Behind the Scenes – Tawn’s First Fashion Show

It’s Saturday afternoon here in Bangkok and Tawn’s first fashion show, in which he’s participating after only two semesters of studying fashion design – begins in less than three hours.  I’ve spent a good portion of the day at Paragon mall, helping him get everything loaded in and documenting the process in the hopes that years from now where he’s a famous designer and they need to do a retrospective of his work, I’ll have some pictures they can use.

Just returned home to freshen up a bit before heading back to take pictures and video of the show.  Here are some sneak peak behind the scenes photos:

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Tawn organizes outfits as models (mostly Russian) chat.

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Lots of “hurry up and wait” during the rehearsals.

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After final dress rehearsal there is chaos backstage as designers make adjustments.  Here, Tawn, assisted by another student, adds padding to the model’s shoes so they fit better.

 Pictures and video in the next day or so.  Stay tuned!

 

Singapore Light Rail and New Urbanism

During a March visit to Singapore, I decided to ride the subway out to the nether reaches of the island to visit the light rail lines.  Singapore has three light rail lines that form four loops connecting to stations in the rail-based public transit network.  They were built with the express purpose of serving master-planned housing estates, giving residents a door-to-door rail service that allowed them to get around without increasing road-based traffic.

The light rail itself is clean and efficient, with the automated cars running regularly on elevated tracks that weave between housing towers.  Below is a video that overviews my experience on the system, including a startling discovery I made about how technology is used to solve a perhaps unforseen privacy problem.

Matters of urban planning and design have always interested me and for a short while in university I was an urban planning major.  Examples of transit-oriented land use, like the developments that surround the light rail lines in Singapore, make me think about ways that similar lessons could be applied in the United States.

Suburban Sprawl

A country with a plentitude of land, since World War II development in the US has been oriented towards the automobile, resulting in more and more sprawl and fewer and fewer neighborhoods where one can walk from home to anywhere useful.  With rising fuel prices and ever-increasing congestion on the roads, it amazes me that there has been continued resistance not only to public transit, but transit-oriented development.

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There are a few examples in the United States of what is sometimes called “New Urbanism”, a design philosophy that promotes more walkable and transit-friendly neighborhoods that include mixed use buildings – shops, businesses, and residences in the same general area.  Not unlike traditional older neighborhoods in an urban environment, there are small shops on the main streets, some apartments overhead or in the surrounding blocks, and then single-family dwellings set further back.  Orenco Station, a neighborhood in the Portland, OR area is a good example of this type of planning.

(Comparing the “suburban sprawl” photo earlier in this entry with the master plan for Orenco Station, you’ll notice that suburbia has a lot of dead-end streets, which means there’s always a long way to go to get out of the neighborhood.)

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Some defining elements of this new style of development include:

  • The neighborhood has a discernible center. This is often a square or a green and sometimes a busy or memorable street corner. A transit stop would be located at this center.
  • Most of the dwellings are within a five-minute walk of the center, an average of roughly ¼ mile or 1,320 feet (0.4 km).
  • There are a variety of dwelling types — usually houses, rowhouses, and apartments — so that younger and older people, singles and families, the poor and the wealthy may find places to live.
  • At the edge of the neighborhood, there are shops and offices of sufficiently varied types to supply the weekly needs of a household.
  • An elementary school is close enough so that most children can walk from their home. There are small playgrounds accessible to every dwelling — not more than a tenth of a mile away.
  • Streets within the neighborhood form a connected network, which disperses traffic by providing a variety of pedestrian and vehicular routes to any destination. The streets are relatively narrow and shaded by rows of trees. This slows traffic, creating an environment suitable for pedestrians and bicycles.
  • Parking lots and garage doors rarely front the street. Parking is relegated to the rear of buildings, usually accessed by alleys.

