More math than anticipated in fashion design, boo-hoo on economics, and link to an 8A article.

In the last few weeks, work on TZ has consisted predominantly of punching away at the above machine. I have never liked that machine. As a kid I vowed I would avoid careers involving calculators. So I thought–woo!!–fashion, I’ll do fashion! Fashion is just doodling and sketching, conducting “market research” by flipping through Vogue, W Magazine, and InStyle, glossies that I’d flip through anyway, and traveling to exotic faraway locales to get inspired by pretty fabrics. Right?

Wrong. Someone should have impressed upon me just how much math would be involved in fashion design. Especially if you are starting your own business in fashion. So, folks, letting you all know now because I didn’t know then: lots and lots of math involved in fashion design. In fact, this is my second post on math; first one here: “The Mathematics of Design.” I have had to do more number crunching with that stupid machine than I ever anticipated to do voluntarily.

In any case, apologies for not having updated here in over 3 weeks. FYI during that time, I’ve done the following (and more):

  • processed handbag orders (we’re not currently selling, but on occasion we get private requests from the CEO of a Fortune 500 or a bigshot lawyer partner who is integral to business dealings from my day job, and we feel we can’t and shouldn’t turn down such requests);
  • finalized production orders for the handbags, dustbags and eco-friendly reusable non-woven totes that each order will come with;
  • worked on production of custom TZ purse hangers (they’re really cute!);
  • worked on custom TZ packaging materials;
  • worked some on our trademark application with the USPTO (we’ve been having some complications with the TZ logo trademark app., though the situation is finally on the up and up, yay!); and
  • lastly, because I felt I had been lacking in civic participation, applied to be a commissioner in my city’s Arts and Culture Commission, where we oversee the allocation of city funds to public art. I just had my interview with the mayor last week for the commissioner position..

So although it’s been quiet on this blog, it’s been hectic in real life.

Me logging inventory. It’s one of the less glamorous aspects of the gig.

Examining different samples of non-woven totes we’re giving away in lieu of dustbags.

 My favorite tote sample: it rolls up into a tiny, convenient, portable pouch!

Of course, the TZ one will be in black, with our logo and name in gray.

 Designing the TZ purse hangers. They’re made in Taiwan! =) The shaded in dotted sections mean recessed and sandblasted; not-shaded means raised and smooth metal.

I did want to sound off on another aspect of this venture that has been a bit of a reality check. I started TZ for art’s sake. I love all things art and this was my way of dabbling in the creative and maintaining full control of the creative. I thought if I had worked for a fashion house or found employment through my art, I would not have full control because I would have to tailor my work to a client or my company. I’ve seen this tension a hundred times over in the producers, writers, graphic designers and artists my day job firm have retained in the past. You can see the irritation in the artist’s eyes when the client (our company) rips apart the work, shoves it back at the artist and tells him or her to do something totally different (and totally outside that artist’s style).

Launching my own label meant 100% creative control, I thought. Not so. Instead of being controlled by a client, as my own label I am controlled by economics. And it feels awful.

For example, I had wanted to offer each design in many color options, with each color option representative of a specific personality facet: black for the traditionalist, brown for the lover of classics, red for the bold and intrepid, an antique rose pink for the feminine, and the working women among us with a softer side, etc. Now I can only offer each design in two color options. Two! Picking two colors from a rainbow of hues, tints and tones, the infinite spectrum of swatches availed to me, was torture. Also choices in hardware got limited as well. We didn’t compromise on the material quality, so the vegan leather we picked is still super nice. However I won’t get all the cool custom TZ hardware I wanted. Sigh.

Another thing I’ve been doing: making minor but critical adjustments to the bags. For example, the Precisionist satchel. See below. The black bag on the right is photoshopped to show what I want the final product to look like. The marked up light green bag on the left is the current actual sample.

Another example: added a patch behind the metal TZ logo plate on the Peripatetic weekender tote. See below. Also changed the positioning of the decorative chains.

Speaking of the Peripatetic, I’ve been carrying one of the original Peripatetic samples for quite some time now, the one in a smoky violet color (which won’t appear in the finalized color options for this collection).

This particular version of the Peripatetic got rejected by me pretty quickly because I didn’t like how minimal the contrast was between the light smoky purple color and the darker smoky purple color. The light should have been lighter and the dark should have been way, way darker.

Also, the mock alligator skin didn’t sit well with me at all. It felt like plastic. Plus I’m just not into mock alligator skin (or real alligator skin for that matter). I just don’t see the draw in slinging a dead animal over your shoulder, or even mimicking one. By the way Hubby picked the material. He saw it in a swatchbook and said he liked it. I said I didn’t, but ordered one in the mock alligator skin anyway to appease him. He still likes it. Me not so much.

