Monday, December 20, 2010

The 5th day before Christmas... true loves (Todd & Samera! - thanks for the photo) gave to me: a Blackmail original leather and raw linen vest...

photos: Todd Wolfson, model: Samera Owhadian, vest: Blackmail $550.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Days 7 and 6 before Christmas.. true love gave to me, amazing photographers both amateur and professional that continue to document the life of Blackmail over the years...I love a restrospective.

"The Signs" photo: Scott Belding signs: Evan Voyles of The Neon Jungle

"Storefront" photo: Evan Gearing

"Dia de los Muertos window 2008" photo: Adrian Brumby velvet paintings: Federico

"We are more the same than different...Braille window" photo: Laurie Lee

"Before 13 years collection Fashion Show" photo: Elis Avellan

Friday, December 17, 2010

On the 10th,9th and 8th day before many gifts, so little time...

Exclusively at Blackmail and edited with care...jewels and accessories by these exciting artists...all under $100:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

11 days before Christmas...

"On the 11th day before Christmas, my true love gave to me...11 pair of Formplicity sterling silver earrings by Julie Konvicka. Retail price: $56-150."

The 12 days before Christmas... the countdown began yesterday... the 12 days before Christmas and what we have to offer:
"On the 12th day before Christmas, my true love gave to original Blackmail dress made of 1930's English cotton lace salvaged from the drapes of a home in Clarksville. Retail price: $1200..."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

L'Eclaireur...30 ans...mon coeur...

Ha! 13 years...well, L'Eclaireur has been doing it for 30. Thirty glorious years of fashion, evolution, inspiration and art...I miss my old life in Paris and when I go there it's like mainlining. I stick that needle in my arm and the juices ooze through my veins. I feel sleepy, giddy and then settle in with a smile of content on my face. I sleep late, eat many meals with friends, paw through piles of fabric, visit my favorite hidden shop for notions and then make my pilgrimage to L'Eclaireur, home of loveliness and provocativeness.

L'Eclaireur has changed over the years. I used to go and buy Ann Demeulemeester and Dirk Bikkembergs on the rue des Rosiers in the Marais. They still are the purveyors of my favorite Belgian designers but that location is now closed and they moved over to Sevigne: a jaw-dropping interactive space filled with elaborate, movable and contemplative installations. My ability to afford shopping there has been diminished but my addiction for my fix, "ma dose", hasn't...

But my favorite L'Eclaireur outpost has always been and remains behind the secret door on the rue Herold. No sign, no indication of a shop except for a tiny box...shhh! I shouldn't even tell you...
I want this to be my home..

I want this to be my living room...

ha! I worked with this woman many years ago...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chopped meat...

The gorgeous, incomparable, Eva Anoma modeling the brown leather Butcher's Apron Skirt from Blackmail's 13 Years collection.

(photo courtesy of Fashionably Austin and necklace by Pamela Tuohy Jewelry.)

Retail: $800. Soft brown leather, with pleated black linen back skirt and kick pleat. Multi-strand wrap belt in leather. Size M. One-of-kind.
Call or email: for details.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Southern Jasmine...our new candle...

Now here for the Holidays, our personalized Southern Jasmine scented Blackmail candle. The candles are hand-crafted from a blend that is 80% soy for a cleaner, longer burning time of 60 hrs. The wick has a paper core and is lead-free. Each candle has our signature tattered fabric wrap and a vintage button from the coffres of our atelier.

Retail price: $ now to order and for shipping info: 512.326.7670 or email us at: or of course, Venez nous voir! Stop by and pick up a few in person!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A lonely atelier...

...I love this photo of my inspiration board from my atelier. Taken by Cheryl Schulke of Stash Studios. My atelier is lonely as I recover from my bilateral mastectomy: the machines are quiet, we have rearranged the workspace, the fabric lays in piles. My assistants are running the boutique but we've taken a bit of a break since the show and starting Monday, I'll be back and readying for the holidays. See you then...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More show...

...thanks to Refueled Magazine for this show coverage...
and all photos by Harlee Ria DeMeerleer/special to Refueled

Make-up by W3LL People

Carrie Berry & Amy Cook...

Chella Cardona...

Pamela Tuohy with her amazing jewelry on Summer Lawson...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

13 years, 13 years

My dear, talented friend, Todd V. Wolfson has chronicled the before, during and after of my collection "13 years" in a short b&w video. And now Mesdames et Messieurs...for your viewing pleasure:

13 years, 13 years (Blackmail Boutique & Atelier) from todd wolfson on Vimeo.

Friday, November 12, 2010

FIN: Movin' on... a branch on a tree,
I keep reaching to be free...
Movin' on, movin' on.
Like a long, dusty road,
I grow weary of my load...
Movin' on.

It's an old camp song.

