cait +tiff

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C / textiles and tiny elevators


Last Friday, my instructor told the class that if we could make it to Premier Vision in Paris, we should absolutely go. A few people in class said they were going, a few more expressed frustration for now being able to go, and I googled it to find out what they hell they were all talking about.

Turns out, Premier Vision is the biggest textile trade show in the world, probably something I should have known. Its held in Paris twice a year and they have events in China as well. People from all over the world come in to buy and sell prints, silks, wool, cashmere, cotton, buttons, zippers, trimming, leather, synthetics and basically anything else you can jimmy-rig into a piece of clothing. Because I love an unexpected filed trip, I bought a ticket, got my portfolio together and jumped a train to Paris for about 36 hours.



Premier Vision was completely awesome, and completely overwhelming. I tried to touch everything I could and make notes as fast as possible, but mostly just wandered around letting the “oooh pretty” side of my brain navigate.




(The photos above are intentionally scattered and disorganized, as to accurately represent my brain during the event.)

The facility itself was giant; roughly 6 football fields full of different textiles. They had set up some really interesting exhibits on texture and color and mood, and I got in trouble more than once for taking photos where I wasn’t supposed to. (I’m sorry, nobody looks on the floor to see if there are “no photography” signs, AND those signs were just a rectangle with a line through it. It could have just as easily been a “no brick throwing zone” or a “do not be a rectangle” zone. Get it together, design conference.) I did manage to get a few photos of the place, and some of the pretty things I got to touch.




I’m glad I went, because I got to see the millions of different fabrics that are available, and who is doing what. There were not as many sustainable fabrics as I had hoped and a lot for furs than I expected (yuck), but it’s good to know that I can pretty much get anything I can dream up. Next time I will go with an idea of what I want to get, rather than human-ping-ponging around until I collapse into a pile of croissant crumbs and 7 coffee. Oh and I went to see the Eiffel Tower at night and I liked it.


All photos by Caitlin Decker, from her iPhone. If you would like to use them for some reason, please ask. There are probably better ones on the internet.



c / a collection


I don’t know why I’m nervous to put this up. I’m pretty proud of it, and considering where I started at the beginning of the course, I have come a long way. I think it’s a little bit intimidating to put work out in the world to be judged. Its so much easier to sit behind a computer and anonymously judge others. You guys probably aren’t really reading this, you are just going to look at the photos, but I am going to write about how I got to the four looks I decided on anyway.

The (abbreviated) process:

We had a week for the assignment, and spent the first two days at the Victoria and Albert and Science museums, drawing and cruising for inspiration. I fell in love with the science museum. It has amazing exhibits on everything from space to modern communication and gross teeny tiny microscopic mites that live in your eyelashes. I pulled a lot of my inspiration from there, specifically from an old clock and Hubble photos of the solar system.

We then got to work, actually turning our sketches into shapes that would work as garments, and that’s when it got really fun for me. I am not sure how many sketches I did during the “development” stage of the process, but I brought them all home and they weigh a lot. (It’s on recycled paper, don’t worry.) Each piece changed significantly from the first drawing to the final product, and I think if i kept going on them, they would change even more.

We had feedback from our two instructors for the week, one who focused on presenting a beautiful drawing with movement and life, the other who demanded you understand how the garment would actually work. They were both great to have around, and made me think a lot about zippers and linings and the practical details of each piece.

Without further ado…le collection.




l3-deetslook-4 look-4deetsTa-da!



C / progress report #1


So it turns out, if you do things you love and care about, it’s really fun. I am in my third week of school at Central St Martins and it is going very, very well. My first week of class was an introduction to London Fashion, and the instructor took us all over this wonderful city, from the Victoria and Albert Museum to Brick Lane vintage, and Portobello Market treasure hunting. I learned a ton about the history of fashion in London, and why it’s become such a hub for young designers. Fun fact: Margaret Thatcher is responsible for a big portion of the UK’s investment in the arts. She saw, early on, that Paris and Milan fashion houses were bringing in buckets of money and attracting international investment. London was behind on this at the time, so she shuffled some things around and re-allocated state funding to go to the creative industry and promoted investment in young designers. There are still programs running that she set up to search for new talent, so you go Miss Lady, thanks for that.


Homework from Alexander McQueen and a final project from John Galliano, from the CSM Museum vault.


