Post-Thanksgiving Blues?

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It’s been a week since Thanksgiving, and the leftovers are mostly gone, and the holiday season is in full force – and if you overindulged a little (or a lot, hey Thanksgiving is ALL about indulging!) Take Fashion Cat’s advice, and stick to wearing dark colors, and no one will notice that you had that extra piece of pie.🙂 Want more of Fashion Cat? Follow Harumi K womenswear on Instagram, where Fashion Cat will make a weekly appearance.

Behind the Scenes: Design Collaboration

 

I recently launched a collection designed in collaboration with someone else, something I’ve never done before. Daisy McClellan, Co-Owner of gather, approached me with the idea earlier this year.  Harumi K had been selling at gather for about a year, and creating a collection just for them seemed like a great project.

Daisy presented me with sketches for a few styles, and we narrowed them down to three – a tank top, hi low hem tee, and kimono style cardigan. While I started working on the patterns, Daisy went on a trip to Paris and brought back some fabulous cotton prints that we incorporated into the collection.

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The Tulip Tank  – in progress 100% cotton print from Paris, backed with Japanese cotton poplin. I was anxious about cutting the fabric since we only had a few yards with little room for error! Measure five times and cut once!

For each style, I created a prototype to test the fit on Daisy and myself to fine tune the details. We decided to use solid cotton poplin for the back of the tank tops. Here is one of the tops in a wonderful paper crane print, backed with solid teal. It was so satisfying to finally see the end result after months of work.

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Tulip Tank in Crane Print – gather X Harumi K Collection

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Since I usually work solo (save for a few hours a week when I’m lucky enough to have an intern) I was surprised how easy it was to work on designs with Daisy. We have similar aesthetic styles, but just different enough to push me out of my comfort zone. For example, the color palette of the fabrics aren’t typical for me – but I love them and I think working with Daisy has opened me up to go beyond my usually blacks, grays and blues!

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Super soft Hi Low Hem Tee – just long enough in the back to cover your assets – perfect over leggings or skinny jeans.

And of course, we had to have a launch party to celebrate – along with champagne and cookies, and a tarot card reader too. It was a great way to culminate the months of work. I’m looking forward to more collaborations, and this project was definitely a highlight of 2016. If you’re in Hayes Valley, make sure to stop by gather – they carry a fabulous selection of goodies from  womenswear to mens’ tees, jewelry, and gift items, many from local and independent brands.

 

A Day in the Life

So what’s a typical day like for an independent fashion designer?

A typical day for me varies widely depending on the season – if I’m in the middle of production, I’m running back and forth dropping and picking things up from my grader, cutter, and factory. Since I am currently in the throes of developing my fall collection, a lot of my work has revolved around that. In a few weeks, I will be heading to pre-production for fall…which seems crazy, since summer has just started. The traditional, fast moving fashion seasons make me insane- I’ll save that for another blog post. But I digress…

Let’s look at what my work day looked like on Tuesday:

Check e-mails, social media-ing. Pet my cats. Caffeine!

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Prepare inventory to deliver to boutiques

Do publicity for upcoming events – web listings, design postcard, social media (while eating lunch)

Work on fall collection – patternmaking,  sewing and editing prototypes, fabric selection. A few minutes of cursing while ripping out seams and fixing sewing mistakes.

Cut fabric for limited run of new tops

One hour late afternoon break to run errands in the neighborhood

E-mails and more social media

Dinner break

Plan for upcoming events – apply for fairs, research businesses to collaborate with and research fabrics for fall

Work on blog post!

Wine. (But not every night. Seriously. Maybe on a Thursday, or on Wednesday, because you know, #WineWednesday)

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Ripping out seams. I try to get zen with it but sometimes you just have to curse.

Exciting right!? Some of the tasks can easily be a time suck if I’m not careful (I’m looking at YOU social media). I kind of enjoy Instagramming, but Twitter gives me a headache. I tried Snapchat and frankly, I am just too old for it. Facebook is like an old friend who is there, so I use it. And if there is a cat video in my Facebook feed…there goes the next 5 minutes of my life.

I will sometimes go work at a cafe for a couple of hours at the end of the day to focus on lower priority  but still important tasks, (like writing blog posts, reading articles, website updates, etc.) I am usually super productive for about 2 hours, and a cafe is a nice change of scenery since I am usually at my home studio. And bonus, no cats coming to “cuddle” on your keyboard while typing.

Any comments or questions? Leave them below or on our Facebook page – until next time!🙂

 

 

Behind the Seams Part 1: The Making of a Dress

Dozens of steps happen before that cute dress makes it onto the retail floor, and I’ve been asked regularly if I sew everything. The answer is no, and I’m going to try to explain the process in plain language without boring you to death in this post, which is part one of two. After conceiving and sketching the design, a pattern is made. I draft patterns the traditional way, on paper, but some folks use a computer to create patterns.

