Tuesday, December 22, 2009

busy busy busy

It's been a few weeks since my last entry. I've been quite busy --

We did GenArt SHOP NYC -- it was a great event and I would love to participate again! I'll give more details later...

On 12/6 I played a show at Rockwood Music Hall with my friend Shawn and sang in public for the first time! Here is a link to the tracks although I will post up a compressed version on YouTube soon. Photos by Sarah Juel Edminster.

12/10 was my last day of teaching painting for the semester at a charter school in Brooklyn. Here are some photos:

12/12 was my birthday, and I managed to get a bunch of friends to go rock climbing with me at Chelsea Piers. Photos by Tomi Omolulu-Lange:

I've been getting more and more requests for custom work which is exciting.

I'm looking forward to chilling out a bit next week and writing new songs for our next Rockwood show (on 2/13!)

Monday, November 30, 2009

GenArt SHOP NYC this WEDNESDAY, 12/2!

Graey will be participating at GenArt's SHOP NYC this Wednesday, 12/2. We'll be selling Fall 2009 at 25% off, with additional discounts (50-60% off) older styles. There will also be free drinks, a DJ spinning, and spa and beauty treatments!

Wednesday, December 2

VIP Preview of SHOP NYC / Styles Finalists Presentation
6:00-7:00pm: Live Model Vignettes
7:00pm: Award Presentation
* Specialty Cocktails provided by Potocki Vodka

SHOP NYC: General Admission
7:00 - 10:00pm
(does not include admission to awards presentation)

7 West 34th Street
(@ corner of 5th Avenue)

Gen Art invites you to attend our holiday SHOP NYC taking place at the lovely 20,000 sq ft 7 West Lofts on December 2nd. This year's VIP Preview of Shop will also feature the Styles 2009 Fashion & Awards Presentation.

VIP ticket holders
will have access to both the VIP Preview of Shop (first dibs on items), as well as to be able to view the Styles 2009 Fashion & Awards Presentation.

You can get more info about the event here: SHOP NYC

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Life Lessons Learned From Rock Climbing

Yes, after the last post, I realize I might sound a bit obsessive. However, in addition to the physical activity, rock climbing has been valuable to me because of the lessons I have been able to apply to my life. For instance:

1. When faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge, focus on what's just in front of you, and take small steps. Especially when I go outdoor climbing, I am often overwhelmed by the height of the cliff face, and how sheer it is (it often feels totally vertical). However, if you take your time and examine the surface for small cracks here and there, and chalk marks left by other climbers, you can slowly pick your way up the rock, one small step at a time.

Often I feel this way about my work. I get so overwhelmed that I don't know where to start. It's good to sit back and figure out small steps you can take toward your goal.

2. Once you decide to make a move, don't hesitate; go for it! There have been many times, both in rock climbing and in life, where I have decided to take a step, but then hesitated, and either drawn back or faltered. In climbing, this often wastes energy. In life, you end up wasting time. Sometimes you have to go for it, even if there is a chance you might fail, because on the flip side, there is a chance you might succeed.

3. It's OK to fall. Obviously, you want to be careful (and safe). However, sometimes if you want to make it to the top, you have to be willing to take a risk. When you're climbing, you're usually either clipped in somewhere or someone's belaying you, so the distance you will fall is limited -- you won't (as I often irrationally fear) die. Similarly, when you're taking risks in your work or business, it may not go the way you want, but at least you'll learn something about how you should proceed the next time. What you don't hear about successful people is all the times they failed, but it takes a lot of falling to reach the summit.

4. Learn from others' mistakes and don't be afraid to ask for help. At the Gunks, the term "beta" is used for advice on how to go up a climb. Often, other people who have more experience than you (and are less terrified) can better see the best approach up a climb. Similarly, I like to read about other designers and even entrepreneurs in different fields to gain insight on how to succeed in the business.

5. Keep trying. I've been going climbing, mostly indoors, every week and although I have so much more to learn, it's also been great to see the progress I've made over the past couple of months. As I mentioned in the last post, there's nothing better than that feeling you get when you're able to finish a climb that you couldn't do a week or two earlier. There's no magic to success -- it's all about how hard you're willing to work.

Rock Climbing

What did I do on Black Friday? I certainly didn't shop -- the thought of fighting through the crowds made shopping the last thing I wanted to do today.

