Friday 14 June 2019

Ugg, its all so unfair!

Today in the New York Times

Homage or Theft? Carolina Herrera called out by Mexican Minister

Most people are ignorant of how the fashion industry works. There are exceedingly few designs in the industry that qualify for copyright protection. Copyright also has a limited time scale of protection, usually about 70-90 years. Outside of that designs and pictures become public domain. Copyright can only be registered to companies or individuals not cultures. The Mexican embroidery designs referenced by Herrera in her 2020 collection are likely 100s of years old, therefore not creditable to any individual and as such don't qualify for any legal protections. While the Herrera companys collection may have derived from murky ethics it doesn't infringe any legal issues of copyright. 

"Cultural appropriation" has become a buzzword construct for BIPOC communities to express their grievance over feelings of powerlessness.

Heres a great example that happened in Australia a month ago.

Heres a picture of my Ugg boots. That trade name on the back of my boots become illegal about a month ago.

Add caption

That Australian Ugg boot manufacturing company has gone bankrupt and it is out of business even though they’ve been making Ugg boots for 50 years. I clearly remember buying my first pair in 1978 at Greymouth on the South Island of New Zealand.

This is the story of how the entire Australian Ugg boot manufacturing industry has been ruined. 

In the 1970s an Australian man living in the US copyrighted the name and general design features of an Ugg boot. He had a business making and selling them in the USA at the time and the particular footwear was unlike anything there so he wanted to protect himself from being copied. After moving on from that business an American business bought the copyright and manufactured the footwear at scale. They aggressively pursued enforcing the copyright despite the fact this footwear had been made in Australia and New Zealand for long before the US copyright was created. In 2018 they took the Australian manufacturer to court and won the case that their copyright was infringed by the Australian business. 

That company is finished along with every other maker of Ugg boots here.

Thursday 13 June 2019

free kimonos are coming

Next Tuesday June 18th I’ll be publishing the Sencha Kimono PDF pattern. It will be a free giveaway for the first 10 days then revert to being Aus$12. The first page of the pattern instructions outlines why I decided to change the name from Jorja Jacket to Sencha Kimono and gives links to the discussion I’ve had on this blog.

technical drawings for Sencha Kimono

It’s hard to know how much flak I’ll get, if any. Emily Ito, as the foremost advocate to propagate the issue that using the word kimono in a pattern name is an unacceptable cultural appropriation has blocked any way I can communicate with her and refused all invitations I’ve made for her to respond publicly to me on this blog or elsewhere of her choosing. In this feedback vacuum its impossible to know what might happen to me. I refer back to Aja Barbers comment “no one is listening to you” so hopefully my insignificant profile will mean no one notices or cares. Perhaps if everybody rejects my offer of the free pattern I can interpret that to be how strongly everybody agrees it is a bad thing to call it a kimono.

This week I’ve tried to contact the moderators and editors of the Curvy Sewing Collective, a group I’ve belonged to since it’s beginning over 5 years ago. They have promoted many of the patterns I’ve published. This is what I asked them

Hi, not sure if your mail is working for mail@curvysewingcollective as I've tried to contact you twice over 5 days. Hoping you'll answer my query....
Hi editors
I'm sure you've noticed the controversy in the making community these last few months in regard to some designers using the word kimono in the name of their pattern. As recently as November last year this was a non issue for CSC at the time you published the Kimono Edition of the pattern throw-down. Currently people are being polarised by having to adopt positions and take sides. So I'm writing to find out where the CSC will land on this.
By the end of this month I'll be publishing a new pattern to be called the Sencha Kimono, attached is a technical picture of the garment. For the first 10 days after publication I'll be giving away the PDF pattern for free. After that it will be Aus$12. So I'm wondering whether you'd reject it from being included in your next pattern round up issue, due to the name?

To date, the Curvy Sewing Collective has published numerous posts expressing their enthusiasm for kimono designs. This is some of the most recent

November 5, 2018, Pattern throwdown, kimono edition

November 19, 2018, Pattern Review: Designer Stitch Willow Kimono

December 24, 2018, Pattern Review: Helens Closet Suki Kimono.The Suki Kimono reviewed here has now become the Suki Robe

January 1 2019,  Curvy year of Sewing kimono and cardigans

Will the CSC feel it necessary to expunge these posts? I don’t know what their current position is on the ethics of using the word. So far they haven't replied to my 3 private messages seeking to find out what they think.

