Mother’s Day Tribute: A Tale of Two Pillows, Part 1.

Last Christmas was the best Christmas ever; not only because I got to decorate like a fiend, but because while I was home I finally found—after a fruitless eighteen year search!—a bunch of things I had sewn when I was a child and teenager that I’d long worried had been accidentally thrown away. I burst into happy tears when I pulled this from a box and held it for the first time in probably more than 20 years.

pillow-frontIt’s a pillow I made as a Mother’s Day gift for my mom when I very first started sewing. It was the first non-Barbie-clothes thing I ever made, and it is The Most Important Thing I Have Ever Sewn because it taught me the importance of craftsmanship and construction in relation to design.

I had secretly taught myself how to sew when I was 6 or 7 years old and once my mom realized I had been sewing on my own, and I had her real permission to use the sewing machine, I decided I would make her something special for Mother’s Day. 

pillow-closeupI put a lot of thought into the design, but even more heart; both literally and figuratively, as you can see! Limited by what fabric was available in the scrap drawer, I chose white felt, which was leftover from when my mom made me lamb’s ears to wear as a three year old when I was one of the stable animals in the Christmas party nativity scene; pink corduroy, from a pair of old pants I had grown out of; and denim that had most likely been my dad’s yard-work pants, or at least used to patch my dad’s yard-work pants, I’m not sure.

To stuff the pillow I used a bag of cotton balls that I had pilfered from the cabinet under my mom’s bathroom sink, because what else would you stuff a pillow with when you’re a little kid? The bag was half empty, though, so my pillow ended up being a little bit flat.

pillow-edge-3Sewing multiple layers of denim is a pretty ambitious task for anyone, let alone an 8 year old novice, but I wasn’t going to let my inexperience get in the way of making a sumptuously ruffled edge for my pillow. You can tell that I constructed the top and bottom ruffle first because, a) they’re sewn inside the seam, and b) there is actually some semblance of a ruffle; by the time I got to the vertical sides of the pillow I had run out of fabric and there was just barely enough to cover the last side, with not a single pleat and no folded edges to hide the frayed raw edges of the denim.

pillow-backWhen I had it all finished I was so proud of this beautiful thing I had made to show my mom how much I loved her and I just knew she would love it too! She would think it was the best gift ever and be so proud of it and show it off to all of her friends.

I decided that the best way to give it to her would be to place it on her bed (where I was sure she would display it for the rest of her life!) so that when she walked into her bedroom she would see it and know that it was obviously a gift I had made for her. I waited anxiously all Mother’s Day for her eruption of surprise and gratitude, but it never came.

pillow-edge-1What did come, however, was the pillow— right back into my bedroom! My mom put it in there, assuming I had accidentally left it in her room, as if it was one of my toys I’d forgotten to clean up. I was devastated, and brought it back to her, telling her that this was my Mother’s Day gift and that I had made it for her to put on her bed.

I don’t think she really knew what to do at that point, and we are an honest bunch of people, my family, so she told me the cold hard truth:

“But Colette, it doesn’t match my bedroom.”

(SIDENOTE: In the mid 80’s my mom redecorated the main floor of our house with peach carpet, and peach everything everywhere, so of course this pink and blue pillow did not match, but Mom, that wasn’t the point!)

She also delicately tried to explain to me that my sewing and craftsmanship might not yet be good enough for permanent display. She had every right to make that call; the tailored wool jacket that she made in her university sewing class in 1965 was the most perfectly crafted thing the professor had seen in all her years of teaching (another blog post for another time), and Jane’s Peach Palace, as my parents’ house eventually came to be called by my older siblings, had certain aesthetic standards to uphold!

Now, if you’re worried that my mom is some sort of cold, unfeeling aesthete because my pink and blue pillow wasn’t good enough for her, to her credit, she kept a bouquet of tissue paper flowers (with bright green pipe cleaner stems!) I made for her, probably when I was even younger, in a vase on her bathroom vanity for years. Of course, the tissue paper was peach, though…

pillow-cornerSo the Freudian subtext of this story is that I’ve spent the rest of my life sewing maniacally to prove to my mother that I can make something worthy of her praise and adoration, but the more accurate take-away from this experience is that I learned at an early age that it’s not enough to have a great idea, or to be well intentioned in your creative endeavors—you also have to be able to execute your idea at the requisite level.