"'s done. 29 looks, 8 models, 36 hours leading up to the show with no sleep (Gillian, Aaron, Stephen and I never slept with visits and help from Alton and DJ John Gomi)..."

The show happened 2 weeks ago and I am just now waking up and processing. The 2 days leading up to it were a blur...the intimacy of the team spending wakeless hours finishing pieces: Gillian, Aaron, Stephen and me. Alton flew in from NYC to help and create the final headpiece with feathers overnighted by Abby from The Feather Place in LA. I remember John Gomi stopping by at about 3 am after his gig to talk music for the show and run errands for food & drink provisions. Pam from 2ETN came by the next day with her daughters Nellie and Harlee and Alton & Pam styled the exquisite jewelry pieces on the designs that were runway ready.
Elise, John, Javier & Jesse ran errands and readied the bar. Dana was organizing the backstage. Neil directed the volunteers and the front of the house. Soraiya delivered the macarons and Lisa from Delish brought fresh cupcakes for us to snack on. The models arrived and they sat on stools on the windows having their make-up done by the girls from W3LL People. Bryan showed up and worked their hair into soft, yet classic chignons.
Alejandro Escovedo & David Pulkingham briefly rehearsed the song "13 years" - a sad love song that set the stage for my collection. An obsession with something often out of reach, but one stays with it anyway. My relationship with my craft.
The emotion of the night was overwhelming. I barely remember the show but they say it was wonderful. I'll start posting pictures for those of you who were unable to be there.
Thanks for bearing with my late reporting on my show...lots of things on my mind, not the least of which is my surgery next week.
Ciao for now...I leave you with prep work in the hours leading up to the presentation:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dancing on the ceiling...

so this is it...less than 36 hours from now we'll be done, done, done.
Can't really write in full sentences as my fingers are unsteady, my eyes are tired and I need a nap before I run off for last minute zippers at the fabric store. 29 pieces ( 26 looks) and in my eternal optimism, I say that only 2 haven't been started yet.

1. budget my time. Projects divided up by priority and what pinch hitters can handle what assigned task.

2. Pam Tuohy and her wonderful daughters arrive today from CA, with her amazing jewelry from 2ETN.

3. Alton arrives from NYC via Splendora to build a feather headdress for the finale...feathers being overnighted from Los Angeles.

4. I run into people and they say they're coming yet they never RSVP'd...hmmm, I'll leave that up to Neil, my production manager.

5. I need to nap before I can start the day.

6. Photos from last night - only there until 3am...but still punchy, nonetheless...AND we all seem to be addicted to Joy Division and New Order this time around. Strawberry twizzlers anyone? xoxo

Aaron sporting his latest find at New Bohemia - hideous Mondrian meets Lichtenstein...NOT an inspiration for us...
Gillian, my tireless assistant and her roomate, Dana...both working on whatever they can get their hands on.

Quick nap, fabric store run, then to shop to cut asymectric skirt yoke from linen and then attach leather. The leather evening gown is almost done!!::)
Eyes are closing, and my voice has left the building.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Look in the mirror...

"...and we know where we're goin'
but we don't know where we've been
and we know what we're knowin'
but we can't say what we've seen..."

The year was 1993...I had returned from designing couture (not haute! mind you) in Paris and got a job as a manager of a crazy, hip shop in Georgetown, DC called Commander Salamander. A streetwear line named "Poubelle" was inevitable. Am I embarrassed to post these photos? No, we need to look in the mirror and reconcile with our past...I sold to several skate shops and indie boutiques around the country and appeared in WWD and Seventeen. I hated it, though. The kids were fun...the blonde was named Lexie and the red head, I don't remember. The photographer was Michelle. As the song goes: we don't know, or remember where we've been...

"I'm feelin' okay this mornin'
and you know
we're on the road to paradise
Here we go! here we go!"

-the Talking Heads

n.b. even then I liked graffiti, trash and trailers...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

This is the part where I get organized...'s Sunday night and almost midnight. Evan is out working and the twins are asleep. I have made the list of things to do for the next 10 days. The show is a week from Friday and there is much sewing to be done but also designs swimming around in my brain. I've mentioned that I work in small groups that linked together to form the larger collection. I think I've narrowed it to four groups: 8,3,4,3,and 4...that's 22 prototypes. How many are completely finished? 3. How many are almost finished? 10. The rest? Not started yet...BUT patterns are made, fabric is set, there is still draping and sewing to be done. I'll probably start the late nights on Tuesday...with my list divided into 20 projects, I'll tackle 2 per day that can range from forming knife pleats in washed linen, to attaching large hooks to lace, to cutting and sewing an entire garment. Sleep beckons ce soir...and all may change tomorrow.
Bonne nuit.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gettin' ready....a morning with Sam and Todd...