Flowers in Shoreditch.


Finding inspiration at the V & A.

Week two was a class in make up for fashion. After taking this class, I have a whole new respect for this profession. I don’t have plans to be a make up artist, but it was great to learn the basics of make up in the industry. We did color matching and skin science, talked proportions and face shapes, and finished the week with a master class at MAC and a photo shoot. It was great for me to learn technique and terminology, and I now know how to create a “smoky eye” and avoid the “black eye” that used to happen on my face.


Make Up for Fashion final project with Kristina and Abe.


Portobello Market field trip, for research.

I’m in my third class now, Central St Martins Fashion Design Summer School. I linked to the Facebook page because if you click on it, you can see the progress and work of past and present students at the school. I will be posting on there, so I don’t flood the blog, and we will be creating a solid portfolio over the next 4 weeks. This is the core class of what I am doing here in London, and the instructor, Julian Seaman, literally wrote the book on fashion design. Actually, he has written 4 books on it. I can’t wait to dig into this course and create things every day. Will report back again in a few weeks with more show and tell. Come visit me.


Master selfie-taking-skills at Windsor Palace.


First day project from Fashion Design Summer School.


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T / burma bum

burmese-fabric-headerSo last year, Cait was heading on one of her regular jaunts to Burma and I sent her on a mission. As in “here’s 50 bucks, go crazy in the fabric market.”  Oh boy did she!  Cait returned home with a huge pile of multi-coloured fun and almost immediately, she designed for me this cute little romper that now has a reputation of its own in Phnom Penh.

But now what to do with the remaining pile of beautifully embroidered Burmese fabric?  And so it sat in my ever expanding trunk of textiles.  Soon batik from Indonesia became the big to do and I actually forgot about the bounty that sat undisturbed in my home office.

Thankfully, I have the luck of being surrounded by the best group of people in a city full of colour.  So when inspiration hits, it’s like someone just dropped an anvil on coyote.  This wound up with a Monday morning spent rifling through all of this embroidered beauty and going out of the box of my usual shirt dress uniform.  And in the spirit of all this learning we’re doing this summer, I decided to use my also neglected Wacom Tablet to overlay some of the ideas I had onto the textiles themselves.  And I thought I’d share some of them today. So here goes…

Purple-Embroidery-for-Poncho---Draft2Purple.  According to my mother, it’s very 2008. But I am so digging the hue and all of its values and intensities when it comes to this striped fun pile that Cait brought back.  But I had no idea what to do with it all.  Until I remembered this little poncho that my pal Jane wore one evening.  It’s super simple.  And mega flattering with a pair of tights or skinny sandblasted jeans.  I can absolutely see myself throwing it on when I just want to be covered up in a blanket.

Two-Piece-and-LongyiI’ve always shied away from midriff bearing two pieces that others with longer, lithe torsos are more suited for wearing. But goddamnit, I want to get on that too.  Plus after a month back in Asia and avoiding the trappings of the breads, meats and cheeses I was gorging myself on while in Europe, I’m finally feeling a little lighter and wanting to give this a try.  With my wider hips, I decided to go for a pencil-fitted skirt that would also benefit from some of that gorgeous embroidery finishing at the bottom of the skirt.

Cait included a very cool longyi with the coolest pseudo-chevrons lining the bottom.  A longyi is a traditional Burmese garment and its so incredibly simple as a skirt with fixed measurements of 2 x 0.8m.  It’s the perfect maxi-skirt for me, no alterations needed.  And at 100% cotton, paired with a simple white ribbed tank top, the ideal outfit for our current weather patterns.


Red-Embroidery-Fabric-Question-Mark---Draft1I’m a sucker for red, but I have no clue what to do with this silk and cotton blend with a sumptuous lavender and mustard yellow embroidery pattern.  I’m going to have to toss this to Cait when she gets back with all her new fashion design know-how.


c / lin’s grey dress


You remember Lin, from her fantastic piece on Hong Kong a few months ago? Well she’s back on the blog today, in a slightly different context. I have wanted to make something for her for a while, and though she never actually asked me to do so, I took the liberty and did anyway. Lin has the up-for-anything kind of energy that I wish could bottle and take with me in case I stumble upon a dance party. Angelina and Billy Bob style. (No blood though. Ick.)

