Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Vintage Glamour

Top: photo by William Eggleston, Bottom: photo by Serge Lutens from TFS

Monday, April 27, 2009

Images from the book 'Odilon Redon: Beyond the Visible'

I'm only beginning to discover what an amazing artist Redon is. He's skilled in using chalk pastels, charcoal, oil paint AND does etching as well. It's amazing to me as I can't handle any of these mediums particularly well. I should try harder. He's also a brilliant colourist, though his noirs (monochrome charcoal renderings) are equally skillful.

I don't talk much about current affairs on this blog, but the outbreak of swine flu has got me worried. I'm going to California in the fall for studies, where there's been cases reported, and I sure hope everything clears up before then. I even had horror-stricken thoughts of a global pandemic, with everyone staying at home and people not being able to go to school locally much less overseas.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I've been consumed by American Idol fever. The last time I seriously followed it was... I don't know when. In my schooling days I really had little time for TV. Who's my current favourite? It may or may not surprise, but it's Matt Giraud (followed by Adam). I really appreciate his gravel-ly voice and his type of music, that blend of R&B/soul/soft rock. It's what I'll listen to. I also think that he has a great recording voice as his studio versions are always nice. His earlier songs- Human Nature, Let's Get It On etc.- were all hits for me. I'm impressed by how he manages to make old favourites like Part-Time Lover and Stayin' Alive current. I really get a sense of the difference in the arrangement through the studio recording of Stayin' Alive.

What I admire the most is the fact that he learnt to play the piano only about five years ago by himself. This just affirms my belief that it's never too late to get into something. Some people my age act like half their lives are already over and it's too late to do what they really want.

I guess I see a parallel between my situation and those of people with a passion for making music. In any type of creative endeavour, one has to be prepared for being ignored until, hopefully, success arrives. Some American Idol contestants have been playing in clubs and bars for years, getting little recognition until their big break arrived in the form of the show.

It seems that I don't always come across as someone with a strong interest in music when in fact I think I am. I'm inspired both by the music of the past and that of the present, though I grew up listening and dancing to the 'oldies'. I listen to a wide mix of genres, but those I particularly like are soft rock and jazz. I'm not so crazy about pure pop. I sing a little, like when the songs are playing, but it's not a conscious thing I do.

Lately I've been reliving the music of Savage Garden (boy, do I remember them in the 90s) and getting into this Japanese group called KinkiKids. The name makes them sound like some youth band, but it's actually two singers who are about 30 years old or so from a region in Japan called Kinki (yes, no naughty thoughts). I think they are distinctive in the Japanese pop scene because they're not so much singers as musicians and seasoned performers. They know how to play instruments and write their own songs.

Is it just me, or does anyone else find disco groovy and fun, albeit in a slightly cheesy way? Some people seem to absolutely abhor the return of disco in any form. I think disco is great in its own way because it's harmless fun and it doesn't have any pretensions- it just wants you to get up and dance. In fact, I really like a particular disco song, Love in the First Degree by Bananarama. I gotta say this- I also loved the group disco performance by the American Idol contestants. I think Matt and Adam are the best dancers of the bunch, and Danny is actually pretty good in some parts, which shows that all one needs for disco dancing is a healthy dose of enthusiasm. By the way, I thought Matt's dancing in Stayin' Alive was cool. He seems to have natural groove. Anoop and Kris are cute, but should probably stick to singing :)

I'm excited about the theme, Rat Pack standards, of the coming week's American Idol. I think I'll like that particular genre being performed. I enjoy it when the contestants do well because it means that I'll have nice music to listen to. Hopefully this will be a good week. And TWO songs per contestant! Woohoo!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Past Fashion- Balenciaga

from TFS
I deeply admire the work of Cristobel Balenciaga, one of fashion's great masters from the past. He developed striking silhouettes and cuts that carried over to today, especially noticeable in the Balenciaga label. I particularly like the controlled volume and clean cuts that are the features of the garments and the contrast between the florals and graphic prints. In fact, Balenciaga is still one of my favourite brands and I think Nicholas Ghesquiere has managed to retain the essence of Cristobel's aesthetic while making it modern. Even though past fashion might seem out-of-date, there is much to admire and learn from it. Other than Balenciaga, I enjoy viewing the threads of vintage Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent as well.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Childhood memories

