Sew Crafy

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

GOTH-Step Back-AVANT GARDE-Step Sideways

Can you believe it - we're down to the final challenge. And this challenge, like all the others, is quite a doozy!  Here's the challenge:

Well this is a mash up!!! Start by thinking Goth, then take a step back and think of how an avant garde designer would approach it, then take a further step sideways and make it enter the realm of couture. There you have it, Avant Garde Goth Couture. This style is not just for Marilyn Manson and the emo kids anymore...this is runway Goth.

Your challenge this week is to make an AG Goth design and keep it couture, so no costumes, no post apocalyptic (although this may still be in) styles, no witches and no warlocks. Make it couture, and make it work, designers.......have fun with this one, but do remember this is not a costume contest, it must be couture!!!

I can only tell you what I would do if it was my challenge. First, I'd rule out doing anything that even whispered costume! Then I'd consider what Goth might be to me:

Goth fashion is mostly a dark, sometimes morbid, eroticized fashion and style of dress. The specific styles are often borrowed from the Elizabethan, Victorian or medieval period and can express pagan, occult or other religious imagery including pentacles, ankhs, and crosses.

Then I'd look at what notable fashion designers have done. Here you'd expect me to look into the stylings of Alexander McQueen or John Galliano, two designers who have been described as practicing Haute Goth. However, since I've seen their styles almost "done" to death by others lately, I'd turn my attention to some new blood - puns intended, dahlings!

The Avant-Garde Ann Demeulemeester/s 2011 Paris Fall Show revealed this hodgepodge of Goth, punk and what some were even calling ... Goat Hair Couture! Armed with beautiful finishes, the Belgian designer peppered her tendency for black with vibrant bolts of red and striking prints.

Creating a poignant showing, Demeulemeester’ reached a new point of elegance with sharp defined edges and a distinct season must have–gauntlet gloves. An expert at romance, Ann Demeulemeester has managed to elevate her craft to a new level for one of Fall’s most refined collections.

Prisca Vilsbøl and Pia de Arce joined forces after graduating from the Copenhagen Fashion & Design School to create the twice eponymous label Vilsbøl de Arce. The Danish design duo creates projects ranging from avant garde fashion and interior decor to performance art costumes. Perhaps that is why Lady Gaga and Rhianna are rumored to be big customers.

Their dreaml ike designs are recognizable in their mastery of cut and drapery. And, while wildly experimental, the clothes are entirely functional.  This is high art that can be worn. Their incredibly sculptural shapes combined with the exquisitely detailed leather work, and the contrasting qualities of drama and subtlety, make their outfits phenomenal.

Gareth Pugh is an English designer known for hard edged, highly structured designs. He surprised the fashion world with his soft, diaphanous, even romantic designs for his Spring/Summer 2011 collection at Paris Fashion Week. Of course, his romantic vision is otherworldly. Not surprising at all as he describes his designs as being "about the struggle between lightness and darkness." From Beyonce to Rihanna to Lady Gaga, designer Gareth Pugh is making a name for himself.

Pugh's trademark is his experimentation with form and volume. He often uses "nonsensically shaped, wearable sculptures to distort the human body almost beyond recognition." He’s the quintessential bad boy - dark, edgy, and unapologetic. His recent collection had severe, sculpted cuts, part alien/part cyber armor. There were even a few looks that had thin, dripping, web-like fringe. Pugh, always the rebel, didn’t even present the traditional runway show; rather his collection was shown as a video on a giant screen. But, no matter how you view his work, most would conclude it is definitely mind-blowing!

Guo Pei is known as China's grande doyenne of haute couture. Her clothing and accessories are truly works of art. They are all about fantasy with an emphasis on embroidery and really wild shoes. The shoes are absolutely architectural, sculptural, brilliant as objets des art, and are something most of us could not walk or even stand in. Is it any wonder Lady Gage’s designers will be incorporating them into future Gaga outfits?

Then, after having this overload of eye candy from jetting back and forth through many websites, I would begin to dissect the EXACT explanation Larraine always gives for a challenge: Start by thinking Goth, then take a step back and think of how an avant garde designer would approach it, then take a further step sideways and make it enter the realm of couture. There you have it, Avant Garde Goth Couture.

Okay, got my examples of Goth and can relate to how designers could make it avant garde. I know they are doing avant garde by the fact that their work is unconventional and ahead of its time. But avant garde specifically is not exactly what I think I am to design, as it would be so over the top, and wouldn’t fit in a real person’s collection.  I also note Larraine is asking for couture – not haute couture. Haute couture would be designed for just one specific person (diva doll), be pain staking to produce, and would carry a verrrrrry expensive price tag.  Haute couture might have been ruled out, I think, becuase it might not be produced in my short time frame and leave me caught up short. BUT - knowing Larraine and her judges with such impeccable taste - I also knew she is not necessarily calling for anything that is remotely ready to wear!

