“Fashion Has Changed my Life!”

Photo of Jess, courtesy Jess

Photo of Jess, courtesy Jess

To look at Jess and me is to see two very different people. Jess is a 16 year-old high school junior with an edgy look of youth and fearlessness. I am a 56 year-old woman in the middle of my life, with a less-than-edgy look but a strong desire to push boundaries. The thought that the two of us can connect on any level is questionable. But then it happens. We start to speak. Jess tells me how fashion has changed her life and given her confidence and courage. And Jess tells me about her ritual of selecting her clothes for the next day the evening before. And then I knew that we have a lot more that connects us. I knew that we are not bound by our ages or our appearance or life experience. I knew that we are, in fact, soul sisters. Because like Jess my clothes are my salvation and the most important way I express myself. And because I also pick out my clothes the night before. I asked Jess about her story of expression and evolution  …

I never thought very much about fashion until the 7th grade. That was the year that I started to window shop with my best friend and she and I began to play with clothes, and have fun dressing up. That gave us both a feeling of confidence. Freshman year of high school was tough for me – I was very shy and didn’t have many friends. But something happened in my sophomore year that changed my life. I started taking a fashion class at FIT in New York; this class made me think that fashion can change what you think about yourself. The teacher talked about the importance of clothing and self expression and I began to believe it. I started to dress up and experiment with my style. I began to dress  for school and to get compliments about my choices. It was such a nice feeling … Continue reading

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Fairy Tale Fashion

Fairy Tale Fashion Exhibit at FIT

Fairy Tale Fashion Exhibit at FIT

One of the things I love to do whenever possible is take myself to fashion exhibitions at The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology); these opportunities provide me with endless inspiration. Yesterday, I caught the latest exhibition, Fairy Tale Fashion, so rich in beauty and imagination. As you enter, you literally walk through a forest of fairy tales and storytelling, with fashion-inspired couture to match. Well-known tales like Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Alice in Wonderland, Rapunzel, and The Wizard of Oz are represented as are designers Tom Ford, Christian Louboutin, Dolce & Gabbana, Rodarte, Alexander McQueen, and Comme des Garçons. But the real treat are the lesser-known facts and surprises in the stories themselves.

We may not be aware consciously of the role that clothing plays in our storytelling, but everything taken from our lore becomes the foundation for fashion designers and the items with which we choose to fill our closets. Think of the red cape worn by Red Riding Hood, or Cinderellla’s ball gown, or Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, or the mermaid-style strapless dress from The Little Mermaid. I was captivated and transported in time and imagination. And I will live happily ever after. Thank you, FIT!

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FIT Creates Happily Ever After

Marchesa, evening gown, spring 2012, USA. Photo Courtesy of the Museum at FIT

Marchesa, evening gown, spring 2012, USA. Photo Courtesy of the Museum at FIT

Every now and then I like to visit the museum at FIT (New York’s Fashion Institute) for inspiration and fashion dreaming. And now I can dream to my hearts’ content with the new exhibit, FAIRY TALE FASHION, a fanciful look at how fashion designers have drawn on the imagery of fairy tales. The show, which opened to the public on January 15 and runs through April 16, illustrates fifteen fairy tales, including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood. Valerie Steele, the museum director and chief curator explains the relevance of fairy tales in the world of fashion: “Fashion designers, in particular, have often drawn, consciously or unconsciously, on the wealth of iconic imagery from fairy tales. One thinks, for example, of the transformation when Cinderella’s rags are replaced by a beautiful ballgown….Even the idea of waking a ‘sleeping beauty’ has been applied to the process, whereby a talented designer can bring back to life a dormant fashion brand.” I am definitely checking out this show for a taste of my very own happily ever after!

 

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The Hero Behind Zero Waste

Daniel Silverstein

Daniel Silverstein in his own zero waste design

It’s been three years since I first met New York fashion designer Daniel Silverstein and that is hard to believe. In that time, I have seen a young designer grow in leaps and bounds in his creation of beautiful designs with a mindful and ethical purpose: zero waste. Now located in Brooklyn and affiliated with Manufacture NY, his journey is reaching new depths and creating a vehicle for change in the fashion world. I applaud Daniel for his energy, positivity, integrity, and for his commitment. We talked about what is on Daniel’s mind now and for the future …

MKG: Why did you move your design studio from Manhattan to Brooklyn and what has the move meant to you and to your brand?