Instead, I went indoor rock climbing. I started getting into rock climbing this fall. I've been trying to find an activity that I enjoy that will get me into shape. In high school, I ran track and did some swimming and tennis. I was more of a sprinter though, and I don't really like running, especially on a treadmill where I always feel like I'm going to fall off. Swimming indoors kind of sucks because indoor pools are so humid and you feel like you're going to suffocate from lack of oxygen after several laps. Tennis is fun but I get kind of sick of running around after the ball. I hate going to the gym -- I get so bored. I've also tried yoga, but the few times I've gone, I've just been standing there, acutely aware of my discomfort, wondering when the class would be over.

Rock climbing is fun because you're focused on getting to the top of the climb so you don't realize you're exercising. It's also cool because you're mainly competing with yourself, trying to improve your footwork and technique, and getting through harder and harder climbs. (As a side note, if I lived in a warmer area, I'd love to get into surfing).

Here are a few places to check out if you're interested in getting into climbing:

1. I initiated myself into the sport (someone corrected me and said it's more like an activity) by checking out the open climb at the Field House at Chelsea Piers. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings, you pay $22, which includes shoe and harness rental, and there is an instructor named Devin who teaches you how to climb the wall. One of the most important aspects of climbing to remember is to use your feet, which is counterintuitive. Most people instinctively try to pull themselves up with their arms, which ends up making you tired very quickly. Here is a picture of me on the wall:
I bought a 10-pass which is only $160 and have been going every week. Another thing I love about it is that I can see myself improving each time. If I don't get a climb one week, I'll often be able to do it the next time. Devin is also a great instructor, and very encouraging. The only negative about the wall here is that it's only 20 ft tall, and not very wide.

2. This is not to be confused with the wall at the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers:
According to the website, this wall is 46 ft tall, and 10,000 sq ft in area. It looks awesome and I'd love to go but you either need a membership or a day pass that costs $50. A little pricey for me.

3. After going several times at Chelsea Piers, a friend took me up to the Gunks, which is the colloquial name for Shawangunk Ridge, near New Paltz, in upstate New York. Considering it's only a couple hours outside the city, it's great climbing. Here are some photos my friend took of me the last time I went up a couple of weeks ago:
Here I am, climbing up, I think it was Shockley's (if you are the first to go up a climb, you can name it). I am afraid of heights (the height of the cliffs average around 150 ft according to Wikipedia) and was terrified while I was climbing so I was hugging the rock for dear life. However, you are actually supposed to lean back with your arms straight (bending your arms is bad because it burns out your muscles), and your legs bent.

Here I am, rappelling down. This looks fun, but is a little scary too because you are basically letting yourself fall down a cliff (you control your progress down by pulling on the rope), although it is safe because you're secured with the rope. We normally get to the cliffs around 9am and stay there til around 2pm. A day goes by very quickly at the Gunks. Afterwards, we stop at the Farmer's Market. I like to get apple cider donuts which are yummy; my friend enjoys the peanut butter cookies.

Unfortunately, because the Gunks are a bit far and you can only go when the weather permits, I probably won't get to go much for the next couple of months.

4. A few months ago, a climbing gym called Brooklyn Boulders opened up in Park Slope. The walls there are a little higher than at the Field House at Chelsea Piers, around 30 ft tall, and it's a lot bigger. A day pass is $20, but you have to pay another $10 to rent shoes and a harness. Also, unlike at the Field House, there isn't an instructor guiding and belaying you. The place is geared more towards experienced climbers. We took the "Learn the Ropes" class, but they basically just teach you how to belay (tying a figure 8 knot, using the grigri device), and don't really teach you much about climbing. You also need to make sure you have a partner who is belay certified, unless you just want to boulder.
5. Today, since I was in Westchester, I went with my friend to check out The Cliffs at Valhalla, one of the indoor climbing gyms in the area.
This gym is even bigger than Brooklyn Boulders, and the walls are higher, maybe around 40 ft? I tried out the bouldering, which was tough (but luckily you have the little crash mats) and a couple of the easier climbs (I did a couple of 5'6es but had difficulty with the 5'7s and 5'8s). A day pass costs $16, plus $5 for shoe rental, $3 for harness. Depending on when you go, the staff will belay you. It was a fun time, and when I got home I was exhausted.

One thing I noticed about the walls at The Indoor Cliffs and BKB vs. The Field House is that there are features in the wall at the Field House, or bumps and grooves in the wall that aren't actual holds, whereas the walls at the other places are totally flat with the rocks stuck on them.

Before I went up to the Gunks this last time, I bought some shoes, since you have to rent them there and at some of the gyms I've been going to. I managed to go to EMS when they were having a sale, and bought these:
This is the FIVE TEN's Women's "Siren" climbing shoe. I got them for about a hundred bucks. They have FIVE TENs at Chelsea Piers, and I also liked the Coyote model, but they were sold out of the Fox, which is the women's equivalent. Anyway, I tried these on as well as Sportivas but I liked the fit (and I'll be honest, the look) of these shoes better.