So I would decide to stick with my own definition of couture which would be something sewn well using rich fabrics – preferably my beloved silk. Everything must fit impeccably and all, including accessories, must be in scale. Then I’d search through my stash for rich Goth colored fabrics...remembering what I’d seen I’d use the ones I like specifically honed down.  I'd recall designs I'd seen for this challenge as an example only. Then I’d give it all my incomparable spin – and voila’ – after a good pressing and scintillating photos, I’d be ready to deliver it all to Larraine’s email just in time for the judging.  And now it’s time for you to decide. What path will you take to capture the essence of the challenge perfectly?  Am I correct or way out in left field?  That’s for you to ponder and decide as you go through your own process. Whatever you do, prepare to WOW the judges – as you know, that is what it has taken for a win for each and every one of these challenges.

Now let me get on with telling you a bit about your guest judge, David Buttry, so I can return to my world of fashion mags and bon bons – boy this ‘splaining stuff can be tedious, Lucy!!

David Buttry from Integrity has been nice enough to serve as a guest judge in the last two CDDCs, so you can imagine how happy we are to have him back again.
David has always been a doll collector, specifically of fashion dolls. He is also a graphic designer who is well known for his logos and other fashion doll illustrations. Illustrating was the original job he snared at Integrity Toys. While it is true he has worked under Vaughn Sawyers and Jason Wu, David definitely has a style all his own.

He has also designed ads and packaging for Integrity Toys. But the general public probably knows him better for the doll lines he's worked on that include Misaki, Dynamite Girls, and most recently, Poppy Parker. He likes to work on doll designs that include loads of personality.  David has been published in Fashion Doll Quarterly, and other popular doll magazines, so every once in a while we get a glimpse into his amazing talent.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jackson dominates in Challenge Four - with Rococo Style!

Yes, there was no doubt who took this win -- again, Huckleberry Jackson! He has a firm lead with his 304 points, but with four other contestants with 250 plus points, there is no time to let down your guard - so we'll be watching with bated breath to see how the last two challenges score.

In Huckleberry's quest to satisfy the modern runway rococo meets the Oscars challenge, he says he wanted to " with the whole spirit behind the rococo style and make a contemporary new piece rather than just redoing the shape of a rococo dress."

He used some interesting fabric including a fine cotton stretch net and a silk crepe that he hand dyed. An odd pairing of plastic shell-like shapes, pearl beading, and crystallized Swarovski elements worked deliciously to provide some playful overdecoration to this stunning gown.

Adding to the overall styling of this creation were an over the top hairdo, ultra high heels and a simple clutch bag. All in all, not even difficult to see why this one conquered this win.....and the photography win, also!

Honorable mention for photography goes to:

Viktoria Kolmychek

Maria Ustynovska

Congratulations to the winners, and all the contestants. Even though some outfits may not have fit the challenge, all of the entries left behind a beautifully executed presentation for this competition.

Now we're going to turn our attention to the mahvelous permanent judges for this competition. You've already been given a full report on what Steven Fraser has been up to this season, now let's check out what Tom Courtney and Rob Thompson have been up to since the last challenge.

Since we last caught up with Tom Courtney he has left his post as Art Director for a collectible doll company. As a freelance artist he is working on branding more specific to his own art than to art he creates for others. Toward that end, and in anticipation of pursuing other new venues to work for, this creative professional has been finalizing his online portfolio. If you'd care to follow the progression of this delightful work of art, just visit his website.

There hasn't been time for much in the way of doll art, instead he has been rather busy learning new web-building software such a Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Flash. Though a slow process, it has been quite constructive. He's also had to spend a lot of time researching and implementing various social media strategies, which seem to change daily, to include in his freelance potential. However, once a doll aficionado, always one, I'd speculate. And I for one look forward to his next creation whenever he can carve out some time for his girls and guys!

Since we last caught up with Rob Thompson he has been busy doll-wise. One of the dolls he is most proud of doing this past year was the 2010 Barbie convention live auction doll, “Pretty in Pink”, done in collaboration with Steven Fraser of Dressmaker Details. She sold for $3,000.00 for the charity, and there are some wonderful pictures of her at this link.   He's also updated his gallery with loads of eye candy available over here.

His already large volume of work has also welcomed a new brand called “Razor Rain by Robsdolls”. This line is all very dark themed, edgy, or Gothic themed dolls. This line has been selling well, so Rob will be featuring a new “Razor Rain” logo, but all of his designs will still feature his Robsdolls logo in the corner. Rob needed this additional brand because these dolls don't fit the pretty, mainstream doll image that he has become known for. But, not to worry there will still be plenty of his original style designed. "Razor Rain" will be used as his brand directed to the Japanese market, and was also designed not to confuse existing customers who don't really get into the dark edge Gothic dolls exhibit.