I have learned this about most women – Ladies! - it’s nice to be nice to the nice and don’t set my pink boa on fire or diss my tiara for being plastic (the dog is wearing the tiara).Translation – your personal is not my political so don’t mess with my beehive. 

No wonder patriarchy was able to colonise us for millennia, women have just been too polite to object.

I’m confused to be in this world where somebody comes out powerfully advocating a position and gets 4 designers to change their pattern names but totally refuses to acknowledge my existence. I have challenged her position repeatedly in the last few weeks. What kind of an advocate is that?

The activists clamouring to ring fence kimono aren’t even part of the sewist community. Unlike them I have skin in this game because I’m a clothing designer and pattern publisher. Ms Ito works in American schools as an educator. In her PomPom interview she says one of her proud achievements was consciousness raising 8-9 year kids about the wrongness of some kinds of Halloween costumes. It has raised my consciousness too - when the kids come around next Halloween I’ll lock the gate and leave a notice on it saying “Go away, Halloween cancelled. Please contact Emily Ito to be educated”.

Actually I thought Halloween came from the old English tradition of All Hallows Eve or Samhain? But I suppose to acknowledge that would be going into that tricky area of cultural appropriation?

I have this McCalls sewing pattern published in 2005 so perhaps it will have to be despatched to the shame file along with golliwogs and Famous Five books. Perhaps traded in a secret underground market of politically incorrect materials, like a piece of Nazi memorabilia?

Tuesday 11 June 2019

upcoming workshops

This Saturday 15th June I'll be teaching a workshop on textile surface embellishment at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre. The link here is the information on the Gallery's website, please note you have book in as there is a small requirements list. The workshop starts at 10.30am and is 3 hours. It is FREE.

Pearl Moon workshop

I'll be demonstrating some of my techniques and there will be hands on stuff for the students to do with stenciling and stitching. It's only a brief time but each participant should have a pile of sample swatches by the end of the session and enough introductory skills to be able to alter a garment with some very artful technique.

Later in the year I'll be teaching a 2 day class on the Central Coast.

If you're interested in the Central Coast workshop at the Makers Studio, Gosford contact Carol Vesper at, ph 0414220855. Or see their website at

Sunday 9 June 2019

live and learn

I’m concerned that some people have misinterpreted recent blog posts in a light I find concerning. I want to clarify that I had only the briefest interaction with Aja Barber, probably about 2 minutes of text exchanges. I only followed her Instagram due to Emi Ito crediting her as an influence. I was curious and wanted to find out why Ms Barber is so inspirational. She has a huge following on Instagram so it’s obvious she is a significant influencer.

I only started on Instagram about 6 weeks ago and are still learning the ropes. From what I’ve learned so far I’m a bit ambivalent whether I want to stay in it! Being Aspergers I have developed a set of strategies for how to behave as expected in public places which usually keeps me out of trouble. Instagram is a new thing I’m feeling my way into and my approach to Ms Barber was a blunder.

Ms Barber took offence at the way I asked how I could get an understanding of what she stood for. Now that I’ve done my research I can understand why she reacted with such outrage. She is an advocate for BIPOC peeps and it’s an almost a daily experience for her to have white people challenge her. Understandably she’s found the best strategy is to give them short shrift and not bother wasting the breath. Delete, block.

So I take this as a lesson in learning how to finesse my approach to interacting with people in this new medium. Ms Barber didn’t know I’m Aspergers and that is the way I talk to people in real life. I’m interested in what people think and how they came to think that rather than their subjectivities. I am hopeless at inane chatter. Generally I try to avoid contact with NTs because my lack of tact and ability to read body language usually ends in some embarrassing disaster where I’ll be abruptly escorted out of the room. (otherwise known as “given the bums rush”)

I found a good body of writing by Ms Barber on Medium and read all of it.

There are also essays there by another person recommended by Emi Ito, Ijeoma Oluo. 

They are both motivational writers and powerful advocates for their communities. I’m in complete agreement with Ms Barbers political views so it’s a shame what a stuff up our first communications were. Meeting in a different scenario I think we would have felt simpatico to each other. I like her, anyway.

I will endeavour to do better. Develop more sensitive scripts. I’ve quickly come to understand that Instagram isn’t a context where people discuss serious stuff. It is full of moral panic and peeps who think that whoever screeches loudest is the rightest.