That is the bedrock principle of my design philosophy, creative process and aesthetic, and as devastating an experience as this was as a little girl—adding insult to injury, a few days later I heard my mom yelling out from her bedroom, “Where’d all my cotton balls go? Who took my cotton balls?” To which I, deflated, had to confess—it served a much greater purpose than if she had showered me with compliments and kept the pillow on her bed like I had hoped.

pillow-edge-2.jpgI love my mom and everything she’s done for me in my life. She’s my biggest fan and greatest champion, and I owe so much to the many wonderful things she’s taught me, the sacrifices she’s made for me and my four older siblings, and the constant love and support she provides for our family.

It’s impossible for me to look at this pillow all these years later and not smile at the earnestness with which I created it; every stitch reads like a journal entry to me of my best effort at the time. I love it and wouldn’t change any of its frayed, un-mitered corners for anything.



Avi’s Moroccan Inspired Wedding Gown

moroccan inspired wedding gown.jpgWhen I first met Avi she told me the sweetest story of how her fiancé had proposed to her: he had taken her on a surprise trip to Morocco to get in touch with her Moroccan roots, tracked down the mud-brick home where her father (who passed away when she was a younger) had been born, and that’s where he asked her to marry him. The trip had made an indelible impact on her and as she began to plan her wedding decided she wanted to honor her Moroccan heritage in her wedding dress; not only as a tribute to her father, who would not be there to see her get married, but as a wedding day thank-you surprise to her husband for sparking a new appreciation for her family’s origins. [SIDENOTE: Shout-out to her husband for being so awesome!]

I loved the idea and the sentiment behind it. After discussing all the other details about her wedding and personal style—she would be having a destination wedding in Savannah, Georgia at the end of August and having an outdoor reception, so a breathable, not too heavy gown was a must—we started figuring out what “Moroccan inspired” would mean in the context of her wedding dress. We looked at all things Moroccan: tiles, rugs, and traditional Moroccan wedding dresses festooned with embroidery. The latter would be way too literal an interpretation, and the other things didn’t spark the degree of personal significance that seemed necessary given the original intent of the gown.

moroccan caftan 5.jpgI asked if she had any Moroccan family heirlooms that I might be able to see for design inspiration and after some thought she mentioned an embroidered caftan that her Moroccan grandmother had given her when she was little and which she wore as a child. The only problem was she didn’t know where it was or even if it still existed!

moroccan caftan 2A phone call to her mother in Pennsylvania solved the mystery of the Moroccan caftan (I wonder if that’s a Nancy Drew book?). It was in a box in a closet somewhere, her mother was sure, and she would bring it with her next month when she came to New York to join Avi for her next appointment with me. Perfect!

moroccan caftan detail.jpgI was really excited to see the caftan up close when Avi came back with her mother a few weeks later. Ever since the design consultation I’d been thinking about a technique that I’d always wanted to use on a wedding dress that would be the perfect vehicle to incorporate Avi’s Moroccan heritage in a subtle but significant way: I would reinterpret the embroidered motifs on the caftan using intricate hand-sewn bias applique. The scale and method would be different, but the scrolls and motifs would come straight from the caftan. Something new from something old, and perfectly unique to Avi!

When I showed them my sketches and explained the idea they loved it and we were all so excited to see it come to life the following summer.

bias tape draping closeup.jpgTo do the applique I first “draped” some ideas on the mannequin and made some fabric treatment samples, deciding which elements from the caftan would be best articulated with the bias applique. Then I drew out the whole border in pencil, to scale.

bias applique sewingA lot of tracing paper and measuring and design tweaking later, I had the final pattern and was ready for the task I’d been day dreaming about since Avi’s design consultation: sitting at my table, twisting and turning and pinning and stitching countless yards of bias tape by hand, following the pattern I’d drawn. If I’ve ever been in my happy sewing zone this was it!

bias applique 3.jpg

This is exactly the kind of intricate, tedious, repetitive task that I absolutely love to do!

