m. klara

Forever Dilemma
May 18, 2009, 5:12 am
Filed under: Style Advocates | Tags: , ,

I’m on a mission to find the perfect bidesmaid dress. Purple and versatile, something that can be worn both casually and fancy. And once again, Wayne has come through for us ladies. I was scouring virtual and actual clothes racks at Forever 21 for the perfect dress, and Wayne happens across a slim strapless number with virtually no trims, embroidery or beading involved, making it the perfect versatile dress for the ladies on my court.

But wedding ish is not the topic of this post (for once, haha). Instead, I’m struggling with the ethical and moral complications of shopping at a humongous chain like Forever 21.

A few weeks ago, one of my bridesmaids, Gen, and I hiked our way to our local Forever 21 in Pasadena, California. I just looked it up online and it’s referred to as a Forever 21 “superstore.” It seriously is. It’s 2 gigantic floors of stark white walls serving as a backdrop for racks and racks of clothes encompassing every single color of the rainbow spectrum. It’s so outrageous and excessive, it was kind of hilarious.

The sidewalk in front of the store also boasted another delightful display: about 30 angry protesters with picket signs cursing Forever 21 at the top of their lungs.

boycott forever 21

Gen and I scooted past the protesters into the safe haven of Forever 21’s giant womb of a store. Accessories! Bags! Clothes! Shoes! Totally my heaven. But I’m not gonna lie. The ruckus outside did ruin my shopping experience. I bought my crap and on our way out, I had to stop a protester to ask what was the big deal about Forever 21. Underpaid sweatshop workers? Yeah, we all know about that. We just shove those guilt-ridden images to the dark corners of our conscience as we fork over less than 100 bucks for an entire outfit.

But apparently, this protest was geared towards a more specific, not to mention local, cause. I stopped to dialogue with the protester largely because I caught snippets of South Central in their chants. I work primarily with individuals in South Central LA, so I have a soft spot for any issues that community has.

I learned that Forever 21 is trying to build a new distribution plant in the city of Vernon so they can churn out more designer knock-offs (I got no problem with designer knock-offs, by the way). However, in doing so, they push out farm workers who work that land. In addition, a new distribution plant is not eco-friendly.

The whole situation is kinda freaky. In my current mission to find this strapless purple shift dress, I stumbled upon a Forever 21 department store in Montebello. Did you get that? Forever 21 department store. They’re seriously going for blood. Two floors that are even bigger than the one in Pasadena with everything sectioned off into mini-departments. It’s insane. I never thought that Forever 21 would blow up like this!

F21 Dept Store

It almost feels like the anti-Christ of all cheapsky knock-off stores. They reel you in with their bright lights and colors and incredibly cheap prices. I’ve been haunting the Forever 21 website recently to check if new purple dresses have been posted. They’ve really pimped out their site.

F21 Website

They’ve added some new goodies since my youthful days shopping at single namebrand Forever 21. Now they have like, 3 different labels. The webpage for one of their new labels, Twelve by Twelve, caught my eye with the editorial layout, the requisite stick-thin models in awkward poses and the exaggerated headpieces. But it should come as no surprise seeing as Forever 21 is a knock-off store. Poor people like me can’t afford to splurge my grad school tuition on a designer jacket. Why not copy couture editorials to entice their audience even further? Complete the couture image.

Other interactive features their website boasts includes a lookbook or “photo gallery” and an advice column called “Ask Aimee” where registered users can ask Forever 21’s “fashion director” all their questions about fashion. (I want that job!) The lookbook is especially genius because it touches on all the current trends: tropical, desert, rockabilly and “Sunday Best.” If you scour through recent teen mags like “teen vogue,” I see those four trends splattered across every issue.

I guess the scary part to me is how cunning Forever 21 is. Even someone as socially aware as I am can be so easily caught up in the glamour of it all while still being able to save tons of money. It’s economical both stylistically and financially. And those are the two elements that they’ve used to really capitalize on at the expense of those who do the grunt work.

Ironically, there’s a reference to a Bible verse stamped on the bottom of every Forever 21 bag. Seriously. Go and check to see if “John 3:16” graces the bottom of yours.

F21 3 16

This is the verse:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Apparently, the founder of Forever 21 is deeply religious and he and his wife donate millions of dollars to their church. My question is, why can’t they use that money to pay their workers humane wages? The whole thing boggles my mind, though capitalist greed should be something I’m used to seeing and hearing about. Hell, I buy into it, too! I struggle with how to work that shit out in my conscience. I was telling a friend of mine that I will always be an advocate for the community, but here I am, contributing to their suffering and their social status on the bottom rung of the ladder.

It’s a dilemma and I have no answers. I do what everyone else does, which is to look the other way, shrug my shoulders and say, “That’s the way it is,” while enjoying my new designer knock-off sweater that I bought for $15. Trust me, I’ve been struggling with this forĀ  years, though it hasn’t been much of a struggle. It’s something that’s bigger than me and I’ve accepted that. I’m just one tiny part of the bigger problem; it would take a freakin army, or at least a small of group of people with the energy and passion of an entire army, to move mountains like improve sweatshop workers’ conditions.


