Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Work smarter, not harder

I've been terribly inundated with life, hence my absence recently. I have an assignment due tomorrow (now completed, thankfully), the weekend was jam-packed, and last week I had a badly placed day off and familial obligations on my usual Heidi & Seek days. I do, however, have a bunch of new items to list when I have a minute.

I've decided that to ease the anxiety of my busy-ness, I will back off from projects that aren't necessary or important. I'm cutting out internet dawdling, like reading 100 blogs when I only care about 15, and looking far-and-wide for advice on expanding Heidi & Seek when, really, I'm okay with the current state of the business. I'm just going to stick with creating, blogging and listing. And customer service and order handling, of course. And I'm going to take weekends off (unless absolutely necessary or I find myself twiddling thumbs). I'm hoping this will mean that instead of cutting down my creating to make way for 'me time', I'm cutting the excess so that I'll still be able to create the same amount and have time for myself. What's it they say: work smarter, not harder? Well, it's all good in theory but we'll see how it goes.

I just got home from uni and it's 10pm. I'm ready to shower and pack it in.

Oh but before I go! There's an online trunk show sale happening online at Olio United for ethically made, recycled designer wares. Favourite labels of mine Armour sans Anguish and Supayana are features. I'm also really liking the jewellery by AK Vintage and particularly Frocky Jack Morgan, made from vintage and antique materials. In order of mention:


Recycled fabric eco-friendly trunk show

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Heidi & Seek in Peppermint magazine

The second issue of eco-friendly and ethical fashion magazine, Peppermint, is out on Monday. And a few of my pieces are included in the spread! That's my real girl dress in the shot above. The gorgeous cover was drawn by the talented Bec Winnel of My Charlie Girl.

Here's my review on the first issue. I was really impressed and I'm looking forward to the following issues.

If you're Australian, you can nab a subscription to the magazine for a tiny $35 ( including postage) until April 3. Check out the website for more details and stockists.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Organic produce delivery in Melbourne

Is it weird for me to be excited about a box of fruit and veg?

I finally got around to ordering from The Green Line. I just got a box of produce this time, but next time I'll probably add on other groceries. Hopefully in time we can cut out supermarket shopping altogether.

Check out their website for some benefits of eating organic.

Backpacks and Round She Goes market

I love backpacks and don't quite understand why 99.9% of bags in stores are not backpacks. Unless I'm interested in wearing a sporty number with an Adidas logo on it or some such (I'm not). Bag-makers - there's a whole market there that needs taking advantage of! Stylish, unique, cute backpacks.

I've come to appreciate backpacks a whole lot more since I've had Ellie, because carrying her means I'm constantly having to rely on the strength of my arms and shoulders and neck. They are not appreciating it. Backpacks are much friendlier to my body than shoulder bags, especially given the amount of junk I seem to carry around these days.

For the past few months I've been on the look out for a cute second-hand or eco-friendly backpack for everyday use, to replace this one.

I got this in Thailand a few years ago. I still love it. Maybe I'll try to figure out how to convert it into a backpack at some point.

Anyway, I headed to the Round She Goes market on the weekend and found one. I intended to mention the market here before the event, but it completely slipped my mind, sorry ladies. It's for quality preloved and local designer goods. And I'm going to be selling at the next two markets in July and October! For those readers in Melbourne, check out the website for more details.

Here's the backpack I found for a whopping $5.

It reminds me of the early 90s a lot, but I like the fact that I haven't seen anyone wearing something similar recently. I was drawn to the plaid, the blue, and the cute drawstring. It's a good size. Hopefully I can make it look a little more current.

I also picked up this merino wool Country Road cardigan for myself, as well as a few other pieces to reconstruct for Heidi & Seek. I think the cardi is calling for a couple of ruffles at the neckline.

Here's what I wore. I forgot to take a picture in the daylight, but I was really pleased with the outfit and wanted to capture it despite the darkness.

Scarf: salvaged from mum's charity shop donations
Shirts: thrifted
Shorts: Had them forever, not sure of the brand. Mum shortened them for me before I could sew; they used to be knee-length.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Story of Stuff

I really encourage you to watch this online animation called The Story of Stuff. It's about the lifecycle of the things we buy and the inherent problem with the processes involved: that natural resources will run out, that people are exploited along the way, and that it's actually worsening our quality of life. It's really easy to watch.