bias applique.jpg

moroccan applique.jpg

moroccan applique corset.jpg

moroccan inspired applique 4.jpg

moroccan inspired wedding gown corset.jpg

moroccan inspired corset.jpgAvi’s mom flew me down for the wedding to help lace up the corset; she told me she didn’t want to worry about getting it wrong if she tried to do it herself, but moreover, after all the work I’d done to make such a special gown for Avi they couldn’t imagine her wedding without me being there.

lacing corset 2.jpg

It was an honor to attend Avi’s wedding (as it is with each of my bride’s weddings that I attend). It’s so fulfilling to do something that I love so much and which means so much to my brides and their families.

lacing up corset 1.jpg

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The wedding ceremony took place at Temple Mickve Israel, a beautiful historic synagogue in Savannah and one of the oldest in the country.  I made Avi’s veil with edging to match the corset and applique.

moroccan wedding henna.jpg

The night before the wedding there was a Moroccan wedding party, complete with traditional good luck henna tattoos.


moroccan inspired gown backAfter the ceremony all the guests were taken to the wharf for a surprise riverboat trip down the Savannah River to the reception venue.

wind gust wedding dress.jpg

It was windy on the boat! (Which was nice, because it’s hot in Savannah in August!)


The reception was held at a 200 year old fort on the banks of the Savannah river, Old Fort Jackson. Avi changed into a short version of her wedding skirt that I had made just for the reception, which involved lots of dancing and was lots of fun!


Photo credits for Avi’s wedding photos: Jade + Matthew Take Pictures

Avi’s wedding planner: Bonnie Kaar, First City Events

Avi’s florist: Amy Harvey, Harvey Designs

All the Stuff I Made for Christmas

My mom asked me to come home a few weeks early for Christmas to help her get the house ready for our entire family (10 adults and 4 kids under 2) to be there for the holidays. She gave me free reign on decorating and baking. The prospect of having all the resources of her house—and yard—at my disposal to decorate with was the best Christmas gift she could have given me.

My parents, who have lived in their house longer than I’ve been alive, have a yard with lots of beautiful, mature evergreens, which I never appreciated as a child; I had always wanted flowers like Grandma and Grandpa Komm’s, which they planted from seed each spring in their little greenhouse on the prairie. But Mom was—and still is—all about evergreens and conifers: the shapes, textures, and shades of green that thrive so abundantly in the temperate rainforests of coastal British Columbia.

evergreenAlthough my love for flowers has never waned, I’ve grown to appreciate what my mom sees in her evergreen gardens. Living in New York for 15 years, where everything is grey all winter long, has helped me see what I really had growing up.

As soon as I got home—and it stopped raining—Mom and I walked around the yard with our pruning shears and she pointed out all the best trees and shrubs. I was fascinated to learn all the names and defining characteristics of these plants I’d seen all my life but never really paid attention to. We collected giant buckets of blue spruce; three or four types each of juniper, cedar and pine; and cotoneaster with beautiful red winterberries. What few deciduous trees there are in the yard seem to have been chosen for how exceptional they look with no leaves; we collected twisted hazel and red twig dogwood on subsequent trips.

greens-in-the-garageUsing the garage as my workspace, I made so many piles of different branches that I had to park one of the cars in the driveway for a day or two to make room for all the organized chaos. A garage has never smelled better than this one, full of freshly cut evergreen boughs. You’d actually want to go sit in there because it smelled so good!

I spent hours and hours walking and foraging in the woods nearby. I can’t believe this was the first time in 33 years that I’d really paid any attention to the things that grow—even in the dead of winter—right where I grew up! Walking beneath the forest canopy, even though it was the end of December, you could have easily thought it was summertime; everything was green and lush.


Along the way I collected some amazing specimens: salal, a native evergreen bush that makes excellent filler and which you’ve probably seen or bought in flower arrangements; European holly, an invasive species, whose utility in Christmas decorating goes without saying, and, most serendipitously, a rogue boxwood shrub, bushy as can be with long, long stems of shiny little scooped leaves—perfect, because the boxwood in my mom’s yard are all trimmed into meticulous little pom-pom topiaries and were off limits to my clippers.

hollyMy original plan had been just to make some table centers for Christmas dinner and a wreath for the front door. Especially a wreath.

