Under construction.

Sewing. My great grandmother was a master at it. My grandmother also sewed and designed. My mother, too. But not I.

Oh I started, pretty young but my mother actually didn’t care for sewing and she was working, so it got dropped as soon as I needed help. (Having worked full time myself most of my adult life – I understand, Mom. Who wants to drag out the sewing machine after a long day at the job?)

Over the years since then I’ve picked up a class here and there. But after the project was complete I was done for the time being until I picked it up again and started almost from scratch.

Not. Any. More.


Inside out. 


Once and for all I want to be able to make my own clothing – at least the basics and as a fashion writer, I want to understand clothing construction. I’m committed and luckily, I have found the right class or I should say, classes.

I’m just about to take class number 3 with Kamal Ragbotra through Mt. Diablo Adult Education. I’ve been binge sewing since April and so far I’ve made a pair of pants with pockets and a knit dress.

The wonderful thing is these classes are challenging but not overwhelming and it’s so much fun! I credit Kamal for all that. Her approach is serious but everything is doable and mistakes are learning opportunities. Like the time in the Knits Class when – two stitches in, using my double needle for the first time, it broke. “Why?” I screeched. Oh … because I didn’t switch the machine setting from zigzag to straight stitch. Kamal had warned us about that but in all the excitement over the double needle I forgot. Bet ya, though, that I won’t forget again.



Add a tuck and a button.

With Kamal, who has a degree in fashion design, it isn’t just about the project at hand. She spends quite a bit of time lecturing about fabrics and patterns. For example, I have never had a sewing instructor explain pattern sizing and ease of wear. I was thinking one day, “Hey we’re in sewing grad school!”

For the Knits Class I chose to make a dress from a double knit span/rayon blend – the rayon provides a nice drape. Kamal suggested I use the reverse side for the sleeves. When the sleeves were slightly too loose she showed me how to tuck them and then had the idea to add buttons. (Very handy for us that she shares her designer instincts.)




Up next is the Studio Class, to which we bring our own projects. That for me will be a skirt and my first zipper. After that? Hmm … something vintage inspired I suspect.

Atelier Versace - Runway - Paris Fashion Week Haute Couture S/S 2016

A brand collapses without a designer. If there is no pure creativity, a company shuts down. It would be convenient for companies if managers did it all. But they are wrong. Raf Simons exited Dior. He is my dear friend, I have tremendous respect for him, he is so talented. Dior is not Dior anymore. I’m not saying that Raf was perfect for that position, but he refreshed it, he brought a breath of novelty to the brand. It’s very difficult to replace someone who has left a mark.

– Donatella Versace, Italian fashion designer.

StyleSlam_logo copy

Style Slam happening at the American Craft Council Show August 5-7.

Make sure to mark your calendars for the upcoming American Craft Council Show, August 5-7, 2016 at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

Every year the ACC brings together over 220 top craftspeople from around the country to exhibit and sell their wares, which includes one-of-a-kind jewelry, clothing, gifts, fine art, and home décor.

Each show also includes activities and new this year it’s something called Style Slam. Sounds like fun … what is it? Well, four local stylists will shop the show and put together several looks on models and attendees, demonstrating how unique handmade pieces can work into any wardrobe.

One of the chosen local stylists is Betina Baumgarten from Best Foot Forward in Marin. She and I did a little Q&A about Style Slam via e-mail:

Betina, have you been to the ACC show before?

I am so excited to not only attend my very first ACC show, but to be a stylist for the very first Style Slam! I’m amazed by how artists and designers can tangibly showcase their creativity; and use their work to tell their stories and share their world view. When someone purchases and wears a designer’s work, they not only embrace the designer’s story – but they make it their own as they too infuse their stories, unique personalities, style and flair.

That is so true and well put. How will you approach your task for Style Slam?

My approach to Style Slam will mimic my approach to working with any client or business: entering the experience with a sense of wonder, excitement, curiosity; and with an open mind and heart! I can’t wait to experience the innovation and creativity that is ACC. To be a part of such an incredible event that celebrates and showcases such talent is an honor! I can’t wait to “slam” talent that not only speaks to me but that is cutting edge and fashion forward – and that I hope speaks to others.

Thank you, Betina. I look forward to seeing what you put together!

Something else new at the ACC show is Make Room – local home decorators will style rooms with pieces from the show. Then, Style Slam and Make Room will cross over for Design Meets Style with the styled models hanging out for photos in the styled rooms.

The Style Slam schedule:
Friday, 11-4- Stylists will scout the show floor and “slam” their favorite pieces and style their mannequin.
Saturday, 10-12 – Design Meets Style program with commentary. Each stylist is paired with a Make Room designer and will style their own model that reflects the theme of their designers room.
Saturday, 1-4:30 – Member Makeover program with commentary in Style Slam booth.
So much fun all in one place. Don’t miss it! Click here for more scoop. 



bfda-awards-31Our glamorous business has an unglamorous secret. Fashion has become the second most polluting industry in the world, and it’s time we did something about it. But the solution is not what you may think. Our existing model is a one-way street where precious resources dwindle until they’re gone, generating waste as a byproduct. Current problems have less to do with production or consumption than with a fundamental flaw in how we design products.