Daniel: I moved from Manhattan six months ago because I felt stuck.  But at the time, I didn’t realize the significance of moving my business to Brooklyn and Manufacture NY – now of course it makes perfect sense. What prompted the change was the fact that I wasn’t having a large enough impact on zero waste designs. I was too focused on succeeding in the industry as it is. I have always worked behind closed doors, developing my designs and techniques in a private, almost secret space with a small team. But moving to a community space (without any walls) has given me a new approach, with the benefits of support and access to equipment. The people with whom I work are excited about my zero waste design efforts and are helping me build and facilitate my message. It is a huge blessing for me and a really exciting time. I had an incredible professor at FIT who told me that there are 2 kinds of designers: good designers and great designers. The good designers get work, and great designers change the way people dress. I always knew that I wanted to be one of the great designers making a positive impact. Continue reading

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Rivka says, “I see every woman as a star!”

Rivka with her husband, Sam

Rivka with her husband, Sam

What I do is not about clothes.” ~ Rivka

Rivka Grubb has been blessed with really good eyes; eyes that see things that help women feel and be their best selves. Not simply a fashion stylist or a fashion consultant, Rivka is more like the vehicle that strips away the black coal, to reveal the “diamond” that is the woman underneath. Rivka told me that it all began when she was a young child growing up in Israel with a doll make-over! Here is Rivka

I was born in Israel and grew up there, until I moved to The United States when I was 13. My father was a furrier; my mother was a Paris-trained dress-maker and designer. They both worked from home. My father worked with fur pelts and my mother worked with people who had the money for custom dresses; she designed dresses for these women. From the time I could crawl around the floor, I was surrounded by pieces of fur, silk, brocade, ribbons, and buttons. As a young child, I had a doll. Not a fancy Barbie Doll, but a plain, Ruth Doll. With Ruth, I began to play with the fabrics in my house: I gave her a fur stole, a new dress, and accessories. My mother says that when I was four years old, and I brought her the new version of Ruth, I looked at her and asked, ‘Doesn’t this look better?’ And I have been doing this ever since! I guess you could say that it is in my DNA. It’s in me. I have both the knowledge and the God-given talent to see things and know how to translate them for others …

What women need to know is that they are attractive just as they are. They have more inner beauty than they realize and it is possible to go from good to better, to shine through beyond. When I work with a woman for the first time, I ask her to look in the mirror and start with what she likes about herself. Women are so disapproving of themselves and it is essential to identify with the good things, first. Only then, can she accomplish a higher level of confidence … Continue reading

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Francesca’s Chapter Two Collaboration with Marchesa

Francesca with found

Francesca (center) collaborated with Marchesa co-founders, Keren Craig (left) and Georgina Chapman (right) on a dress for actress Naomi Watts: Photo Credit: Kent Meiste

Naomi Watts at The Cannes Film Festival, in her gown designed by Marchesa and Francesca

Naomi Watts at The Cannes Film Festival, in her gown designed by Marchesa and Francesca

Six months ago, in a small restaurant in New York City, Francesca Azzara and her husband were enjoying a quiet dinner. They started having a conversation with a woman who happens to cast people for reality television shows, and the rest, as they say, is history. Francesca was later cast in an online commercial for Prudential Financial Services, as part of its Chapter Two Campaign, celebrating retirement and retirees. As a result, Prudential gave Francesca, a real estate agent, her very own ‘Chapter Two:’ the chance for her to live out a dream of a lifetime and collaborate with luxury eveningwear brand, Marchesa. Together, Francesca with co-founders Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, created a gown for actress Naomi Watts. I discovered Francesca’s Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts, last night on Twitter, tracked down Francesca immediately, and talked about what this commercial, what this experience, what this moment has meant for her and where she will go from here. Francesca tells her story

“The commercial developed very quickly. In the course of one weekI had several conversations, created six sketches of evening gowns overnight for approval, and was eventually selected to be filmed to work with a fashion house to design an evening gown for an actress to wear at an awards show; all of it, part of a Chapter Two story of a new kind of retirement. At first, I didn’t know with whom I would be working. Eventually, I found out I would be collaborating with two, young, amazing, and incredibly talented designers who co-founded the brand, Marchesa: Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, to create a gown for actress Naomi Watts …

This was a dream come true for me. I had gone to FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) and majored in apparel design. Continue reading

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Five Days of Denim (podcast)

Play
Five Days of Denim: Day three

Five Days of Denim: Day three

In this episode #7, Five Days of Denim, I talk about my experiment styling five pairs of my denim jeans – one for each day. The keys to wearing denim are: a good fit and wearing something that makes you feel comfortable. The size doesn’t matter nor does the brand; the only thing that matters is that you feel good about yourself.

Do you have a favorite pair of jeans?

