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 8Asians.com.

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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