– Lewis Perkins, president of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

Cradle to Cradle works with companies to help improve their design process. With fashion, for example, Cradle to Cradle connects designers with sustainable manufactured dyes, fabrics, thread, yarn, etc.

Wow! This is really exciting – imagine guilt-free fashion. Click on the link above to learn more.


MTM1NDk2NDE2ODA1MDM0NDYyFashion is not about products. Fashion is about an amazing idea that you tried and you either fall in love with the idea and you can’t resist to buy something. But you are buying the idea, you are not buying the object.

– Alessandro Michele, Creative Director of Gucci.

Mr. Michele was appointed Creative Director of Gucci in January 2015, after having donned many other hats within the brand since 2002. The story goes that as he was just about to leave the company when CEO, Marco Bizzarri paid him a visit for coffee. The simple visit turned into a job offer and request – can you put together a men’s line in a week?

In the year and a half since, Mr. Michele has revitalized Gucci, causing quite a buzz and bringing to the iconic brand his sense of history and a love of accessories, particularly large antique rings. Called The New Romantic, he has received rave reviews for his wearable silhouettes and use of pattern and color. Most of all I think fashion followers are fascinated with the designer’s retro 1970s vibe, which feels so refreshing. I like the fact that he’s incorporated some of the old-school Gucci elements such as the red and green stripe and bamboo handle on the handbags.

Some say Mr. Michele will set the new overall flavor in fashion. At the very least, he’s one to have fun watching.



Alessandro Michele for Gucci, spring 2016.

Revised Cover - In the Name of GucciI just finished reading – In the Name of Gucci: A Memoir, by Patricia Gucci, (Crown Archetype, 2016).

Gucci is still around but do you remember the brand in its heyday? You might be conjuring up images of the iconic red and green stripe or the double G logo.

Gucci began in 1921 but by the 1950s it had become THE luxury fashion brand on everyone’s must-have list. The family-run business continued to soar in popularity around the world until 1989 when it was sold to Investcorp.

In her memoir, Patricia, the love child of Aldo Gucci and his mistress Bruna, shares for the first time the compelling and complicated story of her parents, the Gucci family, and the history of the status brand, which was the first Italian company to open retail shops in the U.S. prompting the Made In Italy phenomenon.

When Patricia was born in 1963, her father was middle-aged, the head of (and powerhouse behind) Gucci as well as a married man with three sons. Her mother was 32 years his junior and a former employee of the Gucci shop in Rome. The couple kept their relationship and their daughter a secret … for as long as they could.

Did I mention it’s complicated?

Well, it is and I tip my hat to Patricia and co-writer Wendy Holden for their excellent crafting. The authors successfully keep clear for the reader all the various elements to the  story, which begins in 1897 with Patricia’s grandfather. At 16 Guccio immigrated from his small Italian village to London to work as a page for the Savoy Hotel. After returning to Italy several years later Guccio opened a luggage shop in Florence, which was to eventually become the Gucci we think of today.

A man of impeccable taste, my grandfather hoped to create the kind of superior leather goods he’d been handling since he was a boy, only using cheaper hides enhanced by skilled dyeing and treating techniques. His own elegant designs based loosely on English tailoring and style were pieced together by Florentine craftsmen with their eye for detail. Each new item carried the first Gucci monogram – a tiny image of a young page in full livery and a cap carrying a suitcase in one hand and Gladstone bag in the other. It was my grandfather’s nod to his formative days.

There is so much to this memoir – a love affair, the rise and fall of a fashion brand, secrets and family betrayal. It’s an operatic story for sure but Patricia doesn’t take advantage of that; she simply tells it like it was. Although her affection for her father, who died in 1990, comes through she remains honest and does a nice job balancing her emotions.

Relationships can be tricky to navigate. Those we have with our parents can be the most complicated and often require compromises once we come to the realization that none of us live in a perfect world and that the people we love are flawed.

I enjoyed most reading about the history of the company and Patricia’s later involvement as a spokesperson, model, and board member. Indeed she was the first female board member in the company’s 90 year history. I am curious about who was designing for the brand during Aldo’s reign. Who for example came up with the Jackie O handbag?

It’s been thirty years since the sale of Gucci and 26 since Aldo died. Why a memoir now? Patricia was under a gag order for ten years after the sale but beyond that, she never really knew the whole story between her parents. Any time she asked her mother for details, she was shut down. Until 2009, when Bruna unexpectedly opened up and handed over a stack of Aldo’s love letters written while the couple were secretly courting. That was the beginning of In the Name of Gucci.

I became so captivated by this book that time flew by unnoticed. I didn’t want to put it down and I didn’t want it to end.

It can’t get any better than that.


… fashion is the armor to survive the reality of every day life. I don’t think you could do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization. 

– Bill Cunningham (1929-2016), fashion photographer for the New York Times. Quoted in the documentary, Bill Cunningham New York.

I was sad to hear that Mr. Cunningham had passed away this last Saturday after suffering a stroke.

From his modesty to his signature French blue working jacket to his keen eye for unique fashion – there will never be another Bill Cunningham. RIP.



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