Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Weight On My Shoulders, PART 3- “Am I in, or am I out?”

I had waited for months, trying not to think of the World of Wearable Art, and wether I would pass the final stage of judging and move on to be a finalist. One morning, however, I awoke to find that overnight a knot had formed in my stomach. Every day from then on, the knot tightened just a little bit tighter.
I have no idea when the knot finally clenched, leaving me to feel constant nausea. I couldn’t tell you when the slight nervous twinge took its home in my day to day thoughts, but what was becoming clear was that the closer July 16th got, the more on edge I felt inside. July 16th was the day! The day the judges would send out the verdict on which contestants would move on to be a finalist in the World of Wearable Art. That day might change the course of my life, and the pressure was closing in. 
A week before July 16th, my sleep started tapering off. I found myself restless at night, my mind full of wonder, too busy to be bothered with sleep. I had trouble talking about what was going on inside me with friends or family, because talking about it forced me to put into words the potential uncertainty. Three days before July 16th, I actually ducked out of a family event, knowing people would ask about the competition, and finding the knot in my stomach unbearable to deal with even without saying the words that plagued my sleepless nights out loud. 
Somehow, the day finally came. Because of the time difference in New Zealand, I knew the judging results wouldn’t come in until about 2am. I found that during the majority of that day the world moved in slow motion. Finally 9pm rolled around and I KNEW, this would not be an easy night. Thankfully I had planned for such an occasion, taking an all natural sleep aid called Melatonin so that I could fall asleep for a few hours instead of sitting up refreshing my email in a OCD manor. 
At 2:20am I awoke on my own, got my computer out and bravely logged into my email. My inbox page was open, there was an email from WOW, I clicked it, closing my eyes and holding my breath. I was still holding my breath as I opened one eye and saw the word “congratulations.” Not believing it I scanned for key words in the email to make sure it was really true. FINALLY I let out my breath, because after re-reading it 4 times there was no mistaking it, I was officially a finalist! Better yet, I was going to New Zealand to the Awards Ceremony to sit among the best of the best in the WORLD and be recognized. 
It was all a happy blur but initially I must have let out some high pitched sound, and then I was dancing on my bed in total celebration. The sensation of being rewarded after such anticipation was comparable to a 5 year old waiting for Christmas morning, and when it came opening the bright paper to find EVERYTHING they wanted. This was my Christmas morning, and I was loving every minute. 
After the dancing stopped, I looked around wildly repeating “I did it? I did it! I DID IT!” The empty apartment did not respond to this insanity, but I didn’t care. I was on top of the world. I had spent every penny I had on that costume, gone through pain, done it all on top of school. It had been a HUGE gamble really, but I had gladly taken it, only seeing one outcome. And that outcome had just become the real thing. Suddenly, I took out my phone. Only hesitating a minute, I called first my dad, then my mom, and finally my brother. It was the middle of the night, and everyone probably thought there was some emergency when they answered, but I was wide awake and I needed to share it with the world. 
That night, I didn’t sleep at all. I was too excited, too relieved, and not the least bit abel to sit down or calm my mind. There were flights the needed to be booked, a trip that needed planning, but in that current time, all I concerned myself with was turning up my music and dancing, laughing out loud, and feeling great, truly amazing for the first time in months.
Reflecting on the situation, I have come to the realization that I couldn’t fall asleep because I couldn’t close my eyes and let such a beautiful moment disappear into the past. There are a few moments in life that are SO good, SO rare, that you are afraid to close your eyes because when you open them again, it might all be over. That night, I was going to party like a 5 year old and live that moment until I literally collapsed from exhaustion. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Weight On My Shoulders, PART 2- Go Big or Go Home- International Shipping

Where the first victory ended, the second adventure started. I had passed the first round of judging in the World of Wearable Art, and now I had a week to get this costume packed and shipped to New Zealand. Oh, did I mention that it requires driving to New Jersey to ship it? Excitement was the only emotion pumping through my veins that week as I embarked on a packing extravaganza. 
The first step to this whole shipping ordeal was calling my dad in Western Massachusetts and asking him if he would like to go on a little road trip in the next Monday. Like the supportive father he is he said yes. Starting that day, I had one week to spare as I devised a tactical plan on how to get this costume shipped. My process for structuring the rest of the week goes as follows:

Step 1-Figure out a method to pack the shoes and costume into a box that would stand up to whatever potential disasters shipping overseas might have it store. After a bit of research, I found a material called triple corrugated cardboard. This cardboard can supposedly withstand up to 1300 pounds of weight if, lets say, something were to fall on this package during transit. Of corse, this cardboard only came in sheets so I would have to design and build the box myself. I immediately purchased it rush order to my dad’s house. (The cost of the cardboard combined with the shipping shall not be mentioned... Lets just leave it that it was not a good day for my bank account.)