Stylist in the Making
May 14, 2009, 6:46 pm
Filed under: Gettin My Career On | Tags: , ,
m. klara gets ready for her engagement photshoot

m. klara gets ready for her engagement photshoot

Tricia let us out of class early last night, but I stayed afterwards a little bit to complete my class assignment. Elizabeth stayed also and we spent the last few minutes of class reviewing SPEC and cost sheets.

As we were walking to the our cars, we got to talking and we discovered that we had similar goals in terms of fashion.

First of all, she wants to be a custom dress designer for wedding dresses and I had to tell her about Wai-Ching. Wai-Ching is awesome. Second, she wants to be a stylist and start a business party planning for events and weddings. I was like, omigod! I totally wanna do that too!!

I had actually stayed after class last week, too, to talk with Tricia about how to get a start in becoming a stylist. Right now I’m thinking more along the lines of becoming a stylist for photoshoots. As I’m getting to know myself artistically, I notice a theme of taking elements and putting them together to create one big picture. The simplest way of illustrating that is through my love for making collages. Even the Tarot cards I own have collage pictures instead of the typical single image.

It’s the same with fashion. I love looking at street style and how individuals take garments or accessories or even objects that might look ordinary on its own, but fantastic when paired together to create one unified look.

With photoshoots, its the same thing: taking different elements –backdrop, lighting, colors, models, props, etc.– to create a mood, develop a storyline, evoke an emotion. To me, a successful photoshoot will inspire creativity in others.

All that fluffiness aside, Tricia advised several things. One, working with magazines is a good start. Also, finding connections in the entertainment industry. Two, research schools that offer certificates in costume design and merchandising. Three, market my psychology degree like a mofo.

After talking with Elizabeth last night, I was inspired to think about ways I could incorporate my psychology degree into a future side career as a stylist. During the intake, or first meeting, I could ask the editor/director/photographer/model what their vision is. If they’re having trouble with that, I could ask about the mood or emotion they want to evoke, what colors they want to use, what message they want to send out to the audience. Play word associations with them. Talk about the abstract before getting into the concrete (the actual physical space and tangible elements). Or should I do the reverse? That would be fun to play around with…And seeing as I’m only in the beginnings of my fashion venture, I’m versatile in terms of what kinds of moods and styles I like to mess around with.

I was talking about marketing plans with my brother yesterday. Taking a marketing class would be interesting, too. And definitely helpful. Working with magazines is a fine idea, but to be honest, I don’t like the idea of working under someone else for very long. Though I love team work, I see myself more as a freelance agent, working with magazines here and there, but definitely with indie companies or websites.

I’m currently looking through Academy of Art’s online fashion courses and there are so many I wanna take! Introduction to Fashion Journalism, Consumer Motivation in Fashion, Costume Design for Film, Fashion Marketing, Fundamentals of Management, History of Fashion, Visual Merchandsing, etc. FUN!! And the best part is that the online classes cost nothing.

Strictly speaking, this will be a side job. Psychology will always be my main career choice. I find psychology to be useful in everything, even fashion. The one beef I’ve always had with psychology is its lack of creativty. I don’t know if it’s because psychology has always been accused of being a “soft” science that they feel the need to stay clinical and well, boring. But I noticed that even in my dissertation, I chose to study something offbeat, something more personal and less sterile (Filipino mail-order brides).

I should definitely look into studying art and music therapy because if there’s one thing I’m learning, fashion can be good for the soul.

PS. I just found a Styling course!! Woohoo!!

PPS. Okay, as I’m making my way through the course catalog, I think I’m interested in Fashion Journalism and Editorial Styling. I’m still getting used to the terminology…

Designing Woman
May 3, 2009, 5:37 pm
Filed under: My Wedding | Tags: , ,

Shopping for a wedding dress is giving me a new appreciation for fashion. I’ve always told my fiance, Wayne, and close friends of mine that I would love to moonlight as a stylist. I’ve researched the necessary educational background for this job, the pay you get, and where to find work. As far as education goes, you aren’t required to have any specific kind of degree (though it helps), but knowing the right people seems to really get your foot in the door.

Anyway, I had spoken to a psychic a couple months ago and she told me that I’d start making extra income by combining my skills as a writer and my love for fashion. Maybe I was just looking for “evidence” to prove this was true, because I ended up talking to my cousin about being a freelance stylist for her jewelry company (they had just interviewed models for their website). There hasn’t been any movement with it yet, though I believe she’ll be going out for a photoshoot in a couple weeks.

So I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out how I’d market myself as a stylist (I’m not really a stylist seeing as the only people I’ve ever styled are myself and once, my cousin).

Last weekend, my aunt went with me to try on wedding dresses and she remarked, “I always said that I would love to work in a bridal boutique.”

Her remark didn’t register with me until I went to David’s Bridal the other day. The bridal specialist was so helpful and she asked me questions that would help me decide between the dresses I liked such as, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate this dress?” It struck me as clever cuz that’s a very common question I ask my clients in therapy.