In any case, I now have this single sample of this mock alligator smoky purple Peripatetic, so I’ve been using it. As it turns out, the functionality of this design is fantastic and I don’t even care that I dislike the color, dislike the material, and this is more of a weekend/casual bag than business-formal. I still carry it to work. It fits everything. It’s got all those interior and exterior pockets. In the interior pockets I can organize my pens, sunglasses, and cell phone; for the exterior pockets, I can stash my business cards in one compartment, my lipgloss in another, quickly tuck away receipts when I’m out shopping, it’s just the most useful bag. Here’s to hoping that future purchasers of the Perpipatetic weekender tote will love it and find it as useful as I do!

More production and collection design updates soon, once I have cool photos from production or the purse hangers, bags, or packaging, etc. to show. I’ll conclude this post with a link to an article: True Activism Missing In Asian American Fashion Designers” posted over at

The gut response to that piece might be that political activism is missing among fashion designers generally, not just among Asian Americans, but that’s not true. Fashion and politics have always been intertwined. If you want to know what the political climate is of a society, just look to that society’s fashion trends. There is a great Barbara Walters interview with Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, where Wintour addresses this point. (In the video linked, start at 3:18 where Walters asks Wintour, “Does the mood of the country affect fashion?”)

Considering how “exotic Oriental styles” are being pushed this season (and will be again in Fall 2011) as a “hot trend,” it’s appropriate to critique how and why someone’s cultural heritage could get turned into a mere fad. First, I construe the fad as indicative of how the Western world to this day perceives the Asian Diaspora in the West: as perpetual foreigners. No matter how long I or my parents or the generations of my family have lived in the States, no matter how American I feel at my core, I am still seen as something exotic. Perhaps the way we Asian American activists can challenge that stereotype, then, is to challenge the “exotic Oriental” fashion trend. Something for our dear Asian American fashionistas to think about. =)

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  • Ben Hwang

    I can’t help myself… I wanna type… TL:DR just because I might make you look something up. lol.

    Technically, you’re right… and wrong. You still have 100% creative control. Constrain by economics is always the case, unless you’re wealthy like Richard Branson. And if that was the case, you’d still be worried about whether or not you have the right color choices because one can’t have everything under the rainbow, even though everyone would love it.

    I was looking at Facebook today, and a model/actress friend was going nuts over a bag she found at TJ Maxx, that she couldn’t buy. Was a $350 Prada bag. Ugly as sin in my opinion… looked like a tote for groceries. But she wanted it just as other people did based on name.

    I think you’re doing a fantastic job… and you’ll be well on your way. Better than my failed ideas, but hey… everyone’s got to start somewhere. If you don’t try, who knows what opportunity was missed out on.

  • b_chan307

    You’re doing such an amazing job and you’re so inspiring to me. Because of your hard work and dedication, you’re one step closer to where you want to be and people are proud of you, especially me =). Keep up the good work and remember I’m always here.

  • Betty Boo

    I have no idea why it posted with my email addy lol

  • tz

    Haha. Thanks, Betty! Well we’ll certainly be requesting your PR expertise soon! – S

  • tz

    Too long didn’t read? Ah well, no one forces you to read this blog. I put it out there for those who want to, and for those who don’t, they don’t.

    I hate having a budget. =(

  • Ben Hwang

    lol. What’s funny is… I did read it. It’s just not often you can use Teal Deer. ;) Another internet meme. ahh.. yes.

  • Jamillah

    Oh wow. You have been super busy…and I know you must be disappointed that things aren’t exactly as you planned but continue to be positive and be inspired by everything you’ve done so far. It is quite the feat and you should be very very proud.

    Also, that article on 8 Asians is really really super interesting I completely left a lengthy comment so I won’t be repetitive here but thank you so much for sharing.

  • AppleSidra

    Hey! I read your thoughtful comment to that 8A piece and figured I’d respond here. =P In theory I agree with you and there is nothing innately imperialist about taking fashion, style, or aesthetic cues from a different culture, but problems arise in the execution. In practice when a dominant culture derives fashion trends from a minority culture, it’s to convey something exotic, not to mention it is rarely executed gracefully, as the Ralph Lauren, LV, and Philosophy collections indicated. Sadly, the *good* executions of the Asian trope in fashion (such as Carolina Herrerra’s) is the exception, not the norm. Also, when a minority culture derives fashion trends from a dominant culture, you’ll note it’s usually because they think it’s better than their minority culture, an incidental cost of imperialism.

    Even the execution of these tropes reveals politics. When simply one small facet of another culture becomes integrated into fashion, such as your examples of harem pants, African prints, or even use of grasses or straw in accessories making, or Navajo patterns, it’s often a reflection of cultural exchanges that are going on within the society. When something like what you see happening in the Alberta Ferretti and Louis Vuitton collections, like you said that’s not taking mere inspiration, that’s borderline mockery and caricaturizing another’s heritage. That, too, is a reflection of what’s going on in society. I interpreted it as suggestive of current sentiments of Sinophobia in the West, and Western society’s way of dealing with, controlling, minimalizing, and keeping at bay the slow rise to dominance of China.

