Naomi’s art, design, and writing is now housed at tumblr.

See everyone there.

(Even) nerdier than thou

Hay guise! I started a tumblr, to chronicle my design research. Right now I am working on two projects (or possibly two aspects of one), both of which I elaborated on last post. I’m going to keep adding as the discourse becomes more complex and as I gather more information. : )

Enjoy, all!


“Like the Boys”

I had quite a summer – I made quite a few excellent things, which I’ll be posting one-by-one as I get satisfactory pictures. I’m back at school, which means it’s time to spend hours of free time in library and walk for miles in Meatpacking, SoHo, and East Village. :) I’ve been assigned a major project: I am to choose a design company with at least two selling points in the city – each selling at different market levels, pick one of those markets, and design/illustrate a hypothetical line for it. I’ve chosen the Japan-based Comme Des Garcons brand, because it will be a fun challenge and it meets all the requirements.

I visited the two stand-alone shops CDG has in New York – the shop staff is famously friendly. I’ve been to each place a couple of times before and have never bought anything, but they always answer my questions and love to chat about design. This time, with a specific goal in hand, they even recommended books and gave me a mini-tour of the lines, explaining target customers, design sense, etc.

This is the NYC flagship store. The front is covered in street art (with new additions often) and is famously hard to find. You only realize something is here/different if you know what to look for...

...which in a way sums up CDG's entire design philosophy. This is the tunnel door. :)

"Black" is CDG's lower-priced "basics" line. Only the clothes are not so basic. Dropped-crotch pants, boiled and object-dyed garments, and classic CDG details abound.

Originally, the standalone "Black" stores were only supposed to be open for a year, but the concept worked so well they added "Edited" to the name and kept them open.

Right now, my favorite aspects of CDG design are deliberate “problems” (jackets washed or bleached after construction, seams and entire garment sections turned inside-out or swapped, etc.), innovative use of both new and old garment (and sometimes industrial) technologies, and a unique sense of beauty in the “ugly” or deformed.

CDG Editorial for SS1997 "Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body" (aka "Lumps and Bumps")

AW 1983-84 Runway pic - French-braided sweater

I notice that the shop staff are pretty sensitive to the types of descriptors I used for the clothes. They preferred “different” to “unusual” or “strange”. There are those of us who cherish the unusual — but they’ve got clothes to sell. : )

So far, I have a few ideas for my design project, involving dip-boiled suits, displaced shoulder pads (which CDG has done before), and a developing concept about the nature of uniforms. Uniforms simultaneously induce conformity, but also set a group apart. This reminds me of street fashion and “style tribes”, with organically-produced “rules” and recognizable details that are often appropriated by the mainstream. Right now I’m studying the Cintas website and this excellent online collection of airline steward uniforms for common patterns and rules. I’ll write more about this later. : )

Our second-to-last pattern-making project centered around the Dolman sleeve block. This project involved some of my favorite design details (like the in-seam pockets). As an experiment, I also created a hood that flowed into the body as a collar. Next time I’ll angle the hood more towards the front of the body… this one just wanted to fall down.

The latest fashion for Sith lords. xD

I actually like the ripply effect here... on the mannequin. I don't think it'll work on a real person. -_-;

I'm afraid the back isn't terribly attractive. I don't think it's just the muslin... I was trying to create a round silhouette and it came out as long flares. Oh well, next time I know what to do.

For our final non-final-project project (lawl), we worked with the shawl collar block. After seeing a wicked jacket at Atelier (I swear, one day I will attain that level of design confidence), I decided to implement one of my sketchbook ideas from last semester – a partially cut-on, partially set-in sleeve. Oh, and the seam twists around the arm too. >:D Thank you Pattern Magic…

A "backwards" shawl collar - it stands up and away from the body, rather than flat against it. And oh, yeah, even more in-seam pockets. (They're easy to draft, okay??)

A much more successful back. You can see the seam twist above the elbow area.

Graceful curves and corners. Here you can see the sleeve turning into a set-in over the shoulder. Next time I'll use a sleeve board to press the thing, tho...