Some of the things learned:
  • Only 1% of the things we buy are still in use in 6 months. 99% is trashed within 6 months.
  • In just the past 30 years, one third of the world's natural resources were used up.
  • There are 100,000 different chemicals used in commercial products, and only a handful of them have been tested for health effects.
  • For every 1 garbage can that we put out on the curb, 70 cans worth of garbage were produced in making the amount we used up.
Quips appreciated:
  • The little guy representing the government shining the shoes of the fat corporation guy.
  • "We'll start with extraction, which is a fancy word for 'natural resource exploitation', which is a fancy word for 'trashing the planet'."
  • "We take our pillows, we douse them in a neuro-toxin [a flame retardant chemical], then we bring them home and put our heads on them for 8 hours a night to sleep? I don't know, but it seems to me in this country with so much potential, we could think of a better way to keep our heads from catching on fire at night."
To be honest though, watching this made me angry. I know I'm a part of the consumer cycle so I'm partly angry at myself. But mostly I'm angry at those capitalists who make a dedicated effort to increase consumption and disposal at the expense of the planet and people. I'm angry at computer companies for purposely changing the pieces of new computers so they don't fit into old ones, in order for us to throw the whole thing away and buy a new one. I'm angry at the guy quoted in the video, who after WW2 stated that high levels of consumption and disposal is in our best interests to better the economy. I'm angry that companies purposely design things to break.

I suppose that the high stats per person of waste and consumption means that if we buy less and try not to support the 'buy disposable' system, then we're doing a lot of good. If one can of the garbage we put out each week actually represents 71 cans, then by cutting that down to a quarter of a can, we'd save about 50 cans per week. That's a lot.

It's easy to conform to the idea that new is better, given it's blasted into our heads with advertising everywhere we turn and it seems to be what others are doing. It's great that there are videos like this to renew my dedication to a sustainable lifestyle.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Inspiration collage and photography

Further to my last post about market research, I've created a survey and would appreciate if you'd fill it out for me! It's here. I'll post the results when it's finished.

I made this inspiration collage from a poster out of Frankie magazine and ideas from magazines that I cut out.

My work area is such an uninspiring mess at the moment that I thought this might brighten it up a bit and get ideas flowing. I'll add more inspiration pictures when I find more that I like. I didn't realise until after I made it that there are scissors on the poster - quite appropriate. I don't normally search for inspiration this way, I usually find it in the materials I use. But I've been feeling a bit uninspired lately, so this is a pretty remedy idea.

I constantly get new ideas in my head about non-clothing projects to try and things to learn. The ideas either fizzle out, or are stored in my head for later use, or I go out and find all the necessary materials I would need and then the idea fizzles out. Heidi & Seek is one of the ideas that I've followed through with, and that's immensely satisfying (even though it's been a long road).

This year I've 'decided' to start making jewellery, bags, armwarmers (all from reclaimed materials), write a novel, write and publish a beginners guide to sewing, exercise regularly, and, my most recent addition, learn photography. I've started each of these projects but haven't seen any of them through. Maybe I'll return to them later. But, for the minute, I'd like to talk about photography. I know enough to get by, taking decent enough photos for my online shops, but I'm still very much a point-and-shooter, occasionally fiddling with white balance, thinking vaguely about light and doing a lot of Photoshop editing. I've read guides on Etsy and such, but I'd love to delve deeper into the field. I love the idea of photography - capturing beautiful scenes in a picture forever. I'm sure it will make my shop look better, too.

I have an account on Flickr (which I've neglected up until recently) at flickr.com/hayleylau. I accidentally for some reason created two accounts when I signed up, and flickr.com/heidiandseek exists but isn't in use by me. Anyway, hopefully there will be more attractive photos up there soonish.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Issues in designing clothing

Just quickly, I've made my Etsy clothing shop a bit more Aussie buyer friendly:
  • There is free shipping within Australia, for the forseeable future. I'm able to offer this because when Australians pay by direct debit, it cuts out the Paypal fees for me. Aussies can still pay by Paypal if they need to.
  • Each listing now has the Australian price in the text of the listing, so you can see exactly what the damage is without having to contact me.
I'm having a bit of a design direction problem. I've been making clothing for Heidi & Seek regularly since about August of last year. This is the first piece I sold, though, back in April on Made It.

This is a fresh new piece I just listed.

Although I've come a long way, I feel like haven't quite worked out my 'style' yet. I experiment with varying techniques and looks. Then again, maybe my style comes subconsciously and most of my clothing fits within a certain look anyway. What do you think?

I guess I'm trying to work out what's both uniquely mine, and that people also want to buy and wear, not just think is pretty in a picture. I guess that comes down to market research, which I've never quite gotten a handle on. Maybe you could help me out a little by answering a question or two.
  • What do you look for in clothing?
  • Do you avoid certain colours or styles?
  • Are there pieces in my Heidi & Seek shop which particularly stand out to you? Ideas you'd like to see expanded upon?
  • Any that fail to appeal?
Thanks guys! Hope you're having a great weekend.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A bouquet of butterflies

This is the kind of amazing idea that makes me utterly overjoyed to have found Etsy.

