Wednesday, September 17, 2008
We’ve selected 10 crafty candidates to run for the Craftiest Bastard 2008!
You have the opportunity to elect your favorite candidate by voting on the issues: creativity of product, originality, use of materials and product construction.
Be sure to craft your vote today!
Thursday, July 17, 2008
You can read it here or just scroll down (though I recommend going to the AOL site).
We love all of the amazing independent designers out there. In order to find out more about just what makes all of these creative types tick, we present to you an ongoing segment called Indie Designer Interviews.
Today we'd like to introduce you to independent fashion designer Kpoene' Kofi-Bruce of Mignonette, which means 'cute girl' in French. Kpoene' recently launched her new bridal collection, which includes custom gowns.
Tell us a little about yourself and your company.
Mignonette Designs is a line of handmade custom and ready-to-wear dresses for sophisticated girly girls. I've been running Mignonette since 2002 when I first moved to Brooklyn. We've gotten a lot of press and been in a lot of stores and had a great time with it. I recently scaled back to work on the launch of Mignonette Bridal in June of 2008. This is a higher-priced (but still under $500) collection of dresses that can be modified for brides or bridal parties, and we're also offering custom gowns.
How did you get started as a designer?
I worked for a large company for a few months and realized that I really didn't want to work for anyone other than myself. Luckily, I moved to New York at the right time - Indie business, especially indie design, is really heavily encouraged there and it's easy to find other crafty entrepreneurs. In fact, I learned so much just in the first 3 years of running the business that i decided to start my own networking group, the Ladies Independent Design League, to work with other women who were trying to get their businesses in shape. It's not that I'm an expert, but I've been around the block a few times. :)
What inspires your work?
I am an unabashed Francophile so I love watching French movies, reading French blogs, and of course listening to the music of my favorite singer, April March (she's an American who mostly sings in French). I recently took up flower arranging, which is such a fun, random old-lady hobby, but it really helps to clear my head and think of new designs.
Who are your favorite designers?
Yves St. Laurent was a genius, and of course I also love Nannette Lepore, Catherine Malandrino, and Rebecca Taylor. My girlfriend gave me a Viktor and Rolf skirt for Christmas and even though it's more architectural than I am used to I like wearing it.
What are your top fashion & beauty must-haves?
I am a shoe fanatic. I have lots of different pairs of pointy-toed black pumps, and maybe nobody else can tell the difference between them, but I know.
For beauty I will take any concealer that hides my under-eye bags, which are enormous - lately I really like Cover Girl Trueblends. It's inexpensive and it actually works great. I also always need Pucci Vivara perfume or Mark Jacobs Daisy perfume or I don't feel ready to leave the house.
Any advice you would give to aspiring designers?
I would say that you have to really believe in your product. I'm repping a friend of mine who is a fellow clothing designer and she is the perfect example of what an indie business owner should be: She wears her designs nearly every day and really personifies the label. I think that's important. Refusing to take "no" for an answer is another thing any business owner should do. If Etsy isn't the best way for you to sell, create your own website. Can't seem to get into craft fairs? Maybe you should try boutiques. Since it's so hard for little businesses to stay afloat, you always have to look for new opportunities and they are usually in very unexpected places.
Where can people find your work?
Right now I am only online at www.Mignonettedesigns.com, www.mignonettebridal.com, and at Pandora's Trunk in San Francisco.
Please contact me if you are a new designer looking for advice! I can dish it for days!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Hooray! Mignonette Designs got a sweet little plug from the fabulous Lilah over at Chateau Bizarre! It's normally a site dedicated to goth and steampunk so I feel that we're in some pretty illustrious company! The best part is that Mignonette Designs is listed under the "vintage and rockabilly, glam and drag" section. Hee.
Here's what they said:
"A small line of cute knee-length dresses sweetened with modernized retro elements, perfect for daywear-into-nightwear ensembles. Both the clingy and the swingy are presented with wrapping tops, puffed sleeves, mermaid hems, little belts, and other distinctive details of the forties and fifties. Custom is welcome."
You can see the write-up here.
Meanwhile, last week I did an interview with Styledash that will hopefully be up this week. I'm really excited because I love the Styledash blog, and I didn't realize before but it's an AOL-sponsored blog, so hopefully that will bring in some new shoppers.
In other news, the conquest of Etsy (well, I'm trying) continues with the Mignonette Designs Etsy page that largely features custom work. I'm also posting up random sample pieces, such as an Anne Dress in size 0-2 that is only $85! That's right, I said $85! If you want it surf on over there and pick up a serious bargain.