Step 2- Get address of shipping dock, and reference number I would need to ship the box.

Step 3- Call out of work.

Step 4- Get as much homework done as physically possible before heading back to Western Mass.

Step 5- Try to keep my sanity, and take deep breaths.

A few days later, I found myself on a bus, rush ordering myself from Boston to Western Mass. All weekend my dad and I worked designing this box, and packing everything up. It turns out that along with sending the costume, I needed to write comprehensive dressing instructions, attach fabric tags for each garment piece, and get my shipping documentation in order. All of these last minute to-do’s were discovered on the last day before the big drive to New Jersey. Sleep was exchanged for work, as RedBull unofficially sponsored yet another night of urgent productivity.
All too soon Monday morning had arrived, and everything was go...down! We were finally off and driving to New Jersey. The packing list had been triple checked, my costume was snuggly packed in a custom created box and it was HAPPENING! Little did I know, getting this thing to the shipping dock was an adventure in and of itself. 
  For those of you who have driven the route between New York and Atlantic City you might have noticed the industrial parks, shipping docks, and building size oil storage barrels featured on the side of the NJ highway. For those who do not know what this looks like, I found a picture on google images to illustrate it for you. The international shipping dock we had to drive to is in the mist of all of that. Words like sketchy, shady, and unsure come to mind when remembering the drive through the desolate road. I just remember being surrounded by sky high, cylindrical oil storage units and thinking “Really?...REALLY?!...this HAS to be wrong, no building could possibly have been built here.” It was one of those classic moments when you start to wonder if the GPS is trying to kill you. Fortunately, this was not one of those times.
    Eventually we get to this big warehouse, in front of which there was a line of semi-trucks waiting to pick up shipments. Armed with a measly reference number the sponsored shipping company gave me, I gathered my courage and walked into the warehouse to get the necessary paperwork to drop off my package. 
Inside, the warehouse turned out to be one GIANT room. Its size is comparable to about 4 football fields worth of space composing a large square. Trying my hardest to look like I have been there before, and that I wasn’t utterly nervous, I got in the line to turn in paperwork. Standing there, I suddenly became very aware that other then the woman at the help desk situation behind a dirty glass window, I was the only female in sight. Looking down at my hands I assessed what I was wearing, and thought to myself that I could have definitely dressed down a bit more for this occasion. I was wearing a flower-pattern chiffon blouse, sharp looking low-rise jeans, and high heeled close-toed shoes. Fortunately, my makeup was definitely not in any state of glamour, as I had put just enough on to cover up the bags forming under my eyes, but I still couldn’t help feeling like perhaps I could have chosen a t-shirt over a chiffon blouse. Looking around me at these big men with dirt under their fingernails, facial hair left overgrown, wearing plaid shirts with ripped off sleeves, I couldn’t help feeling like a stripper in church. Maybe stripper is the wrong analogy, perhaps “a diva working on a construction site” would be more a appropriate one. No matter how it is described, the point became clear, there would be no camouflaging in this crowd.
As me and my new burly-trucker friends were standing in line I began noticing the stares. The mens facial expressions looked at me as if torn between checking me out, and asking me if I was in the right place. Awkward does not even begin to describe the feeling that hung in the air. I felt like Alice, who had accidentally stepped into the wrong wonderland. Instead of magical trees, these burly men stood triple my size on either side. Instead of smelling sweet flowers, I smelled dusty cardboard, sweat, and stale air. All I kept thinking is “thank god my dad came with me,” although at this time he was little help for comfort. As I stood in line, he stood on the side, “discreetly” taking photos of the whole scene unfolding with his phone. This went on until a sharp voice from the woman behind the desk, cut through the air as she asked what it was he was doing, and did he know that there was no photography allowed inside the facility. My dad acted confused and there were no more photos after that. 
Finally, It was my turn to be helped. I cautiously approached the window, and said bluntly, “I have a package to ship and a reference number the shipping company gave me, they told me to give it to you and you would take care of it.” The woman then asked me something about the tracking number. In response, I attempted to explain what It was that I was doing. It was at this point I realized how confusing and crazy the World of Wearable Art competition sounds to someone who works in a shipping dock. Realizing I was in over my head, I immediately switched to a safer tactic: confusion. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what your asking. The shipping company just gave me this reference number and told me to come here.” I said, being sure to emphasize the lost demeanor I had been attempting to cover up earlier. Eventually the woman gave up on trying to ask me anything, typed in the reference number, and handed me back some papers. She then pointed to two men at a desk 20 feet away and told me to bring it to them, they would take care of the rest. I asked her if there was some sort of receipt I could have for a reference. The answer was “No, we don’t give receipts.” I don’t know if it was the panicked look on my face, or the fact that I probably looked a bit like a lost puppy, but after a long pointed look at me, she sighed and said, “let me print out of copy of the paper you are giving to the shippers.” 
Taking a breath of relief, I said a gracious “thank you” and proceeded to walk over and turn in my paperwork to the ship desk. They stamped the papers, handed one back, and told me to drive the package around the back of the warehouse and give the guy who met me there this. As they spoke they handed me another paper. I asked if there was any sort of receipt I would get in exchange and they shoot their heads no. 
On my way out I saw a sign near the first window that said no receipts. Inside I reflected how amazing it is I got any copy of anything for my records. Soon, we were outside, at the back of the warehouse. A man came out to meet us, he took the package, I handed him the piece of paper, and then he looked at me as if there was supposed to be more. I tried to ask him if that was correct but soon discovered he could not speak or understand a word of english. We drove away with no receipt, and unsure of wether what we did was correct. 
A few days later after emails were exchanged I was notified the package was shipped. A few months later I got notified World of Wearable Art had my costume in their possession. HOWEVER, I would not find out if I passed the second round of judging until July 16th. It was months away, so I blocked it out of my mind. But in the time following graduation, the anticipation would build bearing a question-mark for what might come in the future. I would eventually find out how heavy the weight of that question-mark was, but as this day concluded and I started thing about school and getting back to Boston, all I could feel was relief. 

