Swag or sweetheart?

Amid the bustle of preparing to go out of town tomorrow (remember, I’ll be gone all week, posting will be slow to non-existent) Fed Ex arrived with a box. Just for me! Opening it…

I thought it was something sweet from one of my lovely visitors. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, maybe from my husband? There was no card so I don’t know although it shipped direct from Ketchum -so could it be swag? I thought the packaging was lovely. Quite a bit of effort went into it if that’s the case.


It’s my very own Mattel Barbie iDesign CD-ROM and game! I’ll bet none of the other fashion bloggers got one.

See why I’m wondering who sent this? There’s more to the story I guess. I’m known to have a peculiar gift giving habit. When a friend who has everything is having a birthday, I often buy her a Barbie doll. The look on their face when they open it is priceless. I explain I wanted to be sure to get something they didn’t already have and a Barbie doll usually fits the bill. In my defense, I’ll say I’m a creature of habit and this one predates the advent of Amazon wish lists and gift cards.

In the event this is swag, this product deserves a blurb for nothing if not entertainment and surprise value. The product comes in a binder. And you know how little girls love sets of anything. Boy, I wish regular software came like this.


If you have a six year old, I’ve got to admit this is pretty snazzy. Forget point and click design. Barbie’s I-Design comes with styles pre-loaded on barcoded cards and a card reader. And it’s PINK. PINK I tell you!

I couldn’t wait to get the software loaded, I was dying to try out the card reader. I mean, how nifty can you get? The downside is that the software wasn’t happy with my dual monitor set up. It’s designed to hijack your whole desktop (no minimize or resize button) so not knowing what to make of my dual monitor configuration, it settled for jumbling the open windows of my second monitor into a garbled mess, throwing windows every which way. Clicking on the desktop of the second monitor sent Barbie shrieking to black on monitor 1. I got her back though, fairly easily once she recovered from her fright. Barbie doesn’t like being pushed off center stage. I’ll keep that in mind.

I’m taking Barbie with me to MAGIC. Really. I can’t wait to show everyone else my new toy during happy hour. I do like whizzing those cards through the reader and watching Barbie’s outfit change as fast as the screen can refresh. I know Barbie will be thrilled and she’s sure to be a hit between toasts. Here she is, a new designer already she’s off to Las Vegas to rub elbows with fashion’s most successful designers at the world’s largest wholesale apparel market.

So, who sent it? Was it a sweetheart or swag? I’m wondering if Mattel’s people found the entry I wrote about the six year old fashion designer and sent it. Either way, it was a fun diversion. I’m wondering if I can play with the config of the card reader and get it to read other things. Remember those Cue-cats Radio Shack was giving away free? Those are quite the collector’s items now, they can be used in other configurations. The company that developed them hit the market ten years too soon and went under. I have two of them if I could only find them. They’re going for over $20 apiece last I checked.

Speaking of six year old designers, Timo sent this:

Models have posed outside the Houses of Parliament to highlight a skills shortage in the UK fashion industry. Skillfast-UK says many fashion graduates lack the technical know-how to turn their ideas into workable designs. It wants fashion colleges and universities to put more focus on pattern-cutting, garment construction and other practical skills.

Then just this morning, Jasmin sent another piece saying much the same thing:

The New Zealand rag trade, once rapidly retrenching under the overbearing shadow of cheap third world imports, is now so desperately short of skilled staff that a group of apparel companies is setting up its own sewing school in Levin.

The local apparel and textiles industry has reinvented itself to focus on niche and high end products, and is now crying out for skilled people. The historical picture of it as a dying industry has put off many from entering or returning to the trade.

Maybe we’ll end up with Mattel lobbying Congress in support of the domestic apparel industry? Ah, I need to get back to work. Enough task avoidance. Have a good week!

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14 comments

  1. Grace says:

    That is too funny.

    I had a hilarious exchange with GM’s PR firm about hyping *GREEN* *CELEBRITY* *MOMS* posing in front of Chevy hybrid-electric SUVs at the Grammys on my blog.

    Sigh. Why couldn’t they have sent me to the Grammys to report first hand?

  2. Lisa Bloodgood in Portland says:

    Well, may we soon solve the mystery. I think other software should come that way, too.

    Have fun in Vegas!

    Double Yay for the sewing school! I’m not from there, but I have been wanting to teach people to sew. I have a bunch of machines but have to wait till I have the cash flow to get them serviced and get parts for 1 or 2 of them. I kinda need to have or borrow more space, too.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  3. I agree with Skillfast after having experienced this inadequate training myself. These fashion schools are making very nice money off of lots of unsuspecting students (as well as federal loans and grants). Project Runway has jazzed them up and many can draw very well, but the practical aspects of design and construction are rushed through. They hand out a 2-year associates degree with the advice to “find your own niche”. Most students don’t even have enough experience to find a decent internship. It’s deplorable that the “business of fashion” is really about the “business of higher education”.