As you can probably tell just from the banner, the Mignonette Etsy site has a completely different feel than the normal Mignonette label - prices are lower, designs are more experimental, and there is a huge focus on custom, so if you've been afraid to commit to a Mignonette Designs piece, the Etsy offerings might be more your speed.
I was also contacted by the publisher of Gala Weddings today about a write-up for Mignonette Bridal! I can't believe they contacted me - It's a dream come true for a tiny bridal shop like Mignonette Bridal to be in the pages of a magazine like that.
I'm bursting at the seams with excitement and also freaking out - what pictures should I send them? What should I say? The fear of putting my foot in my mouth is palpable, I'm really much better at repping others (hello, Sarah Zins, anyone?) than I am at talking about myself. Phew.
Oh, and - If I said I would review your indie biz on the blog, don't worry - I'm getting around to it!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Also, I've been merrily adding to my etsy shop so it's officially back up! Please check it out here, and, you know, maybe buy something. :)
And in other exciting news, I recently unearthed another wedding dress that I made back in 2003. Geez, I didn't know I had it in me but it looks pretty great! So here are some pics. Enjoy, comment, etc. If you would like your own version, it is for sale on the Etsy page - it's the "Custom Spaghetti-strap gown".
I'm also really happy because the black shauntung Anne dress went home with its owner yesterday and now I get to work on the two houndstooth traditional Annes that I have in the pipeline, plus this afternoon I am fitting my friend Ann for an Anne. That name is very big in my life lately.
anyways, I will be posting up a tutorial on it so you can see how it's made! hooray!
I went to yoga yesterday with Anne and am horrified at how stiff and achy I am - it sucks. Everyone else was balancing themselves and sun-saluting all over the place while I lay there gasping for air. I'm too young to be this out of shape. Boo to me for being creaky.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Please check out the site at http://www.mignonettebridal.com .
On the site you can engage (ha-ha) my services for a custom dress, including designing, budget consultation, even styling!
You can also order a ready-to-wear dress from the site if you need a piece in a hurry or want a less-expensive (but still amazing) option.
Please tell all your friends who are in need of a custom-made, gorgeous dress - I'm so, SO excited that this is finally happening, and I want to dress as many brides as possible!
In other news, now that Pride is over, I have started working my little tushy off repping my dear friend Sarah Zins' eponymous line of organic and recycled clothing.
Usually when you hear "recycled" you think of exposed seams and strange, fun-fur fabrics. Not so with Sarah Zins. Her line is incredibly wearable, well-made, and stunning. Best of all, it looks good on everyone, even those of us who are curvier.
You can check out her line at Sarah Zins, and order it online from our friends at
I'm enjoying this whole "rep" thing so much that I think I'll try and do it for some other designers as well - after all, I have lots of experience with buyers. Anyone want a rep to get their stuff into stores? :)
Thursday, June 12, 2008
If you've known me for any length of time, you will have heard me blathering on, at length, about the now-defunct but still amazing and life-changing band The Quails. This trio of three little friends Jen Smith, Seth Lorenczi, and Julianna Bright produced some of the most danceable and heartfelt queer punk music ever, earning them a coveted spot in my "favorite band" rotation of Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre, and, um, Belle and Sebastian.
Sadly, The Quails called it quits in 2004, with Seth and Julianna moving to Portland, while Jen, a visual artist who toured with bands like Cha-Cha Cabaret and is widely credited with coining the phrase "Riot Grrl", moved down to LA to attend grad school at UC Irvine.
Since then, Seth and Julianna have been working on some charming little projects of their own, including their daugher, Evie, Seth's food writing (and making), their incredibly beautiful band The Golden Bears, and of course, Julianna's stunning paintings.
It might be reductionist to say that Julianna's use of obscure Victorian-era themes (she paints, as she calls them, "forgotten fairy-tales") and simplistic mediums (hand-drawing, goache) to fashion her images puts her comfortably in line with the values of steampunk, but I think it is at least safe to say that they share some of the same ethos: dedication to old-fashioned inventiveness and extraordinary, surprising beauty.
A regular at galleries that cherish small-scale, heartfelt pieces, her paintings pop off of the wall (and the printed page - see her entry for "Diary" in The Encyclopedia Project) with bright, crisp colors and fantastical imagery, mostly in creams, reds, and greens.