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Example of a paper pattern

 

After the first pattern is completed, a prototype is sewn to test the fit and overall style. A fit model tries on the prototype and 95% of the time, some edits are made at this point. If I’m lucky, I’ll only need to sew up one more prototype before the pattern is finalized.

Now the fun part…but the part which can be uber time consuming – the fabric selection! Some designs start with the fabric already in mind – other times, it happens concurrent with design process or not until after the design is complete. This process can take a long time – as there are many factors that go into selecting a fabric appropriate for the style – does it need to stretch? Do you want it to be machine washable? Is it the correct weight for the season? It is also good practice to get a sample of the fabric, sew the prototype, and wash and wear it to see how it holds up.

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Once the pattern is finalized, it is turned into a production pattern, with  all of the proper markings and notations needed for the sewer and fabric cutter. The paper pattern is sent off to get digitized and graded.  A pattern is typically drafted in a size medium, and the grader adapts the pattern for your size range (e.g. S, M, L). Next, a marker is made. The marker is a commercial version of a paper home sewing pattern- a huge piece of paper showing what pieces need to be cut. Around the same time the pattern is getting digitized, you need to figure out how much fabric to order. I work with my marker maker to get the yields, and to try to get as little waste as possible from the fabric. And at every one of these steps, I double check their work to make sure all of the specs are as I requested.

Some factories will cut your fabric, but some of them won’t.  Unfortunately mine doesn’t, so I bring my fabric and marker to my cutter.  When the cutter’s done, I pick up the cuts and bring them to my factory. It’s a lot of schlepping and a great upper body workout – those rolls of fabric are HEAVY!

Ok, so at this point, I have gotten most of the grunt work done and are about ready to deliver the cut fabric to the factory – I bet you are on the edge of your seat in anticipation, am I right? Stay tuned to my next post to find out about the remaining steps until that dress is ready for you!

 

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Bundles of cut fabric, ready to deliver to the factory

 

 

5 Fab Bay Area Businesses

I have a confession…I love lists. To-do lists, checklists for everything from my garment production to packing for travel.  I’m always talking  about shopping local and shopping small. So I have created this list to highlight a few great East Bay businesses that I’ve discovered over the last year. This list is by no means complete, but I’ll post on my favorite businesses regularly – so stay tuned for more!

Common Thread  offers super cute childrens’ accessories manufactured in the Bay Area. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the owners, Allison, during an event we did together over the holidays. I was immediately drawn to the colorful, fun fabrics, and even recognized a fabric that I had also used in one of my designs. I bought this adorable zebra skinny tie for my godchild – I couldn’t resist! Everything is manufactured locally in the Bay Area.

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Choclatey Pig Cupcake from We The Minis

Chocolatey Pig Cupcake from We The Minis

We the Minis  bakes delicious cupcakes and macarons in Oakland that are just the right amount of sweet (not too sweet) and they donate 5% of their profits to charity. Along with classic flavors like Red Velvet they have unconventional flavors like Churro and Lavender Honey and even Chocolatey Bacon! You can find them at various events like Treasure Island Flea or order on their website – and deliver for free on orders over $50! I just ordered some for Oakland Fashion Network‘s upcoming cocktail mixer, and praying that there will be leftovers that I can take home.

Alchemy Bottle Shop  is a super cool store near Lake Merritt with a curated selection of spirits and mixers – more types of bitters than you imagined possible! I picked up bottles of Aztec chocolate bitters and cardamom bitters for a holiday gift. Their offerings of liquors is wide but not overwhelming, and they carry some harder to find varietals like Nikka whiskey from Japan (which I highly recommend!)

Feed the Fish Co.  stocks fun and cheerful celebratory crafts – you can’t help but smile when you see Erin Garcia’s colorful craft work! She makes everything by hand also takes custom orders – she sells kits so you can do some of the work yourself. I am excited that she will be joining us for a pop up in Sebastapol on Sat. 4/16 at littlefour, along with fabulous artist Maureen Shields.

Clove and Hoof  I was so happy when this butcher shop and restaurant opened in my North Oakland neighborhood last year. We went there during their first week, and were pleasantly surprised when we were given some free fried chicken – which turned out to be the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten. It has a light and crispy crust, juicy meat and is glazed with fish sauce caramel – which may sound odd, but trust me, you will be so happy you put it in your mouth! They have a solid selection of sustainably raised meat along with sausages, pates, and specialty items like beef tongue pastrami. A highly recommended spot for all of your carnivorous needs.

What are you some of your favorite local businesses? I’d love to hear about them- please share them in the comments below!

You’re a Fashion Designer, That’s SO COOL

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When I meet new people and I tell them I’m a fashion designer, this is the response I often get. Well, I guess it is pretty cool, but I don’t really think of it that way since it’s hard work.  It’s a job like any other, and I’m the worst boss I’ve ever had.  I supposed it sounds a lot more interesting and glamorous than my previous day jobs, such as Human Resources and Accounting Manager,  or Recruiter (no one ever thought those were “cool”). I have been *almost* full time as a designer of my womenswear line for about a year and a half now (“almost”, I did go back to work as a recruiter for a few months last year. But that’s another blog post). I’ve noticed that there are a few questions that I get asked frequently, so I thought I would answer them here.