The only major problem with this pattern is the wrist – it’s too small. This is one of the few muslins I made this semester that I actually want to make up in real fabric. Some bulky wool that will really show off the seams…

I’d appreciate your honest feedback on these! I’m pretty proud of them, but that usually means I’m going to dislike them in a year as much as my other designs. I need an educated eye to help me improve on these. Thank you so much, in advance. :)

Love and Blessings,


Naomi Reyes

For my Flat Pattern Design II final project, as a challenge to myself, I added some special limits: each garment would be composed of ONE piece of fabric, with ONE seam holding it together, plus facings and closures.

And I did just that. :)

Front of the Outfit

I figured an asymmetric back closure would suit the overall design.

Jacket laid flat, with "spiral-shawl" collar (I had to break my "one-seam" rule here to satisfy the project requirements) and facings sewn.

Shorts laid flat. Yeah, it looks more like a manta ray than a garment. xD

The shorts zipped up and pinned up, ready to sew.

I also made a video with me  sewing the jacket’s one seam. :)

Yes, I realize that this isn’t the prettiest or the most marketable jacket and suit. It’s not even the most sustainable design (actually, sort of the opposite). In fact, it’s sort of gimmicky. But this experiment represents some of my design ideals. I appreciate challenges, not so much “outside the box” — rather, a different box, a box of my own choosing. Learning the rules – in order to eventually break them – shows you what the real rules are and why they’re there. Hopefully, as I keep breaking the rules, my design sense and technical/business skills will keep up. I do want to sell these things at some point… xD

I have a couple more experiments to show you from the last month or so… so yah, stay tuned. :)

-Naomi R.

Click here for Naomi J. Reyes’s Spring 2011 Portfolio

Includes Illustration, Sewing, Patternmaking, and Draping work.

Feel free to explore the rest of this site for more examples of my past work.

I was poking around The Fox is Black blog – They posted this yesterday.  Some pretty brilliant artwork by a mister Shan Jiang going on the back of this skateboard. Poked his website – he’s pretty popular apparently, doing illustrations for the Colette store in Paris.

Now I am NOT criticizing this specific artist or this specific work, but the illustration and the Bearbrick and Kaws characters looming over Paris reminded me of something. A conversation from today, in fact. I was talking with a lady at the flea market – I bought my wear-everywhere Yohji Yamato jacket (it’s actually Y’s but whatever) from her a few months ago and aaaalllmost bought a cool shirt today – and we started talking about shopping. Don’t run away… just stay with me…

I’ve been really intrigued by Franca Sozzani and her recent interview.  In it, Ms. Sozzani talks about the recent “flatness” of digital photography and fashion design. You can’t really tell who made it until you look at the label, because much of it looks the same. Quality does not necessarily correlate with cost anymore.

The lady at the flea market (I really must get her name ^^; ) agreed. “I don’t even remember the last time I shopped retail. That’s why I shop here [at the flea market].” I think customers will start to demand higher quality garments across the board (except budget level), because we’re tired of crap clothes that won’t even last a year. She complained about even big brands producing in China (geography isn’t really the quality problem tho…) and mills disappearing in the US (really more true for New York, actually), but that’s not the point. The point was her question: “But even if you had a wardrobe full of all the clothes you really NEEDED, would that really stop you from shopping more?”

My answer? “I… well… No. It wouldn’t.”

America is the first post-industrial society in the world and we are the world’s target market. For a long time now, everyone’s wanted to sell to Americans because we love buying things. Consumption (and management, I guess) is our main function on the world stage.

Which brings me back to art and design.

So much brilliant creativity and ingenious design is produced in order to – you guessed it – sell things. Now, what I’m trying to figure out is if this is a bad thing? Humans need extra things to survive and thrive, and designers help make these extra things beautiful and pleasant to be around. But I think we’ve been over-focused on the act of consumption. For quite a while there, you “needed” visible brands (wow, just think of the word. “To brand” o_o ) to make you cool. To announce your social status and tastes to all the world. Even Yohji put his name on the outside of his clothes for a while there (it was kinda surreal seeing in person – he’s usually such a quiet designer.) Fashion has become the ultimate example of planned obsolescence.

