oh hello hello hello, remember me? i must have fallen off your blog radar a super long time ago with my lack of consistent postings. but i really have good reason! for the last few months, i have been completely absorbed – mind, body and soul – into this project that has really been the biggest deal of my life.
that’s right, LVMH, short for louis vuitton moët hennessy, the company responsible for practically 90% of the world’s luxury brands, somehow collaborated with parsons. this is a contest called “the art of craftsmanship revisited: new york“, that involves students forming teams of students from the different schools (fashion, photography, technology, etc) in parsons, and coming together to make a documentary and also a complete ensemble.
the aim of this project was simple: LVMH x parsons wanted to bring some light to the dying craft of artisans. the history of artistry in europe is very strong, but it seems to be fading out in america, and so the whole idea of this project was to shine the spotlight onto these artists who have toiled with their hands and passed down their craft through the generations.
right at the beginning in late november, we were given a huge list of different artistry that was available in the new york area, and had to choose one. there were areas like book binding, neon lights, calligraphy, puppet making, glass arts and so on. after much debate, my team chose metal arts. we proceeded to throw ourselves into completing the initial rounds for submission, which was to basically give the judges an idea of what we might come up with in the final round. when we thought about metal arts, there is just so many different aspects of it that we didn’t really know where to begin. but our idea was that the image of metals is so strong, but yet it can be melted down and turned malleable and into liquid, and we wanted to capture a split second in time of this moment made by both the metal and the artist’s hands that are creating it.
we were free to choose any category as it did not matter – in the end, we were given our artisans based on our initial submission. and you know what, they loved our submission so much, they gave us the artist involved in metal arts. hearing the judges say it was the best feeling ever.
that’s when the shocker came – i don’t think any of us expected what sort of amazing artists they had lined up for all of the teams. our artist, or artists rather, were from this french company called les métalliers champenois (basically meaning ‘the metal workers from champenois, a place in france) who moved to new york after winning the bid to restore the statue of liberty.
completely blown away by LMC
that’s right folks, i mean, this was a huge deal. in short, there were problems with the gilding of the statue of liberty when she was first done, so they were contracted to restore the flame and torch, and also recast miss liberty’s face and toes!!
we went to their atelier a few times and were honestly flabbergasted with some extra flabbers… it wasn’t just the statue of liberty that they restored, but also the supremely ornate rails of chateau de versailles and the gates of the place stanislas in nancy, france. i can’t go on long enough about how amazed i was with their work. the statues that you see in central park, the staircases of some serious aristocrats…. besides all those historic restorations, if people like bill gates and jerry seinfeld let them into their house, you know they are pretty legit!
so we had lots of talks and meetings, discussing what it was that we saw that really sparked some inspirations within us. the movements of each of the artists at LMC, the repetitions of those moments, the importance of their hands in molding their craft, the fact that that everything fits like a puzzle since they don’t usually weld things, the idea of visual symmetry through different proportions, and even the amazing latticework that goes inside each restoration piece. jean, a seriously nice and hilarious french man, who runs LMC, told us this, that although they are artists, they are first and foremost, technicians. everything is a calculation, everything is based on really understanding and knowing the fabrication of their materials, the technical details that might escape a layman’s eye but what they as artists need to catch on.
it was inspirational and all too exciting. we focused on the way that LMC worked and their mentality, and brought this into our ensemble. layers, 2D to 3D, technicality, functional but beautiful, curvilinear, structure and movement, organic, restrained, controlled. those were our key terms in thinking about our design.
unveiling the trace
that’s the name we gave to our team of 6, 3 from the design and technology school, and 3 of us in fashion. it was the perfect name, because we drew our inspirations from the processes and movements that our artists go through in creating their own craft, and we wanted to trace their lines and convert it into our own craft.
the idea was to have a dress as a foundation to build up upon, creating abstract lines that told the story of the latticework that LMC builds into their restoration projects.
it was decided early on that we would have the second layer was to be a more translucent layer of cowls that was a representation of both the movement of the artists as well as our representation of the repoussé that LMC is famous for. unfortunately, our initial design idea did not work at all. at. all. it was just impossible to force the fabric to do what we wanted it to. not that we wanted to force it that way at all.
so we draped and re-draped nonstop for like, a good two or three days, until we arrived at something that all 3 of us were happy with. it’s no good if just one of us liked something. this was a group effort. you can’t agree on something when even one person was unhappy with it.
i can’t tell you how many times we tried draping this. we seriously met everyday for a few days and just kept draping and pinning things to the dress form to see how we liked it. there were a lot of different things to consider, especially if the drape went with the image of our artisans that we wanted to portray. in the end, we decided not to force it and to let it build in our minds for a few days while we concentrate on other things.
like the half-jacket. we knew exactly what we wanted. it was initially my idea. we were having a really nice little dress and everything and i wanted something that was somewhat masculine and that represented strength; my idea was that because everything was based on the work that the artists created with their hands, i wanted something that covered their right arm and protected it.
