Saturday 18 October 2008

Sew Specific

Apologies to non-sewing peops. Initially this post may appear a little dry, but hang in there, there is always the possibility I may make an interesting, more generally applicable, point. No promises mind, so if there isn’t, don’t go asking for your money back!

K. Now I know I have mentioned Simplicity Built By You sewing patterns before (here and here), and I’m sure this won’t be the last time (I’m particularly sure because I have in my possession a trouser pattern of theirs that I plan to attack when back in the Motherland over Christmas). But I feel the need to break it down. The NY based clothing brand Built By Wendy , create (in my opinion) amazing, wearable (I’d imagine) and infinitely inspirational garments. I visited a Built By Wendy store in LA last Autumn (or should that be Fall) and saw a collection in the flesh. For me, it was like a combination of making a holy pilgrimage and seeing the tooth fairy! Anyway, it was so exciting to see home sewing patterns on sale in a cool, dare I say trendy, boutique. Normally such boutiques, Pixie Market (incidentally on the very same street as the Built By Wendy shop in LA) being another example, offer to me the emotionally dichotomic combination of massive inspiration, envy and insatiable temptation. Inspiration, because often the garments reveal so many details and ideas to fuel my own creations, envy because I don’t have the talent to design pieces of such perfection of my own bat, and insatiable temptation because I am unable to purchase garments due to my pledge, though realistically they would be out of my budget anyway. Really, for me, such retail experiences are very draining!

So for Wendy Mullin, the creator and designer of Built by Wendy, to have the selflessness to create this range of patterns, and the amazing sewing book Sew U, both to encourage the art of home sewing, is such a fantastic thing. I salute her.

BTW, did I ever mention that I actually have the Sew U book? It’s the kind of thing that I would, and for some time did, deeply desire, but perversely could never justify treating myself to. Then through the most bizarre set of occurrences involving an elderly ex-seamstress and pattern cutting tutor who was a friend of my ex-boyfriends nan having a massive clearout, a pristine copy became mine (along with the most epic, largely vintage, button stash you have ever seen, but that’s another story). I was so excited, I was very nearly sick. There is a stretch fabric version out now that is well on my ‘wants’ list.

The patterns that have been published are from actual Built By Wendy collections. For example, this hardy perennial from my sewing pattern archive was actually part of the Spring 2004 collection. This is one of the garments I created from this pattern (say hello to Daddy Edwards):

And these are two of my favourite creations made by someone else (in this case, both by the awesome Chicago based seamstress Snaggletooth):

What all this shows is that, ultimately, Wendy Mullin is intelligent. She knows her customer base, and is well aware that no one who is actually going to buy this garment would say ‘You know what? I don’t think I’ll bother, I’ll save my cash by buying the pattern and making my own’. Also she knows her industry well enough to be aware that if a commercial interest was set on ripping off her styles, they would either send in ‘researchers’ into the stores to photograph the garments, often covertly, or they would purchase one garment and send it off to be deconstructed and copied. From first hand experience, I know this happens frequently. In a previous employment role, I have personally purchased garments for the purpose of sending them off to be copied. And damn, at this very moment I’m a ‘researcher’ myself! Wow, that felt a bit confessional. The justification for my actions will have to wait for another post. Right now there are sewing plans to form.......

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