P.S. I was interviewed over at the gorgeous blog, Etsy Item of the Day. Check it out here.

Green indie wedding

Tim and I have been engaged for over a year now. We didn't set a date because a) we are naturally procastinate-y people and b) we didn't have enough spare cash to fund the event. Tim just got a raise so we're starting to plan the thing (by 'starting to plan', I mean we had a conversation that went, "We should start planning," and, "Yes. Yes we should.")

I really don't have much direction at the moment. I've only been to two weddings before, and I was a kid then. At age 22, I don't have the benefit of seeing what my friends have done first because none of them are married. I know that we don't want a traditional wedding. It won't be in a church, things won't necessarily be white, I won't necessarily have bridesmaids. It'll be small, green, indie. I don't want to buy new things that will just be thrown away afterwards, so we'll look for eco-friendly alternatives, or skip unimportant traditions altogether.

I'm starting with the dress, because it's probably the easiest. It doesn't necessarily have to be white (I mean, with a daughter I'm obviously not exactly 'pure'). Actually, I don't particularly like wearing white, anyway. I'd like it to be unusual, and preferably not exclusively for wear as a wedding dress. I'm thinking something with lots of layers and textures.

I'm inexperienced at making intricate, delicate dresses, but I might give it a try. I'll try to use reclaimed materials so I'm not impacting the environment so much. I've been looking for inspiration.

The doily dress by Armour sans Anguish

A new piece from the lovely Tawny (who I interviewed here). I love this. I haven't seen anything quite like it before. Loving the textures and the flattering fit, though I think it's too short for a wedding dress.

I love the pop of colour in this, and the asymmetry. It's gorgeous and unique. I'm stuck between whether I want a floor length or knee-length dress.

This is much simpler than I'd like, but I'm liking the idea of the big bow and the asymmetry.

I put the white one there to show what the whole garment looked like, but I like the dusky purple one much more. Who would have thought a giant shoulder pouf would look so amazing?

Too many ideas, not enough time to test them all. I'm sure I'll be making a few trials. I'll keep you updated. I have yet to shop for materials.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A day in the park

I think this face is priceless:

It was Ellie's first time really riding the swing. I've attempted to put her in it before, but gentle pushes freaked her out. This time, she loved going up high (although this photo might not exactly spell that out).

Sometimes she thinks it's fun to walk lopsidedly, cocking her head to the side and doing a bit of a Frankenstein stiff walk. It's hilarious watching random people's responses, whose expressions indicate that they think she's a special child. She really is her father's daughter, kidding people for their reactions.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Eco-style find: Armour sans Anguish women's dresses

This week's eco-find is Tawny Holt's Armour sans Anguish, gorgeous garments made completely from recycled and reclaimed materials. Such lush colours! Such romantic designs! I would totally want this to wear to my wedding if I didn't want to try making the dress myself first.

I had the privilege of interviewing the brains behind this operation.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you make.
My name is Tawny Holt and I'm 26 years old. I make one of a kind clothing for women from recycled materials under the label Armour sans Anguish. I work from my home in lovely Modesto, CA and can be found dancing with my Go-Go troupe, The Radiowaves when I'm not knee-deep in fabric and pretty bits. I also enjoy thrifting, bike riding, and cooking up unique foods.

How did you start making clothing?
I literally got a sewing machine for Christmas 5 years ago and started selling clothing 4 and a half years ago. I sauntered into a local boutique, Queen Mab's, and they asked me where I got the clothes I was wearing. When I sheepishly announced that I had made them they asked if I would consider selling other pieces through their shop. After a couple of successful mini-collections of one-of-a-kinds in Queen Mab's, I started to expand Armour sans Anguish by selling through other shops and online.

What kind of person shops Armour sans Anguish?
I would like to think it's the hopeless romantic; the eccentric girl who wants to wear the dresses she dreamed up as a little girl, but with a refined and adult twist.

Tell us about your materials. What new supplies do you use? What recycled?
Literally all of the supplies I use are recycled, save for my sewing machines and scissors! I even get thread, zippers, buttons, and needles at second hand stores. I become a bit obsessed, as I try to make sure that even my hang tags are printed on papers I've found at garage sales or thrift stores. It is always my intention to use what is already out in the world.

