Test Shooting & Progress Report

Stephen H. of Berkeley Photography ran a test shoot for us with some of our new samples. Carolina once again modeled for us.

Above is a behind-the-scenes snapshot I took with my camera phone.

Not sure if you can tell, but I’ve tweaked the Precisionist satchel a bit. See above. It’s different from the previous Precisionist.

Stephen’s photos are amazing. This was only supposed to be a test shoot, but we walked away with some phenomenal shots, which I will definitely be using in the 2012 lookbook. You will be seeing these pictures interspersed throughout the TZ website as well.

I love the Peripatetic shots– very summer-in-the-Hamptons-vacationy, if you ask me. That’s what I had told the photographer– “summer in the Hamptons vacationy for the Peripatetic, please”– and wow did he deliver. (Which is extra funny, considering we were shooting in the Bay Area. I’m currently out west in NorCal for work.)

No idea what I was doing at the time the above was taken and no idea why I look so freaky. It had something to do with Carolina modeling a TZ bag in the above pic and me “modeling”/carrying her bag (which isn’t a TZ…gasp!) while she’s working. It’s a really terrible picture, but everyone looks so happy I had to just post it.

TZ was on hold for a while due to other projects requiring my attention; likewise, this blog has also been idle. Will try to post more in the coming months!

Posted in Collection, Friends in the Trade, Learning Curve, Musings, One Step Closer, Progress, Promotional | 1 Comment

The Evolution of a Handbag Design (And Its Death)

Please note that the following handbags represent first prototypes and serious blunders. This blog documents our trials and errors and tracks our progress from inexperienced start-up to launching the Taryn Zhang brand. Please bear that in mind as you look through these photos and illustrations.

Okay, so the above design is totally not happening. (If you follow my blog and that picture looks familiar, it’s because I inserted it into the previous post.)

I can’t seem to get it right. All its past prototypes are tucked away in boxes in my back closet and the latest version, what you see above, is currently in use by me just so I can get some mileage out of it just so I can assure myself it wasn’t a complete and total waste of everything.

I’m giving up on the design idea for now. It falls outside the scope of TZ’s brand point of view. And let’s not overlook the finer point here: it’s not cute. But I didn’t always think nor did I foresee it would be not cute.

Let’s track the evolution of this handbag design, shall we?

Whoa, this design predates the existence of this blog, if my memory is right. It made sense in my head, in 2-D, as you see above. Btw, the above sketches depict two different versions, not the same.

That was the first factory’s interpretation of my sketch. Not what I had in mind. Let’s move on.

I then switched to a second factory in a different part of Asia and made a few changes to the design. Braided handles, for example. No more purse frame. This makes for kind of an interesting bowler bag, no?

Uh… no. (Note that there’s still shipping plastic wrapped around the handles in the above pic. Stating the obvious here just in case.)

So then I gave up on this design. I tucked away both prototyes and moved on. In that time, we turned out a lot of the cool styles that are now part of the debut TZ collection.

More bumps and detours along the ride and now I’m with another new factory. (Let’s not count how many I’ve gone through by this point.) Right before submitting all the design briefs, I slipped in an additional one, a revision of that old design I had given up on a year ago.

Changed the silhouette entirely. It’s no longer a bowler bag. Now it’s sort of this mutt mix between a tote, a satchel, the bowler, and a cross-body. And as a measure of insurance, I incorporated design elements from the Ambitionist briefcase that I love so much. Can’t go wrong if I incorporate design elements from the Ambitionist. Right? Right?

No. Not right. That was the result. Guess there’s really no such thing as design insurance.

Actually, the factory did a fine job given the design. Craftsmanship here and detailing were stellar. The problem isn’t the factory; it’s me. My design is hideous. In execution, it came out awful. Quite disappointing.

And yet I’m still using the bag. Somebody’s got to. It’s great for casual days, as it turns out. I’m a packrat. I need to bring a Kindle and books, sketchpads, all sorts of crap everywhere I go. This bag fits it all. I love the tinier handle and I love the shoulder strap.

To me, it’s just got a hippie vibe, which I love, but it’s not Taryn Zhang. And so it doesn’t make it into the collection. It’s going to be this one lone oddball bag that happens to have the TZ logo on it that will rest in the back of my personal closet. Sigh. Ah well.

Wanted to share with y’all a less glamorous facet of this venture: the boo-boos. =)

Posted in Design Conception, Learning Curve, Musings, One Step Closer, Progress, Sketches SW, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Samples from the New Factory, (Design) Patent Pending! & Other Updates

In our search for a new factory, we’ve been making samples. This post will showcase a set of the odd ones out. If you’ve been following this blog for some time now, then you have an idea of what each of these bags should look like. Or check out the regular website, www.tarynzhang.com.

So there is no point in posting the samples that came out well, the ones that look identical to the previous batches of inventory. No. Instead, this is a post about failures.

First up, a pretty big flop:

You have not seen this one before. It was a new design I conceived of in December, an utter failing flop of a design. That’s right. It’s ugly. It is an unequivocal manifestation of my failures as an amateur designer. And I’m posting it on my blog.