“Do you sew everything yourself?”

No- I do sew my prototypes and samples, draft all my patterns, and sometimes cut styles in small quantities. But otherwise, I’m not a super fast sewer, and even with my small quantities (30 or more per style) – that’s way too much for me to sew efficiently. I am grateful to have a great sewing contractor located 2 miles from my studio. If I’m producing small quantities of a simple style, I will sometimes cut all of them, (as I recently did for the 3/4 sleeve version of our Katy top, below.)

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“Where do you get your ideas?”

An idea will often just pop in my head when I’m out on a walk or working out, and I don’t know where it comes from. Sometimes, I will choose a fabric swatch for inspiration and start sketching.  Sometimes I’ll start with a basic concept, like stripes, and doodle and see where that takes me (which is certainly the most fun way to get ideas). Now that I have produced several styles, a good starting point is to take existing silhouettes and edit them, rather than reinventing the wheel every time. I am currently working on a much needed outerwear design, and it’s fun to spend some good juicy creative time focusing on a totally new design, which I haven’t had time to do in a while.

“Did you study fashion at school?”

Yes.  A few years ago, I went back to school to study patternmaking and fashion design at Apparel Arts.  I loved it from day one – I like being creative while staying within the technical parameters of a garment. This was different than making art, where parameters are virtually nonexistent. I have an art background and I was stuck in a creative rut when I took some sewing lessons. I really enjoyed the lessons, and after they ended, I began sewing garments from commercial patterns.  I soon itched to learn more. I eventually ended up in school at Apparel Arts -and long story short, and Harumi K was born a few years later!

I hope you enjoyed this post – if you have any other questions about being a fashion designer, or any other questions or comments, please leave them in the comments below. For more frequent news and updates, please also check out my Facebook and Instagram pages. Thanks for reading!

 

5 Lessons From 2015

The year is almost over-how did THAT happen!?! So, it’s a good time to reflect on everything that happened this year.  I’m keeping it short and sweet- the good, the bad and the painful. Overall, it’s been a good year – with ups and downs, lots of learning, and making new friends. With that, I wish everyone a fabulous, healthy and happy New Year!

  1. Garment rack + El Nino = broken nose. While I was setting up for one of my last events of the year, I was moving my garment rack w/ several garment bags during a rainstorm, when a gust of wind knocked over my rack, and the edge of the rod nailed me right on the bridge of my nose. It was *quite* painful, and while I was grateful for the folks who helped me get my shit together, I realized a couple of minutes later that I was bleeding. I regrouped to my car and saw a 1/2 inch bloody gash and a bit of bruising. I cleaned myself up, took a few breaths, tried to laugh about it, and went on with the event.  It could’ve been worse right? I could’ve knocked out a tooth…or an eye…and I had a good story to share. Result: broken nose. Lesson: beware of inclement weather during events.
  2. Podcasts are a lifesaver on long drives. I drove solo to Los Angeles for the first time for an event this year, and loading up on podcasts was SO useful for keeping me entertained (and awake!). A variety of business based and fun ones make the miles fly by – some favorites: Judge John Hodgman (funny)  Online Marketing w/Amy Porterfield (useful marketing tips),  Welcome to Night Vale  (wierd/entertaining), and Launch Grow Joy (for creative entrepeneurs)
  3. Strength in numbers! I did a ton of different events this year to test the waters.  Some worked better than others, but I learned a lot from each of them. It’s always better to partner up and work with others than go solo, not just for the physical help with manual labor and set up,  but also for moral support (um, like when  you break your nose during set up!) I am grateful to know and have worked together with so many great people, especially with fellow creatives Maureen Shields and Margarette Laizure with whom I have shared many a booth this year – love you ladies!🙂

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    Pop up shop at Stanford Court Hotel in SF with Margarette Laizure and Juliet from Juliet’s Jewelry.

  4. You can’t do it all. Similar to #3, but relating to the day to day work of running a business – I had some help for the first time ever this summer with an intern for a couple of months, and it was a revelation! The fact that there was someone ELSE getting shit done for my business! Whoa! She left when she got a job, but I will definitely be seeking help again for the new year. (Thank you Jaime for your help, I truly appreciate it!) I learned that, not only can I not do it all, I shouldn’t, and am planning to outsource as much help as I can in the new year.
  5. Too much of a good thing…can be too much. I continue to be obsessed with quilted fabrics, and when one of my favorites was to be discontinued, I immediately ordered all of the remaining stock, not realizing how much space 150 yards of thick fabric would take up. When UPS came to my door with several fat, freaking huge bolts of fabric, I realized I may have made a mistake. My studio is virtually impassable due to the many yardages I have in stock (Marie Kondo would get a heart attack if she saw it…) I am slowly tidying and organizing everything right now, and am hoping to get a handle on my superabundance of fabric by January…wish me luck!