Q notes 6.5: Time for Questions

Had time during the week, to ask myself and the Internet about things that puzzled me about Making the Cut, reviewed last time.
We had this “wow” feeling of watching the show, then being able to go straight online to the Amazon Making the Cut store and ordering the winning pieces. It feels like magic, having the possibility to see something, like it and order it right away.

Deedee on Youtube was the first person to post an Unboxing video to show her Esther Perbandt trousers and vest top from episode 2. She seemed well-pleased with her purchases. Unfortunately, quite a few people commented on the pieces being sold out, or not being available in their country.

My questions to Amazon are, what happened between the designer winning and the item popping up in the online store 6-8 months later? They are in a position to provide some transparency to the production process as well.

I’m no expert, so bear with me. As far as I can find out, thanks to Zoe Hong’s educational fashion videos on Youtube:

How to get your Ideas made into clothes

Watch me design 8: Initial Costing

How to Design for Every Price Point

How to Produce a Fashion Collection

I get the idea, that the item gets broken down from the pattern and tech pack, where each piece has a production cost attached. And depending on what Amazon budgeted for the production run, certain details (fabric quality, embellishments, trims, etc) get tweaked until the price is right. That explains why Esther Perbandt designed the trousers using one material, but they are on sale made of polyester and elastane. (For the record, she has stated on her website, that her boutique production takes place in Berlin, Germany and in Poland)

After the number-crunching, fabric, linings and trims are sourced, then off to producers. So, WHERE was it produced? BY WHOM? Under what conditions? All we see is “Imported”. Is that code for they don’t think we want to know the clothing may have been sewn in China?

Amazon missed a chance here to show the world that they can produce fair and sustainably, rather than jumping feet first into Fast Fashion. If any global organization could redefine fashion in this new decade, it could have been Amazon – if they set a new pace with transparency and traceability rather than following the pack.

Stay safe and healthy.

Q Notes 6: Binge watching the future

woman in white bed holding remote control while eating popcorn
Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

Believe it or not, I’ve had very little time for binging shows. It’s family viewing until the kids withdraw.

As I’ve posted here, I watched Love is Blind, but I’ve also caught Netflix’ Next in Fashion and am now watching Amazon’s Making the Cut.
There’s less drama than Project Runway, there’s more design (even though sewing is still necessary) and more behind the scenes of how the fashion business works, from idea to finished garment in shops or runways.
I also like to watch episode reviews and see what other people are saying about these shows. What shocks me is how little people know about fashion history and often conflate their personal taste with the idea that their way of dressing is the only way and any deviation is wrong. Shoutout to HauteLeMode and SpillitBoytv on Youtube for their analyses. They know their fashion history.

What I’ve learned: Black is a non-color as well as a philosophy in fashion. Museum Galliera has even showed Balenciaga’s work in black. So, a designer who only makes garments in black is a statement. I even found Making the Startup podcast, where my fellow countrywoman Esther Perbandt talks about her experiences on the show (there are no spoilers, though). I’m now looking through her previous collections on Vogue.de.

Thanks to the Internet, we can look up a Betsey Johnson or Japanese street fashion  to learn and understand the aesthetic of contestant Martha. Or we could look up Comme des Garçons or the  Antwerp Six,  to find out why Sander is sending a donut dress (which totally reminded me of Janelle Monae’s Pynk pants) down the runway. It’s great to see him learning in real time, to find the balance between avant-garde and accessibility. Which is basically the question: will this sell?

The fact that Amazon is using the show to attempt to
jumpstart its Fashion category is not surprising given the literally captive audience in lockdown. As a logistics giant, it certainly won’t hurt their bottom line, if they present themselves as good partners for small and emerging designers like those in the competition. For the record though, we have to keep in mind that Amazon has had a muddy track record protecting partners from counterfeits, fakes and copies. Remember Birkenstock?
It’s fitting, now that so many in-person fashion and sustainability conferences and trade fairs have been cancelled or postponed, that we consumers have another way to mull over how this worldwide crisis is going to change fashion.

Tamsin Blanchard also looks at how this might cause the fashion industry players to recalibrate their thinking. Li Edelkoort, my favorite trend forecaster (and the closest we have to a Deplhic Oracle), talks about a quarantine of consumption.

“It seems we are massively entering a quarantine of consumption where we will learn how to be happy just with a simple dress, rediscovering old favourites we own, reading a forgotten book and cooking up a storm to make life beautiful.”

– Li Edelkoort in Dezeen magazine

We’re looking at what young/small designers can create (hopefully sustainable, green and fair), and we are asking ourselves what do we really want and need. Interestingly enough, I’ve been seeing more online ads for loungewear, blouses (we only need waist-up for teleconferencing, I guess) and sportswear.

