Tuesday, May 24, 2011

in detail: Rare Dirndl Fashion Show

Last Weekend was my first fashion show. I was approached by Marianne Strumberger of the Chicago Donauschwaben Frauengruppe and asked if I would be interested in doing a fashion show at their clubhouse... my answer, uh duh YES! She was very willing to work with me and try to make it as close to what I imagined as possible. She said that she would take care of the luncheon and I would take care of the show... deal! From the very beginning, I was determined to make the show as professional as possible even though the audience was used to more informal lunchtime shows, I was ready to give them something new! That started with my flyer. I titled the show, "in detail" because this would be one of the first times that people would get to take a real close up look at what I have been doing. I wanted to keep the flyer intense and a little dark because... thats just how I like to do things!
Then came the planning. I asked some of my good friends as well as some other girls from chicago donau to model in the show, knowing that they would be a good fit for my samples. I also had to ask some boys to model my new menswear pieces. Arranging the line up was a long and tedious process, but I eventually found a good flow for the show.
I Love Lucy Dirndl - New 2011 Summer collection ended the show.

Next came the music. I wanted the music to go with the inspiration of each collection, but at the same time, not offending any of the Omas in the crowd. I chose a mix of strong beats and soft tunes for the show, but didn't let the audience dictate my choices too much. I also picked out some music for the background music for the luncheon (which I knew would be controversial) I heard (through the grape vine) that many omas were not pleased with my instrumental choice for the lunch music, but I thought... and still believe... that if I had the typical donau Deutsche music during lunch... the runway music would have been a complete shock and someone was gunna start shakin in their salamanders! I have 100% no regrets about my music choices!

Practice on Friday was crucial! Since most of my friends had not walked in a runway show before they had no idea how hectic the backstage would be. Luckily we were given the opportunity to practice and it turned out to be a great way to get everyone in the mood for the show.

One of the Classrooms turned into a dressing room!

On Saturday, my mom and I met Marianne and a few others at the hall to set up. From 1:30-6:00 we were setting up the dressing rooms, the buffet table, the seating and the runway. When I left, I wasn't nervous anymore. I was happy and confident that the show was going to be a success! That night, with the help of my sister, Monika, we finished making the little favors and prepping the last minute things over some wine and an Extreme Couponers marathon!
The hall set up and ready for the show

The models all arrived on Sunday at 10am to start hair and makeup. The hair and makeup was another thing that I wanted to be over the top because I knew that that was something that many of the attendees would not be expecting, but would be impressed with. I was not about to have a runway show without a dramatic runway look. I needed to keep it pretty neutral because they would be modeling 5 different collections, so I chose darker eyes with some pops of color and big hair, semi messy, asymmetrical, with braids. I was so happy with every look, and I was ready to show off my designs on my beautiful models!

Ingrid, Ali, Nikki, Monika and Ingrid with their hair and makeup ready

I started the show with all of the one of a kind pieces I had designed for women in the area. It was a great way to start and everyone got to see the variety of pieces that I have worked on in the past year!
Dana Young in her custom dirndl. The first Very Rare custom piece!

Following the custom pieces was cafe und kuchen and then on to the main event! I started the show with a bang... super strong, loud music and the Rainforest Couture Dirndl. The show lasted about 30 minutes and featured 31 pieces!
#5 of the show. The Poison Dart Dirndl

Overall, I heard all great feedback! (except some whining about the lunch music... NOT concerned) I was so proud of all the models, all the dressers, all the set up, everything! I can't wait to do another show and I'm so grateful to the Chicago Donau, Marianne and everyone else who made the show a success!
Ancient Galaxy Skirt and Vest

Plus my dad was the star of the show... he got the most applause for his un-model face! Love him to pieces!

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Adventures in Menswear

After countless requests for Menswear, I decided to include some pieces in my 2011 collection. It started with a request from a good friend of mine for a purple plaid shirt. After he said purple, I immediately thought, that would go perfectly! I quickly found fabrics, but how was I going to make the plain ol plaid fabric into a trachten hemd? It needed something... like a cool button. I decided that I would do something different, something that I have never seen... Hand painted edelweiss buttons! After a few trial and error, I got the hang of painting the little guys and before I knew it, I painted 100+ buttons!

