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

Friday, September 3, 2010

8 weeks...13 years...

...the countdown begins. I haven't done a full blown collection since 2003. Just bits and pieces, a dress here, trousers there, an evening gown for a black tie event:  lots of designs, too many ideas. Production has focused on filling the racks of my shop and selling. But now folks, presenting Blackmail's Fall/Winter Collection be unveiled in 8 weeks. Mostly everything is ready - NOT! Sketching continues, fabric is revealed, the groups of the collection have been decided on paper. I work with an overall inspiration and theme and then break it down into smaller groups: these groups are usually decided upon by the fabric. As with any collection, the "points forts" or specific characteristics that tie the presentation together will be apparent throughout: the turn of a collar, the finish of an edge, the line of the silhouette, the shoulder of a sleeve.
So, I think I have 4-6 groups with 4-5 pieces in each group...that's a lot of prototypes, a lot of sewing...8 weeks to revel in the 13 years that Blackmail has existed...

I will try to update bi-weekly and show the progress and steps as to how I work and approach this mountain. This week has been preparation: rearranging the atelier, expanding surfaces, organizing notions, going through bins of fabric and sketching...lots of sketching...

scribbles, sketches, ideas & leather

basic black linen, wool crepe, vintage rayon crepe, muslin

slopers and patterns to be adapted

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Born Mike Meyers in 1884, he was one of 7 children in a German farming family. Early in life, he rejected the Arkansas farming world and decided to become a photographer. Meyers even change his name and became "Disfarmer" - not a farmer - set up his studio and began taking photographs. Self-taught, people from from the rural Arkansas area came in to town to be photographed by Mike Disfarmer. The amazing collection of his work reflects the essence of that time past (mainly late 1930's - mid 1940's). The light, the stature and expressions of the people and their quiet willingness to be captured on film just blows me away...