Thursday, July 1, 2010

Schwarzkopf Essential Looks Gala - Hair Expo 2010

Schwarzkopf Creative Manager, Leesa Smith, and show producer, Sally Clarke, approached me to design the costumes for the Schwarzkopf Essential Looks Gala for Hair Expo held at the Darling Harbor Exhibition and Convention Center. Sally and I have worked our magic in the past on many other shows, but this one would prove to be the most spectacular!

I took a couple of days to reflect on the images presented to me as part of Schwarzkopf's Essential Looks portfolio. I eventually presented 15 pages of designs that contained 39 looks for the five sections of the show: Uniform, Cyber Sport, Punk Goddess, Boudoir, and New Rebel. A mad evening of faxing designs to Leesa resulted in a resounding ‘YES’ the following morning. We had the go ahead!

I could see that I needed a large team behind me. It would take a lot of time, energy and money to pull off a design project as big as this. So I approached my boss, the Managing Director of the Institute of Design Ulladulla (IDU), Karl Von Busse, to allow me to run the Schwarzkopf project through the fashion department. I believe that real projects give the students practical experience in working with real clients, budgets and time lines. These experiences are invaluable to students and provide wonderful design training. At the end of the project, they will have photos in their design portfolios as proof of their work.

I arranged a phone conversation between Leesa Smith and Karl Von Busse. Leesa was looking for a design college in which to affiliate the Schwarzkopf brand. After their conversation, Karl was happy to involve the institute in the project and was happy to promote the association between Schwarzkopf and the IDU.

We had four weeks from this point on till June 14, the night of the gala. I approached my 20 students and asked them, if they were willing and prepared to substitute a real project for their folio-based exercise. I told them it would consume their lives and all of our class time to realize the designs for such a grand scale event. They were game to take on the challenge and work on the project as design assistants.

As head of the fashion design department, I am fortunate to have gifted and dedicated staff willing to work into the night to see magic happen. Joanne Borgatti is the pattern maker and garment construction teacher in the department. I approached Joanne and contracted her to be my technician on the project. Outstanding costumes require precise attention from both designer and technician. It was the first time we had worked together and it will not be the last.

Class work began. I presented the five Schwarzkopf Essential Looks images and my approved designs for each individual garment. Students formed work teams and began to plot out the work required to achieve the look and feel. Fabrics and colors were chosen, and accessories were designed. The local hardware, retro clothing and opportunity shops became our best friends. We scoured them for objects of desire.

Every night for four weeks, day in, day out, till 3 am in the morning, Joanne and I would cut out and sew the Uniform, Punk Goddess and Boudoir costumes. In the last two weeks, we had pizza and pasta parties to cater for students staying back to assist. At the end of each night, we would set up all the work for the students for the following day.

Each student participated in the production of the costumes at whatever level of expertise they possessed. They made spikes and covered Barbie dolls in glitter for the Punk Goddess costumes. They traced patterns for Cyber Sport. They used industrial sewing machines to sew the Punk Goddess jackets and Boudoir robes. They hand stitched buttons, braids, medals and other trimmings to finish off the garments.

Rochelle Buttenshaw created the dynamic resin jewelry for the Cyber Sport section.

Two local companies in the south coast region would prove pivotal to the success of the Cyber Sport and New Rebel sections. Luckily, I have students in my course involved with both companies.

Emily Hackett’s family owns Ultimate Campers, a company specializing in the design and construction of camper vans. I approached Emily to coordinate the manufacture of garments made from fiberglass and resin for the New Rebel section of the show. We worked with Emily and her family to create garments made with brand new wearable materials.

The partner of Jodie So, another student, has a new wetsuit company called Agent Eighteen that sources Neoprene material and manufactures wetsuits out of Taiwan. I needed fresh, new colored Neoprene at a reasonable price, if the Cyber Sport section was to be a success. With the guidance and support of Agent Eighteen, we were able to negotiate the difficulties of sourcing fabrics internationally. I was to realize later that the FedEx cost to bring it into the country completely negated any savings on the cost of the material.

Coincidentally, Kim Ashlee Ord, a local resident in the middle of her degree in Fashion Design at UTS in Sydney, approached me to assist on the show. Kim added invaluable research to the project, and created a digital print mirroring the artwork provided by Schwarzkopf for the lycra suits in the Cyber Sport section. We had the print applied to high sheen lycra by Sydney based company Sublitech.

Airy Fairy Costumes in Caringbah sewed the Uniform outfits, fashion police and Cyber Sport undergarments, while Character Costumes in Marrickville sewed the Neoprene outfits for Cyber Sport. However, the staff and students of IDU made the final alterations, adjustments and styling needed to complete the sexy looks.

On the big day, all 20 students and staff worked tirelessly backstage from 11.30 am to 7.30pm to fit the models, and make the necessary alterations to perfect the looks for the stage.

If you were to ask the students what type of project they would prefer, now that the experience is just a memory, they would choose the hands on approach. They have grown as designers. They have experienced the joy of seeing their work manifested and now, they can say with honesty and pride – ‘I am a designer, and I was a design assistant on the Schwarzkopf Gala show for Hair Expo’!

It is thanks to all these people that this all happened. Their vision, hard work, belief and team work created magic on stage that evening!

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