Painting buttons at the Summer Haus!

Plaid Short Sleeve Shirt with Hand Painted Buttons

But not all of the pieces could have the buttons, that would be a little redundant and boring... and I wanted more than 2 menswear pieces in my collection. Now what? I began to think back to my meeting with Joan Shifrin and Catherine Shimony, co-founders of the Global Goods Partners, at the trade show in Chicago. They had said that they have great embroiderers in Cambodia and that maybe we could collaborate on something. This was the perfect opportunity. After lots of back and forth via e-mail and phone, it was decided that the El Hombre Sobre La Tierra embroiderers from Mexico was a better fit for the kind of work that I was looking for and I sent off my fabrics!

El Hombre Sobre la Tierra expert embroidery!

Within about 6 weeks I received my fabric back and the embroidery was perfect! It was just what I wanted and I was even more excited that I was able to give my business to the women working in the poverty stricten areas of the Yucatan. "El Hombre Sobre la Tierra works with several Mayan villages in the Mexican state of Yucatán—the peninsula perhaps best known for one of the country’s top tourist destinations, Cancún. Despite Cancún’s successful economy, there is severe poverty in the region. For the past five centuries, the indigenous Maya have fought to defend their cultural identity and natural resources in the face of colonization, state-sponsored marginalization and most recently, globalization. Today, most Maya live in poor conditions, usually in small homes with earthen floors, palm-leaf roofs and timber walls. Education levels remain low, and Mayan-speaking adults are alienated from the Spanish-speaking majority, who claim a monopoly on political, economic and social power. Cultural norms make progress particularly challenging for women in the region, preventing them from owning land and working outside the home. Slash-and-burn agriculture has depleted environmental resources, making it necessary for Maya communities to seek more sustainable means of development." GGP

Since the release of my 2011 collection, I have gotten the most response and comments regarding the menswear. I've already sold 6 of the Grey Shirts with embroidery! So this week, I've been working hard to make more menswear pieces for the summer collection! I'm trying to be resourceful and use some of the embroidery that I have from Mexico, as well as my painted buttons. But I'm also going to use new metal buttons and new prints and colors! I've very excited about the men's shirts and I can't wait to shoot them when the weather gets warmer.

Newest Menswear piece for summer 2011

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dominican University Fashion Show

As the 2011 DU fashion show approaches (April 9-10), I can't help but think back to only two years ago when I was in the senior designer's shoes. Senior year was, hands down, one of the most stressful years of my life thus far. However, I wouldn't go back to change a thing! My senior collection was a reflection of what I was feeling at the time and was the personal release that I needed to clear my head and my heart... to give me a fresh start and ultimately the courage to be doing what I am today. So lets take a journey back in time... shall we?

Picture it... River Forest 2009... I've worked an entire semester for 2 days, 3 shows and one cohesive collection...

Purity, Perfection, Sophistication, Contemplation

The concept behind my senior collection, entitled “Attempted Entrapment” is based on the idea that society, the media, and other people may try to change who you are to match what they want to see, but in the end you are the person you are and no one can change that besides yourself. This collection of four garments is bringing to life the emotions one feels when he or she is being pressured by outsiders. First, multiple layers of sheer fabrics are used to emulate the complex levels of the human mind. All of the layers of fabric work together to create a new pattern just as people are very complex and multilayered. Secondly the use of constricting undergarments such as petticoats, a pannier and corsets represent the way society and some people may try to change and mold others into what is deemed acceptable. The unique and flattering silhouettes help the viewer visualize ideals that are imposed by society such as purity, sophistication, quietude and perfection. The innovation in the construction of the garments as well as the creation of the fabrics exemplifies the ideals of individuality.

This was the end to my academic career at Dominican as well as the beginning to realizing who I am as a designer. Since then, I have started my own business and just released my 4th and most cohesive collection, Intergalactic Expedition.

Atlantis Gown, and the first piece of my latest collection

I am also proud to announce that I will be having my first solo show at the Society of the Danube Swabians Cultural Center on May 22nd called "in detail" I'm excited to have my first show for my line, Rare, and can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring. I'm just glad that my senior collection was able to help launch me to this point!