Edelkoort also describes what will come next, post-virus, as the Age of the Amateur (which she explains in greater depth on the BoF Podcast). She sees arts and crafts, artisanal production and DIY as a survival mechanism. And that’s where hobby makers firmly sit. So let’s keep on making.

Stay healthy and stay safe.

Q notes 5: Bookclub

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The Plague” and author Albert Camus
(Vintage/ Everett/Shutterstock) / source: LA Times

I’ve finished my felted slippers and put in my cardigan pockets. I’m finishing my Ankers Sommer shirt, my last major WIP, while getting used to lockdown life. It helps that the sun is shining. And that we have enough space that we aren’t up under each other all day.

I get the New York Times’ and the Economist’s Corona Daily Briefing Newsletters. The most practical and inspirational is the NYT Cooking newsletter. Not only do I get an idea of what people are cooking under quarantine, but I have learned a lot about what one can do with things I only knew one way of cooking.

Unusually satisfying, almost like a balancing of the daily news, is reading Albert Camus’ Absurdist novel The Plague with the Quillette magazine bookclub.

It sounds morbid, but it is actually soothing that this Franco-Algerian writer wrote this in 1947 and humans in 2020 are acting in exactly the same ways.

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.

And it fits right in with news report of a certain US governor saying he had no idea Covid-19 was so dangerous. Here’s also what LA Times writer Stephen Metcalf also had to say about reading this book now…

Stay safe everyone.

 

Q notes 4: Online inspiration

Puttering around the website of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, I learned that multimedia collage artist, Wangechi Mutu was commissioned to create sculptures for the Museum facade. She explains the inspiration behind her 4 pieces, titled The New Ones, will free us in her artist interview.

They have a regal, ethereal, otherworldly beauty that reminds me of the Watchers/ Monitors from comic books, who observe humanity.

The texture of these modern caryatids‘ tunics remind me not only of ribbing, but of brioche, which has been on my to do list for YEARS. As Dana of Yards of Happiness recently said, now is the time to learn it. Because we have the time now.

 

Ribbed Cowlet by Shannon Charles
Ribbed Capelet by StevenBe
Horizontal Ribbed Cowl by Maxine Levinson

Very Pink Knits‘ brioche tutorial.
Felicia from Sweet Georgia yarn has a very soothing, well-shot and clear video on how to do 2 color brioche.

Links to online content @ Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Coco Chanel: Romanticism
Christian Dior‘s The New Look
The Millicent Rogers Collection of Schiaparelli at the Brooklyn Museum
Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons Art of the In-Between
Charles James Muslins
At the Tate Britain: Re.Create with Tate Britain: Fashion

More links to virtual museum offerings.

And CreativeLive is offering free health and wellness courses.

Stay well.

Q Notes 3: Spring cleaning

gray and brown floor mop on white wall
Photo by Rony Stephen Chowdhury on Pexels.com

Half Germany is using the lockdown/ quarantine time for what probably would have gotten started this weekend: spring cleaning.

On the agenda, even above and beyond a basic Corona wipedown of surfaces and door handles, are windows, blinds, bedsheets and duvets. Every nook and cranny has to be freed of dust and cobwebs that do accumulate in the darker half of the year. If you have a fireplace, you know what I mean. It always amazes me how much dust can accumulate on a heater/radiator.

Now that it’s spring, everyone wants to let the light, fresh air and warmth in.
If you’re working from home, here are some general tips on cleaning your workspace.

I‘m hearing discussions on the Internet about cleaning and cooking as the new wellness. I can well imagine that, as especially in these times, doing something like these simple tasks can help us feel like we are in control of even a small part of our lives. Plus we have the advantage of starting, practicing and getting better over time. Becoming good at it. We talked about micromastery here.

I think on a micro scale, cleaning is deeply satisfying because it’s really creating order from chaos. Like when Marie Kondo says, „I love mess.“ She’s thinking about the pleasure she gets from sorting it all out.

Books:

At Home with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott, who also vlogged about mentally rebranding domestic tasks.

Happy starts at Home by Rebecca West is on my reading list.

Shannon’s The Simple Sophisticate podcast, where I learned about this book.

Other links:

Roy Wood Jr on best pandemic movies to watch after the cleaning is done.

Dana „DWJ“ from Yards of Happiness on what to knit while self-quarantining.

Notes 2: Max Ernst’s Woman in Red

Markus Orth‘s book Max, that I just finished listening to, inspired me to start looking at the art created by the main character Max Ernst, and some of the women he had relationships with: Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning and Luise Straus-Ernst.
Ernst was an unusually versatile and prolific artist working in the early Dadaist and later surrealist. What struck me, was that Max Ernst returned again and again to portraying a woman in red.

 

I particularly struck by the Virgin mother, disciplining her child. She has removed the blue cloak that we normally associate her with (to cushion her son on her lap), and has what we would today call a bodycon skin-tight red garment underneath, revealing every curve of her body. It very much reminds me of several art historians‘ claim that Mary took the place of a more ancient mother goddess.