But Spoiler alert: I never got around to making that wreath. When I get into my creative zone I let it take me wherever it wants to go and there were too many other exciting things for me to make…

christmas-tablescapeI started with the dining room table. I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do: a 21st century send-up of the classic 1980’s table centers my mom used to make at Christmas when I was little and which would be instantly recognizable to my brothers and sisters: 3 staggered candles sticking up from an oblong display of carnations, chrysanthemums, baby’s breath, and evergreen foliage from the yard with those little glittery miniature wrapped presents on a stick poked in here and there for accent. (Which was the inspiration for what I made for Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s.) But that was before I rediscovered just what a treasure trove my mom’s house was. (It’s quite amazing what you can store in your home when it’s not a tiny Manhattan apartment!)

IMG_6456While my mom decorated her tree in the living room I walked around the house to take inventory of the kind of vases and containers I could use to arrange stuff in. I kept finding candlesticks—gold ones, brass ones, silver ones, crystal ones—hidden away in my old bedroom closet, the basement, and random cupboards; some of them I could even remember being in the living room from my earliest memories and each set brought back memories of what room they had originally been displayed in and what the house had looked like at the time.


After setting them all on the dining room table to see them all in one place, I threw out my original idea for the table center and decided that 40 years worth of accumulated candlesticks should trigger sufficient nostalgia amongst my siblings. It was then obvious to use the gold china, flatware and rimmed goblets, which meant I didn’t have to polish the silverware. I carefully set the full table with all the place settings to see how much space was left for the greens: just enough to run a garland in between all the candlesticks.

gold-place-settingI worried—but only for a moment—that a table completely covered in gold might be a little much, but then decided if there was ever an excuse to go completely all-out and over-the-top it was this Christmas and I was going to do it! 2015 was the biggest year ever for our family; my parents got two new grand-babies and a son-in-law, so we had plenty of reasons to celebrate.

gingerbread-name-tagsFor the place cards I made each person (even the brand new babies) a gingerbread cookie “gift tag” attached to a Christmas cracker. I did this years ago but with a different lettering style. This time around I stayed up late the night before designing and practicing the capital letters in ink before piping each name in icing calligraphy.

christmas-tablescape-2I made about 8 or 9 feet of garland that ran the length of the table and snaked and curved around all the candles, and a matching 12 foot garland that I draped around the chandelier above the table. I love making garland, it’s like knitting with greenery. I get into my happy OCD repetitive zone for a while and all of a sudden there’s this big long ribbon of something beautiful to show for it.

chandelier-garlandOnce I’d completed the dining room, I went to work on that wreath I’d been dreaming about. But this is what I ended up making for the front door instead:

winter-foliage-1I discovered this bizarre pile of tree branches hidden outside, which used to be some of the Austrian pine topiaries in the front yard that died a few years ago and my dad cut down. He saved some of the horizontal branches in a pile—which he proudly called modern art—and left it exposed to the elements. I knew I had to use them in my decorating; they were covered in delicate, lacy lichen and their shape was a perfect arboreal approximation of antlers.


The large scale of the Austrian pine branch necessitated another trip to the yard, this time with bypass loppers instead of pruning shears to get long enough branches to work with it. The final arrangement was huge—about 5 feet wide and over 5 feet tall—but it fit perfectly in the alcove next to the front door, making a wreath unnecessary. (I’ll save my wreath idea for a year that I go home and don’t have an extra week-and-a-half to deck the halls.)


With the two biggest decorating objectives out of the way I turned my attention to the rest of the interior stuff. My mom saw how much fun I was having and remembered how much fun she used to have doing the same thing and wanted to get in on the action, so I let her decorate the mantle in the family room—for old time’s sake. (Who am I kidding, what really happened was that she said, “Colette! You’ll never finish all this by yourself and you still have all those cookies to bake and all this mess to clean up before everyone starts showing up!”) Regardless of whose side of the story is told, she wanted to decorate the mantle and had a lot of fun doing it; we both get our jollies out this kind of stuff.



While mom did the family room I worked on the arrangements for the rest of the house.


The arrangement I made in the hallway gave you a glorious whiff of cedar every time you walked past it. That is what Christmas is all about!