Why do you use recycled materials?
Not only do I want to contribute to the sustainability of our world, but I am also simply drawn to vintage materials--I think they tell better stories and lend themselves to the kind of romanticism I want to create.

Which item of yours is your favourite?
My items are always revolving and coming in and out of my life, so my "favorites" are constantly changing. Right now I'm in giddy love with The Blue Lagoon Dress because it all came together using colors I don't normally use. I was delighted with the result.

What advice would you give to designers who want to start working for themselves?
I would encourage an attentiveness to a sustainable rate of growth. Only take on what you're comfortable with as there is a desire from the eco community to do business with folks who keep their operations intentionally small.

What's your best eco-tip?
Networking with other eco-crafters and designers! Folks who are interested in sustainability are eager to find out how they can pass on their production "waste" to other folks who could use them. Don't be afraid to ask!

Thanks, Tawny!

Check out the Armour sans Anguish Etsy store.

I love the increasing variety of recycled handmade clothing online. Some might say it's counter-productive of me to feature the 'competition' here, but I really want to get these labels out there and show you that there are plenty of ethical eye-candy options. If you know of a recycled label for a future eco-find feature, please comment below!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Outfit favourites from the blogopshere

Some Girls Wander

Okay, so pretty much anything that Emily from The Black Apple wears, I adore. She has a cute classic style that doesn't seem to get boring even though she often dresses within a theme. Her pops of colour are also refreshing.

I'm a little iffy about the scarf, but everything else about this outfit is great. Particularly like the patterned tights, the smidgen of bright tangerine, and the round bottom hem of her coat. I'm not sure whether her tights are layered, but she's just given me the thought to experiment with that.

The Satorialist

I've been at uni or otherwise out for the past few days, and it seemed that plaid jackets similar to this one (a bit more 'bomber' in style, though) are everywhere. I automatically avoid 'all the rage' items on principle (even if I like them, i.e. gladiator sandals) but this girl's outfit makes it look fresh and I wouldn't say no to dressing like her.

The Coveted

The thing I love most about this outfit is the patterned dress coupled with a longer, deep purple skirt that pokes out at the bottom. I'm very much a fan of layered skirt-ing, especially when the colours are as complimentary as these.

Things to try:
Layering tights
Layering skirts
Incorporating bright, rich colours

Thursday, March 5, 2009

We have lift-off: awareness badges on Etsy

I've finally got these pictured and listed! Don't they look cute, all lined up in this picture? You can check 'em out on Etsy here. I'm really pleased with the concept of these. I love that they're innocent and cute looking but they purport big ideas. My favourites are this and this.

Also, photos from the fashion show are up on Style Melbourne here! Four of the seven or so outfits I showcased are there. Awesome.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Ahh, I just splurged on this top and will henceforth blame it on being an early birthday present (my birthday is two months away).

I'm starting to wonder if signing up to her mailing list was such a good idea after all.

I'm aware of the fact that this is not, as far as I can tell, made using eco-friendly or recycled fabrics. But I guess the most important thing to me with fashion is that I'm not rewarding (paying) a company to keep exploiting garment workers. This hoodie does not. I think that ethical fashion is about having the knowledge to choose what issues important for you, and then reducing what you buy to select pieces that you will treasure and adore for a long time to come.

I'm quite unhappy with the extent of my wardrobe at the moment (although that may have something to do with the washing that's been piling up since before the fashion show). I guess everybody goes through that stage once in a while, where our wardrobe just feels old and a rejuvination is desired. I'll be reconstructing my own things when I have spare time, and largely keep my clothing to second-hand or self-made. This 'spare time' does not seem promising, as I just started back at uni, but we'll see how I go.

If you're interested in peeking at others' refashioned clothing, check out this inventive blog: Wardrobe Refashion.
"Participants of the blog pledge to abstain from the purchase of new manufactured clothing for the period of 2, 4, 6 months or LIFE. They pledge to refashion, renovate, and recycle preloved items with their own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium or make their own from scratch."
I really appreciate the values behind this idea. Huge props to Nichola for creating and maintaining this.

Also! I was interviewed in depth over at the modernemotive blog. I think that this is my favourite interview so far, the questions were fun to answer and the post ended up so pretty!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Preparing for the fashion show

I am not ideal at organising my time. I had my outfits made well before the fashion show, and I assumed I wouldn't have to do much else. Then I learned that we could set up a rack of our clothing for sale after the show. I knew that meant more work, but I didn't prepare quite far enough in advance. I have yet to do my first market, so I'm not wise to the ways of face-to-face handmade selling.

This is what went on during the day before the show:

I decided to set myself the deadline of debuting these brooches at the show, and made way more than I needed.

