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Posts Tagged ‘fashion’

Interview: Flowerdrum Bags

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Rina  Matsui-Houghton is a Malaysian-born, Berlin-based handbag designer who focuses on creating beautiful handcrafted bags of unique distinction.

I met Rina a few years ago and was immediately blown away by her drive and passion for creating awesome bags and mini carry-alls, made from vintage fabrics.

Back in 1999 Rina felt that “Malaysia was ready for a unique label with underground roots and the design-ability to be sold internationally.” She started creating hand-embroidered affordable bags, and clutches for the fashion savvy consumer.

The company named Flowerdrum bags (www.flowerdrum-kl.com) was born, and now produces lines in batches of 12. Bags are created using quality fabric from all over the world; they aren’t mass produced, they’re fresh, different and  sport stand apart, clean-cut designs, a must have for any fashionista!

More recently Rina has been focusing on commissioned work, branching out to create custom-made items for her clients. Last year in Malaysia she took part in her first exhibit of embroideries and fabric collages, entitled 6 Words: Embroidered Stories. I caught up with Rina for an interview to find out more about her interesting grass roots company.

LQ: Where did the name for your bag company come from?

RMH: Unglamorously cribbed the name from a Flowerdrum Song poster at a local theatre!

LQ: Where do you find your vintage prints for the bags?

RMH: As a natural hoarder and digger, I started out with a fair collection of vintage fabrics from my childhood (curtains, mum’s dresses) which I supplement with pieces I find on my travels at markets, etc. There are also a couple of fabric shops in Malaysia that I have been going to for years, the sort of shops where stock hasn’t been updated since the ’60s!

LQ: When did you first start making embroidery projects?

RMH: Started a couple of years ago, to explore but also as thank you gifts for friends who have supported me on my bag endeavours for the last decade.

LQ: Suhana Dewi Selamat’s 6-word memoirs influenced your work for the embroidered stories project. What was it about the memoirs that struck you?

RMH: As a lover of words and the English language, I was struck first and foremost by the brutal honesty of her 6-word essays. How they were food for thought in their simplicity. I like my words on point and how much more “on point” could you be than 6-word essays!

LQ: What do you like most about your job?

RMH: Being the boss of my own time, the flexibility to travel/take time off, the independence of only being able to blame myself for cock ups!

LQ: What do you have in store at Flowerdrum Bags for this year?

RMH: Flowerdrum Bags works in mysterious organic ways! Along with the usual desire to push the label to boutiques in foreign shores, I am hoping to work on a new embroidery project. New bags will be up soon for spring/summer and I plan to drive more traffic to the web-shop. I’ll also continue my crusade to get more people to understand and appreciate VINTAGE fabrics!

Leanda is a writer based in Toronto. For the past 13 years she has hosted & produced music radio shows, managed bands & worked in online music PR. She now runs a music site & also writes for music & culture magazine `Relevant BCN`. Read more of her writing here - http://www.bloggertronix.com

DIY Guide to Giving Yourself a Zen Haircut

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

I’m not sure who clued me in on the “Zen haircut” but I’ve been practicing it for years. Basic idea is finding inner calm by savagely cutting your own hair and doing so without regard to any traditional conceptualization of beauty or style. Grab the scissors, grab a handful of hair, hack it off, and keep hacking until you feel right with yourself.  (Use this mantra: “Arbitrary and Harmless Self-Violence Leads to Experiential Wisdom.” Seriously though, it doesn’t matter if you can read Sanskrit or recite the Lotus Sutra, the whole thing is more intuitive than spiritual.)

photo from inspectorcollectors.com

photo from inspectorcollectors.com

I guess it’s the counterintuitive recklessness that shocks you into a calm. Whatever it is, it’s a nice, zoned-out/zoned-in, cleansing sensation somewhere between shotgunning a beer and a long session of meditation. Post-Zen haircut I feel strong, focused, and clear-eyed. This is when I work (write) best and to me that’s a very important thing. (Also, I hate going to the barber. Hate it with a murderousness unequaled.)

Couple days ago I was in a recording session and everything felt wrong (sort of sedentary and unsettled at the same time if that makes any sense.) So I set down my guitar, went into a back room, turned up the Wavves record, and gave myself a vicious two-minute Zen haircut.

That was Monday. Today’s Wednesday and I still feel like like I just got back from a year sailing around the world on a yacht as a missionary for Dr. Bronner.

Join the cult.




BIO: Adam Gnade's (guh nah dee) work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and themes; the fiction writing continuing plot-lines left open by the self-described "talking songs" in an attempt to compile a vast, detailed, interconnected, personal history of contemporary American life. Check out recent writing here and songs here. Contact: adam@asthmatickitty.com

Like, Totally Awesome!