I enjoyed making the garland for the dining room so much I made more for the wall candelabra above the staircase. And given the number of candles on the dining table, opted to fill it with Christmas balls instead.




After we thought we were all done and I was taking photos of the orchid in the living room I discovered the best of all the vases hiding on the bottom shelf of the tea cart: a brass Persian teapot. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t it found on my initial reconnaissance trip around the house; it’s one of my favorite things of hers and it was the perfect vessel to hold my last sprays of holly and boxwood.

persian-teapotOh, and one more Spoiler Alert: We got all the Christmas baking done on time too.


I even made time to class up the cranberry salsa by serving it on a china plate and piping the cream cheese!

cranberry-salsa-2And no matter how fancy the house was decorated it wouldn’t have been Christmas without me making my gingerbread snowflakes. I had to stay up all night to make them and polish the silver serving platter, but it was well worth it. It was our best family Christmas ever and certainly the most creatively fulfilling one for me!


Gingerbread Cookie Collaboration 2013!


If you know me you know that I love making cookies and I love Christmas, which naturally means that I really love making Christmas cookies! Over the last few years it’s become a tradition of mine to make snowflakes out of gingerbread, and pipe them rather ornately with royal icing.


I like to call them Rococo snowflakes, but they could just as easily be Baroque snowflakes, and some of them could even pass for Art Deco snowflakes, but I digress. What’s more important is that it’s kind of like doing embroidery but with something sweet and edible and I have way too much fun doing it!


I’ve been hearing for years from the ecstatic recipients of these cookies (I’ve only ever made them for my family and friends) that I need to make them available to the rest of the world, so this year I asked my friend Amy Noelle, who owns Sugar Flower Cake Shop and makes wedding cakes decorated with beautiful sugar flowers, if she would like to team up and help me bake, decorate, and sell my gingerbread snowflakes this holiday season. She thought it was a great idea!


Now everyone will have a chance to find out for themselves if these cookies are indeed too pretty to eat (trust me, they are not–they taste just as good as they look)! You’ll be able to pre-order our first batch of cookies through Amy’s website by the end of the month, so stay tuned for details.


And be sure and follow both of us on Instagram, as we’ll be posting lots of photos as we go… Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Special Guest Blogger: One of My Brides, Lisa

On Choosing Colette Komm by L. H. Grant

A week after my engagement, on a flight from New York to Phoenix, I found myself sitting next to the head of Oscar de la Renta Bridal. I’d seen the collection online and loved it — one gown in particular. “Why don’t you meet me in Scottsdale and you can try it on?” The dress search has ended before it’s even begun, I thought to myself.

Two days later I was standing in front of a full-length mirror wearing the gown I thought would be “the one.” But something was off.  It wasn’t that the dress wasn’t beautiful or that it wasn’t flattering on me. Everything was lovely. There was just something that felt too manufactured about it — like a photoshopped image or a library filled with decorative books that have never been opened. I returned to New York empty handed.

Back home I visited more bridal salons, tried on more dresses and left with the same feeling I’d had in Scottsdale. It wasn’t until I walked into Colette’s studio that I found the authenticity I’d been looking for.

I once heard it said that great art is great not because of the questions it answers, but because of the questions it asks. As Colette showed me each gown in her collection, I found myself wanting to know more: how long it takes to hand-stitch each petal onto one dress, how she makes a skirt look like meringue peaks, how her gowns can at once be so exquisitely detailed, yet convey such a feeling of absolute simplicity.

As she told me about her creation process, and I watched her delicately handle each dress, I could see what made these gowns so different. Colette knew each stitch; she’d sewn each one with her own two hands. These dresses were never in a factory, never shuffled through a line of seamstresses, never a concept sketch sent to a sample room to interpret. Because Colette sees each creation from bride to sketch to pattern to muslin to gown back to bride, the final product has a sense of life, of history to it. Her gowns are Parisian architecture; the others, cookie cutter subdivisions.

On my wedding day the beauty of Colette’s work was evident not just to me, but to my guests — and not just to those who follow fashion. A dressmaker commented that she’d sewn hundreds of gowns but never managed to make any seem like they were an actual extension of the bride. “The dress is like part of your skin the way it moves on you,” she said. A retired police chief — a man I’ve known my whole life who has never taken any notice of fashion — was so struck by my gown that he said, “that’s exactly how I want my daughter to look on her wedding day.”