Early Monday morning with Samera & Todd and a few Arnold Palmers (that's lemonade, ice tea and some sugar) for the non-coffee drinkers. This should give you just a tease of the collection in process...and Happy Birthday, Todd!

Blackmail / 13 Years / October 29th / 7PM from todd wolfson on Vimeo.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sustainability and all that crap...'s not that don't believe in it, sustainability, that is...I have just been doing it for years and today it seems so overused. When I studied at Esmod in Paris, I had an evening class in the Sentier - the garment district quartier. I would get out late and walk to the apartment of a friend a mere 2 blocks away just as the cutters were putting out their "coupons" or "restes" - their scraps from metres of fabrics cut that day. They would shove them in big plastic trash bags and leave them in or overflowing from their bins for the trash men to come by in the middle of the night and pick them up. I discovered this one evening as I walked to my friend's house and saw a lovely scrap of the most amazing wool peaking out from a poubelle...I, of course, immediately opened the bin, ripped into the bag and started sorting. Priceless finds: coupons of leather, wool, lace, jersey, silk, embroidery... I would go through the poubelles outside of a cafe and find bags of corks from the bottles of wine that had been consumed that night. I would stop and find a bag of discarded buttons on the sidewalk or a bundle of unused zippers that had been dyed the wrong color. William, my friend who restored paintings at the Louvre, was the absolute best picker in the poubelles. He would show up at my door after a "large item trash day" when the big bins would make the tour of the different arrondissements of Paris and bring me an oriental rug or a cashmere coat. He would haul the pieces from a retired marble mantle piece up the 5 flights of his 1800's building (that once belonged to the sister-in-law of Napoleon Bonaparte) because he had no elevator.

And so, once a week, when I had a dinner date with William, after my illustration class, I would search the poubelles for cuttings of discarded fabric on the way to his apartment. I would haul my plastic trash bags up his stairs and pile them in the corner until I could come back on a weekend and safely transport them (with his help) on the metro back to my atelier. Thus was born my "Collection Poubelle spring 1987" made entirely from used, recycled, discarded and the most beautiful fabrics you could ever imagine.

Which brings us up the present: while I was sick in bed with cancer last year, I went down to my shop one day to find 2 large plastic bins. My friend Dale had been in an old house in Clarksville and had salvaged panel upon panel of old lace curtains: stained, dust laden and stiff as boards. Today, I am finally getting around to cleaning those panels: gently hand soaking them in the tub, hoping to preserve their natural tea stained, yellow hue and then in the next few weeks, turn them into clothing. An ode to the "Collection Poubelle"...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A brief update...working on the logistics of the show.
  1. The show is called "13 years"...spiritually, it is inspired by several things: the thirteenth anniversary of Blackmail, the song "13 years" created by my friend Alejandro Escovedo, written through the voice of his wife of 13 years who eventually took her own life, and the "lucky" number that counts the years of life with my husband, Evan, after all of the experiences that have influenced our present lives and our future. As for the physical influences, I am trying to take my inspiration from beyond the visual with an honest representation of repeating shapes, a playfulness with weight and the absolute study and contrast of texture. I want it to be a collection that my daughter, Zelda, can appreciate.
  2. Paperless Post invitations continue to go out through cyberspace. If you haven't received one yet - please send us your email address - pronto!
  3. Met with Bryan Herbert - my hair guru - we did sticks and ball moss before sticks and ball moss were cool. This time going for a cleaner, more modern yet elegant look. He's sending me photos and we had a brainstorming session last night. I love Bryan - he gets where I am coming from.
  4. Models - pulling out the retirees - that means Naomi, Christy, Linda, etc really, my beauties are coming out to model for me again: Eva, Summer, Samera with some new girls and some special guests thrown in. Bryan saw the photos last night and is working on specifics for hair types.
  5. Shirley Pinkson from W3LL People is designing the make-up. Think very early Miss Love - smokey eyes but not too dark, perfect skin and pale lips. I am a fan of the wild hair and dark shocking make-up so all of this is a studied modern departure for me.
  6. The clothing is taking shape and form: groups include lots of leather and raw linen, yards of light vintage wool crepe, washed and embroidered muslin, and huge salvaged panels of old lace curtains from a house in Clarksville. And yes, there will be color - watch out! But don't worry, no need to wear sunglasses...
  7. "Points forts" - dolman sleeves, full pants, no rules on skirt lengths and sorry girls, nothing to curvy or frilly. A rectangular, shortened silhouette - with large, raw ruffles but no, no, no frills!
  8. House: working on bringing in my favorite show manager - Neil, pretty please??? and calling out for floor & backstage volunteers...lemme kno if you're interested.
  9. Set-up and choreography: my girls are pros but we are waiting on numbers to do floor set-up, perhaps a runway, perhaps the sidewalk, perhaps the street.
  10. Music...DJ still in the works, have some ideas on mixes.
 more to come as we get closer...but it's good to get this stuff nailed the next few weeks are sleepless sewing mode...