Very interesting photos by Brock Davis; I like their painterly quality and clever use of reflections.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I've been trying to do figure and fashion drawings so that I won't be caught unprepared when I enter Otis. The complicated-looking diagrams you see are my attempts to draw the female figure proportionately. Basically, I analyse poses in magazines and sketch out what the body might look like under the clothes.
After some practice, I attempted to do a fashion illustration which didn't turn out very well. Firstly I was severely limited by the number of Copic marker colours I have (flesh tones aren't one of them). So I had to use watercolour pencils for the skin which wasn't good at all. I realise that thick black marker outlines aren't suitable for realistically-rendered drawings, but I wanted to practise my gestural strokes and I do not have a suitable thin black pen. One thing I actually quite like is the gold-embroidered denim vest. It looks somewhat cute and realistic I think.
I watched a few videos online and they're quite helpful. Something I don't get is the ink/ paint that people apply with a Q-tip. What sort is that? I'm feeling very stupid here because I tried to dab some Copic marker ink on the head of a cotton bud and smear it but it didn't work. Oh, and I'm wondering if Prisma colour pencils are different from normal colour pencils. Also, how to make skin not look fake, including obtaining the right shade?
Maybe I should sign up for an elementary dressmaking course. And buy more art supplies. Oh dear, I'm feeling very poor now.
My favourite quote from The Alchemist:

"I had a dream, and I met with a king. I sold crystal and crossed the desert. And, because the tribes declared war, I went to the well, seeking the alchemist. So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you."

----- Santiago

If you think about it, many things in life are the culmination of a series of events. If you were to remove a single link in the chain, things might not turn out the way they have and you would not be the person you are now. In this sense, everything good that has happened to you is actually a miracle, as innumerable factors must play in your favour for it to occur. You may call it luck, or you may call it fate. In any case, it simply reaffirms how precious love is.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I finally got round to reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho yesterday. It turned out to be the perfect book for me now. Paulo Coelho possesses a unique philosophy and view of the world, which emerges in his stories. He is not so much religious as spiritual, and I can click with that because I feel the same way. I believe in a god, higher force or being which unites all of us, and I believe that one does not have to subscribe to a specific religion to feel connected to the universe. I've had experiences which afforded me a great feeling of elation, calm and extreme well-being that reached into the depths of my soul. I've had times when I felt grateful that someone seems to be watching over me, or humbled by the sense of a greater power. Here I am reminded of a beautiful piece of writing by William Blake:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

I think many people in modern-day society have become bitter and cynical. This poem reminds me that retaining a sense of wonder and peace with the world is perhaps the most important thing I could give myself.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tranquil Thoughts

Sources: Foto Decadent (first two images), John Millais' Ophelia, Odilon Redon's Ophelia

Something about the image of a young woman floating peacefully in a lake or river, untouched by the outside world, is so striking. I think it's the surreality of the situation and idealization of death that leaves an impression. I've noticed that fashion editorials seem to employ techniques and concepts from works of art, to great effect in this case.

I was at a bookstore yesterday and I took more notice of cover designs than usual. Has anyone seen those revamped covers of classics like Jane Austen's novels? It's interesting that they have a clean, modern aesthetic yet retain the essence of the stories. I also checked out a few books by Haruki Murakami, an author that I'm interested in.

Oh yes, I've mailed my form so that means I'll be attending Otis this coming fall, hopefully to major in fashion design. Wow. I don't think I've fully absorbed the news yet. I couldn't really sleep last night from the excitement and I'm kind of at a loss now. Is it crazy to give up comfort and stability and go there not knowing anything? Maybe. But you know, I'm someone who relies on my instincts. I often have strong feelings compelling me to do a particular thing, and so far they've never proven me wrong. I can't quite explain it. It's part of the thrill and excitement of life, going with your instincts and seeing where they take you.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Japanese Futurama

Photos from Drop Snap
Key features: graphic prints, sleek or slightly exaggerated silhouettes, cool shades, dark hues with pops of bright colour, black boots.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I'm torn

