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.


For the past few months, I’ve been heavily interested in knits and their behavior. Woven, skins (leather), and knits behave so differently. We design students are primarily trained on wovens, but Americans mostly wear knits. I don’t knit yet — I crochet. I like its sequential, stitch-by-stitch nature. It reminds me of my old Calculus 3 classes in engineering school… the potential for graceful curves on a computer-generated graph. (Turns out that some mathematicians/crochet enthusiasts think the same way)

Paired with my knit fascination is a recent obsession with wool. Wool is like magic. A 2-D piece of fabric can be coaxed and steamed to perfectly fit a 3-dimensional body. This is why bespoke tailors love wool so much. You can even add heat, water, and friction, and the fibers will inextricably bind themselves together, forming felt.

I’ve been experimenting with math, wool, and crochet lately. I want to create fabrics that don’t lie flat. I want to be capable of machine-knitting exactly the shape I want. Fabrics that literally mold over the body, instead of stretching over it.

In another life, I might have been/become a topologist, but my present brain looks at anything with an integral symbol and shudders. :) I like crochet (and knitting, what little I know about it) because I can readily see it programmed (which many companies do). My experiments have yielded some interesting results:

This is an experiment with ratios in double crochet (American system), in acrylic yarn. The first row has twice as many stitches as the foundation chain. I continued in this way for one more row. For about a third of the next row, I increased x1.5 stitches (up to the orange marker). For another third, I didn’t increase at all (up to the green marker). And for the final third, I decreased x1.5 stitches. (Hopefully that all made sense… )

Not bad for a first try... :)

On my next experiment, I used a gray wool “tweed” yarn, crocheting in the round. I increased each row x phi, or 1.618… or the golden ratio. I sort of expected a sphere, but I got a disk instead. After a few rows, I decreased by phi until I got a small hole. I threw the little thing into the washer and dryer to felt it, and imagine my surprise…!

A wonderful little seed pod shape. Appropriate, considering how often the golden ratio appears in plant life.

or an exotic fruit shape. Or a rare flower. Or a brain. Or...

On the way back to NYC, I attempted to achieve a specific shape. A simple shape nonetheless, but one that is integral to the sculptural, freeform dress designs that I was churning out late December (more on that later).

Pulling a Miyake on this one...

After a couple false starts, I achieved this abstract, bulging triangle by single crocheting the outer thirds, half-double crocheting the middle third, and decreasing by one on each row. “Think of what needs to grow or shrink,” I wrote in my notebook while figuring out the stitch pattern.

You can see what I was going for in the sketch on the left.

I had so much fun playing with this on the airplane after I was finished… my row-mate must have thought me mad. :) It’s interesting how it tends to curl.

The first few rows of single crochet, curling. Maybe I'm doing something weird at the end of each row... :/ I understand this is what blocking is for, but I want to understand this behavior.

It’s a humble little shape, but figuring this out was just what I needed to put my designs to the next level… I think.

With the bottom rows "flipped" downward.

I can’t wait to see how this one felts…

I encourage you, dear reader, to experiment with this as well. If you’re industry and you can give me some insight on how to automate this sort of thing (so far all I can imagine is to link WholeGarment knitting machines with Matlab programs somehow :/ ), I would really appreciate it. Heck, hire me and we can experiment together.

Love and Blessings,

Naomi R.

End of Semester Projects

Hello again, friends. I’ve spent the last few months sewing, designing, sketching, and experimenting like a mad scientist. xD The first semester in design school ended beautifully – I ended up with quite a few complements from professors…. including a design  my illustration prof encourages me to patent. :)

First, I’ll whet your appetite with my Flat Pattern Design I term project – a dress I designed, drafted, cut, and sewed in the space of 2 weeks.

(Remember to click for larger pictures!!)

This dress is called "Pantoinette" - inspired by paper doll depictions of French Royalty during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The patterns are based on standard size 10 slopers we developed in class over the semester.

The dress is in two parts: "jacket" and "stomacher". The stomacher attaches underneath the jacket with 6 snaps and 6 antique buttons.

The bodice is based on an armhole princess line, and the skirt is an extreme "bubble" style, with added gathers, netting, and padding at the hips and hem to achieve a Rococo-like style. By no means was I going for "period" style - Rococo was simply the "feel" I tried to attain.

Our requirements were simple: using the theme "paper dolls", create an original dress or skirt-blouse outfit. It needed a collar, sleeve, appropriate facings, and working buttonholes, all in a cotton blend fabric. We only needed to create half a garment...

