a designer’s resolution: do it your way

by gilda rêvasseur on May 9, 2009

you know, i’ve never done things the way i “should”. the way society tells me to, the way my friends do, the way it’s expected. i act differently, dress differently, design differently…

unfortunately, because of that, i’ve met with obstacles along the way. my parents were one of my biggest obstacles, because they couldn’t understand how i could give up my childhood dream of being a vet and become a god-forbidden fashion designer-slash-seamstress. fortunately, they came around and i’m lucky enough that they are now one of my biggest supporters.

and then comes the insignificant-but-yet-always-there-to-annoy-me teachers. oh, i could go on and on about them. i’ve had teachers from 3 different countries, and the best of them are those who might not share your aesthetic and views, but they support it anyway. if they think you are weird, then they are gonna make you be the weirdest you can be. if your designs are ridiculous to them, then you better become the most ridiculous one out there. they are supportive in that way, strange as it sounds.

but then there are the teachers who just bring you down and tell you to stop what you’re doing because you’ll never succeed. teachers who take just 3 minutes to give you a critique when they spend 15 minutes on someone else, because they honestly don’t know what to say to you. teachers who suck the life out of you and leave you in despair.

worst still are institutions who think of themselves as a business and a dictatorship before they remember that they are there to educate their students. institutions who try to put you in a box and force you to be who they want you to be, instead of who you are and who you can become.

my 2 years in parsons have aged me. yes, i’m 26 years old now. but i’ve never felt my age nor thought about how old i am as compared to my fellow classmates. but when i’m in school, i feel like an angry, frustrated little old bitch. on some days, everyone’s on a short fuse. we’re agitated, tired, we look like shit, our skin is bad, our eyes are bloodshot, and we’re just irritable from not sleeping.

i’ve never been in such a bad-temper.

i can’t say i enjoy it. in fact, i absolutely hate it. it’s a mental struggle and sheer willpower to stay alive. if i’d known what a hellhole my life here would be, before i’d moved to new york, i don’t think i would have come. but alas, i’ve invested too much of my parents’ money to come here, and no matter how much i hate the school, i just have to grit my teeth and finish it for their sakes. i can’t quit, because i’m not a quitter.

but if i have to go through one more year of this shithole, i’m definitely not going to succumb to pressures, and give up my opinions just to get a better grade or to win some competition.

i see that happen all the time – people remove their own personalities from their designs just to win a competition. they adjust themselves so that the teachers will pick them for something. we have a saying in school that’s called the “parsons look”. the clean-cut, simple, ready-to-wear look that parsons is well-known for, and in my vocabulary, it means boring clothes that have no point-of-view.

people talk about this “parsons look” – “oh, you know that’s never gonna get picked because it doesn’t represent the school”, or “she won the competition because she referenced past winners and did her project the way the school likes it”.

it pisses me off.

where the fuck is your backbone? where is your personality? is this the way your parents brought you up? did they never teach you to have your own voice? did they never instill in you strength and character and integrity?

i despise people like that. d-e-s-p-i-s-e. stand up for yourself, for fuck sake.

it’s different if you are working for someone else and you need that paycheck. yes, you can’t always be the designer you want to be. you can’t always be wild and flamboyant, or avant garde or couture. but, i firmly believe that even if you were working for someone and had to adjust your aesthetics to suit the company’s looks, there are always ways in which you can inject your own personality into your designs. in fact, i think when designers of different aesthetics come together, you can work together to create the best product that blends the best of different voices.

but until then, you are your own designer, you are your own voice. if i edited myself and edited my collections so that i could have the “parsons look” that this school wants, then i could never sign my name at the bottom of those sketches, and i could never put that in my portfolio. because it just isn’t representative of who i am. and i would be ashamed of it.

yes you’re right, this post is almost like a rant. maybe it is. but this message goes out to all of you who are in the creative world – be who you are and never be embarrassed about it. do not ever let anyone shove a cookie-cutter in your face!

i just had to say this, perhaps as a reminder to myself. i’ve been really tired and lacking of sleep recently because of the sheer amount of things that we’ve had to do in school. (by the way, when i tell people that i’m tired, they scoff and make it a competition of who has more things to do. only my friends in the fashion department at parsons can understand this. we have 30 hours of class a week, for just 19 credits, and our work never ends in class. we take it home and work day and night for our craft. i’ve had arguments with people who tell me fashion is frivolous and “it’s so easy because all you do is draw”. arseholes.)