I also picked up this Prana chalk bag:
Mine is blue. I liked the feel of the outside of the bag and it was easier to open and close than the Black Diamond one.

A few days ago I also bought this Petzl Sama harness:
It's actually the men's model but it fit me well (and they were sold out of the women's medium).

And, finally, a carabiner to clip my chalk bag to my harness:
Mine is blue.

Good times. This entry turned out to be much longer than I intended. Happy Climbing!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm a bit ashamed to admit that Thanksgiving is more associated in my mind with gorging myself than actually giving thanks. I also have to admit that lately I've been having a hard time feeling grateful for all that I have. So I've decided to make a list of things that I am thankful for:

1. family -- They may give me a hard time about things sometimes, but they have been as supportive as they can be of my endeavors.

2. friends -- They keep me sane when i start slipping into my crazy ways and lift me up when I'm feeling down.

3. talents -- God has given me different gifts which I want to use to glorify Him -- music, art, fashion.

4. rock climbing -- I've picked up rock climbing since the fall and it has been a great distraction as well as a lens through which I can see where I am struggling in my life. I plan to do a post on this one soon.

5. career -- Although it often feels like things are down more than up, I want to give thanks for the small successes I've achieved so far.

6. food/clothing/shelter -- I'm well provided for, in ways that much of the world is not.

7. health -- I have all my limbs, no real medical issues to speak of or worry about, although I do bruise really easily -- what's up with that?

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Karl / Marc

Over the past few weeks, I've watched two fashion documentaries -- Lagerfeld Confidentiel and Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton. Both of these have been out for some time, but I only recently watched them in full.

They were both interesting to watch -- I actually watched the Marc Jacobs DVD twice. As the creative heads of Chanel and Louis Vuitton, they are obviously at the top of the game and wield enormous influence over the fashion industry. My favorite parts of the films were watching the collections came together -- the sketching, the fittings, the shows, etc.

The films are interesting also because they provide a window into the designers' lives and personalities. Karl seems somewhat cold and very confident. His design process appears very easy (he just seems to sketch things that come out of his head) and he doesn't appear to worry about whether or not the collection will be well received. Marc, on the other hand, appears more neurotic (there's a montage of him lighting up many cigarettes) and passionate about his work. Every detail is meticulously considered.

It was inspiring to watch them at work -- after all, they live the dream. They work with the best ateliers in Paris to create luxurious and beautiful garments, not to mention the fame and celebrity. One thing that struck me was how they both seemed to be going nonstop, to the point where I wondered how they kept going. Marc seemed to be working all the time, flying from Paris, to Tokyo, to New York, to London. Karl worked a lot as well, but also had time to read tons of books and shop for tons of clothes and other possessions (his apartment was filled with these things), as well as do non-Chanel related photo shoots (I believe he shoots all the Chanel ad campaigns). It made me feel like I need to work much harder, and wake up earlier... but that's for another post.

Somewhat related, I found this CNN Money old article about Marc Jacobs' partnership with Robert Duffy:

Managing Marc Jacobs

and noticed these bits of information:

The two connected after Duffy, then a 30-year-old sales manager for a fusty Seventh Avenue clothier, Reuben Thomas, saw Jacobs's graduating show at Manhattan's Parsons School of Design. They got funding from Reuben Thomas and embarked on a two-person journey through the fashion world - a bonding experience that would put each of them on a first-name basis with their strengths, weaknesses, and demons.
This, according to MarcJacobs.com, happened in 1985.

Jacobs and Duffy extended their contract by ten years, and LVMH agreed to fund a major store expansion for Marc Jacobs to transform the line into a global brand. With its new resources, the Marc Jacobs operation entered the black for the first time two years ago.
The article was written in 2007, so two years ago would have been 2005. That means it took their company TWENTY YEARS to make a profit! What????

Another interesting bit:

In the fashion world, it seems, behind every successful designer there's a Robert Duffy - a right-hand man who enables and goads the artist to create a viable business. The designer Yves Saint Laurent had Pierre Bergé, who took charge and financed his company after Saint Laurent suffered a nervous breakdown in 1962. Valentino has Giancarlo Giammetti, a brusque enforcer who, after nearly 50 years, still protects the designer from the mundane details of balance sheets so that he can focus on his opulent creations.
That much I've always known; I need to find my Robert Duffy, who will make sure I wake up in the morning and get on task. Sigh.