NOTE: there is one final part to this adventure, for those of you wondering how many parts there would be in all.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Weight On My Shoulders, PART 1- Welcome to the World of Wearable Art!

What weighed on my mind at the end of my last post is a competition known as the World of Wearable Art, or WOW for short. Last winter I constructed a costume and entered this competition. But first, before we continue my story will have to rewind and go back to the beginning, which starts with a explanation of what WOW is, and why its a huge deal. 
The World of Wearable Art is the largest costume competition in the world and it takes place in Wellington New Zealand. It has quoted as being the “Olympics of fashion” because designers from all over the world apply. The competitors are comprised of people possessing all different levels of design ability; working professionals, students, and even gifted individuals who just love making costumes. The prizes and recognition for the winning designer is phenomenal. One designer or design team can realistically walk away with $40,000 or more in prizes. In addition to the prizes, the winner will be featured in multiple media platforms and be recognized by various international design companies. Because there are designers from all over the world, only a handful of Americans will make it into the finalists and have a shot at winning the top spot. But before I go into the prizes, I am going to give you a rundown of the rules and procedures every designer must go though to become a finalist.

The rules are simple: 
-There are 7 categories, they all have a different theme, the designer must pick one or more to submit to. 
-You can have 1-3 people per design team  
-A designer or design team can submit as many costumes as they would like, to as many categories as they would like, there is no limit.
-No organic or food materials may be used to create your costume
-All deadlines to pass in work at different phases of judging must be met
-There are a few width, height, and size requirements regarding the actual construction of the garment
-Conceptually your garment must have a backstory or concept statement. They judges want to know the inspiration and reason why you created it, as well as how it reflects your personal skills as a designer.
 -NO photos may be released of your costume until after the competition is over. This is for 2 reasons, 1- to keep the judging blind. The judges can’t know who made what costume until after the winners have been announced. 2- the costumes are featured in a show people pay to see, and opening night is the big reveal for all the costumes. If the designer does release a photo of their garment, they will be disqualified. In other words, I can’t show you what I submitted. 

After observing the rules and submitting, the designer will go through 3 rounds of judging.

1- Preselection. Judged on a front, side, and back photo of your costume combined with your concept statement. If you pass this round of judging, you must mail out your costume to New Zealand AND it must arrive there before the deadline they give you. If you fail to mail out your costume, or it isn’t received in New Zealand by the deadline, you are out. If it gets damaged in transit, you are out.