As for me, the greatest compliment I can pay to Colette and to the integrity of her creative process is to genuinely tell the truth: I have never seen a wedding dress — before or since my wedding — that I find more beautiful than the one she made for me. And for that, I thank her.

A Holiday Tribute to Steve Jobs

When Steve Jobs passed away in October it made me more sad than I thought it would. As a creative and artistic person I cannot imagine my life without Apple products; they are, quite simply, part of my family and I love them, so this year I decided to include them in this kind-of-a-joke Christmas card I sent to my parents (who don’t have any grandkids). I hope you enjoy reading it (or looking at my gingerbread snowflakes, if that was what you were looking for).  (Click the pictures to enlarge each page and read it in context, or just scroll down to read the text, which I’m pasting into the post.)

Merry Christmas from the Komm Family: Colette (almost 30), iMac (2.5 years), iPhone (11 months), iPad (5 weeks)

Christmas 2011

iMac has made quite the transition this year, going from being an only child for the last few years to suddenly being the big brother of two younger ones who are constantly trying to sync his music and documents, bombarding him with new photos, and trying to get him to charge their batteries. In January he also lost his lifelong best friend, iPod—who, sadly, was kidnapped at the gym (I think). It’s been hard for iMac; I have much less time to spend with him as I’m always chasing around after iPhone and iPad (those little ones are always on the go and so demanding of my attention!) but he and I spent some quality time earlier in the spring and then again this fall putting together some beautiful portfolios of my wedding dresses. In October, noticing that iMac was starting to feel a bit neglected, I upgraded his operating system and got him two new pets: Magic Mouse and Trackpad, which he just loves and they have so much fun together! iMac is also learning to use Quickbooks so that in the new year he can help track the finances of our family business: making fancy dresses.

At the end of January we welcomed our long anticipated iPhone into the family. He’s been such a blessing in my life; helping me to keep in touch with business contacts while i’m out and about—he can even process credit card payments and make client invoices! He loves to go running with me in Central Park while listening to music and he’s gotten really good at playing Tetris. iPhone and I made it to level 25 of Tetris together—what a bonding experience! But what I appreciate most about iPhone is that he has helped me find a cure to my insomnia: before bed we log into Netflix and put on a documentary—usually about dinosaurs or deep space; something that’s interesting enough that my brain doesn’t get caught up in random thoughts, but not so interesting that I have to pay too much attention—then I stand him up on my night table (I’m so proud that he can stand up on his own!) and drift off peacefully to sleep. Most nights I’m asleep within a half hour—something that I never thought possible!At the end of January we welcomed our long anticipated iPhone into the family. He’s been such a blessing in my life; helping me to keep in touch with business contacts while i’m out and about—he can even process credit card payments and make client invoices! He loves to go running with me in Central Park while listening to music and he’s gotten really good at playing Tetris. iPhone and I made it to level 25 of Tetris together—what a bonding experience! But what I appreciate most about iPhone is that he has helped me find a cure to my insomnia: before bed we log into Netflix and put on a documentary—usually about dinosaurs or deep space; something that’s interesting enough that my brain doesn’t get caught up in random thoughts, but not so interesting that I have to pay too much attention—then I stand him up on my night table (I’m so proud that he can stand up on his own!) and drift off peacefully to sleep. Most nights I’m asleep within a half hour—something that I never thought possible!

The most recent addition to our family came the day before Thanksgiving. From the moment I brought iPad home from the Apple Store he has loved to read! All he wants to do is read (and play Fruit Ninja), so I thought it was only fitting that the first book we read together would be the biography of iPad’s biological father, Steve Jobs, who sadly passed away before iPad came into our lives. It was a wonderful experience to read that book with iPad, curled up in bed, sometimes for hours, and even in the dark! Now iPad knows that he is the offspring of a real genius, something of which he is very proud!