I‘m no art historian, but I find it fascinating how often he paints women in red. I couldn’t find anything online, so I thought I‘d put them all on one page to see if my hunch was correct.

It‘s interesting how sparingly Ernst used red, but once in the US in the 1940s, he painted so many female figure with these red tones. Despite the fact that they are, with two exceptions masked, the decalcomania technique he uses gives them an earthy, elemental allure.
The tattered garments which hang on nude bodies remind me of what Camille Paglia calls „liquid nature „ in her book Sexual Personae. In every case, he balances the repulsion we feel with the „beautiful“ bodies stepping forward or peeking out from the red. As Paglia writes,
“Beauty is our escape from the murky flesh-envelope that imprisons us.”

Cardi B at Met Gala 2019
Cardi B in Thom Browne gown Met Gala 2019 /source: businessinsider.com

And speaking of our mortality, this morning I woke up to find these Cardi B remixes:

1) by iMarkkeyz and 2) DJ Snake, and this other guy jazz pianist Charles Cornell, I‘ll throw in because NOW we have time, right?

 

Notes from Quarantine: How to stop Face touching

photo of woman in red sweater
Photo by Sound On on Pexels.com

I‘m the kind of person, whose nose starts to itch as soon as someone tells me I shouldn’t touch my face. Are you like that too?

Wired has a great article on why we touch our faces, often without realizing it, up to 23 times an hour.
Good Housekeeping also has good recommendations on how to break the habit.
The New York Times suggests wearing glasses and even makeup to create a barrier and reduce the urge to touch.
I‘ve also seen recommendations to have a clean tissue on hand, if you must touch.

Maybe rubbing that itchy (but not runny!) nose on a sleeve or shoulder will help. Gosh, that big collared textured cowl is looking better every minute y‘all.

Stash and Hoard


A German lady I was talking to this week expressed amazement at  people’s hoarding behaviour. She said she’s never experienced empty store shelves in her life. Because of anxiety about the Corona epidemic, people having been rushing to stores to buy noodles, tomato sauce, flour, sugar, disinfectants and toilet paper. Everything else is still available. Just those things are sold out. Or are being rationed to prevent panic-buying and hoarding, called Hamsterkäufe, which brings up loads of jokes about hamsters.
And so, I’ve just pulled a favourite cookbook and knitting book from my collection: Judith Will‘s The New Home Larder and Cathy Carron’s Cowlgirls. The cookbook is to get my kitchen, larder and headspace ready for cooking from non-perishables (if it should come to it), and Cowlgirls has me thinking about high necked woolen hugs, acting like a barrier between us and the dangerous world.


Although the styling of the photos feels a little dated, the super bulky knit Ribbed Cowl has a feel similar to Espace Tricot’s bulky  Getting Warmer cowl… It’s interesting that the stitch patterns are reversed.

This morning, I heard that wiggling your toes can help with feelings of anxiety and helplessness. Stay well everyone, and keep knitting….

 

 

Knitfree TV – Love is Blind (no spoilers)

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could knit a balaclava fine enough to replace the face masks dominating the news about the Corona Virus days? Which mask would help against the airborne virus? Info here.
Besides preparing for the global pandemic (buying supplies, increasing handwashing and general immune system-friendly habits), I fell into the Love is Blind hole on Netflix. And yes, it is absolutely trash TV, but it is addictive. Netflix released the first batch of episodes on Valentine‘s Day.

TV viewers have loved dating shows for years. And loved to hate them too. But they are a reflection of our society, from our ideas of what is attractive to what is okay to do and say in public and on TV.
Back in 2009, a show Dating in the Dark was created in Holland, and the franchise sold all over the world. Three men and three women were in a house and went on a date in a light-free room. The idea was to find someone to date without prejudices that would come from the person‘s appearance. Of course, the participants were chosen by a group of unseen experts to be thrown together.

Naturally, humans being humans, the participants decided to compensate for the loss of sight by using other senses: hearing, smell and in particular touch. The shows rapidly turned the viewers into voyeurs. And curiously, even though producers didn’t prohibit touching, there was an amazingly high rate of rejection in the cold light of day.

Then we had the gamification of the dating show, with Bachelor, Bachelorette, and Love Island franchises (and the like), which have as an end result an engagement (for the first two shows). So viewers have been willing to see all the contortions contestants are willing to go through to „win“. The Bachelor has a German version running here, but it’s nowhere near as popular as the US version in its home market.

Then we had Married at First Sight, which does have its fanbase, where marriage is the goal and the start of the process. Couples are paired up by unseen experts and the viewer watches them struggle until they settle in or throw in the towel. To be honest, it’s not unlike arranged marriages of yore (and some non-Western cultures today) where the bride never met her bridegroom  before the ceremony. These days, it’s more likely that arranged fiancés talk on the phone or meet in chaperoned circumstances.
This brings up the questions as to why these relationships „work“ and can such a situation work in the western societies. From a rough calculation, we can see that only 33% of the couples in this type of show stays married.