All are quietly beautiful with a disturbing undercurrent of tension - why is that woman tied up, and why is her bird-saviour feeding her? Is she being fattened up? Why isn't she being untied? Why is that couple , one of whom has an eagle's head, sitting naked in the mouth of a monster? They seem at peace, so maybe he's just keeping them safe? And what to make of the slightly menacing anthropomorphic characters, assorted scattered body parts, and strangely humanoid but not human figures with which her works are populated? One of my personal favorites is a portrait of a well-dressed couple, a gentleman rabbit in a waistcoat and spats and bearing a single flower, complete with root system, walking with his brightly-dressed wife, whose high-heeled boots, toy hat, and parasol are nicely set off by her teal plumage and the fish she carries in her mouth.
I want to know more about them - are they going visiting? The rabbit looks away, seemingly irritated, while the bird looks directly at the viewer, almost smug. The lyrical quality of Bright's paintings is matched by the dreamy, lilting songs of The Golden Bears, who recently recorded a series of lullabies based on children's stories belonging to her grandfather.
Like her paintings, the songs, filled with vivid imagery of ships in harbour, diffused sunlight, and life seen through antique mirrors, conjures a world in perpetual autumn: crisp, beautiful, and slightly chilly.
It is a peaceful and quiet place where you nevertheless must bundle up against the scary uncertainty of the outside world (in "This Golden Afternoon", Bright mentions that it impossible for her to make art, sing, or even sweep up leaves without having "demons about").
Sweeping tales built around a single image predominate (branches against the sky, sunlight filtering through a window, and frequently, the sea), or in one funny instance, a lullaby where she fairly begs her daughter to go down for a nap - "Sleep, my darling/sleep an hour/sleep just like a folded flower" - Bright's remarkably clear, soothing voice is given a perfect platform with these songs, a natural evolution from the acoustic protest-cum-folk songs that occasionally pop up in the Quails' catalogue.
Since becoming a parent, Bright has noticed that her work is beginning to revolve a lot around animals and birds and other child-appropriate themes that echo the work of fellow artist and mom Nikki McClure. Like McClure, she and Lorenczi frequently find themselves making art out of necessity (their album, Walls Without Walls, for instance, was recorded because playing the demo versions in the car was the only thing that would get Evie to stop crying).
Doubtless the urge to fill the world with beautiful images, delicious food, and gorgeous sounds is an effort to create the sort of world she and Lorenczi would like to gift to their beloved child, a desire to create a perfect nest that they can all snuggle into, warm and relatively safe from the kinds of forces that they railed against in their younger days. It's a nest we would all love to crawl into.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
This week I've been tackling some of the 18 orders that I've piled up (from Capsule, online, and the custom dress party I had a few weeks ago), and the most exciting piece to come out of all this is a new silk shantung iteration of the Anne Dress, which I'm going to start offering on the site as part of my new Mignonette bridal collection. And to illustrate just how much work goes into making the darn thing, I made a little step-by step guide to the creation of the "Anne":
1. First, you cut out all the pieces. In the case of this version, it was 16 pieces. Whew. Then, you pin them together. Now comes the part that's actually fun: Adding on the ruffle. I love how, when it first gets going, it looks like a beautiful long ribbon on the front of the dress:
and then, as you go, it starts to look more like a bandolier:
I think this picture is cool because it's so symmetrical. It looks like an entirely space-age garment, I think.
Also for this dress I made a new kind of ruffle with a seam on the outside, which gave it a really beautiful line that I'm pretty psyched about.
2. Now it's time to put in the lining. In this case the bride-to-be chose a bright red heavy satin, which turned out gorgeously. For future Annes I might make it a dark teal though. ,
then the lining is added in and flipped inside out so that the ruffle stands up:
3.Now it's zipper time. The lining doesn't look half-bad. Hooray to me.
Now we step back to admire our work. The royal we, of course, unless you count the cats, who only care whether or not my sewing is disturbing their busy schedules of sleeping and licking themselves in various rooms.
4. And on to the sleeves. Here it is without sleeves, which frankly I kinda like. It's very flirty this way. Or maybe it's very Elvira. Either way, it appeals to the femme-fatale image I wish I conveyed.
The ruffle is doing all kinds of wackadoo things so it has to be pinned down and "trained" for the duration.
Ironing the sleeves is always funny because they look like scary, shiny metal gauntlets. * Actually I guess they don't, but at the time they did, which means I was up way too late the night before.
Now everyone knows that I cut fabric on the floor, using a taped-together ruler, and that my sewing machine table is balanced by an old towel. I don't actually like cutting on the floor, but my cutting table is currently being used by the actual Anne to create a scale drawing of the solar system, and she's so darn happy that I don't have the heart to move her.