Lin-GIF1 (1)

In any case, I wanted to make something that would work with her life in Phnom Penh. It needed to be sweat-friendly, but also sexy. It’s really easy to just give up on fashion when it’s a thousand degrees outside, and I wanted this dress to push back on that.



It’s made out of Korean silk, which is thick enough to use only one layer, but not so thick it’s stiff. It’s still breathable and light with a lot of movement, especially when Lin dances around alleys.


I am happy with how the dress finally turned out, after three fittings, and I think she is too.


caitsigAll photos by Tiffany Tsang, please request permission for use.

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C / a wedding dress


When Tiff told me that her Crossfit coach, Jenny, wanted me to make her wedding dress, my obvious reply was “Why?” I had never made a wedding dress, and at that point, I had only ever designed a few non-wedding dresses. I was sure that Tiff was just being nice. When it was confirmed that a woman I had never met, did in fact trust me enough to design her wedding dress, I was equal parts flattered and terrified. I didn’t know Jenny, but I knew I didn’t want to eff up her wedding with a crappy dress.


We met, and she was awesome. (She’s still awesome, but this is a story: past tense) She was full of energy, kind, funny, and somehow managed to balance running the shop at Crossfit without sounding like a cult leader. In our first meeting, she was laid back, a joy to be around, and generally excited to get married. We went over a few styles and concepts, set up a Pinterest page and shared ideas for a few weeks. She decided on a relaxed, beachy vibe, something flowy with lace, but without going full flower-child.


Let’s go back a little bit. I don’t know anything about lace. Well, I do now, but at the time of this design, I was googling the hell out of all my materials, and honestly didn’t know how different kinds of lace would work with designs. There are a million kinds of lace, some of it horrible, some of it gorgeous. She wanted a dress that hit just below the knee, and talked about dying it after, so she could wear it as a cocktail dress. We settled on a fairly simple design, with a few pretty details, and I am really happy with how it turned out. More importantly, so is she.


At the tailor, nit-picking details.


Beautiful, happy Jenny on her wedding day.


And they lived happily ever after.

All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.



c / sarah’s green dress


Oh, I love this dress. For one, it was for my beautiful friend, Sarah, who cares about fashion as much as I do.  It’s always fun to put a piece together for someone who will appreciate it. She found out she is pregnant mid-design process, which made things more interesting, and it was fun to learn how to adapt the design to make it work. We switched around the back, to give it a little more room, and made sure there was some space to grow before she wore it to a friend’s wedding.

I tried a few new things in the process of putting the dress together, which led to a lot of second guessing a spirals of self-doubt. Should I put a slit? Is the length weird? Can you even see the silk painting that I spent two days on? (The answers are respectively Yes, Maybe, and No.) It’s a new feeling, to really care about what I am making, and to be the harshest critic. I picked this thing APART, but thankfully, Sarah liked it and looked gorgeous in it. As I have said before, it’s nice to have stunning friends to dress, because they make me look like I know what I am doing. Here it is.


The painted silk that you cannot see in the final product.


I’m really happy with the back, and the tailor did a lovely job with the buttons and details.

sarah-frontProof of flowyness: check.


Love this shot, love this lady.


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C / inspiration hunting

This is the end of our vacation week. Tiff is still off playing in the mountains of Indonesia, and in a shocking turn of events, I never left Phnom Penh. This has been a relatively normal week for me, and with a bunch of projects wrapping up soon, I have a lot to take care of right now. Luckily, I am heading to Kampot with friend this weekend for a little bit of chill out time. So I hope you liked our guest posts, we are very lucky to have such talented and interesting friends that help enable our laziness.  header A lot of what I am doing at this point in my fashion career revolves around pulling together inspiration for new designs. Living in SE Asia gives me a lot to work with, but even with all of the colors and chaos around me, I like seeing something a little bit different. That’s where Pinterest comes in. For someone who is just starting out in design, it’s a great way to organize thoughts, ideas, necklines and prints.

I woke up needing a little inspiration today, so here are some on my favorite pretty things on Pinterest right now.

I am still doing a lot of custom work, and have a few big projects coming up that I can’t wait to spill the beans on. Custom work is great, and it’s fun to make to piece that makes someone really happy. But with that work, I am making things to fit in someone else’s closet, and still need time to create my own aesthetic. Pinterest is an awesome way to throw all kinds of things together and see what I am attracted to, and then pull out the images that I really love. From the looks of it, there is a pretty serious 70’s inspired black and white thing happening right now. I clearly need to get out into color this weekend.



