A Social Responsibility

Angel explains her frustration with this week's challenge.

Today was elimination day for the “Real Woman” challenge. We were asked to design a look that flattered different body shapes. The challenge seemed problematic because we were all given different body types while a few of the “real women” didn’t seem to have any flaws at all. We all really should have been given the same body types to work with to keep the challenge fair and consistent.

I was assigned Briane, a modern dancer with a dynamic personality. She said her problem is that she is short-waisted and has a wide upper body. She said she always wears gym clothes, so I suggested designing a dress that had the comfort of wearing a t-shirt. It would mimic the bodysuit/leotard cuts that she normally wears. When she arrived for the fitting, however, I realized that her problem was not her wide upper body and short torso. Her thighs were quite wide and her calves were very muscular. When I put my jersey dress on her, it made her legs look even wider! Suddenly, I had to shift focus to find a way to elongate her lower body instead. I only had five hours to figure it all out!

I did what I could in the remaining time, but I barely had time to finish the dress. It did not look horrible, and the judges did not choose me for the bottom. However, Daniella selected my design as the bottom pick. Surely, there were worse designs that mine, but she was not going to choose anyone from her suite for the final pick.

Looking back, I wished I that I had designed something more fun and risky. I would have designed a simple long shirt dress and painted a humorous life-sized print of a skinny body on top, a la the British artist Julien Opie. It would have been a commentary on how ridiculous it is to try and look like a physical ideal. Women should be proud of their bodies, and their personalities should be their greatest asset. But there is barely any time to think concepts through in these 14-hour challenges. Genius ideas cannot be born in such a small time frame.
I am starting to become bored and uninspired with these challenges. In the real world, I surround myself with amazing fabrics, prints, embroideries, artwork, cool music, chic people, bustling city life, rejuvenating sunlight … and to be cut off from all of those things that inspire me has been really difficult. I feel like a plant with no sunlight. In the real world, I take pictures of neat things I see on the street, in galleries or in museums. I meet up with my “muses” to chat about what they like and want to wear. These women are so inspiring and I am always designing with them in mind. I also travel around the world to find the most beautiful fabrics and embroideries. I work with innovative materials that glow in the dark, that heat up, or that change colors when touched. None of those are available at B+J Fabrics, where they only sell normal and conventional fabrics.

It is hard to be innovative and forward-thinking with limited resources and very little time. Surely, I could design something simple and easy, but I do not see the point in creating something that already exists in the marketplace. As designers, I think we have a social responsibility to offer customers products that are new, innovative and with their needs in mind. I really hope I can find inspiration in the next challenge.

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