  4. Donna says:

    Meanwhile, those of us with unfashionably high numbers of burthday candles on our cakes, but with those hands-on skills, find it hard going in the employment world.

  5. Rocio says:

    I was a member of the panel of “expert judges” for the Fashion competition organised by Skill fast (which focuses on technical skills)

    Needless to say, there were few competitors that really deserved to be considered but their teachers entered their “creative” projects anyway.

    The other judges came from very diverse backgrounds (tailors, one lecturer from LCF, costume designers, a couple of production managers from well known labels) but we all agreed that exposing the skill shortage in this way was only the first step towards bringing more awareness.

  6. Susan W. says:

    No matter who sent it to you, I’m glad you’re having so much fun with it!

    Whether caused by Project Runway, or boredom with the relentless cold and snow, people are sewing, at least where I live (near Toronto, Canada). I waded through a crowd of at least a dozen people at my local fabric store on Monday morning, for heaven’s sake, only to stand on-line for twenty minutes at the cash register. Projects going by included quilts, velvet upholstery, brocade pillows, super fancy lined drapes and swags, simple curtains, two dresses, one blouse, one woman’s wool suit and blouse, and my own heirloom sewn batiste nightgown and housecoat. There were two men in the crowd, which I think is a bit unusual. One was making a hockey team pillow for his rec room and wanted to know how to bond a pre-made panel onto a pre-made pillow sham. The other was making tab-top curtains on his mom’s sewing machine. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get close enough to find out whether this was his first sewing project or not ;-) Our third major snowfall in ten days started this afternoon. If I didn’t have something to do with my hands, all this enforced isolation would drive me bonkers. Maybe others are feeling the same. Three cheers for knowing how to sew!

  7. Anir says:

    I’ve lived in two different states in the last three years. In both there were men working the cutting counter at JoAnn. And they could answer questions about stuff. And although they could have been gay, they were not overtly so. In fact both dressed in unremarkable way. One was a white guy and one was a black guy. Male shoppers are not unusual either in my new town at JoAnn perusing fabrics.

  8. Timo Rissanen says:

    Lucky you!

    As for skills, during late writing nights I fantasise about some sort of protection for the use of the term ‘fashion designer’, in manner of doctors, lawyers, etc. Ok, sounds scary or ridiculous, maybe, but again in the past month I’ve had two people with “marketing backgrounds” contact me, as they’ve decided to begin careers as fashion designers, and would I be able to help them as they need “patterns or something” and do I know any fabric suppliers. You couldn’t make it up. I said no to both.

    But, wouldn’t it be great if there was some minimum requirement of demonstrated skill and knowledge before someone could actually call themselves a designer (not just fashion)? I am idealistic, I know, but (real) designers have a power to change the world, if small step by small step, and there is responsibility involved… It’s just a proposition, but I think part of the problem is that in some (mainly European) countries fashion design is placed in the realm of art rather than design; this has implications for education and public perception, etc. Whilst both can be an avenue for self-expression, I’m not sure that should be one’s main drive in design. I’ll probably irritate many by saying so but designers who discuss their work as if it was art piss me right off. And just because you can draw it… as Kathleen pointed out in the Design Sketch Analysis post. Not sure about everyone else but I’m still haunted by the jeans with the three flies. Setting a fly into a slashed dart (which is how I’d interpret the photo IF I had to) in denim – forget it. With next to no seam allowance left in there, the whole thing would meet an unsightly end in a couple of washes if not the first.

    Good to hear about New Zealand, thanks! A friend and one of the best sample machinists I’ve ever met trained in NZ in the seventies. Whilst she’s here in Australia now, if there are others like her left there, lucky them!

    Marilynn, I do see your point but rest assured, there are still countless people working in education trying, often against the odds, to pass on not just skills and knowledge but an understanding of their importance for designers. Though it does get harder when student numbers grow whilst staff numbers remain static. But maybe your point is more about the institutions (and their boards and the people drawing up the budgets) than the little people doing the hard yakka in the class rooms.

    Now, how did we get to the sexual orientation of men in fabric stores? Oh, Barbie. :D

  9. cdbehrle says:

    Wow- the Barbie thing is great – it all started with Barbie, I must admit…

    Regarding the skill set/Fashion Designer title usage, what a wish! Years ago, to be a costume designer under United Scenic Artists (Lu 829) you had to have the hands on skills, pattern making, draping, sewing, researching etc, etc and pass a hardcore (2-3 day) test on all of it. Things got all political & eventually the Union had to admit fashion “stylists” in as “designers” which were obviously 2 different things to the designers already in 829.

    Maybe the issue is, should what is being taught now be called fashion “design”, or something else?

  10. I am not surprised about New Zealand needing to trained new skilled sewers. When I lived there I only bought indie designers. I was hooked from the time I went to buy a shirt I had seen in NZ Fashion Quarterly and they didn’t have it in my size so they end a design assistant over to measure me up and made it to measure and they adjusted the trim to suit my coloring better. I used the shirt a few years later as a master for my personal shirtmaking and the prices are really reasonable too.

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