Wednesday, February 25, 2009

more talk! with madam chino

1. How long have you been sewing/designing, and how did you become interested in making your own garments/accessories?

I was 19 When I realized that caring about one's own appearance was not a function of vanity, but of self-expression, and I decided to start tayloring my own garments. I realized that there was a reciprocal determinism between what you feel like and what you look like. The value of the expression is that it brings inner feelings to the outer world, but also, by virtue of using clothing as a tool of communication, can transform the wearer to new states of awareness and consciousness. This happens when the wearer's self-confidence and sense of self are increased through this amazing process of expression.

2. Do you use recycled materials in your designs? If so, what? Where do you obtain materials to use?
I was hesitant to begin a "career" in fashion because I didn't want to support an industry so full of vanity and social irresponsibility. Besides wanting to make people feel good about themselves through expression, What finally gave me the "go" was realizing that reclaiming old clothing was not only stopping them from being buried, but could circumvent new materials extraction, fabrication, and transportation. This was socially responsible! I use my old clothes, clothes that are handed down to me, or thrifted items.

3. Our grandmother’s generation applied the “wear it out, use it up, make it do, or do without” theory in uncertain economic times. Do you see a resurgence of D.I.Y. with recycled materials in today’s economy?

A new word that I've learned is "upcycling" which is basically taking what materials already exist and making them "better." Like: a better fit, and new shape, a marraige of preexisting materials, where the old forms are not completely dissolved before the construction.

"Necessity is the mother of invention" is another good theory, and I see that this works for people of low economic status because of the pressure to find creative solutions to everyday problems. This is enjoying "simple luxury" which is worth more than money can buy! It's priceless! I hope that people can focus on that, not giving up their good taste, but finding new ways to fulfill it.

4. Has making your own clothing/accessories saved you money?

Yes, it saves money, by not buying anything new, using what i have and making it better, and by earning money by changing the value of them.

I wear the items that I make from my old clothes, that have little flaws in the fabric, and put to market the items that are perfect.

5. What are your thoughts on D.I.Y. as an alternative to the sweatshop garments that dominate big-box chain stores and malls?

It has always been our hope that if people didn't buy our garments and adornments, that they would make it themselves, and we offer to teach them. Buying a socially responsible locally-made item that costs the same or more than a mall made item has positive effects for the individual integrity, community, local economy, and environment. Also, vintage fabrics are of higher quality, increasing the longevity of the new item.

6. What advice do you have for people interested in learning the art of D.I.Y. and saving money by creating their own clothing/accessories?

Even without a sewing machine, a dress form, and years of exprience or classes, one can enjoy changing "how" it is worn. Clothing is less important than how you "style" it. I like to use the example where, if you have a big zit, rather than laboring to cover up, simply put on bright red lipstick to change the focal point. Dissolve the boundaries set in place by simple semantics, and begin viewing skirts as shirts, underwear as outerwear, pants as sleeves, or shirts as dresses. For clothing, simply wearing a belt in just the right spot can transform the purportions and length of garments without any sewing.

Anything you see, you could make or style, but the materials might not be as fancy. However, the expression is visible in the purportions.