Like any family, we’ve also had our share of bumps and bruises this year. Just a few weeks ago I went to wake up iPhone from a nap and he was completely unresponsive to my touch (and iMac’s attempt to charge his battery). Fearing that he might be in a coma, I rushed him to the Apple Store where multiple resuscitation attempts failed and he was given an emergency full-body transplant. Luckily, between his personality being stored on iCloud and all of the syncing that he’s done with his big brother, iMac, by the time I got him home he was, quite literally, as good as new and back to his old self. Then, on iPad’s one month birthday it became evident that although he is exceptionally gifted at reading, he has some developmental deficiencies with writing, so for Christmas I got him a wireless keyboard, and now he is helping me write this letter from the comfort of my bed!

All three of the kids love to play around on the internet and waste time on Facebook and I’m hoping that iPhone and iPad will start wasting more time on Twitter and WordPress to help the family business grow in the new year. All three of them have also been helping me figure out my next big website redesign for 2012; each of them has ideas about what they’d like to see and how it should be formatted so that they can each enjoy it on their own. Right now iMac is the only one in the family that can see it but that will soon be changing!

Colette has had a very busy year—especially the last few months—so she has really enjoyed taking some time off this week to celebrate Christmas (and make this letter). She’s enjoying playing with the new toys Santa brought her: a red 7-quart KitchenAid mixer (she’s made snowflake gingerbread cookies so far), and a Canon 60D DSLR camera with assorted lenses (with which she eventually plans to capture detail shots of the gowns she makes but is practicing right now by taking pictures of the cookies she made and all the Christmas decorations she put up in her apartment).

Well, 2011 has been a memorable year for our family and we hope it has been for yours too. We are looking forward to 2012 and wish you the very best this holiday season, and a very Happy New Year!


Colette (almost 30), iMac (2.5 years), iPhone (11 months), iPad (5 weeks)

Gingerbread Cookie Teaser…

I know Christmas is officially over, but at my apartment it’s still going strong due to the fact that I was too busy right up to the 22nd to do anything remotely resembling a holiday tradition… Last year I made some fancy snowflake gingerbread cookies and have been waiting all year to make some more. Here’s what they look like right now, before I go at them with the royal icing!

My cookies from last year turned out really nicely but then when it came time to photograph them my crappy little point-and-shoot didn’t do them justice. For Christmas this year I got myself a real camera, a Canon 60D, with which I eventually plan to take detail photos of my dresses, but right now I’m practicing by photographing all of the Christmas decorations I put up (and the cookies I’m making). My apartment is red and green to begin with, so it’s the perfect backdrop!

More photos coming soon! And blogging more often, that’s my new year’s resolution! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!


Remembering September 11th, 2001

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday; the second Tuesday of my sophomore year at Parsons — and because the first week of classes never really counts — my first real day of fashion classes. (At Parsons everyone’s freshman year is the same and you don’t declare your major until the end of that year.) For me, Tuesdays were like Mondays because I had arranged my class schedule to have Mondays off — a permanent three day weekend! — so I woke up that morning especially excited to start the week; I was finally doing exactly what I had dreamed of for so many years: studying fashion in the heart of the garment district at Parsons’ storied Seventh Avenue fashion campus.

As I got ready for school that day I emptied my backpack of the contents of my trip to the beach the day before: an empty canister of Pringles, a whole bunch of sand… As I went to take my camera out I hesitated, wondering, is there any reason to keep this in here? I probably won’t need it. I can’t imagine there will be anything worth taking pictures of today… so I left my camera on my kitchen table and went of to catch my train to midtown, proud of myself for having left early; the week before our teacher had stressed how crucial it was that we all be on time for class and that she always started class promptly at 9 a.m., and I was determined to make a good first impression on her and show what a serious student of fashion I was.

I can remember remarking what a beautiful late summer day it was while walking to my subway station, how bright and blue the sky was — more blue than usual. To this day, whenever I go out on a clear day I compare the sky to how it was that morning. If it’s that same deep, brilliant bright blue I’ll say to myself, it’s September 11th blue, and then feel a pang of sadness, confusion and anxiety and wonder if anyone else does the same thing.