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chicago Fashion Incubator

My journey with the Chicago Fashion Incubator has been a long and interesting one and it has really only just begun.

It all began when i was an intern for the lovely and talented Lidia Wachowska of Evil Kitty. She was one of the six Designers in Residence at the time which meant that the Chicago Fashion Incubator was her home for a year long program that provides local "designers with the resources, workspace, showroom, curriculum, and mentoring to grow their business while establishing networks in the community. The designer's also have the opportunity to showcase their lines at local events and fashion shows. Along with all of this the designers get a chance to learn the business of fashion to ensure they can successfully launch their own company." (http://ow.ly/4lfEa) There I learned all about running a small fashion line as well as about the how the Incubator program could grow a business from a thought to a reality.

(Evil Kitty Blazer I designed and sewed during my internship, 2008)

After graduation, my good friend and peer, Miriam Carlson of Miriam Cecilia was chosen to be a DIR for 2010. By following her on Facebook and Twitter as well as our texts and calls... I saw how the Incubator program really catapulted her line from her senior collection and mica inspired pieces to a successful business. It was crazy to follow her journey and I felt like I knew a celebrity!

(Miriam and I backstage at the Dominican University Fashion Show, 2009)

While she was doing her thing at the Incubator, I was doing mine all on my own... so I frequently called upon her for some advice and industry knowledge that she gained from the program. I thought I was doing pretty well for my first year, but never saw the Incubator program as an option for me because my line was so focused and for such a small niche market. But with a little encouragement from my college professor, I applied for a 2011 DIR position.

I got through to the interview portion and on Dec 3rd I packed up my garments for the 11th floor of Macy's on State Street. During the interview process, I could tell that the panel was impressed with what I was able to accomplish in under 1 year and they all commented on the quality of my workmanship and the overall professionalism I was able to create with my limited resources. I had a great time talking with them about my line and who I was as a designer, but I came out of the interview knowing that the position was not mine to be had. I had a gut feeling that they loved my work, but didn't think my stuff was right for the program.

(The Rainforest Queen Dirndl, one of the pieces I showcased during my interview, 2010)

Soon enough I received the e-mail that I was not chosen as one of the 2011 Designers in Residence, but I was, however, chosen to be in the Associate Designer program. "The Associate Designer Program is a year long program for 12 designers that encourages them to become a DIR the following year. It includes quarterly workshops, roundtables, and access to the workspace on an appointment basis. This allows for possible DIR applicants to get a foot in the door, share resources, and connect with other local designers and organizations." (http://ow.ly/4lfEa) For me this was really exciting! I knew (and obviously the panel of judges knew too) that the ful-on DIR program would not be as beneficial to my line and it was simply not a perfect fit... but I do believe that the AD program is a great fit for me!

This program will allow me to keep doing what I do, but help me be better! I can learn immensely from the workshops and roundtable discussions, but I can work from my space and go at my own pace. This program has already helped me and the director, Lara Miller, has been the most helpful and wonderful mentor throughout this journey.

(The crowd at the CFI Launch party, 2011)

At the CFI Launch Party last week, the 6 designers were revealed, one of whom is a Dominican Alum, Concetta Cipriano of Cettina. It was a great way to celebrate her induction as well as show my face as a confident and local designer at the party. As usual, I wasn't the social butterfly, but I faced my fears and attended the party. I can't wait to see what else the AD program and the CFI have in store for me, and I'm ready for the ride!

(Miriam and I at the CFI Launch Party, 2011)

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Last week and at the beginning of this week... I was having a hard time looking on the bright side. I was second guessing myself right and left, feeling like my heart was racing at all times, and unable to focus. I felt like the world was closing in on me. Uh... it was! I was loosing myself and all my stuff in my stuff! My studio space (my parents dining room and living room, but its fancier and more professional to say studio) was a clutter explosion of papers, fabric, lace, everything! I was lost in my own house.

My dad was going out with the boys on tuesday night, so I asked my mom if she would help me clean up and re-organize my studio/life. I knew that I needed more drawers, bigger containers and a filing system, but I didn't know where to start. I had a drawer for lace, trim, ribbon and hardware for my collections, but it was over flowing and most of the lace couldn't fit, so it just lid out on the table. The whole point of having a big table is to cut on it, but I was using the living room floor as a cutting table because my table was out of control!