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As I look at these design elements, I see of list of things that have a whole lot of “pros” and very few, if any, “cons”.  While the US will never go the route of Singaporean style land use – there’s no comparable acquiesence to the wisdom of the government, for starters – it does seem that a more comprehensive approach to land use would benefit the United States and our quality of life in the decades to come.

Further reading: Interesting blog entry titled “Five Causes of Suckiness in American Architecture“.

 

Air Mail Stamps Part 2

In early February I shared 14 designs I had created for “air mail” stamps and stickers.  Since I’m a fan of letter writing, I thought it would be fun to have some diversity in terms of how I indicate that my letters and postcards should travel first class air mail.

You were all very generous in providing your feedback and after taking your feedback to heart, I selected two designs to turn into rubber stamps and four designs to turn into stickers.

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The marks of the rubber stamps (obviously)

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And the stickers.  The quality of the printing is pretty poor.  They just used adhesive paper run through a color laser printer.  But it is a good first batch and I’ll seek out a higher-quality printer in the future.  Considering that I now have something like 400 stickers, that won’t be anytime soon!

Now, as to the topic of letter writing, just a reminder that April is National Card and Letter Writing Month.  If you haven’t used this low tech way of staying in touch in a while, why not make it a point to sit down a write a few letters to friends and loved ones?

 

Land Use in Central Thailand

Why is traffic in Bangkok so bad?  This is a persistent question that has been at the back of my mind for the more than five years I’ve lived here.  As someone interested in urban design and land use, I always wonder: Is this traffic inevitable or could it have been avoided? 

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How does this…

While bicycling on the outskirts of the city last Sunday, I realized that part of the answer lies in looking at the historical land use patterns and how long, thin rice paddies that cut between canals have led to a network of roads that are insufficient to handle Bangkok’s more than six million residents.

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Turn into this…

While this realization is the result of consuming other people’s writing and observations and digesting them, it wasn’t until I was riding through an area that is actively undergoing the transformation from rice paddies to development that it became clear to me.

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And, eventually, become this?

The result is this six-minute video project, which I hope you’ll find interesting.

 

Chatuchak Weekend Market T-Shirts

One of the big tourist attractions in Bangkok is the Chatuchak (sometimes “Jatujak” or “JJ”) Weekend Market.  Open only on Saturdays and Sundays, this modern-day bazaar features thousands of vendors selling just about everything under the sun. 

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Last weekend we went there with a visiting friend to eat at Foon Talob, the popular fried chicken and green papaya salad restaurant.  (You can read an entry about Foon Talob here.)  Sadly, I think the chicken wasn’t as good as usual, somewhat greasy and soggy.  After the chicken, though, we did some shopping – something I almost never get involved in as shopping isn’t my thing and hot, crowded shopping is even less my thing.

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One thing that caught my eye were some of the t-shirt designs available at several shops.  I don’t know if all of these are unique to the vendors or if they are bought from some other source.  Generally, Chatuchak creates an opportunity for small designers to sell their own merchandise.  Sometimes, though, the vendors are simply selling products designed and produced by other people.

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This one, of a large foam monster seeking his “Number One” hand, made me laugh.  Who thinks of these things?

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This one I actually bought for 150 baht – about $5.  I like the way the elephants are drawn and the idea of using a giraffe to lift the elephant is funny.

 

Tawn’s Fashions – Voyage to Mercury Collection

As I think I have mentioned, my husband Tawn reverted to part-time work several months ago in order to return to school.  He is studying fashion design, something that has long been an interest of his and he is now exploring whether it could be more than an interest.  Family members and friends have been asking what he has been up to in his studies, so now that his semester midterms are over, he has graciously given me permission to share his progress with all of you.

The assignment in his “Collections 1” class was to create a fall collection of six looks that were strongly influenced by 1960s silhouettes and futurism and based on an astrological theme – the planet corresponding to your sign.  For the midterms, Tawn needed to share a mood board, technical drawings, illustrations, and a sketch book.  What follows are a look at the mood board, illustrations, and the six outfits.

