Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Preview: Inklings t-shirt collaboration

While the first "official" line from Lily of the Valley was "Excerpts from a Victorian Cookbook",  the REAL first line was "Keys to the Kingdom".  Released years ago, it was simple box pleated skirt adorned with castles screen printed by my good friend Melanie.

Melanie has since handed over the screen printing business to her son John, who is also a close friend of mine.  It is now Inklings, home to Baa the adventurous sheep illustrated by Melanie and some amusingly clever and sometimes quite smart ass shirts thought up by John.

John is engaged to the delightful Autumn (who some Philly lolitas are sure to have met!) and they are planning their nuptials for this coming spring!  

As their Maid of Honor I've taken on the task to help them finance the wedding in addition to making the dress (of course!).  

In short, John's company Inklings and my lolita brand are collaborating on one or two t-shirt designs with lolitas in mind!  

I've come up with a few designs but I also would like your help and suggestions.  Here are a few of mine so far!

A basic bow, this is my favorite idea so far.  Cute but also not too busy.  It would be printed a bit off center.

Fawnasol!  Combine two popular lolita motifs  = win?  


Other ideas I've had would be castles, or an art nouveau style mermaid sitting in a shell.

Please let me know what t-shirt designs you would like to see.

Keep in mind that they will be printed in EITHER white or black ink on a "baby tee" style shirt.  The shirt style comes in lots of colors, which is nice.

In other news I've been working on "Neptune's Domain" orders and handsewing an Italian style Renaissance dress in my "off" hours.   The example pieces for the second release are next on my list to make!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lily of the Valley Unveiled

image from wikipedia.com
This is a post I have considered making for some time, and have shied away from; the inner workings, so to speak, of my lolita brand: Lily of the Valley.

It simply seemed like it would be too ostentatious, too likely to be seen as showing off, and the idea made me feel rather.... well exposed.

What finally led me to writing it was a lolita secret, posted early August, growling about the prices of my most recent release: the "Neptune's Domain" jumperskirt.

I actually didn't see the secret until over a week after it was posted, I had been vacationing in the wilds of French Canada at my family's' log cabin with no internet to speak of.

At first I groaned and nervously scrolled down, but was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of positive and very reasonable comments in response.

I try to stay away from "drama" as much as I can; figuring that this is a good preventative measure.  And so far it has worked, what little exposure I've had (that I have seen) has ended up positive, or at least a mixed bag.

But because of the reasonableness of the "secret" and the thoughtfulness of the comments, I thought I should respond in kind.

So to start: here is a brief rundown in what goes into making a line, it's not always this linear though:

  • Original Idea: The concept so to speak.  A theme or subject matter will bubble it's way to the surface of my mind.  I'll play around with it, getting a feeling for the colors, fabrics, shapes, ect. that might work. I'll continue to mull it over, editing, sketching, and revising until I get to the next step.   This can take a month or so to a few years; I usually have from 5 to 10 ideas floating about at any time.
  • Research: Gathering up reference images for the fabric print or embroidery design.  I'll also do research into material suppliers and costs.  This is when I start working on designing the coordinating jewelry line.  
  • Art:  Now I'll start working on the art for the fabric print, or embroidery.  If it's going to be printed this means a sketch, lightly transferring the "lines" of the sketch to bristol paper, and then coloring it with markers or hopefully soon: watercolors.  The print is worked in sections, to be later assembled digitally.  If it's for an embroidery design I just need the sketch.  This is one of the "scariest" parts of the process because it's a test to see if I can artistically pull off what I have in my head; I don't consider myself a great artist and I don't get the practice I probably should.
  • Digital Assembly: The art is scanned.  If it's for a fabric print I'll clean up and assemble the various pieces.  I have a very old copy of Jasc "Paint Shop Pro", but I mostly use the freewear program "Paint.net" and MSPaint.  If it's an embroidery I import it into the freewear program "Threds" and digitize it; shape by shape.
  • Ordering Materials: Pretty strait forward of course, I order the fabrics, trims, findings, ect. that  I need for the example pieces.  I try my best to cut costs.  I purchase the majority of my trims in bulk or from a outlet store; but I can't do this with everything and lolita garments are complicated and intricate.  I purchase my specialty printed fabric from Spoonflower, who I have found to have the best customer service; but it isn't cheap.  
  • Construction: Working out the patterns for and putting together the example garments for the first release of the line (Jumperskirt/skirt/bodice, headpeice, jewelry, additional accessories).   I'll also sketch and ink the "official" flats, and make the coordinate "splash page" art at this point.
  • Photography:  Setting up the backdrops and taking photos of the release's pieces, the fabric, color, and trim choices.  I use a slightly aged point and shoot for this; a new camera is next of the list for equipment purchases.
  • Website Editing: Download and edit the photos, flats, and "splash" art.  Update the website.  Then I'll promote the line through the EGL community and this blog
  • The Next Step: Wait for orders, take orders, and fill orders.  Ship things out  Also I'll start preparing for the second release/next line.
Sometimes to amuse myself I'll list the titles of the jobs I do: designer, artist, pattener, seamstress, photographer, webmistress, secretary, accountant, ect.    

I realize that this situation is proably how most of the indie brands and small companies work.  Mostly I'm somewhat in awe of how the internet makes it possible for one person to do all this and be reasonably successful at it.  

It is complicated and quite a bit of work, but I do love doing it.  For years I made my own lolita clothing and got a great response and wanted to "share" so to speak.  After I while I took commissions; but I never found them to be very satisfying; I was either reproducing a Japanese brand design, or working from a customer's design.  So this is what I do now!

Nothing is quite the same as knowing that someone out there likes the design as much (or more) then you do.  The thrill of coming across a photograph (or seeing them in person) of someone wearing one of my pieces; well I don't think I'll ever get over that!

This became quite long, I hope it was at least somewhat interesting.  Please feel free to ask any questions about the process, brand, or whatnot, I'll make a follow up post with them if there is interest.

I of course want to thank my customers who make this all possible and also the thoughtful commenters on lolita secrets.

To lighten things up a bit I'll end with a photo of the previously mentioned Family cabin for any of you country lolitas or mori-girls out there!