Some of the stuff I come up with really work and I love them and people love them and just knowing I am capable of coming up with that kind of stuff makes me feel special. Then some other stuff, a LOT of other stuff I come up with really do NOT work. And in fact are quite hideous. Like the one above.

Last Saturday I heard this fellow Frans Johannson speak at a conference about innovation, technology, and social change, called “The Intersection.”  (It was held at Pixar Studios, by the way, an amazing venue.)

I cannot properly recall what he said or how he said it (which was so stirring and powerful), but essentially, Johansson talked about the many failed paintings of Picasso that no one sees or ever mentions, the many failures of all the great minds and brilliant thinkers, but how it was those failures that helped them stumble upon their genius successes. What distinguishes the successful innovator from the rest of us isn’t her mind; she doesn’t come up with “better” ideas than us– it’s her courage to fail. The successful innovator is the one who isn’t afraid of failure.

That was my long-winded way of saying yeah, I failed miserably with that design, but I am not going to be ashamed of it. Not everything I come up with is good. So what?

Now. Not all failures are mine. Here is an amusing sample of The Executive satchel brief that came back from one of the factories:

The Executive in black on the left (labeled “CORRECT”) is what it’s supposed to look like. That’s an image of a previous sample from a previous batch of inventory. I sent the same exact set of design briefs to this new factory and even sent them photographs of the correct version and still I got what you see on the right (labeled “new factory oopsie”). Um, yikes. How did that happen!?

Not only is the silhouette and lines of the bag all wrong (and wrong hardware as well), but they didn’t even create the pleats for the bag as I had instructed in the briefs. I had given instructions on how to create those pleats. Instead, they simply sewed those lines as seen in the “new factory oopsie” image.

The Peripatetic bag has gone through so many versions. So. Many. The one made by this factory is pretty good. I like it. Except it’s a little… I don’t know, squat or something. The intended silhouette should be slightly more elongated, like the black and white illustration you see above to the left. It doesn’t even need much, just an inch or two on the length and it would be perfect. Well, no. Also the handles are a little thicker than I would like. Just those two points, though.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m now designing for another designer. In fact, I’ve just been named his company’s new creative director! Isn’t that fun? And I have dived right into work sketching for his 2012 collections. =) He’s made a name for himself in many countries across Asia, but not yet in North America. He’s a recent transplant to Vancouver, and I’ve been brought on to help him develop his label in the west.

At first I was hesitant to join because all his handbags use genuine leather. Lambskin, calf skin, croc, python, you name it, he’s used it. You know my stance on being cruelty-free. Ultimately, I decided this was too great an opportunity and experience to pass up. I know. I’m a sell-out. =( In any case, I figured as long as Taryn Zhang New York remains committed to vegan leather, I can make peace with myself. =)

I can’t wait to give you all more information, but that is to come soon enough, if all pans out as well as anticipated. In the meantime, I can show you two of his past season handbags, above. I *LOVE* love love these two styles, totally adore them.

My main critique of his past lines overall is that there was no cohesiveness, no concrete point of view. Some of the designs, like the two I pictured above, are simple, elegant, and classic. Others are crazy, with fur, leopard print, and bells and whistles, totally wild stuff, designs that make me go blegh. His rationale is that he’s been more of a trend follower, going for marketability. So he keeps a hawk’s eye on what’s going to be “in” next and inspires his designs off that. That is not my approach at all. Fortunately, he respects that and has given me a lot of leeway as creative director. =) Seriously, I can’t wait to share more.

The day job has been busy, so that has left little time for concentration on this blog. Although I haven’t been blogging, I have certainly been working away at the TZ project. =) In fact, I am now officially “patent pending.”

Yeah, yeah, I know what people in Silicon Valley say about design patents versus utility patents. In most respects, I agree with the silliness of design patents, except when it comes to fashion. It makes sense in this industry.

Granted I have no idea whether I filed the design patent application correctly, but I figured I’d just play it by ear. The above was the first time I ever did technical drawings for a patent app. Total DIY here, ladies and gentlemen. We’ll see what happens. =)

Here’s what the patent pending handle base design looks like in context:

Posted in Business Development, Collection, Design Conception, Learning Curve, One Step Closer, Progress, Sketches SW | 2 Comments

Progress Report: Dabbling

Above is a pic of blogger Joz and me. She’s trying to steal my bag. Anyway.

The shortage of progress report posts lately is due to the lack of actual progress. Instead, I’ve been dabbling these days. Oh, lots of dabbling. That’s what you do when you don’t know what to do. You dabble. ;-)

For one, I’ve been designing for another designer. That has been an amazing experience and loads of fun. His style and brand point of view is distinctly different and divergent from TZ’s, so we’re in no way competitors. You could describe his label as fashion-forward and highly conscious of current trends, lots of bells and whistles. His target buyer couldn’t be a bigger contrast from my target buyer, and that’s been an interesting exercise, to design for someone with tastes really quite different from mine.

(Not a bag I would carry myself.)