I got to my classroom early, around 8:46, and while unloading my backpack realized that I needed to get some things from my locker downstairs. I debated whether or not to take my cell phone with me just in case someone called — but who’s going to call me in the next 5 minutes? — so I left it on my desk. When I got back it was blinking; I had missed a call from my parents and there was a voicemail waiting for me. Why would they be calling me at 5:50 in the morning, their time? Without bothering to listen to the message I dialed them back but the call wouldn’t go through. So I tried to call my voicemail but I couldn’t get through to that either. Oh well. I thought nothing of it and spent the next ten minutes looking over my notes from my very first fashion-design-at-Parsons homework assignment: a Shopping Report, and rehearsed all the keen observations I had made the previous week while “studying” at Bergdorf’s, Barneys and Saks Fifth Avenue.

At about 9:03, I looked at the clock and wondered where in the world was this teacher who had made such a big stink about starting class right on time. It’s past 9 a.m., who IS this woman?! Everyone else seemed to be wondering the same thing, and within ten minutes we had gone from a room full of strangers to bonding over the fact that our teacher was a complete hypocrite and had just given us license to be as late as we wanted for the rest of the semester.

Around 9:15 she finally appeared, and, with no apologies or explanation as to why she was late, immediately led us into a discussion about our Shopping Reports. I had taken the assignment very seriously, and was really excited to share all of my insights: how each store used lighting to create a certain ambiance depending on the price point or target customer of the particular clothing on display, how various brands or types of merchandise were clustered next to each other and all these other things, which at the time, seemed of the utmost importance. I jumped right into the conversation and for the next twenty minutes or so, I was completely engrossed, but not so much that I didn’t notice that there was a bizarrely constant stream of fire engines, police cruisers and ambulances blaring their sirens below our third floor window on Seventh Avenue. But again, I thought nothing of it. Since that day, however, every siren I hear makes me cringe and wonder if it’s all happening again.

At about 9:40 our guidance counselor and Tim Gunn, who was then just the recently appointed chair of the fashion department, came into our class to announce that, “Two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center towers and it’s possibly a terrorist attack and the city has shut down all trains and tunnels and bridges in and out of Manhattan, so we’d like for you to take a ten minute break to gather your thoughts, make some calls if necessary, then come back and continue your class.”

I’m not sure what was more shocking: that any of this had happened and was perhaps going to continue to happen or that we were expected to come back to class in ten minutes and continue talking about the subtle things that high end department stores do to make you feel special while you are shopping. People were losing what matters most while I was sitting there talking about what matters least. I felt absolutely horrible, and felt even worse when our teacher acknowledged that she had known what was going on and it was why she had been late. She came down here and started this most superficial of conversations knowing that our friends and neighbors were being blown up?! I couldn’t comprehend it. All the excitement and hope I had felt that morning on my way to school about my future was gone and replaced with a complete sense of futility about everything I was doing and the fashion world in general, which would take years for me to overcome and make sense of.

With some hesitation, I went outside and looked down Seventh Avenue, not sure what to expect. Up until then, on a clear day in New York the Twin Towers were the topographical equivalent of Mona Lisa’s eyes; it didn’t matter from what avenue you looked at them, they always seemed to be directly at the end of that avenue, glittering in the distance like the Emerald City at the end of the Yellow Brick Road. As a New Yorker, nothing made you more proud than that sight. This day should have been such a day, but all you could see looking south was a deathly gray fog obscuring all of Lower Manhattan. After this surreal “ten minute break to process things” I went back upstairs still somehow thinking I was supposed to finish class. No one else was there so I packed up my stuff and started walking with a girl from class to her high-rise apartment which was within walking distance of the school — maybe we’d be able to see something from her roof. Maybe seeing it would make it real because it didn’t make any sense.

We were on Eighth Avenue and 41st Street when a random passer-by (I can’t say stranger because no New Yorker was a stranger that day) announced incredulously that Tower 2 had just collapsed. How could that happen? and if that really had just happened how much worse would the death toll be now? I imagined the next few weeks being full of funerals, possibly now of people I knew (but thankfully it wasn’t). And what would New York City be like with only one tower? Of course at the time I never even considered for a moment that its surviving twin would fall down too. But it did, and before we even got to her apartment. By the time we got to her roof there was nothing to see but a vast grey fog of dust and smoke over Lower Manhattan that was wafting over to Brooklyn and a horribly sickening, empty space above it where the Twin Towers, and all the people in them, should have been.