche market business is by definition, unknown and succeeds or fails on making the connection with exactly the right kind of customer/client, and today couturiers and tailors need to devote time to marketing as well as their craft.

They are of the few highly skilled disciplines in the fashion garment industry which still is and always will be a ‘time consuming creative mind-hand making process’or what the industry generally terms ‘labour intensive’. Let’s be clear about when technology becomes involved, it is for the specific purpose of speeding up very mundane repetitive tasks that does not detract from the final outcome (consider an electrical steam iron or sewing machine as technology versus tools of the trade being primarily your hands, and scissors, needles etc.). Extremely useful technology tools useful for today are the computer, the internet and social media.

However, humans will never be separated from and always will do the more interesting tasks in any discipline or industry, no matter how much mechanisation and technology has replaced mundane labour to speed up processes – they will never replace the work only humans can and love to do. This includes making contacts and the very special aspect of personal service.

Couture and bespoke tailoring entail the continuous assessment of the best approach and technique to use to attain the creative vision of the maker using a great variety of fabrics, colours, textures, layering of materials, draping effects, pleating, easing, structuring, detailing, to make a perfectly fitting unique and lasting garment, and every piece is different.

Decisions are not each dictated by miniscule savings on the unit cost of materials, quickest methods, or worse yet – shortcuts, as they are in manufacturing where profit margins only become lucrative in the thousands of units sold.  In couture and tailoring the fabrics and the methods, must each serve and protect the design, the client, and ultimately the environment (natural and economical).

Personal inventiveness and creative exploration are often the most distinguishing features of successful crafts practitioners. Career craftspeople constantly “play” with ideas, materials or processes, forms, images, functions, even markets, and indulge in a path of life-long learning.

How you think about your world, your philosophy, your way of being and living is expressed in how you do your work, and in everything you do – which makes what you do totally unique – and there is nothing ambiguous or vague about the garments couturiers and tailors create.

Some craftspeople talk about the meditative or entrancing aspect of their work and how important that is to them. Most importantly, they love being part of a world that explores the meaning and values of society. Creativity, originality and distinctiveness are probably the most important long term factors in developing a successful couture and tailoring career. This concept of individuality is the root of both personal satisfaction and market recognition — whatever and wherever those might be.

***Quote share thanks to Sunil Joshi

Ecole Holt Couture Fashion Event Fundraiser- "ONE"

Ecole Holt Couture Fashion Event Fundraiser- “ONE”

 

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Draft your own Patterns

Draft your own Patterns

Have you ever wondered how it is possible to draft you own pattern without copying or modifying a commercial pattern, must you use a wiz bang 1-2-3 step computer program? And how are patterns designed in the first place? Whether sold for home sewers, enthusiasts or hobbyists patterns are all first created by someone.

Using advanced technology, laser beams can scan the body, translate a million bits of information through the software to instantly generate the human form onto the screen in 3D. Plotting manipulates information to produce a pattern piece according to your design. The pieces are joined together in virtual reality to see how they all fit together, along with instructions for assembly. Computer programs can generate patterns in a matter of minutes rather than hours, in the hands of an experienced operator. But is it necessary to use CAD?

Or must you be a Michael Angelo, Leonardo Davinci, Albert Einstein or Bill Gates to design, draft or engineer patterns? Some would say yes it helps, and I would agree, however you do not need to be an art master or math genius. Yes, it is highly creative and yes it relies on the theory of relativity, and practice.

One must develop ‘an eye’ – meaning perceiving more than what is visually in front of you and then interpreting and comparing it with a standard, or your design. It doesn’t only rely on having an eye, but also on how measurements relate to one another.  In couture, these sets of measurements are different for every individual – they are relative or depend on factors that vary according to context.

For manufacturing purposes, it is made easier for the pattern maker because they are working with a set of standards – standard sizes (the terrible thing that makes women feel so inadequate about themselves). One pattern is created which is then graded – or adjusted up or down thus creating several sizes of the same design.

For a couturier it is a matter of everyday business to interpret a number of measurements – as many as 60 for each client to draft or create a master pattern, a few more measurements are taken specific to a particular design. To grade these patterns is a useless exercise because in Couture everything is unique and no two people are the same.

The couturier is an artist that is continually creating new work so it is crucially important to understand the dynamics of pattern making or pattern engineering and the uniqueness of every individual – of course flat pattern drafting is done by hand. Various methods of draping are used in addition to – not instead of flat pattern drafting.

Trained couturiers use various draping methods to test and visualize designs effectively upon a firm understanding of flat pattern drafting. Much like engineers use models to test designs, and true artists create new work based on past experience – not happen stance.

The initial two years of training in the EHC certificate program, concentrates on the fundamentals of pattern drafting, and further two years of training in the diploma program, teaches students how to refine these skills and then push the boundaries of pattern making – which is referred to as pattern engineering.

 

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