(I can show you these images because they are not actually being used.)

Production wise, I’ve also been dabbling. Pretty much everywhere except the PRC now. To China’s credit, the one positive point of manufacturing there (before) was how fast they were (when they wanted to be). We are currently working with several manufacturers, none of them in China, with one in particular very dearly close to home (cross fingers), and while I have enjoyed the service experiences so far, they’re a whole lot slooooower. I’m not complaining, just saying. If you want quality and personal attention, you’re going to have to wait for it. If you want fast turnaround and cheap prices, some things will have to give, and it’s usually quality and personal attention. Good to have learned firsthand this otherwise common-sense-ish lesson. So here is me saying to you, “After personally touching the blazing flame several times, I may now confidently confirm that the fire is indeed hot. Ouch.” And folks, now you know, in case you’re an idiot like me and hadn’t known this before, yes, the metaphorical fire is quite hot.

When I’m not designing (or in pursuit of any of the other dozen of my interests), I’m the managing editor of Kartika Review, a national APIA literary arts journal. We’re currently working on finalizing the 2011 anthology, which will be due out in print later this month.

Flyer design by Lac Su.

By the way if you’re in the San Diego area and interested in APIA literature, be sure to attend our anthology launch party and reading event January 27, Friday, 8:30 p.m. at the Thumbprint Art Gallery in La Jolla, CA. Check out the Facebook page for the event. It’s organized by the lovely Jennifer Derilo, one of Kartika‘s editors, and Lac Su (look him up if you’re not already familiar with his amazing work).

With regard to that other designer, I can’t wait to tell you all more once the details of our collaboration are solidified.

Posted in Business Development, Friends in the Trade, Learning Curve, Musings, One Step Closer, Personal, Progress, Promotional | 3 Comments

Big Mistake Re: Purse Hook Polish Wipes & First Giveaway Winner

I am pissed as f*** over the purse hook polish wipe things I ordered, although what can I say, maybe it’s my own darn fault.

You can’t tell from any photos I’d take of the wipes, but every wipe has embossed into it “Zheng Cheng Long.” I haven’t a f****** clue what that means nor do I care. It shouldn’t be there.

You would think after my many traumatizing experiences dealing with Chinese factories I would have known better than to order my polish wipe things from China, but I mean these were just polish wipe things, what could possibly go wrong?

I even specifically e-mailed the manufacturer prior to order, inquiring whether the wipes were completely blank, void of any designs, decorations, embossings, logos, etc. I explained who I was and what I needed the wipes for and emphasized how important it was that there were no designs, decorations, embossings, or logos of any kind on the wipes.

I mean, it was a great discounted deal. That should have been the second red flag. You get what you pay for. Still! I wouldn’t have ever expected the seller to outright lie to me!

So I now have a giant stack of purse hook polish wipes that are otherwise of good sound quality, except every one of them has “Zheng Cheng Long” embossed on them. Holy moly @#$%^&*. I don’t know what I’m going to do with these things now. I’m so pissed. So pissed. If this entire transaction had occurred in the States, you better believe I’d be seeking legal recourse. But it’s in China and ultimately, it’s just not worth pursuing. All I can do is wallow in my own fury.

The seller even had the audacity to include a Christmas card (see photo above). Gah!

Well. *breath, breath, exhale* I’ll figure something out.

In other cheerier news, let’s announce our first giveaway winner!

I opted for Excel’s random number generator. Here were the entrants:

Hubby, my finance whiz, showed me how to do this:

And the winner is…

Number 6, Laura, a “geektastic girl attempting creative proctastination” (her words, not mine) of “The Blog of Worldly Delights.”

Laura, my dear, I will be contacting you privately soon. I wanted to package the TZ purse hooks with the polish wipes and the velveteen drawstring bags, but at this point, we’re going to have to discuss further. As you can clearly see in the first part of this post, we’re having problems. Gah~!

Anyway, thanks for playing, everybody! ;-)

In other news…

Greetings from Lake Tahoe. I have paws!

Purse Hook Polish Wipes Update: I’ve been trying to negotiate with the seller. The seller not only refuses to acknowledge any fault or misrepresentation, she assures me that the “Zheng Cheng Long” is pretty. Pretty! That’s what she said! The words are pretty and is part of the decoration and design. Some people are incredible! :: sooo pissed ::

I tried again to take photos to show you what I’m talking about with the “Zheng Cheng Long.” (Below to the left is the back view of one of the TZ clutch samples. To the right–the wretched, blasted purse hook polish wipe things.)

If I do crazy funky things with the image in Photoshop, you get the following contrast, which makes the “Zheng Cheng Long” a little more visible:

Un-effing-believable! And then to add a farcical Merry Christmas card like you have no foresight that I, the buyer, will be royally pissed off… and then after I do get royally pissed off, to tell me “Zheng Cheng Long” is part of the decoration and design and it’s pretty?!

Some people (or sellers in China) are born with no shame at all. Bah humbug. Christmas indeed.

Posted in Friends in the Trade, Musings, Personal, Promotional | 9 Comments