    On a lighter note, thanks for your support! No, things are not going as planned, and it’s rough. But I’ll keep at it, don’t worry. =)

  • Lamod Christina b

    I love your blog sunny! It’s so good!!

  • Asiancajuns (Cath)

    That’s so awesome that you’re interviewing to be a commissioner. I work for a local government so I know exactly how important volunteer board/commissioners are. Go you!

    Love the little changes you’re making and that the peripatetic is working out so well.

    I completely agree with you about the whole oriental/exotic fad thing. I think the current fashion take is stereotypical and uncreative. Why don’t fashion designers look back through centuries of Asian art to get inspired?

  • Emma Yamada

     Wow! You have been Super Busy! I am not a fan of math either : )I am really Loving the purse hangers. Keep up the good work. You will be a great success!

  • alison*elle

    Thanks for sharing what you’ve been up to lately… I find it so interesting to see the business aspect side of things and am inspired by what you’ve accomplished so far. Sorry to hear about the math and other troubles that have cropped up but I’m sure once your line fully launches, things will get better!

    On the topic of the “Oriental” trends (a word I find offensive), I completely agree. I find it incredibly disturbing how pervasive cultural appropriation has become in the fashion industry – not just with Asian influences, but also others, such as Aboriginal (/Native American) or Navajo.

    xo, alison*elle

  • Lesley

    Just found your blog!  This is all so exciting! 

    Good luck with your bags!  :-)

  • tz

    Thanks! Luck is certainly needed here so I will take the blessing! =) Hope you check back for more updates. =) 

  • crystal

     i just ordered similar purse holders as gift w/ purchase items for my work. arent they the best invention ever? xx

  • tz

    Haha yup! I love how purse hooks keep your handbags off the floor at restaurants. Best invention ever, def. 

  • The Compassion Fashion Project

     I, too, was perturbed at the amount of mathematical coursework I am required to take for my fashion merchandising/design degree…annoying for creative types.  I love everything you are doing and so enjoy your writing.  Keep up the thought provoking posts and great work you are doing~Meredith 

  • tz

    Yeah, isn’t it nuts? Oh well. =D Thanks for all your support. Hope all is well with CFP! 

  • tz

    I know, right? There were so many dynasties, even the more popular Han dynastic dresses (which by the way I think are GORGEOUS… if it weren’t too weird to do so, I’d wear one EVERY day.. EVERY where.. they’re SOO pretty!) never seem to have made it onto contemporary runways. Sigh. Ah well. 

  • AsianCajuns Lar

     I love hearing about all the details, Sunny! I can’t imagine the amount of work or labor (or math!) that it takes to get where you have with your brand! It’s tres inspiring. 
    Isn’t it crazy that oriental is still so exotic? I mean, Europeans have been bringing back the same exotic look since Marco Polo made his way east. It’s crazy to me too that that hasn’t changed. Cath and I rarely get mistaken for Asian (I think people usually assume we’re hispanic), but if we can change the exotic Oriental trend somehow this fall- we will!

  • MizzJ

    I kinda find the “oriental” trend disturbing. It’s a continuation of a long history of cultural appropriation and fetishim by the West upon Eastern cultures (generally speaking).  There is a way to celebrate diversity in fashion, as another commenter mentioned, but the overt, stereotyping of Asian culture by some very high profile designers just smacks of ignorance and arrogance.

  • AppleSidra

    Well said, thoughtful, rational, well delivered, Mizz J. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Pingback: Our Purse Hook Samples are Here! | Taryn's Design Diary

  • Anonymous

     Just so you know

    You can get a purse hanger here.

  • Kristine

    I would think the same thing about fashion being completely unrelated to math. The world of the beautiful and stylish must be separate from the world of numbers. Although I am not saying that math is not appealing because it could be, probably in a way that escapes my math-free mind. Well, I should come out now. I dislike math, or should I say Math dislikes me. I remember once upon a time, I enjoyed math. It was back in elementary and early high school. I liked math when I had no time to bother myself about understanding why X is X and Y is Y. But math became unbearable when it started force-feeding me a lot of figures and formulas I just couldn’t understand. I saw no point in learning those since I didn’t believe they were necessary for me to reach my goal and live a happy life.

    Being a fan of all things fashion, and having the habit of reading blogs about women’s fashion style just like this new blog, I am also a fan of Project Runway but I have not seen the designers take on serious math. It’s hard to associate those stylish human beings with math geekiness. It’s a complete contradiction. However it might be true, what the math lovers claim, that math exists in everything in this universe. Everything. No exception, not even those classy trendsetters.