And that’s when I thought, hey! I could totally be a bridal specialist! I could use my clinical skills and therapist intuition to help customers tap into their inner bride! Not only that, but I just spent 3 hours scouring the internet for more dress ideas for myself and I ended up collecting 28 pages worth of ideas.

Turns out, I’m really not over the bohemian look. I’m a tried and true bohemian chica. Only problem is that the dresses I want are in the $3000+ range. So I thought about the plainer, more simpler dresses I’ve tried on so far and how I could customize them.

<Click on the picture to see more details>

Deborah Lindquist
giant roses make me happy
the light belting around the waist is a nice medieval touch
the light belting around the waist is a nice medieval touch

floral appliques add color to a typically white bridal gown
floral appliques add color to a typically white bridal gown
i love the simplicity of eyelet
i love the simplicity of eyelet
this mohair and silk organza bodice is amazing
this mohair and silk organza bodice is amazing
i would love to have accessories like this to play with for my wedding pictures
i would love to have accessories like this to play with for my wedding pictures
i think i love floral appliques...
i think i love floral appliques…
a very easy shawl to make...i just might do this!
a very easy shawl to make…i just might do this!
the scallop detailing is amazing
the scallop detailing is amazing
omg, i adore all the ruffles
omg, i adore all the ruffles
love the giant floral buds and i the sleeves make her look like a forest nymph
love the giant floral buds and the sleeves make her look like a forest nymph
another element i love is crochet
another element i love is crochet
more floral applique

more floral applique

love the giant poof in the back

love the giant poof in the back

dont wanna wear heels to my wedding, so these strappy sandals look ideal

don't wanna wear heels to my wedding, so these strappy sandals look ideal

and this is THE dress. I had seen it in a wedding magazine years ago after I had first gotten engaged and I fell in love with it right away. I thought it was already out of season, but here it is. All $3500 of it. <sigh>

THE dress

THE dress

So if we narrow it down, I have a thing for the bohemian/romantic/ethereal look with giant floral buds and floral appliques, crochet and/or lace. I’m trying to think back to all the wedding gowns I’ve tried on thus far and only one really encompasses what I’m looking for which costs about $2300. What a wackjob.

So here’s what I’m thinking. I’ll purchase the one closest to what I want (and within my budget), get it altered to the silhouette as best I can, and add the floral buds to it. That might be kinda hard because the material of the buds would have to be the same as the dress. Argh. We’ll see what I can do…

“Mermaid. White. Minimal”
May 1, 2009, 3:11 am
Filed under: My Wedding | Tags: , ,


So I’m getting married in 3 months. It’s a milestone in so many ways. A milestone into “real” adulthood, a milestone into a life-long journey with another person, and fashionably speaking, a milestone into my first foray into design.

I know since I’m into fashion that I should be watching Project Runway or America’s Next Top Model (and believe me, I would if I had DirecTV or any kind of television service at all)…

…but I don’t.

Still, I get my style jollies off of Ugly Betty, mostly because the dialogue is so campy and I love the telenovela style of the show. In Season 1, a top Japanese designer named Oshi goes to Mode and he walks into their offices with a whole entourage and a freakin soundtrack: Bebot by Black Eyed Peas (a wonderful homage to my Filipino heritage, I thought). Freakin hilarious.

His style was “Round. White. Mi-ni-mal.” Which, incidentally, is very similar to my current aesthetic preference. I went to David’s Bridal today to try on a bunch of dresses that follow these style elements:

  • mermaid silhouette
  • lace
  • very minimal beading

I have always wanted to get married in one of those ethereal gowns that remind you of fairies and flowers in your hair. To be honest, after I saw Lord of the Rings, I swore I was going to get married in a place like Rivendell. So I thought I would end up liking the lace dresses I picked out to try on. Alas, none of them encompassed all the elements I wanted. I loved the lace, but they either lacked a train or had a straight silhouette.


–I ended up trying on a dress that lacked the lace, but had all the other elements.


Mermaid. White. Minimal.

Isn’t it gorgeous? Oshi would be proud.

The dress is pretty simple, but I love the minute details on it: the slightly spiked edges at the neckline, the ruching on the body and the folds in the skirt. Plus it has no beading whatsoever. It’s so sculpted and modern. And I love, love, love the mermaid silhouette. I think all long skirts that I’ll own from here on out shall have a mermaid silhouette.

It was kinda distressing me that I couldn’t find a dress I liked in lace. I’ve been engaged for nearly 3 years. Perhaps I’ve outgrown the bohemian look. I embraced it to the max in college, and in grad school, I was all over the place. I’m thinking my tastes have grown up a bit. I’ve started to take quite a liking to the more structured looks on the runway.

To be honest, the wedding dress looks rather statuesque. As a psychologist (who loves symbolism), I can imagine I’m feeling rather hardened these past few months and I’m looking for a way to show people that I’m strong enough to withstand all the drama that’s been thrown my way, both in my personal life, my work life and just being in today’s world with war and the economy getting us all depressed. I know it’s just a wedding dress, but I was definitely thrown for a loop that I was drawn to this particular style. There has to be a reason. And I always look for an excuse to blame the economy (and Bush).

The only caveat with El Statuesque? It reminds me of my best friend’s wedding dress…