My hands were aching from squeezing the glue bottle so often (Ecoglue!) hard enough for the glue to come out. If anyone knows about replacing glue nozzles or a way of not savaging my hands with bulk crafting I would love you forever if you'd share. The badges will be up online soon and first dibs and a discount will go to those on my mailing list, so make sure you're signed up if you want 'em! (Enter your email address in the green box on the right of my blog.)

Back to fashion show stuff. I compiled and printed some flyers to hand out.

I used Ecocern unbleached post-consumer recycled paper. I love Ecocern! They're Australian and have a good range of 100% post-consumer recycled paper products. I do wish they sold post packaging though. I used both sides of the paper and cut them in half to A5 size to save on paper.

After finalising outfits and testing the fit on my manniquin against the model's sizes, I was ready to pack it in for the day. Then I realised that my clothing for sale still needed to be tagged and priced. And then I realised that I was pretty much out of hang tags. I make my hangtags with my printer, discarded index cards, applique paper and reclaimed fabric (in this case, a thrifted nightgown. I know, weird fabric for a nightgown, right?)

The next hour was spent battling with the printer because the back and front of the tags didn't match up, only to find that I was placing the card in the wrong way for the back printing. By then I'd wasted a good couple of dozen cards. I was not a happy camper. But I got them done.

For my little stall, I makeshifted a shelf for my badges with a hat, a hanger and two clips. And I used a frame from the house for a drawing of my logo to hang up with a thrifted jersey tie.

All was right with the world.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Eltham fashion show experience: a first

Yesterday, I was one of eight local designers showcasing their clothing at a fashion show in Eltham. It was my first public appearance with my designs. They day was exciting, nerve-wracking, slow at times, and at others so pacy that I barely had time to blink (namely, getting the models dressed and prepared to walk out on stage in time for their spot).

I'm afraid I was so distracted that I completely forgot to take pictures, but when the press shots arrive I'll point you to them. All I have is this horribly, horribly blurry picture of what I wore, taken in a rush at the end of the day. I know, I'm a terrible blogger. (But look, I finally worked in those blue tights!)

We arrived four hours before the show was to start, along with the other designers, models, and the MC. But the venue was shut, nobody was about, and we didn't have the key. After waiting a while, the models began getting their hair done and trying on shoes outside, while Ellie grabbed my hand and led me in this direction and that.

Over an hour later someone arrived to open the door, and I spent the rest of the time before the show trying my designs on the models, finding shoes that matched the outfit and fit, choosing which ones to leave out because they didn't fit right or look good, and rearranging my schedule of outfits based on the models having enough time to get out the back, change and return to the stage with the next outfit. Things didn't quite go to plan here, but more on that later. I also chose jewellery from designer Airdie's gorgeous Joolz line to pair with my clothing for the runway.

As a side note, you should also know that I wasn't superwoman enough to do all that while taking care of Ellie: Tim came along as well and was on baby patrol. I would likely have exploded from multitasking if he wasn't there.

Anyway, when the show started I made my way backstage and watched the first part of the show from the sideline. I was fifth in the line-up, so when the third finished, I went to the dressing room. That was kind of a sucky part - I wanted to be out watching the show and seeing how my designs looked on the runway, not out the back!

There were five models and nine outfits, so I didn't know how it would go with them changing so quickly to get back out there. Things were going well until the seventh outfit, when the song I chose to accompany my collection finished and the audience started clapping. Bugger. The song was Free by Cat Power. I spent ages deciding which music to choose and thought this was the best match, but I wasn't sure how long each model's walk would be, to know what length my song needed to be. I was just hoping it would be okay, but I really should have planned that a bit better and maybe cut down my number of outfits.

Anyway, the show went on without my final two outfits, which was fine. I'd already decided to auction one of my dresses for the Bushfire Appeal, so what was to be the last outfit was showcased and bought later on:

I'd brought a bunch more of my designs to sell after the show and had set up a little rack for perusal. The badges I mentioned also made their debut. The badges will be available in my online shop soon, promise! In my next post I'll talk about preparing for the show, because that was a trial in itself.

I was so impressed with the people involved. The show was organised by Georgia Young, who also showed her collection. I can't even imagine what a mammoth task it must have been alone, much less making pieces for the runway as well. My favourite designs were by Georgia Young, Ali Bou and Valerie Randello, but all the pieces were gorgeous. It was my first time seeing Joolz jewellery in person and they are gorgeous. Owner Airdie was lovely to meet.

I was really glad to be involved and a good time was had by all (except for my brother, who got lost on the way and took a 40 minute accidental detour).