Anyway, learning that it took MJI that long to get profitable made me seriously consider getting a full-time job as a designer for another label for the first time in a while. I definitely won't give up on Graey, but for a number of reasons it seems to make sense. Anyone hiring?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I hate cleaning my apt...

... but when I finally do, I find myself in a better mental state, ready to get things done.

Friday, November 20, 2009


The fashion industry has been buzzing about the apparent suicide of Korean model, Daul Kim, aged 20. I was struck by the news for a couple reasons. First, obviously, because she was Korean. Secondly, hers was a star that was on the rise, and for the past couple of years, she's been walking some of the hottest shows.

Finally, despite being Korean (from South Korea), she intrigued me because her outlook on life seemed much more liberal and independent than that which I associate with South Korean culture. Her candid writing on her blog was refreshing to read and she was one of the few top models about whom I felt, "I want to be friends with her."

Anyway, hearing about it reminded me of that quote -- "Don't compare what you know about yourself with what you don't know about someone else." From the outside, it seemed like she had it all -- beauty, looks, fame, success, but apparently she was quite unhappy.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Learning to Sell

It's been a while since I've done one of my what I'm now calling, "becoming a designer" posts. So I continue from where I last left off a few months ago.

Once the fall knits were produced, I shipped them to a couple of boutiques (including KrisTees in Astoria and Item in the Upper East Side) who had agreed to carry them on consignment. For those of you who don't know, consignment is when the designer basically bears all the risk. As opposed to the traditional arrangement where the buyer buys an order of a selection of pieces, usually paid on delivery or on 30-day terms, on consignment, the designer ships pieces to the buyer and is only paid for the ones that sell. The ones that don't are returned to the designer.

There are obvious cons to this arrangement -- since the designer is bearing all the risk, there is less incentive for the buyer to sell, and if pieces don't sell, the designer is left with inventory. However, consignment arrangements are one way a designer can convince a hesitant buyer to give the line a try in the store. The stores that carried my pieces were able to move the pieces. It was interesting to see which items sold better than others.

I also checked out the Young Designer's Market in NoLiTa and managed to sell items there. I only went a few times, but felt that my pieces weren't necessarily the best fit.

Meanwhile, I still had my online site up, where I occasionally sold pieces from time to time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I recorded my first song, called "listen" a couple of months ago -- the day Michael Jackson died. I know this because at some point I checked my phone and I had text messages from my friends informing me of the fact. My song doesn't sound anything at all like Michael Jackson, but MJ is one of my fave artists of all time.

anyway, please check it out on my myspace: http://www.myspace.com/janetkimmusic

violins/vocals: Janet Kim
guitar: John Chambers
recorded & mixed by John Chambers
mastered by Tim Boyce at Masterdisk Indie

If I were a wayward man...

Often creative people have more than one creative outlet. For instance, the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, Franz Ferdinand, constructs furniture in his free time.

I have a few different creative outlets that are constantly competing with each other. I have developed an analogy of a wayward man to illustrate my relationship with each of them.

So, if I were a wayward man...

Fine art (and specifically painting) would be my true love, the one who captured my heart at an early age, but who I didn't have the balls to pursue. When I was a wee lass, I told my parents I wanted to be an artist. They told me that artists were poor and discouraged me from pursuing it as a career. All through growing up, the one class I looked forward to was art class. I took classes at school, sometimes after school, but I never really developed it in the same way I developed my academics.

Finally in college I realized I needed to let myself really study it, even for a few years, as I'd probably never get the chance otherwise. Senior year, when I was working on my thesis (mainly in painting), I started to wonder what it would be like to do it for real -- try to be an artist -- but I chickened out.

One thing that is so difficult about being an artist, other than of course, the financial realities, is that it's hard to know when your work is "good" because there's so much subjectivity involved. I'm not talking about technical skill, because most talented artists could be trained to do the type of photorealistic work that wows people. Work that's not only true to yourself, but also keeps pushing the envelope. Ultimately, I decided not to push forward on that path. I still try to make time to paint once in a while, and I tell myself that if I ever get rich, I will retire and just paint a lot. I probably idealize a career as a painter because I've never tried it.

Fashion would be my wife. She was so glamorous and exciting when I first met her (when I was a teenager), so I decided to commit to her (and become a fashion designer), but there are times where I really wonder whether we'll work out. We have our ups and are downs, but for now, I'm trying to make it work. Since college, most of the things I've done have been in pursuit of my fashion career. If you've read the other entries in my blog, you know that my life is designed to make my fashion career work.