Parallel to TV presenting us unusual iterations of the couples trying to get together, the science of love burst onto the public awareness. Mandy Len Catron wrote an article about 36 Questions (people often ignore the 4 minutes of intense unbroken eye contact at the end) which could foster enough closeness that the couple would decide they had fallen in love.

Which brings us around to Love is Blind (where one of the ladies asks a fella one of the 36 questions and end up crying together). It‘s a mashup of bits we‘ve seen before. The pod phase which is more often likened to speed-dating, is actually Dating in the Dark idea but taken to its proper conclusion. If you really want to cut out outside/appearance related factors, then the dark isn’t enough. So a wall (where not even a shadow – which would betray body shape and possibly  fitness level) makes perfect sense.
Interestingly another update was that engagement was NOT the end-goal, and so participants were not able to see and then judge their choice until they had made the commitment to become engaged. There’s a bit of an IKEA effect going on here, where making a conscious choice in the middle motivated many to stick with their partner through thick and thin.
So the formula playing out on our screens was emotional connection + conscious choice + physical attraction + external factors. Each taking place in a different location, from the pods, to a Mexican beach resort and finally in an Atlanta condominium complex. The finale episode released yesterday was the culmination, where the couples would walk up the aisle and then state whether the formula solved the love equation for them or not.

I feel terrible for viewers who had to get up at 3am to watch, but not too much because it released at a very humane time for European viewers. Especially those on midterm holidays. The memes on social media were worth it though. The global community which built up this show has been quite impressive – not only people recapping and reviewing each episode, but especially the analyses from psychological, and socio-cultural perspectives.

Shoutout to Youtubers The Compassionate Behaviorist who dissects Carlton’s and Diamond‘s argument, Kiss My Cheeks TV whose bubbly personality, local knowledge and prompt postings are a joy to watch, and Supernaturally Sagittarius who looked at the couple dynamics. Special mention to Grace Report for alternate views on Jessica and breaking news on Amber.

As mentioned, all the episodes are now available on Netflix. The Reunion episode has been taped and will air on March 5, 2020 on the Netflix Youtube channel. The season was apparently filmed 15 months ago, so at the time of airing, the couples who married have now been together that long.

It boggles the mind, not only that they had to keep their social media accounts circumspect for so long, but that so many viewers became internet sleuths to sift through Instagram and Twitter to find minute clues about who married and who is still together. Do we as a society have shorter attention spans? Are we unable to sit out any type of suspense?

 

The Woman from the Sea

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Angela Rossi /arte.tv

I just finished watching Julien Trousselier’s six-part series, Une Île, (The Woman from the Sea). A fascinating, fantasy-horror-crime story that just gives one a lot of food for thought.

There’s pretty much every issue in Europe right now, simmering under the surface here: immigration, how we treat immigrants, how good intentions can backfire, friendship, families intact and torn apart, the decline of rural communities (often helpless and relying on the mainland/capital/city), youth unemployment and subsequent departures from these communities, and lastly the currently seemingly troubled relationships between men and women (a drug-aided rape attempt, obsessive stalking, kidnapping, and even an uncommunicative, grief-stalled, alcohol-numbed marriage).

The series works, because it keeps the viewer guessing what exactly is happening, and although they play with these myths of Nature as woman, the Woman (like Tiamat, the angry mother) out of the deep, coming to take revenge on humanity, the filmmaker has a light touch.
It’s as much a coming of age story, as it is a romance and a detective story. And yes, former model Laetitia Casta ( shown here with Noée Abita above) is the titular “Woman”, and I think she does a brilliant job being gorgeous yet creepy.
The Mediterranean land and seascapes are gorgeous and

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Michelangelo di Battista /arte.tv

There are a few sweaters. I liked this one best, and reminded me of these:


Ajeng Sitoresmi’s No Seam Cable Pullover, Adrienne Vittadini’s #9 Cabled Pullover and Kristen TenDyke’s Cable Rib Pullover. The last is a free sweater, child-sized but not too difficult to adapt to adult size.

The Woman from the Sea is pretty much the perfect mix of winter thriller, worrying about the environment, and a bit of wishing for the warmth of summer by the seaside.
So I couldn’t resist throwing in this gorgeous The crocheted swimsuit Poliana by Nomad Stitches is quite lovely…

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Other Links:

Barbarakafka‘s lovely post on swimsuits, knitting and Sonia Delaunay’s art.

Dressed Podcast has a two part podcast on the history of Swimwear (here and here) which is a delightful listen while knitting your one-piece, bikini, coverup or beachbag.