Now the sleeve is set in and it looks kinda cute, mais non?
Now I iron it again, and then steam it and lint-roll it, all dressed in my fanciest sewing outfit, i.e. my pajamas, even though by this point it's probably 2 in the afternoon.
It is a testament to how much Anne must love me that I could look like this and yet she stays with me. Ah well, we must suffer for our art. And speaking of art:
Et Voila! 49 steps later, a star is born!
What do you think? Do you like it?
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
well we did it, and had an amazing wondrous time of it all. I wish I could have recorded all the compliments I received--on both dresses-so that you could bask in them. The yellow was so cute and I never knew I could have cleavage before...but it was darling.
Truly the wedding dress was perfect and it was a breezy day, it fluttered as I walked, and no marilyn moments....I will be sure to send you photographs. It was so fun to wear and absolutely perfect.
Thank you for everything!"
Gee. that makes me feel really special. :) Anybody else want a custom dress?
Monday, May 19, 2008
So, in other news, the MP wedding dress continues apace (hence the title of this post for all you fellow Shakespeare nerds) - it's nearly done and is really looking like it'll be awesome! We had our last fitting on Wednesday and my bride is all smiles despite the raw edges and pins and general messiness. When people request custom clothing, I don't think they realize how much work goes into it, and I try really hard to make the whole process easy and fun and safe- I go fabric shopping with you, I bring sketches and lookbooks and costume books and magazines, we watch tv and pick out shoes and even underwear (though I won't say who I had to do that for, but it has definitely happened!).
The end result is usually something pretty darn good, though:
A lot of the ladies that I've met here in SF are about to get hitched (seriously, this is the coupliest city EVER), and it's really fun to watch them getting excited about it. I really, really hope I get to experience that one day too, day, but in the meantime I'm glad that I get to share in the process.
Friday, May 16, 2008
So every year hundreds of crafty, fashiony San Franciscans congregate in Civic Center for a great cause: St. Vincent De Paul's Discarded to Divine auction and fashion show.
What's that, you ask?
Well, anyone with a creative bent is invited to come try their hand at turning the cast-offs from St. Vincent's clothing donation bins into beautiful, recycled fashion which is then auctioned off, with the proceeds going to help St. Vinny's fund their homeless outreach programs.
Awesome, right? It's so awesome that I sent poor Anne into the sketchiest part of Civic Center at 7 am to pick and choose clothing for me to remake, and she gamely returned with some serious trash that had huge potential.
After creating your garment, accessory, etc., St. Vinny's asks that you photograph it and include any sketches, production shots, process shots, etc. to illustrate your genius and fabulosity for the judging committee. The winners in each category are those peeps who put major effort into creating something awesome and gorgeous. This competition is such a big deal that companies like Jessica McClintock are invited to create a special auction piece, and FIDM holds semester-long classes devoted entirely to the creation of D2D entries. The contest is sponsored by mega-companies like Gensler, the Gap, Levis, and Macys and culminates in a tent show, silent auction, and cocktail party for an intimate gathering of about 500.
Oh, and the best part? First they hang everyone's entries at the De Young. I had a piece of art hang in the De Young, and I didn't even have to sneak it in! When am I ever going to be able to say that again, huh?
So I'm posting these humungo pictures of my entry on Flickr from start to finish so you can see that I tried. If I had known how much work some people put into their entries though (the people's choice winner made a corset out of a leather suitcase, because she is rad like that)I would have really pulled out all the stops. Next year, it's on. Friendly competition my butt.
Anyway, I will post more about this event (plus my pics of the fashion show) but you should really check out the website here: http://www.svdp-sf.org/DISCARDED/index.html
Sorry about that.
Today I'm super-happy because I finally got pictures of the wedding dress that I made last year and the bride looks so happy and pretty and awesome that I have to share at least one of them:
I'm also, of course, beyond ECSTATIC about CA legalizing gay marriage yesterday. Well, at least provisionally anyway, but it's legal for now, so let's celebrate! Any soon to be brides out there, contact me and let's chat! :)
I've been up to all sorts of things lately, and now that the Craft Congress is over (Whew! That was amazing. I will have to make another post about it), I have to focus on getting ready for Capsule next week (yipes!) and finish up the orders from the custom dress party I held last week.
Wait, you didn't know?
Yes, ladies (or whoever), if you live in the SF Bay area, you too can have Ms. Mignonette come to your house and design gorgeous pieces just for you. If you're interested, just email me!