Then there is music, who would be my mistress. I was introduced to music at a young age. Whereas my parents didn't support my interest in art, they made me start playing the violin at a young age because they believed that it would help me get into college. I spent a great deal of my time growing up doing music -- I had private violin lessons once a week, orchestra rehearsals twice a week, plus theory lessons, group lessons, and chamber music rehearsals. In addition, I played violin with my school orchestra and chamber group.

My mom, who is a talented singer and plays guitar and piano, would teach Korean folk music class to us kids when I went to Korean school (from K-5th grade or so). That was probably my first experience of singing. Then there was singing at church, and singing in elementary and middle school, when everyone took chorus. My family always told me I was a bad singer, but I still enjoyed it.

So music was that girl who was always around, so we hooked up. I liked her, but I never felt like I could commit to her forever. But I got used to having her around, so we never stopped hanging out. As I got older, music went from being something I felt like I had to do to something that I enjoyed doing, especially as I transitioned from my classical training to playing in a more improvisatory style with bands and singer/songwriters. I play violin once in a while with friends in bands, and the band at church. I've also been learning the guitar and starting to write songs. I'll post the link in a separate post.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Whenever I go shopping...

I have two thoughts:

1) I should spend the time designing/making clothes for myself instead

2) I need to work out.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Emmanuelle Alt quote about success in fashion

opening look from his spring 2010 collection

For the past few seasons, Christophe Decarnin's star has been rising with his rock star collections for the French house, Balmain. Cathy Horyn wrote a profile on Decarnin last year for T magazine. I thought the following quote by Emmanuelle Alt (an editor at French Vogue) was apt.

From Couture Dude by Cathy Horyn written for T magazine 10/19/08:

His rise at Balmain seems improbable for another reason. I asked Alt, who has known him for 15 years, why she thought it had taken Decarnin so long — he is now 45 — to get noticed. ‘‘I think success in life is half your personality and half your talent,’’ she said. ‘‘He has the talent, but the personality. . . .’’ She smiled. ‘‘You know, if you always stay in the shadows and don’t have the connections, it’s more difficult. Some people have a lot less talent, but they push themselves and go out and meet people.’’ Decarnin said he never goes to clubs. He once went to St.-Tropez but it was years ago, he said.

hanging with his pal julia restoin roitfeld

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Recession Dims Stars' Style Power

"Every D-level celebrity who thought they could make a quick buck by designing a handbag or whatever is going to disappear," says Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. "And I think that's a good thing."

Amen, Anna, Amen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Final Cut Pro - Backwards/Forwards Compatibility

I've been working on a video for my SS10 collection and I have Final Cut Pro v.5.1.4 on my laptop. For those of you who don't know, FCP is a video editing software.

Anyway, a friend of mine did some color-correcting on the video on his machine, which has FCP6. When I tried to open the file again on my computer, it wouldn't work because FCP is not BACKWARDS compatible. Now, it's forwards compatible, meaning you can open an older file in later versions, but not backwards versions.

I'm posting this because I learned the hard way how to deal with this problem, and I hope this post can be helpful to someone else. You can export the file as an XML from the newer version to open it in an older version, but you have to make sure you use the correct XML VERSION. So my friend exported it in XML v.4 but it wouldn't open on my laptop. What I figured out later was that it had to be XML v.3 for my version of FCP.

Here is a chart that I grabbed from Creative COW which tells you which XML versions work with which versions of FCP. Once I exported an XML v.3 at my old workplace, Magnet Media, which has FCP7, I was able to open the file once again.

FCP4 supports XML version 1 only
FCP5 supports XML versions 1 and 2
FCP5.1 supports XML versions 1, 2 and 3
FCP6 supports XML versions 1, 2, 3 and 4

Hopefully this never happens to you.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale / Christian Dior

I get a number of questions about both of these. Please read the relevant blog entries before sending me comments/e-mails about them.

You can find out most info about the Chambre Syndicale via its website:

The site is in French (I think there might be an English version somewhere) but keep in mind that classes are held in French so if you're having trouble understanding the site, you may not be ready to go to the school. The course I took was Formation Professionnelle Continue. If you call them, they will be happy to send you a packet with information about the course, including course fees and what you need to apply for the program.

Regarding Dior, as I mentioned in previous posts, I was only able to get the internship through a personal connection. You can try contacting the Studio (some resourceful googling and cold calling will get you the number) there. Another option is contacting the Galliano studio in the 20th arrondissement. Some of the opportunities I have had I've gotten through being resourceful, tracking down contact info, and cold-calling. Unfortunately, I don't really have much info or advice about getting an internship besides that.