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Oh, remember how great clothes were in the 80s?  Tight-rolled jeans, overalls with only one strap buckled, shoulder pads in everything, clunky sneakers – those were the quintessential looks of the Reagan era.  Almost makes you want to go back in time.  But not really.

Many brands that were huge in the 80s fell out of fashion in the 90s, though, as designers Rei Kawakubo, Helmut Lang, Jil Sander and Yohji Yomamato defined that decade with their stark minimalism.  No more Crayola-colored high tops, no more pastel layers, no more gobs of gold jewelry.

But as with all things, fashion is cyclical, and two decades is long enough for any trend to come back around.  More interestingly, some major name brands from the Decade of Excess have even been revived and reinvented as “luxury” labels.  You know what that means, right?  Now they cost a whole lost more money!  Awesome!  But I guess that’s really the spirit of the 80s, right?  I mean, anybody who could afford to carry around a shoebox-sized mobile phone certainly did.  And good for them.

It is in that spirit that I’ve put together the perfect “80s Homage” outfit.  Check with your broker first to make sure you can afford it (I’m sure you can) and then tease your hair for a night of fashion flashback perfection.  And if you’re nice to me, we’ll watch The Breakfast Club together tomorrow night.

Thrifting for the Masses

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

I used to buy other people’s clothes for a living. It was part my job managing a vintage store in Seattle. Some sellers were college students trying to pawn off last season’s Forever 21 party tops, others were business casual-types clearing extra pant suits out of their closets. Then there were the Vintage Pickers (VPs), daily sellers who hauled in duffle bags filled with faux designer purses, butterfly belts and 80’s track suits freshly rounded up at local thrift shops and estate sales.

There’s this place in Seattle the VPs call the bins, a clothes-by-the-pound warehouse of extra Goodwill donations. At the bins, you’ll find Book Girl buying paperbacks for a local shop, Electronics Guy looking for old record players to refurbish and sell on eBay, and of course the VPs. There are things that the VPs know about picking clothes that they do not want you to know. They don’t want you to go to a garage sale and be able to spot a pair of Big E, redline 501s worth hundreds of dollars in a junk pile. They don’t want you to leap for banana-colored Frye 14L Campus boots at Value Village. And the VPs absolutely don’t want you to know the difference between good vintage keepsakes and old throw-away clothes. But I think there’s plenty of good vintage to go around, especially if you know where to look. If you live in the Midwestern U.S., there are racks of vintage dresses, corners of unsorted old sweaters and Sta-Prest pants waiting to be discovered. Here’s a few picking tips:

+If a sweater smells like moth balls, it will always smell like moth balls.
Certain odors won’t come out of old pieces, even after dry cleaning. Also, look for ring around the collar on men’s shirts. Old, yellowed age stains do not come out, even with Oxyclean.

+ Dry rot: enemy of all things old and beautiful
I’ve seen the most lovely 20s dresses tear like tissue paper if they’ve been stored in damp places without proper ventilation, which causes dry rot. Nylon-lined boots from the 60s thru 80s often have dry rot, too. To check, slip your hand inside boot’s lining and rub your fingers together. If you find black, peppery dirt on your hands, pass on the purchase.

+ Versace from the 80s is still from the 80s
You may find a pair of haute designer pants and think, in spite of their tight-assed, tapered leg hideousness, they’ll sell for a small fortune on eBay. A tip: imagine your friend, you know, the one who’s a ‘really wicked’ dresser, who takes fashion risks and pulls them off. Imagine this friend in said pants. If even he would turn up his nose at the prospect, pass. Bad clothes, even if they have labels like Pucci or Ferragamo, end up at thrift shops for a reason.

+ Are you really going to wear it?
When thrifting, some choices are intuitive. It may be thrilling to find a 50s beaded sweater, especially at Goodwill where less than 1% of the store’s stock is vintage. But unless you’re willing to alter the piece and it’s a steal, avoid boxy, awkward fits. If you wouldn’t wear it, odds are no one else will want to, either.

+ Dating is an art.
The web, especially Google Images, is a godsend if you’re not sure whether a dress is from the 40s or the 80s. To get you started, here’s a few basic tips to help date vintage based on material and accoutrements, from the Vintage Fashion Guild:
* Men’s dress trousers continued to have button-flies thru the 1940s.
* Metal zippers were not used in men’s pants until 1927 and were not common on women’s dresses until the late 1930s.
* Side seam zippers were used from the late 1930s-1960s.
* Velcro(R) was invented in 1948, but not used in clothing much until 1960s.
* The serger has been in use since the 1920s for seam finishing.
* Garment care labels began in 1971 in the US.
* Three-quarter and seven-eighth sleeves were popular late 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
* In 1942, men’s double-breasted suits in the US lost their vest and became 2-piece due to the war effort.
* Spandex’s first commercial use was in 1959, began to be seen in lingerie in the early 1960s, but was not widely used as a fabric until the 1980s.