I realized that as I rifled through the flea market racks, I was checking the labels on each piece that intrigued me. I was only marginally interested in status and, admittedly, only a little more in fiber content. I was looking for names to associate with excellence. Who has done something awesome? Why, exactly, was Helmut Lang brilliant? Ooh, never heard of this, I should look it up… The flea market is my second education – my weekend class. I am quite ready to admit that I am very far behind on fashion history and VERY far out of the loop in pop culture in general. Logically, my predictions should be foolishness. But…

Maybe it’s self-confirmation bias, but I and Ms. Sozzani are not the only people who see a huge change on the horizon. Customers are about to demand things that this industry is not ready to give to them. I believe that small design companies will grow even more important –  perhaps, for the first time in decades, on a regional scale. You don’t need to sell at every major department store to be successful… maybe just a few local boutiques. Or a few websites that are “local” to each-other in terms of style and aesthetic.

Like Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, I find it disorienting to be on this side of the question. “Hey, I’m an artist – I work to create beauty. Money or ‘selling’ shouldn’t be part of the equation. So why is it?” I realize that I often  write snippets of business plan, marketing technique, and other little realizations in my sketchbooks. Walt Disney wasn’t an entirely cool guy, but like him, I aim to “make money to make movies” (or in my case, awesome clothes). Money is our current society’s most efficient way of spreading around a physical product. It’d be pretty awesome to have open-source fashion of a sort (actually, Mary Huang is doing something a bit like it). I suppose BurdaStyle‘s free, printable patterns are close, but not enough people sew to truly democratize fashion (then again, not everyone codes UNIX either. xD ) SO! I learn and master the current fashion cycle model, play the game for a while, and break where and when its right, and hopefully, my audience will follow. Hopefully I can create something beautiful and well-made and accessible in the process.

I think that we are about to hit another 80’s. 70’s-like, we’ve been languishing in this recession, with a few industries (like fashion) desperately holding  on to old “trendsetting” modalities.  And it has survived… barely. And hey guess what guys, it’s PARTY TIME again and everyone’s sparkly and kira kira except for a few excellent, visionary designers working in the shadows. And I don’t say this  just because I hate 80’s fashion. Those strong women with substantial shoulders, cropped hair, and relaxed dolman sleeves of the Antonio illustrations were really beautiful.

Illustration by Antonio for Linea, March 1985 issue

Illustration by Antonio for Linea, March 1985 issue. Courtesy Fashion Institute of Technology Library - Fashion Files

Art Deco had a nice revival then. Avant garde design finally grasped the spotlight in the 80’s and 90’s. Fashion will both never and always be where it “should” be. Just ask James Laver. We’re going 70’s-80’s-90’s again, but in the space of a few years instead of decades, but hey, that the singularity for you. xD I’m so far out of the loop that this has probably been happening right now, under my internet nose. But I want to find it and be part of it. Now’s my chance. So I create and make and put the work here, for everyone to see. And I wonder, and I invite you all wonder with me.

Love and Blessings,

Naomi R.

I recently completed a major design presentation project. The assignment: design and illustrate a small coordinating collection of 3 coats and 2 suits (skirt or pants).

Click for high res.

It was refreshing to have some free reign on a design project for once. (Our previous assignment was a spring/summer J. Crew line – useful experience, but not terribly exciting). I’ve been learning a lot about some of the major Japanese designers, so this “ode” is more of an homage to their late 70s “crow tribe” fanbase.

I’d love some constructive critique on this, especially on execution and balance of the figures. I am working towards a style that is both pretty to look at an informative to, say, a tech designer or a patternmaker. Actually, looking at it in thumbnail form, I’m already starting to see a couple places worthy of improvement…




Mercury and…

I would like to get more consistent about posting here, so I will post photos of my successful muslins here each week after they have been graded.

In terms of design (not execution, unfortunately), this is my favorite so far: the “Solace” dropped shoulder jacket.