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The sketch book, not shown here, is a tool the designer uses to capture ideas and inspirations as he or she goes about daily activities.  That gets translated into a mood board, the purpose of which is to communicate colors, pictures, fabrics, textures that will inform the collection. 

Tawn’s sign is associated with the planet Mercury, and as he viewed the planet he was inspired to look at “futuristic” as it was seen during the 1960s.  His influences included the famous model Twiggy, fabrics in neutrals such as black and white, with soft touches from tassels, silk, and feathers.

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This is the illustration that shows the overall theme of the collection.  You can see there are a variety of jackets, blouses, and an evening dress.  The purpose of the illustration is to communicate the larger vision of the project in a more concrete way.

As part of the project, he had to identify who he was designing for.  Who is the woman who would buy his clothes?  This was easy for him to understand because as a public relations professional, he is used to defining target audiences for his clients’ campaigns.  In this case, the target woman was an urban professional in her 30s living in London.

Since a collection should tell a story, Tawn created an imaginary story of two women taking a voyage to Mercury with side trips to Uranus and Pluto.  These were analogies to the experiences his target customer would have – working a long day in an office and then having to go out for dinner or a night on the town, wearing outfits that could effortlessly be adapted to the different environments.

Six outfits emerged from this story:

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Outfit Number One – This is the outfit that Twiggy would wear while traveling to Mercury.  The pencil pants provide comfort while the jacket provides structure.  The key piece is the bell-sleeved jacked with a texture that is similar to coarse salt to add visual interest.  The one-shoulder blouse provides a modern look and glamor that is revealed when the jacket is removed.  The scarf has a signature print that appears throughout the collection, suggestive of the hidden life that may lie underneath Mercury’s cold and dry exterior.

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Outfit Number Two – For women who have to go out to work and meetings, they need something that looks elegant and formal – clean cut lines with a black jacket and pencil skirt.  The blouse, done in the signature print, is very 60s secretarial with a feminine bow.  The jacket sleeves, while smaller than the ones on the first outfit, still have a distinctive bell shape.  The look is accessorised with a dark green stingray belt and dark green jade bracelets.

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Outfit Number Three – The bell shape theme continues but expands to the entire shoulder of a wool jacket gathering in pleats around the waist.  It is a gradient from white to light gray around the waist and then back to white at the hem.  The one-piece dress underneath is a comfortable but well structured Cashmere wool with a three-quarter length sleeve.  The accessory is a dark green jade breastplate necklace.

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Outfit Number Four – The look becomes more relaxed, something she would wear for Sunday brunch before heading out to an afternoon excursion.  The knit sweater has a shawl-like collar, bulky and comfortable.  The top is similar to the one-piece dress in the previous outfit but with a wide collar that shows the tops of the shoulders.

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Outfit Number Five – This is the transition to evening wear, a cocktail dress that sees the one-shoulder dress return with an integrated single-sleeve mesh blouse.  The wool jacket is inspired by Jackie O, lined with silk and decorated with the salt texture but done in medium to dark gray. 

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Outfit Number Six – The final look is a formal evening dress, called “Fly Me to Mercury”.  Decorated with ostrich feather epaulets as well as ostrich feathers on the lower portion of the skirt, this dress is elegant with small pleats on the torso that spread out to follow the silhouette of the body.  Long gloves and the signature print scarf complete the look.

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The final two illustrations were additional graphics Tawn created to present to his class.  He wanted to convey the collection in a lighthearted way, playing off the idea of paper dolls from the 1960s. 

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The story is of his muses, Twiggy and Emily, taking a voyage to Mercury.  He could see this concept being used in a magazine photo shoot, a whimsical way to present the collection.

So that is what Tawn has been up to.  Now, if we can scrape up $2,000 or so, he could actually make prototypes of these outfits.   Well, we’ll wait until his pattern-making class is complete!