Clothing Hangers 101

 

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Happy new year! I’m guessing that like me, many of you like to start the new year by cleaning out and organizing your closet. While you’re at it, you may want to revisit your hanger situation.

I recently got rid of all of my plastic hangers and replaced them with my favorite all purpose hanger – velvet covered ones. They are essential for wider necklines and slippery fabrics that slip off of plastic or wood hangers, and they are lightweight but strong. I use these hangers from Amazon and they are sturdy and have held up schlepping from event to event. Padded hangers are ideal for delicate items like silk tops and lingerie, though they take up a lot more room.

Joan Crawford had it right – no wire hangers, ever!! The ones you get from the dry cleaner? Try upcycling them into something useful: http://www.instructables.com/id/11-Uses-for-a-wire-coat-hanger/

For trousers, use a sturdy clamp hanger and hang them upside down to preserve creases. Make sure it clamps very tightly – I find that my skirts tend to slip out of my clamp hangers, so you should try out a few. Otherwise, use hangers with clips to hang pants and skirts right side up.

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Are your scarves in a balled up jumble in the back of your closet like me? I plan to pick up a scarf hanger so I can actually see all of the scarves I own!

Do you have closet organizing tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

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Style a Dress From Work to Party in 60 Seconds

It’s that time of year – lots of parties and opportunities to get dressed up. You want to look cute at your holiday work party, but you don’t want to drag an outfit with you on the subway, and changing at the office bathroom isn’t ideal. Here are a few ideas to take a work appropriate dress, swap out accessories and you’ve got a (almost) whole new look for cocktails! Here, we have the Daisy dress from the Harumi K holiday collection. It’s made from a stretch ponte rayon with a quilted skirt  – it’s sleek, chic and you will be comfortable wearing it all day (and night!) (from OKO Handbags). We’ve added pops of color with the orange earrings (from the La Clotherie vintage collection) and clutch and patent yellow belt. The dress is a great canvas for a myriad of accessories that you have in your closet and jewelry box.

heather_dressNow to add a bit of glam to dress it up for the party? Here are a couple pics of yours truly before a recent cocktail party I hosted for the Oakland Fashion Network. I took the same dress in another color, and added a statement necklace (courtesy of La Clotherie), a black bow belt (from my vintage stash), lacy hose and gold pumps (which I lasted barely 2 hours in, because they hurt like a MOTHER!)

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There are so many different looks you can achieve with one dress and just switching out the accessories that you already own. Hope that you’ve been inspired to create a new look this holiday season! Interested in more tips, news on events, contests and more? Like us on Facebook or Instagram, and sign up on our e-mail list for first dibs on sales, contests  and more. The dresses featured above are available at select Bay Area boutiques including Urban Stitch, Secession Art & Design, and Gather.

And wishing you all a happy new year!!

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!

Spin workout

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!