Hope that helps.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

101 Tips from 50 Small Business Bloggers

I follow a couple blogs about developing small businesses, increasing productivity, and just generally doing what you do better, and came across this list of tips for small business owners. I found it useful.

Here are a few:

7. "Don't give up. Most people who are self-employed went through a time when they had no money. And they worried they would lose everything they own, and their career. And they kept going. The people who succeed are people who refuse to quit. If you keep trying to make money from your business, you will eventually succeed so that you don't starve. Really. Just don't quit."
— Penelope Trunk,
Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist

I especially liked this one:

8. "Count up your successes regularly. One person I know put a marble in a fishbowl each time she got a compliment or a bit of good press for her business or a nice note from a customer or a big order. Then every time she looked at the fishbowl she was reminded of all the good things in her business. Her employees could see it, too. This is invaluable on days when everything seems to go wrong. It keeps self-doubt from building up – and tearing you down. It also helps employees feel good."
— Anita Campbell,
Small Business Trends

12. "Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love."
Mark Cuban,
Blog Maverick

23. "Embrace constraints. Constraints and limitations are wonderful allies and lead to enhanced creativity and ingenious solutions that without constraints never would have been discovered or created."
Garr Reynolds,
Presentation Zen

42. "Focus on generating attention. The Web has liberated us from the tyranny of paying for attention! Small business entrepreneurs can generate attention for their business in four main ways: You can BUY attention (this is called advertising); you can BEG for attention (this is called Public Relations); you can BUG people one at a time to get attention (this is called sales) or you can EARN attention online by creating great information that your buyers want to consume such as YouTube videos, blogs, Twitter feeds, photographs, charts, graphs, and ebooks—and it is all free. How are YOU generating attention?"
David Meerman Scott,
Web Ink Now

Read them all here: http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/money/article/101-tips-from-50-small-business-bloggers-gregory-go

Monday, August 31, 2009

100 Songs

I've been playing the violin since I was seven. I don't practice regularly any more but I still play once in a while at church and with friends who have bands or are singer/songwriters. Last fall I started learning the guitar, and a few months ago, I finished writing and recording my first song. I'm waiting on my friend John Chambers to mix it so we can master it, but once it's ready I'll definitely post it on my Myspace page and let you know.

I've been super busy with my line lately, but I do have a longer term goal of writing and recording an album's worth of music. On the demo of my song, I sang, played guitar, and violin, but in the recording I did with John, I let him play the guitar since I'm still not very good.

Anyway, the other day my friend Mike who is a jazz trumpet player told me that Stevie Wonder writes 100 songs for each album he records. That surprised me but it makes sense -- if you write that many songs, you up your chances of coming up with something that's really good!

Similarly, in his book, "Outliers," Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hours rule, citing the Beatles, Bill Gates, and classical music virtuosos as examples. His premise is that in order to become an expert at something, you need to log 10,000 hours.

I want to try the 100 songs thing if I ever do write an album, but I also think I should apply the 10,000 hours principle to my work in fashion.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A post about Project Runway...

** semi-spoiler alert **

I'm writing this post even though I should really be going to sleep. I have a canker sore in my mouth, which happens when I am sleep deprived. I have to wake up early in the morning to cut samples for Spring 2010, but now that I know that there are people reading this blog besides my friends, I want to try to update it more regularly.

Thanks to my brother and his roommate's DVR, I was able to catch the premiere of Season 6 of Project Runway tonight. My initial impression -- there seem to be way more dudes than previous seasons. Whiny dudes.

I wanted to write about Johnny Sakalis, who had a meltdown in the middle of the episode. Firstly, I wanted to say that despite the producers' exploitation of this meltdown (the repeated emphasis on how he was a recovering addict, the different shots of him crying, Tim's pep talk), I really felt for him. Sure, in some ways, you could ridicule him -- how could you have a breakdown about making a freaking dress? But for me, it was deeper than that.

Tim hit the nail on the head (why is Tim so awesome?) -- sometimes we're harder on ourselves than anyone else can be on us. That sort of pressure is crushing. It's frightening how the pressure we put on ourselves can paralyze us. It definitely happens to me, and it doesn't seem to go away even when you become "successful" -- in fact it gets worse as the stakes get higher, which explains how even someone like Marc Jacobs could suffer from breakdowns when he is probably the most recognized name in fashion. I've been having really bad stomach pains lately because of my stress over my line.

When you care so much about something, when you're so passionate, that passion can become destructive, transforming into a poisonous perfectionism that makes you hate everything you create. It's hard to find that balance between being objective about your work but also allowing it to be.