Happy picking!

Sara Billups writes the blog Weatherspoon, a diary of living alongside the weather in the Great Northwest.

Worst Foot Forward

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Yes! Autumn is here! So pull a turtleneck over your head, wrap up in a scarf, throw a pair of shooties on your feet, and head outside to jump in a pile of leaves. What?! You’ve never heard of shooties? Neither had I, until today. Apparently a "shootie" is a contraction of the words "shoes" and "booties" and it’s meant to describe the current crop of ankle-fattening, calf-shortening, grandma-looking ultra-low boots that are currently flooding the fashion scene. They might even be a subconscious attempt to return women to the Victorian Era. Don’t you just want to run out and buy a pair?

I know I don’t. Just when we thought we were safe from yet another horribly unflattering and psychologically troubling fashion trend (Corsets, anyone? Manpris? No? That’s what I thought.), here come shooties, the little boot that could.And don’t think that they’re just being inflicted upon women. Oh, no! Men, too, can enjoy a variety of shooties, mostly in leather, mostly with laces. Although for men’s it’s not quite as bad because they’ll most likely be worn with pants. Just promise me you won’t wear ankle socks, boys. Especially white ones. Especially white ones.

As for women, though, we’re tragically expected to wear these fugtastic hybrids with tights and skirts, short dresses and cardigans. No. Thanks. Do we not want to elongate the leg? Do we not want to flash a little toe cleavage? Do we not want to look younger than 60? Are we not modern women? Marketers and stylists are trying to sell us these things under the pretense of a hip, restyled alternative to both uncomfortable heels and unfashionable flats. You know, reclaim our sense of fashion through a co-optation of menswear, but with a womanly touch. Shooties, however, are the opposite of feminine.

Think about it: at worst, what else are shooties but an emasculated man’s shoe, plunked down on top of a chunky heel? That’s sort of perversely fetishistic when you think about it. And, at best, they’re reminiscent of Victorian dress and, by extension (it’s a stretch, I know, but if you look at the shoes, you can’t help but go there), the entire Victorian Age. And we all know how great that was for women!

As for me, I’m sticking to my ballet flats, my Mary Janes, my pointy-toed stilletos, and my knee-high boots.


No. Thanks.


Color Me Unimpressed

Friday, August 31st, 2007

When I was in junior high, I purchased this fantastic pair of purple Guess jeans. They were of the softest denim, had a slightly tapered leg (it was the mid 90’s – don’t judge), and the oh-so-coveted Guess triangle on the back right pocket, which announced to all who viewed it, "There goes a very cool girl." Combined with my Doc Martens, permed hair, and Esprit handbag, these jeans were a killer addition to any outfit. Or so I thought.

Turns out I probably looked pretty lame. I mean, purple denim…plus turqouise, yellow, and red? What was I thinking?! By the time I reached high school, all colored jeans had been relegated to the back of the closet and I vowed only to wear light-washed blue jeans with a bell-bottom or boot-cut leg. Whew! I was safe…for a while.

Turns out that light-washed jeans make you look fat. Or at least chunky or something. As do bell-bottoms, which apparently enhance the size of one’s thighs and hips by upwards of twelve-and-one-half percent. Quelle horreur! Thankfully the powers that be came along and introduced us all to the oh-so-chic and grown-up world of dark-rinsed denim. Okay, I get it. Dark is slimming. Dark is professional. Dark is…tragically monotonous. But it’s slimming, right?

Turns out that all those deep hues went to designers’ heads and their creativity could no longer be supressed and confined to such a limited range of washes and dyes. What’s a jeans-maker to do? I KNOWdesign some jeans in (dramatic pause for effect…) COLORS!! Ohmygosh, that’s so totally, like, brilliant and stuff. Do I sound like a junior high student? Because that’s what I suddenly feel like again.

So what’s a fashionista to do? Well, you could desperately try to keep up with trends in denim and constantly replenish your wardrobe with a bunch of styles you don’t like (I’m looking at you, skinny jeans), you could wear whatever you want without caring a lick for style (I’m looking at you, ex-boyfriends), OR you could just not wear jeans altogether. I’ve opted for the latter for the time being. It’s my own li’l personal protest against overpriced, overhyped denim trends that seems to have taken the fashion industry by storm over the past five years. This summer I wore only skirts and dresses for three months straight. And guess what? It was really liberating. While everybody else was busy looking like…well…everybody else, I was rockin’ my own style sans denim. I know, I know: jeans are comfortable, they’re easy to wear, blah, blah, blah. But maybe try something different for a change. Because if history keeps on repeating itself, those wacky super-wide legged jeans (JNCO’s, anybody?) will be the next returning fad. And I don’t think anybody wants to see that.