I can't thank my mom enough for helping me. With only what I use on a daily basis upstairs in the work space, the table cleared, and all my supplies and papers organized, I feel so much better. I feel in control again, and if you know me, you know how much i love controlling things!

Thank you mom! I promise to try my hardest to keep it this way!

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

An Excellent Lunch

Today my uncle Larry took my family out to lunch and he wanted to take us to Bauer's Brauhaus so my family could check out my dirndls at work and the great atmosphere that new restaurant provides. Lunch was soooo yummy! BEST deep fried pickles I have ever had! The cheese curds were also really tasty. I think what made them so delicious is that they were battered and not breaded. My sister got the weiner schnitzel and she said it was great and the spatzle and rotkraut were also yummy.

Starting up a new business, whether its a fashion line or a restaurant, it takes drive, perseverance, and guts! Please support local business and us nutty entrepreneurs.

I'm so happy that Bauer's Brauhaus was pretty busy when we went this afternoon and I can't wait to go back because I know I will be dreaming about those pickles tonight! As tante Heidi would say... YUMO!

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

From Concept to Reality

In design school you are always supposed to start with an inspiration, but sometimes inspiration just comes from an idea. That is how my first collection started... with the leopard dirndl. Then I used that, and the rainforest, as the base for the rest of the pieces. The summer collection started with the color yellow and the use of batik. But the newest collection was different. I fell in love the the TV show, Stargate Atlantis and wanted to see if I could translate that into a collection. The first piece I drew up was a gown with a small corset that was inspired by the villain of the show, the Wraith.

I had a whole bolt of this chiffon fabric that I bought because it was on sale and something drew me to the odd iridescent mix of light olive and red. I wanted to pair it with a red reptile skin. It took me a while, but I found the perfect fabric!

Two days of working on the dress and trying to find ways to create the garment the way I imagined it was complete. Its a dress that may not be the most beautiful, but thats what I love about it... its intriguing. The color, the drape and the combination of chiffon and faux skin draws you in and you can't look away. It is not meant to be worn to prom or to the oscars, its meant to set the tone for the collection and make the viewer want to see more.

Although the dress was finished, it still needed to be photographed and the wrong model in the wrong setting could destroy the vision in the blink of an eye. I found a model that was just the look I was going for... simply fierce. She was just the girl that could pull off the look. Her hair was bright blonde/silver and I knew that all I had to do was add some black extensions and braids and she could bring the gown to life.

But what about the setting? Wraith don't frolic through the forest, they suck the life out of people with their hands! They don't sit on a nice sofa, they fly little deadly dart-like cruisers and plan their next diabolical move from huge hive ships! But the industrial and dirty setting of my dad's body shop was just the place! It was a little dark, a little dingy and totally unexpected... just what I like!

Put them all together and what do you get?! Pure awesomeness! This was the first time I saw an entire look go from imaginary vision in my head to reality. It was like she popped off the page of my sketch and into real life.

I cannot wait to release this collection on my website in a few weeks and I don't know that there are words to explain how happy I am with the outcome of this photo shoot. This is why I love my job! This is what I live for!

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Kind of Town

I've been anticipating tonights episode of Bazaar Foods with Andrew Zimmern for a week and it was better than I imagined! Not only do i have an idea for an awesome evening out to learn to butcher a pig, but I also found out that one of the streets I drive down multiple times a week is full of great diverse cuisine.

My sister Monika and I have always made it vocal that we love food! So shows like, Bazaar Foods, No Reservations and Top Chef bring us closer together and help us be more adventurous!

But tonights episode just reminded me how much I love Chicago. Chicago is the perfect place to start my business! With a city full of cultural diversity and a location in the heart of the United States, I couldn't ask for anything more. I had a very rough day today... trying to wrap my head around all the changes that are going on and all the giant steps I'm taking brought me to tears. But the support from my friends and family as well as the wake up call that I live in the best city in the world made me feel better... and a little hungry!

My website and blog have been re-designed, my spirit rejuvenated and now I have a handful of yummy places to try when Monika comes home! Thank you Andrew Zimmern! (and yes thats a whole pig roasting... our fav!)