But I digress. That particular segment is a good example of why I've never really wanted to be on Project Runway. Don't get me wrong -- it's a great show. There have been some really talented people on it, and anyone who can design and create under those time and psychological pressures deserves respect. But I hate how the producers sculpt each designer into a character. Even Christian Siriano, who is undoubtedly talented and has been doing very well for himself since winning, will always be remembered more for saying such things as "fierce" and "hot mess" than for his actual designs. Also, I have yet to see any of the winners of Project Runway get the kind of respect from the fashion community that other designers who have made it the traditional way get.

Full disclosure here -- I've tried out for the show twice, but both times it was more to appease people like my friend B, a big fan of the show as a lover of fashion and TV (she is a screenwriter), and because I felt like I should try to seize any opportunity to get exposure and cash. My heart was never into being on the show for the aforementioned reasons though, and I always just scrapped a couple of things together at the last minute. While waiting to see the judges, I knew that I couldn't compete against some of the people who had been there since the wee hours of the morning, with a rack of clothes, models to show them off, dressed to the nines. The first time I tried out was the first season, when it took hours to get to even the first screeners.

The second and final time I tried out was a couple of years ago, it must have been in 2007, right before I launched my line. I was still working on my t-shirt prototypes for Graey, and that was mostly what I brought to the auditions. I went on the third day of the auditions in New York and was surprised at how few people turned out that time. (Now I think to audition you first send in a video tape and they contact you if they're interested). As a result, I managed to make it to the final stages. I hadn't expected to make it that far based on my first attempt, and I was actually embarrassed to walk in because I knew I wasn't very well prepared with my t-shirts and last minute portfolio.

I walked in and encountered Tim Gunn, Laura Bennett (the redhead from a previous season), and a couple of others (one was an editor from Elle magazine). I'd like to stop right here and say that Tim Gunn is absolutely as fabulous as he appears on screen. He was mic'ed, so I almost felt like God was talking whenever his voice boomed through the room (not to be blasphemous). He told me that my resume was impressive but the work that I showed him didn't match up (I'm sorry, Tim!). He did, however, encourage me by saying that he liked my t-shirts, "They're not just t-shirts!" (Tim, I love you!) The worst part of the audition was that I really felt like I let Tim down. But I was relieved because if I had made it past that audition, I would have been really conflicted about whether I wanted to be on the show.

I also met Kenley (from last season) several months before she appeared on the show through a designer collective. Yes, she was every bit in real life like she was on the show.

So when people ask me how I feel about Project Runway, I cringe a little bit because I think it is a great show to watch, but I don't think it is for me.

On another note, I was disappointed with the judges' choices. I was expecting them to vote off naked-dress dude (Mitchell was it?) over Ari. Even his stuff they showed from before looked as though it was more styling than design. It would have been interesting to see what Ari would come up with for a couple more episodes. Also, I thought Logan was cute but his dress (which they barely showed) looked crappy (from what little I saw). What'd you guys think?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Finally have internet again...

I have been without regular access to internet for the past couple of months, and despite having my iPhone, it was definitely a nuisance. I love my iPhone but sometimes when you're trying to do research or type an e-mail, it's just easier with a computer.

This lack of internet is partially to blame for not having posted recently. I also went to Greece with my family in July. We went to Athens and then toured some of the islands. Here are a couple of photos:


Not bad for iPhone pics, eh? These two were my fave islands, and I'd love to go back at some point and spend more time on them.

Now it's crunch time, and in the next few weeks I'll be pumping out a small Spring 2010 collection. I'm working with some other independent designers to put up a pop-up shop in downtown Manhattan during fashion week -- will definitely keep you posted on that if we manage to make it happen. Also working on a video, which I'm excited about.

Recently I've been reviewing Season 5 of 24 (it helps me destress). My brother got me hooked on 24 a couple of years ago, and I got addicted. Over a span of several months I managed to blaze through 5 seasons of 24. Anyway, season 6 kind of blew, and season 7 wasn't so great either. My favorite seasons are season 4 and season 5, especially the transition between the two seasons.

If you've seen any of the past seven seasons of 24, you know the first few "hours" of each season are the most thrilling. There's some sort of terrorist threat, and Jack Bauer takes care of it and kicks ass. But then after he takes care of the first threat, there are other threats and plot twist that come up as the "day" continues, and the plot just becomes more and more unbelievable. What keeps me watching though, is my love for Jack Bauer. No matter what happens to his career, reputation, well-being, Jack is willing to sacrifice all in order to protect his country and the people he loves. I realize he is only a fictional character, but there is something about the idea of someone who is so dedicated to doing what's right, even when everyone around him is against him, that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Here's a pic of one of my fave tv characters:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sitting in the driver's seat

Running your own business is one of those things where you really don't know what you're getting into until you're in it.  

