I am very happy to announce that I am starting a full-time design job tomorrow. That is all for now.
One day at a time in the life of Eileen Pappas: knitwear designer, Trekkie, and closeted rock star.
The third issue of my favorite fashion publication, Garmento, is finally out, and the first article is on the late, great Charles James. It begins with a quote:
A great dressmaker does not seek acceptance, he challenges popularity by the force of his conviction and renders popular in the end what the public hates at first sight.
-- Charles James
It brought to mind a conversation I've been having with myself and others over the years about the role of the designer. Certainly, there are many roles for a designer depending on what he/she seeks to design and, of course, the customer. It is also a conversation that is becoming more and more relevant as I am starting a new job one week from tomorrow at a contemporary clothing brand with mass market appeal.
Having graduated from Parsons, with its notable list of alumni, there are expectations - expectations on what kind of a designer you are, expectations on where you should work and expectations on what kind of work you should be producing. The first few months after graduating, I thought what I really wanted to do was start a brand of my own. I have since changed my mind and realized that what is of ULTIMATE importance to me is to dress women - to be the one responsible for that piece that a woman will never hesitate to grab from her closet when she feels she has nothing to wear. That piece that has never failed her, and never will.
And frankly, what better way to do that than work for a company that can reach a large number of women, of varying shapes and sizes, at an affordable price point? The way contemporary fashion occurred to me had suddenly shifted. Truth be told, I have always been inspired by rules and limitations. I couldn't be more excited about this new challenge of creating clothes for the everyday woman with a designer twist/quality that are wearable and affordable.
Does this mean I have given up on innovation? On creating a new definition for clothing and wearability? Far from it. I am simply going about it a different way, and seizing a tremendous opportunity with a company that has already shown a great deal of confidence in me.
And this is one of many areas where Mr. James and I differ... because genius or not, he never had a successful business.
This post will be short and sweet because the past seven days have been pretty killer...
I am currently playing a new game - the game that it's more important for women to be wearing my clothes than for me to be making money off them. So with this in mind, I have decided to make ten versions of my twist sweater from senior thesis to be given to women in my life that would wear them. I plan to complete this project within the next two months.
The first sweater (long overdue) has been completed.
Earlier today I came across some designs by Romeo Gigli that looked like the love child of two of my favorite designers, Maria Cornejo and Isabel Toledo.
Those of you that experienced senior year at Parsons with me were privy to how I fell in love with draping, to the point where my entire senior thesis developed solely from drapes. It's exciting to see what was only seconds before a polygonal shaped piece of fabric clothe a human body and become something completely different. It is in the same category of miracles to me as knitting (the transformation of a string) and baking (the transformation of liquids/powders), and while some draping tricks are predictable at this point, it is still a new experience to see how identical drapes behave on different body types.
It is no secret that tailoring is "not my thing," whether it comes to my own design process or even the clothes I choose to wear... Which is not to say that I don't have massive respect for it, but I become infinitely more excited when I see tailoring balancing a fine line with drape, such as the tailored jackets that Yohji Yamamoto puts on the runway each season.
I have been overstretching myself with commitments as of late, and have been neglecting to leave some time in my schedule devoted to exploratory draping. It is time to remedy that.
This weekend, I met up with a student at Parsons who is working on her senior thesis and asked me to take on the role of knitwear consultant for some of the pieces in her collection. I was very excited to start work on a new project and even more so after I met the student, who turned out to be sweet, creative, and motivated. I'm already getting a number of ideas for ways in which we can explore her concept and create some beautiful garments that will set her senior thesis apart. Although I am not entirely sure how I'm going to go about doing all the things I'd like to do (like so many areas of my life right now), I've thrown myself into this 100% and can't wait to see where it goes.
It was also interesting for me to look at the process of developing a senior thesis collection from the other side. I saw so many of the same concerns and anxieties that I was having this time last year, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be there and support someone in an empowering way. I found myself telling her that it would all work out in the end, even if she can't see the possibility right now. And the best part is that I believed every word I was saying, just as my senior year instructors kept telling me.
So yes, I'm incredibly inspired and excited, and can't wait to share her work with all of you when it becomes real.
It's also reminding me how much I like working with students. I liked it when I was in school, and I'm loving it now (a second student collaboration may also be in the works)... Which is also making me think about the possibility of teaching years down the road when I've accumulated more work experience.
In other areas of life, work is pretty crazy at the moment with market week and having to spec all the samples of the spring collection by the end of this week. My mentor (and boss) keeps reiterating how specking garments is an art, and she's absolutely right. You would think measuring clothes would be a pretty straightforward task, but even with predetermined points of measure, it can get tricky. (And I can tell you right now, when I have my own brand someday, my tech designer will get lots of respect... especially with the kind of stuff I like to design.) So I am practicing, and practicing patience while I'm at it.
I am also making space in my life - space for new opportunities, new people, and new projects.
Any of you that know me know about my current living situation, which is not ideal to say the very least. Moving into a new place of my own is one of the things I've taken on, but until that comes to pass I must find ways to do the work that needs to be done with the resources currently at my disposal. So last weekend, I cleaned out my yarn stash, donated a bunch of machine and hand knitting yarn to Parsons, and was able to free up my knitting area and the wall behind it. I have a number of inspiration images and swatches to put up for a personal project I'm working on, but for the time being I am loving looking at this clear space. It's not much, but I am thankful for it.
One of the things I really want to do is make some clothes for myself. I can't tell you how many interviews I've been to where I was asked if I designed what I'm wearing (because it's arguably awesome!) and I hated having to say no. The ultimate goal would be to dress exclusively in clothes I've designed and live my vision. So even though I knew I wouldn't have the time to make this happen today, I did manage to get back on the machine for at least a little while and create two new swatches with some of the new yarns I purchased. Like having attended my Weight Watchers meeting this morning, I did what I said I was going to do, and even the most humble of actions felt good.