... but I ended up creating a fully-lined, two-piece dress, ready to wear out the door. (with an extra petticoat, if you wish :) )

I worked very hard to make the "japonaise" cotton fabric match at the center back. I originally wanted to include a watteau pleat in addition to the bubbled hem (a-la Christian Dior S2008/Couture), but I didn't want to over-complicate the project.

Somehow, the waist grew while I was drafting. I imagine it had to do with the exaggerated hip line and the front opening. Overall, I like how it turned out... I was even able to wear it to a costume ball last weekend. :)

As much joy this project gave me, I found that I disliked the style after I completed it. I mean, yes it is a costume in every sense of the word. But my sense of style has changed so quickly over the past two months. I rarely wear Lolita anymore. I wear as much Men’s clothing as I do Women’s. My standards of fit, construction, and design have gone beyond what I am currently capable of (though that’s about to change).

I’ve transformed from a lover of frills to an Appreciator of Absence.

While sketching one night, over the course of an hour, both my illustration style and design sense changed radically. I went from realism and forced-looking jackets to abstract lines and proportions, with fabric manipulations I’m really not sure how to do yet, but that I now know are possible (thanks to the Miyakes, Yamamotos, and Kawakubos of the fashion world). When I get back to New York (and a bigger flatbed scanner), I will share this two-month journey with you, highlighting where Everything Changed.

Oh, I’ll be volunteering at some of the F/W 2011 Fashion/Market Week events next month. I’ll bring back tales of The Real World and let you know what goes on behind all the flash and glamour. I promise you, fashion design is not just drawing pretty dresses….

Love and Blessings,

Naomi R.

Hey all, I’ve been pretty busy with contest work and projects… and I got a cold on Thursday night. >_< But after spending all of Friday resting, I bring you a fresh crop of amazing fashion from the Flea Market today! :3

I keep meeting the most awesome people here. I glimpsed a Comic-con badge on one of the visitors as he was leaving.  (Perhaps he was stopping by in between panels. xD)  I’d love to go, but maybe next year I’ll have the extra cash…

Punk/Goth is one of my most consistent sources of inspiration. This man caught my eye just as we were coming in to the market. He works in fashion, too. :)

I love Benny's style - casual elegance meets 80's New Wave. Apparently his weekend style is usually much more over the top!! He works as a podiastrist.

Stephan Keating wears one of his custom-made masks everywhere he goes. The complex brass joints and welded circuitry make a shocking contrast with his "normal" clothes - "as though I was in a car accident", he chuckled. I think his style is a perfect blend of Metropolis and good-ol Steampunk.

He let me try it on, too. :3

Of course, the flea market isn’t the only place to find epic street wear in NYC. It’s not as localized here as is in, say, Tokyo, but you never have to go far to find something interesting…

Thomas is a fellow student here at FIT. Most of his wardrobe is either vintage or carefully-chosen retail. He's a huge fan of steampunk and army memoribilia.

And that’s all I have for today. I’m getting more confident asking people for their pictures – so expect even more awesomeness in the future!!

Love and Blessings,

Naomi R.


Falling in Love

… with this city and a famous designer’s work from the past 26 years.

A few days ago, I visited some of the flea markets on 25th street, including a really big, amazing one in a parking garage. I found a cloche hat that actually fit me, rows and rows of paper ephemera, Chinese-themed nick-nacks, and some wonderfully-dressed people:

This lovely young lady was kind enough to let me take her photo. And yes, her dress is vintage. :3

This man's mix-and-match style and attitude really caught my eye. And you gotta love that crazy belt buckle... xD

Back shot! I love the details on his shirt and jeans. Beautiful!

The lovely sir at this booth is man after my own heart. I love the quiet creepiness of these dilapidated Clown automata and dismembered dolls. For more delightfuls, check http://www.loandbeholdantiques.com

I came away from that flea market with a mind full of inspiration. Almost as much as I did when I started to learn about John Galliano. Funny enough, he trained as an architect and has had his own version of a roller coaster life, but ultimately ending up as one of the most unique, influential designers in the business today. I suppose that’s encouraging to me, who started out as an engineering major and is definitely living on a wing and prayer (lots and lots of prayers).

Actually, I’m pretty behind on the whole “who’s who” in fashion thing. I’m just now learning the difference between Dior, Givenchy, and Balenciaga. Up till now, I only knew that certain people were famous, and I like Alexander McQueen’s work, and that’s about it. Now I’ve learned that I love Martin Margiela, adore Kawakubo (and co.), and that I am gradually saving up for some Manolo Blahnik shoes with a matching Steven Jone’s hat. xD

I’ll do a more proper blog post on my newest fashion obsession at some point, but there’s a Lolita Picnic article still waiting to be written. ^^;

I love you all!