2- The second round of judging decides finalists. In other words, round 2 determines what garments will be competing for actual prizes. This round takes place in New Zealand where, by that time, they have received everyones costumes that passed phase one. The costumes are then put on live models and sent into a room with the panel of judges. They are also inspected for quality construction. If the costume is in any way falling apart, you are out. Again, the judging process is blind. Your costume is presented with concept statement. There is no other information about the designer given. The judges then determine wether your in or out. If they decide your in, they proceed to officially decide what section you will be competing in during the awards show. Through this process your garment can be moved to whatever section the judges think it should compete in. If you make it past this round of judging, you are a finalist and are invited to go to New Zealand to the awards show. Recap- round 2 decides the finalists whose garments will be in the WOW show and therefor eligible to win prizes.

3- Round 3‘s judging happens right before the World of Wearable Art show, and determines who is getting what awards. 

After the third round of judging there is an opening night of the show which doubles as an awards show for the winners of the competition. The actual show itself looks as if someone took the Cirque Du Soleil show, and added a runway of CRAZY costumes that come through the choreographed performances. In other words, this definitely NOT your typical runway show. After the debut, the show will run every day for about 2 weeks, and the costumes in the show will be seen by 5,000 people or more. This year The World of Wearable Art is the biggest its ever been as WOW it celebrates is 25th anniversary. 
Naturally, with big anniversary celebration comes big prizes! There are a lot of different ways to win. To explain them all I am going to repeat some tid-bits of information from earlier. To start off, there are 7 different categories in this competition. Each category has about 20 costumes in it. In each category there is 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes. There is also prizes for student entries, first time entries, best costume per country (for example best American designer) and a sustainability award (if you made your costume out of recycled materials.) The most coveted prizes of the entire competition is the Supreme Award winner, and the Supreme Runner Up. Both awards are reserved for the best costumes in the entire competition, therefor to be eligible to win Supreme or Runner Up, you normally must win 1st in your category. One designer or design team can win multiple categories and prizes in addition to Supreme or Runner Up to Supreme. I have seen past designers win more then 3 titles with one costume. The prizes can get a big confusing, so if you would like to see a breakdown here is a link to The World of Wearable Art Website: 
Some of you may still be asking yourselves why this thing is such a HUGE deal to me. For a designer, winning a competition like this can change a their life. To even make it to the round finalists is a huge honor in and of itself. It is recognition that your design work is up to par with the best of the best world wide! Design companies come to these events and look for talent, and people from all over the world will see you work and be inspired. Also, because its word wide, the winning designer’s country will embrace and show off the designer as its World of Wearable Art design champion. This gives that individually unparalleled exposure. Of corse I have given you all of the honorable reasons, the potential for winning $40,000 in cash is always a huge deal to a broke student! And with that, I am finally done explaining what the World of Wearable Art competition is, now back to my story.
In the beginning of March 2013 I submitted photos and a concept statement of my garment to the World of Wearable Art. Keep in mind, I did this competition in ADDITION to my full-time school curriculum, AND a part time job. That means that while I was a taking 4 classes, already creating my final senior collection that consisted of 5 garments, and working a part time job to support myself, I created a costume for this competition that had to be on the work level of some of the best creators in the world. I put my blood sweat and yes, even a few tears into creating this thing. I can still remember having to wrap all of my fingers in band-aids every day for weeks, because the method of construction I was using combined with the deadline was creating blisters on all my fingers. But even with my fingers blistering I knew I needed to keep working to meet that deadline, and I absolutely refused to give up. It was a crazy time in my life, but all I could see was getting into circle of finalists. Every time I wanted to stop I just pictured myself winning, what it would look like, what it would feel like, even what it would sound like. It was this vision that kept me working when everything in my body screamed to give up. 
All too soon, the beginning of March was here, and the moment of truth was arriving. I hired a photographer and model, did a professional photo-shoot, edited the photos, finished my concept statement and submitted. A few days later I got an email letting me know “Congratulations, you passed the first round of judging!” 
The excitement was short and sweet as I realized I needed to mail this costume out ASAP. Initially I was thinking, “I am mailing a package, its going to be simple right?” WRONG! To mail this costume out I had to drive out to New Jersey to the Mainfreight shipping dock, who would then put my box on a ship and sail to New Zealand. Mind you, I don’t have a car, and I had a little over a week to get this thing packed and ready to go. Oh yea, and I had classes to attend because it was the middle of the school year!