    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    Skulls and bones...

    ...admittedly they're not for everyone. But there is something about this new jewelry by Houstonite, Sarah Johnson, that I just adore. It is sentimental and studied yet a bit magical. It evokes history and death yet the continuation of life as well. They remind me of little Joseph Cornell boxes in pendant form. Sarah uses intricate porcelain doll parts, tiny bird skulls and bones, watch parts and tattered fabric to create her beautiful little vignettes. They are one-of-a-kind and Blackmail just happens to be the only purveyor of this collection. Take look and give us a call if you want one...they won't last long...512.326.7670

    left: pocket watch pendant by Sarah Johnson...$210
    right: porcelain doll box pendant by Sarah Johnson...$160

    left: small pocket watch tooth pendant by Sarah Johnson...$90
    middle: bird skull pendant by Sarah Johnson...$160
    right: bird bone pendant by Sarah Johnson...$140

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010


    ...nothing better than a black No. 2 pencil, sharpened just right...especially with the inspiration of a wonderful Belgian designer running through your finger tips. Thanks to my friend Kim for this lovely gift.

    Sunday, September 26, 2010 style boy...

    Vintage jeans for the 5 year more at Toxotwins, my other blog...
    jeans: Farah of Texas "Gold Strike"
    (Farah was started in 1920 in El Paso, Texas as a workwear brand and became extremely popular in the UK in the 1970's. I am still trying to figure out the age of this little pair of jeans based on this label. Help!)

    We love when our twins grow into the vintage stuff we've found over the years...there's so much more to come and it's definitely "Blackmail Style" model, Creed, age 5...
    He's starting to ressemble his Dad from the back.

    Soon to be seen modeling for Calvin Klein - only kidding!

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Talking to Myself...

    In 2002, Yohji Yamamoto came out with a book entitled "TALKING TO MYSELF"...and everything about it is amazing. It comes in a simple white cardbook box, wrapped in a sheet of white wax paper. A fold white sleeve sleeve holds the 2 volumes: the larger with a raw edge holds page upon page of drawings, photos, musings in Japanese and texts at the end by Kiyokazu Washida and Yohji, himself. They were numbered and signed.

    The second, thinner volume is a roadmap of his collections beginning in 1981. Being a student of design in the 1980's led me directly to the Japanese: Yohji, Rei Kawakubo, Kenzo...they had descended upon Paris. I was taken with their intellectual and conceptual design, their battle with beauty and their negation of the traditional female form. Black was a clean slate to use as a springboard for shape, form and texture. I have since fallen in love with the Belgians but nothing can change my devotion to Yohji. See this movie if you're able: Notebook on Cities and Clothes by Wim Wenders. And if possible, find a copy of this's out of print and I recently saw a copy on line for $500. Anyway, I'll share a few pages of my precious inspiration here and if you come and visit the atelier, I'll show it to you in person:

    "I think perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things
    humans make, I want to see the scars, failure, disorder, 
    distortion. If I can feel those things in the works of 
    others, then I like them. Perfection is a kind of order.
    Like overall harmony and so on...They are things someone
    forces onto a thing. A free human being does not desire
    such things. And yet, I get the feeling there are a lot
    of women who do not seek freedon: women who wear 
    symmetrical clothes." - YOHJI YAMAMOTO 

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    patron, patronen. pattern recognition...

    ...I was in design school in Paris beginning in 1986...a crazy long time ago. But it was a cool experience and a great education. To this day, everything I do in designing is done both in my head and on paper in French. I even think in "metres" instead of yards. The most difficult thing is when my assistants have to interpret my patterns...all directions in French: dos, devant, parementure, couper...etc.

    working on a pattern for victorian style

    I tend to work all over, on tables, on walls and especially on the floor. One of my favorite photos ever of Yohji Yamamoto is him kneeling on the floor of his atelier looking at a pattern, surrounded by his interns. Even now at my age, I want to go live in Japan and be his intern.

    working on the floor and transferring 
    the sketch to tag

    It's pattern making time before production - we are furiously measuring, adding, subtracting and adapting. "Modelisme" or pattern making is all math - and I suck at math. But it's also a puzzle, and I am good at those...I also do everything old school - by none of that CAD stuff for me that all design students are learning these days. My intern, Aaron, is a RISD graduate in illustration. He also makes fantastic costumes for local drag queens. Each Wednesday, he comes to the atelier and learns pattern making, draping and sewing. He has a wicked sense of humour and is relentlessly, in addition to being productive, we tend to laugh a lot.

    Aaron being tortured by a pattern
    for a "jupe" (skirt) patchwork