It's the age-old question for me: fashion design or communication studies? I love both but I have to choose. I feel that communication studies (I'm particularly interested in journalism and advertising) offers a perfect blend of my interests and suits my abilities. With my writing skills, creative ideas, design sensibilities and at times obsessional work ethic, I'm reasonably confident that I can do better than my peers if I enrol in communication studies. But for fashion design, I know that my peers will be super passionate and crazily OBSESSED with the work. They basically live for it. It's not just school, it's not just a job, it's their whole life. If you think you can work hard, there'll probably be someone who works even harder than you. It's an extremely competitive and stressful environment. Not that the other isn't, but I've experienced enough to know that artists are the most dedicated and relentless when it comes to their work.

I think I've already lost out from being in this educational system, which equips people for a certain path, the academic university path. Over there, people spend years preparing to enter top fashion schools like Parsons or FIT. They have portfolio review days at the art and design colleges, which are a big thing. While I'm passionate about fashion, I just don't know if I can do it myself, if you know what I mean. Some think I have talent, but of course I'm better than most people here, because they've never had the chance to even try. It's not so much clothes than I'm interested in, because I'm not the shopaholic who buys a gazillion clothes to wear, but the beauty and creativity of the work produced. I love art for the same reason as well. In this sense I might be more of an admirer than a creator. I like to contemplate and critique art and fashion collections.

I have a burning desire to WRITE. Even if it's just scrawling a few words that strike me in my notebook. I think some people don't understand this. My brother, for example, was confused when I said I wanted to get a Typepad or Wordpress blog account. He just didn't see the need of paying to blog. But for me, writing is like breathing- it's an integral part of my life. And just as one wants to have clean, fresh, wholesome air, I want to have a better experience when writing in my blog, hence the idea.

But enough of this digression. I want to think that I'm not someone who shies away from a challenge. I like to think that quiet determination and tenacity are qualities of mine. At the same time, I can't do something just because I feel obliged to put up a strong front. Right now, the cost of doing fashion design in the US is daunting. It's a prolonged investment that will drain away a huge portion of my family's income, and I don't know whether it's worth it. I really have no idea how I will do in the course. I don't know if I'll have the financial means to support myself and earn back the money. I don't want my parents to make a financial decision they'll regret.

It's hard not to put weight to it when it involves so much money. To do otherwise would be acting like a rich brat and doing a disservice to my parents. I don't mind taking risks, but I also know that one should not gamble beyond his or her means. Is this too big of a gamble?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thrift Finds

This is a post about my past finds from Salvation Army, which I used to visit because it was near my school. The tops cost and skirts mostly $5 or $3 during discount periods, dresses more. The lace dress below was the most expensive- $16. I think it speaks for how cash-strapped I am when a significant portion of my wardrobe is made up of Salvation Army finds.

Notable mentions: the short-sleeved white dress with white applique is cute when worn and the lace dress is quite beautiful. The short white skirt has a good deal of 'poof' and swing to it, making it the perfect summer staple. The white gypsy skirt is surprisingly versatile as well. The tweed skirt is super cute, and so is the blue pleated one.

The pink dress is nice and loose with a drawstring to adjust the look. This black beaded purse has a flapper vibe to me. Haven't used it yet.

Straw bag = perfect summer tote. I haven't really used the fake animal skin reddish clutch, just thought it was interesting.

Finally, the star item:

A pair of vintage mint green Salvatore Ferragamo low-heeled pumps! They cost $30, more expensive than the usual thrift store shoes but still wayyy good for Salvatore Ferragamos. The colour is so dreamy and the material is buttery soft. When I saw them, I thought they were pretty but I had little hope of them fitting me. With thrift stores you can't always expect to find your size. When I tried them on, however, it was a perfect fit. The problem is that I'm afraid of wearing them for fear of ruining the material, which seems quite delicate. I think I've found the right occasion though. We shall see.
Also, my sis has bought some bits of jewellery and fittings here and there from the place. She takes them apart and makes new pieces from them. I'm planning on wearing one of them soon so I'll have a photo to post.
Hope you enjoyed reading this!