One of his biggest projects, and something Rob is extremely proud of, is his charity auction for the NOH8 Campaign. He is organizing an online auction for this coming Fall that will feature one of a kind dolls made by some of the most celebrated and well known doll artists and designers in the doll world. The auction will be featured and publicized by many of the best known doll dealers, and will also be covered in FDQ magazine. The NOH8 Campaign is going to take payments for the winning bids directly so that the winner will get the charity donation tax deduction due to Rob's efforts, and their logo will be put on the dolls for the auction, also. He is even working on teaming up doll artists who don’t sew with doll fashion designers that don’t do OOAK dolls, so it is going to be a huge project. All of the dolls will be done in the NOH8 Campaign photo style which will include duct tape on the dolls mouth with the campaign logo painted over the face, and all the fashions will be white. You can see the style here at their website.. Rob hopes all his time and efforts will bring in between $10 and $20 thousand dollars for the charity.

If that weren't enough, Rob continues to stay busy with commission work and donations to the various charity auctions and conventions he is involved with. He is also working on a couple of articles for FDQ, and has been toying around with writing a novel. All I can say is, where DO you find the time, m’dear, to do all this - and judge CDDC??

Friday, May 13, 2011

S T R E T C H Your Imagination….for this Win

I’m afraid I’ve procrastinated horribly trying to get this latest blog out. You see, when I think of stretch fabrics it’s either super hero, ballroom dancer, or athletic types I envision, and not the bold and beautiful stretch fabrics this challenge alludes to. So I really, really had to do some research on this one – and I’m happy to say this challenge is dead on – and I was not!

I never sewed on stretch fabric, and was feeing I’d be just as lost as the Project Runway contestant whose dress kept stretching and stretching long after the judges had reviewed it. So I was pleasantly surprised at some of the facts I found out about this mystery material.

First of all, stretch fabrics are some of the best for working with the body, making body issues into body assets. They also allow for comfort and freedom of movement without sacrificing style. It's travel friendly, wrinkle resistant, and washable in most cases. It's the perfect fabric to work into any wardrobe, actually.

It also comes in a variety of fabric and finishes that range from matte to shiny, gabardine to cotton stretch. No longer is shopping at a house of spandex your only choice for selection. Many stores carry everything from cotton lycra in stripes or solids to jerseys in a wide variety of colors and prints. Bottom line: Don't rule stretch fabrics out if you’re not into sewing costumes, active wear, or Batman’s latest cape. There’s plenty of top quality fabrics to make your diva doll her next fave fashion.

Milan’s newest major trends include texture, mesh, and inserts – all in one color but in three to five different fabrications - these add so much interest and detail. Leather, everything fitted and thin, close to the body, tough, urban, ready for action are all apropos’. These new fashions made heads turn as they came down the runway, but it was abundantly clear there was no room for anything extraneous, fluffy or unnecessary. Black, grey, tan, and army green were the colors that dominated.

Paris boasted short suits in cozy tweed and other looser fabrics. Their fashions also had inserts – this time in fur – and some boasted wool fringes. These were garments designed with perfect fit that guaranteed another successful Parisian Fashion Week. This year designers rediscovered construction, line, and cuts to reinvent new, transforming pieces. These new collections were built to be deconstructed at pleasure by simply pulling a drawstring or fastening a zip. Short dresses, with enveloping gores made of panels of stretch fabric for easy pleating, draping and nipping added movement to body skimming cuts. A palette of camel, glacé, cream and light blue shades pulled everything together, and made the front row viewers want to reach out and touch these soft, sophisticated stylings.

I hope this has been worth the wait. These new stretch fabrics really do seem quite devine! I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat, anticipating what this talented group of designers will come up with. Having seen their latest rococo offerings, I am a bit overwhelmed.

This week our guest judge is Tamara Casey of Designs by Jude. She’s also one of our sponsors and I have recently featured her, so I’m only going to say CDDC is lucky to have her expertise in judging this latest challenge. She’s the consummate jill of all trades, master of many, and just a specially nice person that we’ve all come to know and love throughout the years. Thanks for all you do for CDDC.

Fashion Doll Quarterly (FDQ) Magazine and Couture Doll Design Challenge continue their efforts to support great new doll designers. And this year FDQ stepped up to the plate once more to offer a wonderful spread on the CDDC winners. We all need to give Larraine a round of applause for writing the upcoming article, and FDQ for finding CDDC newsworthy.

I cannot think of a greater thrill for a new designer than to be in FDQ. Each issue is specifically dedicated to the dolls we love best - fashion dolls - and is packed with wonderful pictures and stories of doll diva doings. And now, once more, some from CDDC will be featured - what a thrill!