Having been in fashion for a while, I knew about seasons but I didn't really know much about navigating the showing/selling process.  Beyond the buyers who contacted me on their own, and the ones whose contact info I had collected from previous employers, I went about contacting them in a straightforward manner.  I went to shopping websites (including StoreAdore.com) and other designers in the same market as me, and looked at where they were being carried.  I took down the phone numbers and called them up and asked how to speak to the buyer.  Almost all of them would give me an e-mail address, and told me to e-mail the buyer.  If they were interested, I would get a response.  I found that very few would write me back, even to say that they weren't interested.  I knew it would be tough since buyers tend to get inundated by requests for appointments.  

I tried to be persistent, but I also used guerrilla tactics.  Borrowing a trick from my former boss, Daniel Casarella, over at Barking Irons, I sent over a sample of one of my tees to the COOP buyer.  I was thrilled when I got a call for a meeting with the buyer.  Barneys is probably my favorite store in New York, and one of my major goals is to eventually get into the store. We've met a couple of times but as I mentioned in my last post, department stores tend to wait a few seasons before signing onto a brand (especially now).  I also sent a t-shirt over to Paris to Colette, which didn't get me a meeting, but at least got me an e-mail from the buyer's assistant.

I also managed to pick up some press here and there, including a small piece in Nylon, that made me especially happy.  

Meanwhile, I had some false starts with production.  At first, I tried to use overseas factories, introduced to me through friends, first in Hong Kong, then in Peru.  Everything ended up coming much later than they promised, which screwed me up because my samples weren't ready early enough.  This meant that by the time I did get appointments with buyers, they had already used up most of their budget, of which only a small amount is earmarked for unknown designers.  

Eventually, I got fed up with working with the overseas factories, where communication and timeliness were crippling issues.  I decided that even if it were more expensive, I would do production out of New York, with factories I had worked with as a production assistant at Proenza Schouler.  

SS08 had been difficult to sell because of my late samples from HK, so I did a few small consignment orders and moved on to Fall 08.  However, I had the same problems with lateness with a factory in Peru I was working with.  My samples were ready pretty late in the game.  I also realized that I was having a hard time selling knits in New York, so I took a trip out to Los Angeles to visit stores out there.  Some of the stores seemed interested but after the writer's strike, they said that business was slow and were reluctant to place orders.  

I came back to New York feeling frustrated.  I didn't realize the economy was only going to get worse, and having spoken to a couple of stores who agreed to sell my pieces on consignment, I decided to move forward with a modest production run in New York.  

It was my first time doing production on my own.  I worked with factory owners that I knew and trusted, and aside from some issues with dyeing and fabric shrinkage, the production run went fairly smoothly.  Selling it, however, was another matter...

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Genesis of Graey - Part 2

By early spring, I had five samples of tanks and tees and I decided to go to the Henri Bendel Open See. Here they are, reshot by my friend Ferris Vanderveer, hair by Summer Brown, makeup by Liz Marz (initially I was using very grainy photos that I had taken myself):

I got there pretty early but there were still many people in line in front of me. Eventually I got to meet a couple of the buyers but they were clearly not interested in my pieces. I knew it would be tough to get my pieces into stores so I decided to set up my own website with a store. I taught myself web design (and now I make websites for other people) and set up an online boutique.

Meanwhile, I had been compiling a short list of blogs that I thought would be interested in covering the line when I launched my site, and I e-mailed them. SusieBubble was one of the first people I talked to and as a champion of emerging designers, she quickly agreed to cover the line. I also got in touch with DailyCandy, who said they'd do a story in their Everywhere edition.

I launched the site in late June and SusieBubble covered it. I started getting a few inquiries from stylists and editors. Then DailyCandy covered it. That day, July 10, 2007, I got over 40,000 hits and many many orders. The hits and orders continued at a steady pace for about a month before slowing down. Boutique and department store buyers started contacting me, along with some other smaller blogs and magazines. I had appointments with Neiman Marcus and buyers from Japan. I thought that I had made it and decided to quit my job to focus on my line full-time.

I had worked for other fashion companies but I had never really been directly involved with the sales/PR side of things, so I was in for some surprises. I gradually learned that buyers like to vet the collection for a couple of seasons before making a buy. I also learned that when you're starting out, buyers will find every which reason for passing over your collection, even if there are customers out there who would be interested in buying the merchandise. I did find a few buyers who picked up the small collection of tees, and I set forward on expanding the collection for Spring 2008, which was showing in September.