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Prom: Now/Samantha …

Samantha's original dress choices

Samantha’s original dress choices  – black and silver vintage and mint green contemporary

Samantha's second choice/second dress - strapless, deep purple with silver embellishment

Samantha’s second choice/second dress – strapless, deep purple with silver embellishment

Samantha is a junior in high school and she is my friend Karen’s daughter. I have known her for her entire life. In fact, I have known her since she was in her mother’s womb. After speaking with Samantha today I find it hard to believe that she is the same age that her mom and I were when we met. Here is Samantha on prepping for the prom …

I will be going to two proms this year: my boyfriend’s school prom is this Thursday and my school prom is May 17th. Almost from the minute I was invited, I started to feel pressure to find a dress, about two months ago. I began my search at the malls but found nothing and then searched on-line and didn’t find anything there either. Fortunately, I finally discovered two dresses at a local consignment shop, each for under $50! I know some girls who are spending up to $600 for just one dress, so two for $100 is quite a find for me. One is a mint green, contemporary style; the other is a black and silver vintage dress. They both fit well which is important to me. I needed to make a few slight adjustments to the mint green and I took it to a tailor. I have a pair of silver shoes that are a fine back up but I am hoping to find another pair before the proms. Recently, I wasn’t as sure about the black dress (I think because I’m not as comfortable wearing black in the spring). My boyfriend took me to the mall where I found a deep purple strapless dress with silver embellishment. I love it! I used gift cards to purchase the dress, so again, I was lucky …

I did feel pressure to purchase two dresses, partly because of the pictures that we will be taking, but mostly because my friends will be wearing two dresses. If they were wearing one dress for both of their proms I would probably do the same …

I decided to post my dresses to a Facebook page made for my school that exhibits every girls’ dresses. But I didn’t do the same for my boyfriend’s school. I found out that someone else will be wearing my dress at his prom but I’m okay with that because there will be many people. I will be getting a mani-pedi this week as well as having a spray-tan. I had an appointment to do my hair professionally at a salon but I think I will do it myself and save the money …

I think the biggest differences between going to the prom then, when you and my mom went, and today, are: the dresses are more outrageously priced, the preparation for the prom is more intense, and there is much more pressure from your friends to prepare in a certain way …

I am excited to go to the prom. Right now, though, I am thinking more about the preparation than the actual prom. I think that many girls feel the way I do and enjoy the preparation more than anything else.” ~ Samantha

I think that Samantha shows us that pressure from friends continues to be a big deal in high school. And no one should underestimate the power of the image in today’s world.

What do you think?

to be continued …

 

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PROM: Now/Miranda …

Miranda's prom dress - look at that detail in the back!

Miranda’s prom dress – look at that detail in the back!

Miranda is a senior in high school and will be going to her prom in early June. Here is what Miranda shared with me about prom, now …

It was very hard to find a dress; it took me two months of on-line shopping. I decided to do all of my shopping on-line because I knew I would find the right proportions. I am over 5′ 7″ and I wanted the right fit, and these days on-line shopping provides accurate measurements. When I saw this dress it really stuck with me. It’s a light pink and feminine style. The popular colors of the season for girls are nude, soft pink, dark blue/navy blue and red. And yes, I have posted it on Facebook already, noting the color, so that others will know what I’m wearing and not copy it. Most girls are doing this …

To prepare for the prom, I will be getting my hair and professional makeup done at a salon. No spray tanning for me. I tried it two years ago and I did not like it! Too much orange! I will also be getting a mani-pedi …

I am happy to go to my prom. Sometimes it’s overrated; people say it’s the second most important day after your wedding day. I think that’s silly. But it is a special day. It makes girls feel really beautiful and it boosts confidence. All the girls are so nice to each at prom; they compliment each other and wish each other well. That doesn’t always happen with girls, you know. But on this day, there is a positive atmosphere and a judgement-free-zone for all of high school …” ~ Miranda

to be continued

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Ashley

Ashley

Ashley

What a treat! I met with Ashley, a lovely seventeen year-old and a junior in high school. We talked about her love of fashion, how she and another classmate started a fashion club this year in school, her desire to be involved in the world of fashion when she gets older, the pressures of being a junior, and of course … prom! (Ashley is going! Much more on that conversation is coming!). Here is Ashley

The first year of upper school I joined several clubs with friends – mostly political clubs – but they weren’t really me. I was looking for something more creative and different from what was being offered. Last year, as a sophomore, the school began accepting applications for new clubs and my classmate and I applied for a fashion club. After several months of waiting, our club was approved …

I would like to leave the club as a legacy for others. I want it to keep going. Since we started, we have designed several DIY projects, including t-shirts, and held discussions on fashion. The fashion club is still evolving …

I would like to stay involved in fashion – perhaps in branding and more of the business and merchandising end. There is something about department stores that I love! …

Currently, I am taking class at FIT and I am scheduled to do an internship in pattern-making this summer at Anna Sui. I am very excited for that!” ~ Ashley

After meeting Ashley, I just know she will do whatever she wishes! And stay tuned for more on her summer experience at Anna Sui.

 

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