A big nod to Pat Henry and her continued effort to put out a quality doll magazine about fashion dolls. She hits the mark every time an issue rolls out. The magazine is beautiful, well-written, and topic driven. All and all, a testament to an editor who knows how to do this job so well.

Be sure to stop by the FDQ website to view an exclusive interview between Pat and Robert Tonner. He really gives a lot of insight into his journey to where he is today - on top! While on the website you'll be able to see what's in the latest issue, subscribe or buy back issues, or even send in a question to Pat. Just a few moments on this website and I'm sure you'll appreciate this fashion saavy magazine - don't let this valuable doll fashion resource pass you by.

It's a thrill for Couture Doll Shops to be returning as a sponsor for our sister site, also. We're so happy that last year's winner, Yana Emelyanova, has completed her website with us, and now has her lovely shop on Couture Court. We’re a retail venue, it’s true.  But in a lot of ways we’re like a big family – a family with a special interest in helping one another.  We’re glad to have Yana as a new family member, and we look forward to welcoming the new winner of CDDC, too.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Daring duds win designer double honors...again

With a near perfect score of 79, Huckleberry Jackson rises to the top to become the winner of Challenge Number 3, and nails down yet another challenge win! Congrats! 

Over in the corner, CDDC's fearless leader, Larraine Elcock, and the Manager of Couture Doll Shops shook their heads wondering who might win it all. "With only 24 points separating the top four contenders it's anybody's race, so cheer on your favourite," said Elcock. "Hum, sounds a little like American Idol!", Dot remarked.

And it's so true - did you realize that every artist needs a little praise. So don't forget to give all the talented contestants a nice attaboy remark on the CDDC Yahoo group for just submitting their entry every 2 weeks - it's really no small feat. Also, while you're over there, give a special shout out for whoever you feel demonstrated the best entry for any particular challenge. How will anyone know otherwise?
We all know Huckleberry has a lot of talent. What was described by this artist as a challenge that was a "bit confusing at first," yielded a stunner that translated the outerwear challenge so well. This haute couture outfit sported a dress that was inspired by bondage but was not bondage, and gave us a lot of allure and attitude to ooh and ah about! In fact, it left your blogger wanting to be able to reach out and "capture" that hat!!

Huckleberry also takes home the Photography prize again. Honorable mention goes to:

Maria Ustynovska

                                          Mark Tinkey
And now for that information I promised on your guest judge for Challenge 4.
Jim Faraone – If you create, he can relate!  

Long before this craft of creating something different from an existing doll (an OOAK doll) became so popular, Jim Faraone was an OOAK artist in the biggest sense of the word. He trained as an artist at The School of Visual Arts in New York City, and is such a talented artist that his artwork has even been on display at the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art.

But Jim, has been an avid collector of dolls, paper dolls, miniatures, paper toys, 40's and 50's plastic dollhouse furniture, metal dishes, and autographed celebrity photos for many years. And when his interests turned to creating OOAK dolls, the doll world not only gained an incredible doll artist, they also gained a wonderful doll friend!

Jim's doll work has made a natural progression since he began his journey of developing OOAK dolls. He wanted his 1/6th scale dolls to have their own personality, so he enhanced their makeup by even rooting eyelashes and hair. He developed elaborate hairdos for his glamour girls, too - braid, waves, and chignons come to mind. And when it came to developing their wonderful gowns, he became a beader - but again Jim took it to a greater level – in fact, Jim’s OOAKS are beaded wonders!

Jim didn't stop at making OOAK dolls, though. He actually began to chronicle his process and produced the final version in book form. To date he has had six books published; five in the series of Fashion Doll Makeovers, Learn from the Artists; and one titled Ultimate Fashion Doll Makeovers, Tips from the Experts. But Jim has never just been about self-promotion.

Jim Faraone is a true artist's friend. and many of his talented friends are the artists in his books that people learn from. They are also the friends who today support Jim in his best endeavor to date, his own convention, the International Fashion Doll Convention (IFDC). It is currently held in Las Vegas in the summer, and not only offers several days of fun with other doll friends, it is also a venue for some of the most informative workshops, a marvelous showcase for artist’s work, and a place where new fashion dolls are unveiled!

Jim has worked diligently to see that new work of professional and non-professional artists is displayed. He is an avid believer in supporting the artists and giving them the recognition they deserve.

Today Jim creates miniatures and paintings of dolls as well as copies of famous artwork for dolls which are prizes for the IFDC. The convention website is at and you can see everything he has created for the 2011 IFDC at
So you may want to listen up when Jim makes his critiques. You can depend they are given by a caring artist, and hopefuly all the contestants will benefit from his take on their work.