getting the perfect fit is a headache
many other teams made garments that were rather loose-fitting or in stretch materials which are easy to fix and forgiving. we used 4-ply silk for the base dress, a double layer of chiffon for the drapes as well as wool cashmere for the half-jacket. plus, it was such a streamlined and clean look, it needed to fit perfectly. PERFECTLY.
but this perfectionist side of ours was not fun. the school did not inform us of what sort of models we were to have. the instructions were that we should hand in our finished garment, completely done except for the hems, and that after handing it in, we would be assigned models and then have out fitting. which was really quite a crazy thing. i can’t even explain it to you. we had such a fitted dress and the fact that there were no straight seams made it even crazier. monica was our fit model in class and so we asked her to wear it for us and that’s when we realized how much of a horror it was to make one-shouldered dresses. neither of the 3 of us had ever attempted it before and it completely slipped our minds that the fabric stretches out so much on the bias.
plus, because the school simply instructed us to drape on the dress form, we were simple-minded enough to drape for a girl of a “regular” height. when monica tried it on, however, it was barely skimming her butt.
so without knowing what kind of models we were getting, runway models or fit models (they have very different heights and measurements), we dumped that first finished dress and remade it to make sure it was longer and better fitting. it was mad. completely insane. since i was more familiar with making patterns on 2D and manipulating it, i was assigned the grand task of reworking the dress patterns. marvelous.
and i really couldn’t complain about it because it was my grand idea of having all those curved lines in the first place.
i basically had to redrape a really simple dress silhouette that fitted an estimated of a model’s size (which is a great mental war, considering i didn’t know what sort of models we were getting). from there, i drew the shapes of the seam lines we wanted, while looking at the pieces of the very first drape we did. then it was on to pattern-making and some serious mind-boggling mathematician work. patterns are all about math. did you know that? i don’t think i could have done it without knowing how to add, subtract, and divide all sorts of numbers and fractions. i hadn’t done it for so long, it took me a good day and a half to get it exactly how i wanted it.
and so after many days of redoing everything and being really perfectionist anal buttheads, we probably really killed ourselves unnecessarily but we did end up with something we were happy with. this was our first finished sample of the entire look, in muslin and then in the actual fabric.
blending technology and fashion
the techie guys in our team came up with an amazing code on computer that captured only the movements that were made on film, and with that, the “center” of all these movements were found and extremely amazing abstract lines appeared on screen. it was amazing. we wanted to use these lines and integrate it into our garment. how?
during one of our visits to the atelier of LMC, we looked to the ground and found dust. literally, metallic dust that was simply just remnants of metal stuff that they were cutting, soldering and so on. and we swept them up to keep, just in case. so we decided to put them to good use. to LMC, it was trash. but to us, it was beautiful.
it was gorgeous. my lousy photos don’t do them justice. i think it turned out better than the 3 of us expected it to. we’d tried fusing (basically, gluing) so many different colours of chiffon together and then sandwiching the metal bits in between them, but finally it was this very neutral beigey-grey that we liked. the gold metal bits looked amazing inside of it.
last minute craze
the deadline towards the show was coming up and we were panicking. it was only a week before the show that we found out that we were in fact going to use the fit models that we usually have in school. so we had to go through some crazy first-come-first-served email contest and fight for monica to be our model. we really wanted her because she has the best personality and we wanted someone who was fun and spunky. no use having a model who frowns and whines about everything.
we reworked our dress after fitting it to her, took apart whatever we needed to and then put it back together. it was a whirlwind, i tell you, a real whirlwind. for the last 6 weeks, we’ve spent almost everyday in school together working till 2am in the morning, discussing, making, contemplating, reworking, remaking….
the big day at milk studios!
sweet dreams are made of these
in a twinkling of an eye, 2 hours flew past. i felt like i was in a daze. it was surreal. we spoke to so many people. there were tons of guests who asked monica who made her outfit and she would direct them to us. this harper’s bazaar photog really loved it, so did this guy who’s a fashion publisher, and a few fashion editors at magazines. we got some really great feedback. i felt like i was on a high. surpassing cloud nine. it was unreal.
it was so much work and it put us so behind in our regular schoolwork, but i don’t regret a minute of it. i learned so much and had such an amazing experience. what more could i ask for? winning the $20000 grand prize would be amazing and certainly won’t hurt. but i had the time of my life. being at the fashion event and having the opportunity to take part in this contest was simply fantastic. having the avenue for people to come and look at something i’d poured my heart and soul into, the feeling of people admiring or even criticising your garments, it was great. we never had the chance to do that before, not to such a large crowd. we couldn’t stop smiling. i could do this over and over again.
extra! extra! read all about it!
LVMH x parsons : the art of craftsmanship revisited
- LVMH x Parsons = my first foray as a designer into new york fashion week!
- LVMH on governors island