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Building up Inventory

I'm super excited to participate in the German Chicago Now / Neighborhoods of the World event at Navy Pier's Crystal Gardens on April 3rd, but what will I sell? Looks like I need some inventory. As much as I love sewing... The idea of sewing up 40+ dirndls... while trying to do everything else... uh no. However, thanks to my fellow Chicago-land designers like Miriam Cecilia Carlson and Lara Miller, I've gotten in touch with a great subcontractor who is right down the street from me! This means that I have to cut the pieces and give it to the sewers, they sew it up, i get it back and do all the hand work. This will cut my work load for sure, but it WAY ups my cost... AH! So how much do I order?! What sizes? What styles? Not to mention... uh where do I put it all!

Its complicated, but at the same time... common sense. I've been selling for almost 10 months now and after that time, you figure out what sells...ish. Obviously, the most popular styles you order... what sizes? The most common sizes and some others. In the more expensive pieces, just the common sizes. Boy o boy... Big changes, with BiG expenses... but hopefully it will come with BIGGER rewards.

I'm so lucky to have the support system that I do and people who believe in me, but its always hard when you are taking such a big risk... Lets hope it pans out and I don't take over my parents entire house...YAY Rare!

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bauer's Brauhaus

Back in September, while I was bartending for the American Aid Society Jugendgruppe at German Days in Lincoln Square, a young man approached me and told me that he was opening up a restaurant in Palatine and was interested in using my dirndls as waitress uniforms for the staff. I was super excited, but explained to him that the detailed hand work and some of the dry clean only fabrics I use would not hold up too well as uniforms for his waitstaff. However I also told him that I would be more than happy to work with him on a special design for the Restaurant.

About a month later I get a call that he is still interested and wants to get together and talk about ideas for the dirndls for Bauer's Brauhaus. He said that he thought he might be able to work with the beer distributer and get them to allow him to use the logo on the dirndl. So I had the 3 beer logos screen printed onto the aprons and designed a simple 100% machine washable dirndl to match the Raderberger, DAB, and Tucher logos

And yesterday was the fitting! When i arrived in amidst the snowfall, I couldn't help but notice how nice the restaurant looked from the outside! I walked in and I was even more impressed! It looks brand new, yet rustic and cozy at the same time. The medieval beer stein chandelier is impressive along with all the modern flat screens along the bar. It looks like a great place to hang out and eat some great german food.

The fittings went über well! Everything fit like a glove and all I need to do is take up some of the hems! I'm so excited for the opening on Monday, January 23rd and to stop by next week for some food and to see my dirndls in action!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 Collection Inspiration

I'm so excited about the 2011 collection. It has a dark elegance feel to it and that is something I love to play with. Sometimes I don't get to choose what I am inspired by, sometimes it just happens. While working on the 2010 collection I would watch episodes of the Syfy TV show, Stargate Atlantis.
Not only was I hooked on the show, I was in awe of the costuming and the creativity surrounding the characters. It gave me the basis for the 2011 collection.

There are 3 main color sections in the collection. The first is light green, red and black. This color scheme is based on the main villain in the series, the Wraith. These are hands down the most bad ass aliens ever. They survive on human life which they suck out of you with their feeding hand... i know what your thinking... AWESOME! Whats even better is they have a confidence about them... they know how awesome they are. Their clothing is also one of a kind and was the inspiration for the use of a great red, metallic, imitation lizard skin that will be used as ascents and belts.

The next color story is black and grey. The series is full of dark and eerie places that they main characters go exploring and I wanted to bring some dark and eeriness to the collection. However the darks are paired with other brighter colors like blues and purples that are like little glimpses of color in the dark of space.

Which brings me to the final color scheme which is light blues, royal purple, and plaid. This color story is inspired by the space that the characters explore and they colors of their home of operation, Atlantis. Atlantis is an ancient outpost surrounded by water and sky. I would love to go there (if it were real of course). The style of these garments are also more structured and military-like as opposed to the organic and draped nature of the wraith inspired pieces.

All in all, I'm still in love with all the pieces of the collection and am so excited to debut it. However, I have been getting orders (which is awesome sauce!) but it gives me little time to create the new pieces. My goal is to have the collection available online mid March! Its a little eerie, a little elegant, a little menswear, but its all Rare!