I aimed to gently “fade” a pleat on the body into a seam on the sleeve. It worked, but next time I’ll sew it differently. Note the collar transition.

I’ve been wanting to try something with subtle pleating for a while now. This project was my chance.

The back. Next time, I’ll put some interfacing in the collar to make it more structural.
The back of the shoulder. I’d like to make the curved seam going down the shoulder look more “intentional” next time.
Another view of the sculpted shoulder.
This garment looks much better worn. You can see the shaped wrist opening pretty well here. (Yay for discreet 3-sided mirror shots. :) )
A view of the neckline when worn. The curved stand effect is clearer here.

Perhaps I am being naive by highlighting all my mistakes here, “naming” my cuts (I’m not quite ready to start assigning style numbers), or by even posting it all here in the first place. But I like to share, I am proud of my work, and I love to document.

I do not seek inspirations. I seek information, references, skills, levels to aspire to. Again, this is design, not decoration. Nor marketing. Nor branding. Nor fashion shows with famous models. All that can come later. Right now, I need to absorb as much as I can from the greats (maybe I’ll ask for a day to look at the museum’s permanent collections…) and hone my own cutting and execution skills. I want to be a manufacturer who is capable of couture. I seek the level of Yamamoto, Galliano (yes, him too), Miyake, Rucci, Balenciaga, Toledo… with the philosophy of Margiela. Or Takahashi. Or Kawakubo. (Or even my own.) I wish to be like Steele, Simonton, Naoto, Richard and Michael… people for whom fashion keeps them young. Callused hands and laughing eyes…



En Gris

New semester, new paradigm. I am shedding old habits that were holding me back, one by one. Since October, my design style has radically shifted — from baroque costumery to experimental, almost minimalistic garments. My new draping professor is incredible – he really *teaches* and motivates everyone in class to put their best into their projects. Here’s some of my work from the past month and a half…


First "creative" (i.e. self-directed) project for this semester's draping class. I'm trying a "cocoon" silhouette... really "getting away" from the body for the first time.

I combined several techniques that were new to me. After reading "Pattern Magic", I tried a "crater" effect for the outside of the cut-on pockets. (You can see the back of the garment in the mirror on the left of the photo.)

Funnel neckline with raglan sleeves. Proportions need some tweaking, but not bad for first try.

The back neck would have looked so cool if the "crater" didn't look more like a "growth". Le Sigh. v_v

This "Swoosh" jacket was for my patternmaking class. Going for more subtlety in this one. Needs shoulder pads, but I like the design.

The jacket hem and sleeves were designed to follow one continuous plane, angled up from front to back. The "princess kimono" seams were arched and exaggerated, and the neckline was subtly bubbled.

*swoosh* :)

I'd really like to try this concept again, perhaps with the "swoosh" going from left to right. This pattern was actually quite challenging to draft... perhaps I over-complicated it, but I loved the challenge.

Right now, I have two more similar projects going, both due next week. I can’t wait to get back to working on them… :D

Lately, I’ve been idealizing people like Buddhist monks and elegant old women, taking on elements of their styles and (mostly imagined) characters. As of yesterday, my hair is shorter than it’s ever been. I only really want to wear long wool  skirts and comfy old cardigans from the flea market. I bought my first “designer” piece (actually from a diffusion line but whatever)… and now I understand ready-to-wear. My Y’s/Yohji Yamamoto jacket is second-hand, it’s designed for a man, but the fit and quality are impeccable, and I wear it almost every day.

Good design makes you want to *earn* it. It makes you grin when people notice it. And I’m not talking about Louis Vuitton purses. I’m talking about execution, subtle detail, and quality materials that *mold* to the body when you use them. Objects that glow with inner warmth, not added sheen. Garments that are at once functional, elegant, versatile, and visionary. Fast-fashion is over. Cheap crap is done with. I want to create designs one-by-one and manufacture them with love and passion, instead of churning out 60 designs that look just like each-other (and just like the other guy’s) twice, thrice, even four times a season. I choose to create objects of value, not expensive status symbols. I choose design, not decoration.

I choose excellence.