yesterday marked the due-date of a project that we had been working on all semester. as juniors, we were assigned to do a mini-thesis at the beginning of the semester. it consists of 3 looks of at least 6 garments, that we had to design, drape, pattern-make, create a sample. and then sew the final product for. sounds easy and it all fit into one sentence, but it was quite a lot of work to complete within 5 months. we have two 6-hour sewing classes a week, and of course all our own free time to finish everything.

and because the school is stupid, they never provided any details for us till just weeks ago, so we never knew how the judging process would be, how the show would be, and in fact, till this day we still don’t know how many people will actually get into the show. but anyway, a jury came into our class consisting of like, 10-15 teachers, who gave us points according to our design and how well it was sewn.

i was proud of what i did, but i was upset with myself because i did not finish my dress the way i wanted to. i’d run out of time, and in my head it just wasn’t complete. of course, i’d stayed up all night the night before to try and complete it, but at noon, i fell asleep and woke up at 2:30pm, just enough time to rush to school by 3pm. but i had lost 2 and a half precious hours that i could have finished my project with. oh well. it was too late to regret.

after the jury came and went, my teacher, who’s great by the way, came over and told me something that made me real sad. she’d loved what i did, and gave me tips along the way to achieve the look i wanted. but she said, “a few teachers thought your designs, especially the second look, was too conceptual.”

in other words, it wasn’t representative of the school’s look. i guess.

you know, i’ve gone over this a million times in my head and each time i think about it, it just frustrates me. runway shows are supposed to create an atmosphere. it’s supposed to be inspiring, like what john galliano does with his shows. he creates a look, but it doesn’t mean you’ll find it in the stores later, because he’ll also create a toned-down wearable version of the initial over-the-top design.

so i’ve accepted the fact that i’ve come to parsons to receive an education, all these thousands of kilometers away from home, only to find that although i have supportive teachers who offer advice and constructive criticisms, i also attend a school with a stupid president and a policy that students who don’t fit into the mold will basically, just not be acknowledged.

i’m not gonna lie: it’s discouraging sometimes. but i’m not gonna back down and i’m not going to be embarrassed about who i am.

i am gilda. i am a fashion designer. and i have my own voice. it’s my life, and it’s my designs. i’m gonna do it my way.

my mini-thesis

this was my collection. i still have finishing touches to do, but it was my take on a military theme, based on epaulets. a little different from how most people who do a military collection, but you might be able to see hints of it. the collection was a mix of a very sponge-y neoprene, and bamboo cotton jersey and bamboo satin. i wanted to blend organic fabrics with some plastic neoprene! it was harder than i expected to sew, but i love neoprene and will use it forever.


sadie, trying on my dress for me. if i may say so myself, i do love it. heh heh heh.

michael modeling for me

darling michael took one look at my ziggy cape and wanted to put it on immediately. yes, this is the look that was too conceptual. at least one person liked it! yay!

so well, there you have it. my little 3-look collection, christianed “ziggy” by kesiana, a friend in class. all comments and constructive criticisms welcomed!

and i leave you, fellow creative person, with this – if you are a designer, a writer, a blogger, a gardener, a painter, a daydreamer – never be afraid of who you are.

it’s your life. do it your way!

more for nosey parkers:
+ discover your passion and find a purpose
+ what i love about me

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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Intan Alasdair July 4, 2009 at 8:30 pm

You get some very strong responses! Good for you.
As for me… I am speechless.
There is only one word for you, Gilda: Inspirational! ;)


luxury villas italy August 18, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Gilda, you are a fun and cute personality, your work is so inspiring. my sis is a designer too i will let her visit your blog.


VAVA May 18, 2011 at 10:47 am

Gilda, I almost cried reading this rant of yours!It’s so pathetic to know that parsons is always trying to discourage students from having personalities as designers and taking risks to approach fashion from artistic perspective. In fact, I’m going into fashion next year as well at parsons as a sophomore and after reading your rant, I’m so worried. I don’t want to think of fashion as a pure commodity you know….


VAVA May 18, 2011 at 10:52 am

It’s unbelievable that the school is trying so hard to make the students fit into this little mold!Now that 2 years have passed, is it any different?
♥ VAVA´s last [type] ..Photo


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