C / London Calling

 I have been extremely lucky the past few months, and many of my brave friends have trusted me to make custom clothing for them. It’s been amazing and tons of fun, but at times, extremely frustrating. I have no formal training in fashion, and learned how to draw from an internet video. I can work with that, but the deeper I go into this fashion rabbit hole, the more crazy things I want to pull together and the more skills I need. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I am moving to London in the summer. I will be there for three months and have enrolled in a fashion design program at Central St. Martins. I am calling it “fashion camp” because the program is 5 days/week, all day, and I am assuming there will be some serious capture the flag competition. Stella McCartney went to this school, so I figure it will just take a few months to be equally successful.

The last time I spent any time in London, I was 24 and with my best friend, Lenore. We bought our tickets to Europe at 5am in a Bolivian hostel, because we wanted to visit our awesome new British friends, most of whose names I do not remember. I think there was one named Kizzy. It was a bad choice, and we paid for it. We spent a lot of the time deciding whether to eat or drink our dinner, and I remember counting coins obsessively. The things that stuck with me about London are the bitter cold, that you can sneak on a bus without paying by using the back door, the guy yelling “HOT NUTS” near the Tower Bridge, and how good the hot chocolate was at the Tate Modern. This is a very long winded way of saying that I need advice. I need places to eat, shop, run around and sleep.

CSM, as the kids call it, is situated in a nice little spot near Kings Cross. From what I hear, this is a nice area. I am looking for a studio/one bedroom any where within a few train stops. If you have any ideas, please let me know. I am not opposed to roommates, as long as they don’t make me feel old and don’t mind a ton of art stuff all up in their business.


Holy crap, I just realized this city has no semblance of a grid. Jesus, it’s like a kid dropped spaghetti on the floor and her parents were like “Yeah, that looks good enough.”

I’m not gonna make it.



C + T / Alchemy Design Co.


 “We want to make great products. We want to be a business that cares about people and that cares about the planet. That’s a big part of how we perceive the reclaimed wood idea because yes it looks beautiful but it also helps to articulate something in a context that values new money and new things; and the idea that we take something that you think is garbage but turn it into something beautiful.” – Alchemy Design Co.

alchemy-guysOver the past few weeks, we have been able to eat lunch with, take pictures of, and invade the personal space of the guys at Alchemy Design Co. We feel good about this.

Joel, Willem and Jonathan, hail from the US, the Netherlands and Canada, and all landed in Cambodia to do something else. Initially working with another design firm, a solar company and an NGO, these three guys found each other through roommates and the teeny tiny community here in Phnom Penh. After doing some woodworking for fun and selling some pieces here and there, their cool hobby turned into a business, and it’s now thriving.
toolkitThere are a LOT of furniture makers in Phnom Penh, but Alchemy brings something different to the table (oooh…lame pun…sorry). They work exclusively with reclaimed wood that they find in junkyards around the city, and from traditional wooden houses that have been demolished to make way for new concrete houses. These houses are often made of tropical hardwoods. Tropical hardwoods are coveted in other parts of the world, but are commonplace here, making the junkyard treasures that much more exciting. These older woods have also gone through the drying process, meaning the furniture is less likely to crack or change over time. Which is great, because we want their stuff in our houses forever.

“Alchemy is all about changing something from one thing to something completely new.”

They also use scrap and recycled metal, like rebar, for the details of their pieces, creating some of the most interesting stuff in town, or in any town. You won’t find any elephants or 19 layers of glossy finish on top of their stuff, thankfully. Instead, they choose to highlight the unique natural beauty of the wood in each piece. They are quite serious about turning trash into treasure.group2

“Here is the glossy furniture that everyone recognizes as being very expensive, versus the product that’s artfully made, but is less obvious that it’s an expensive product.”

And my goodness, are they busy. With custom work for iThink Asia, Bearhanded Salon, and the classy masses of the ex-pat community of Phnom Penh, they are often working seven days a week to get orders filled in time. They are currently collaborating with an artisan leather worker, and adding new products and accessories to their collection. (Can we pre-order? Yes!) Sadly, Joel and Willem are leaving Phnom Penh for the time being, but they will stay involved, design from abroad, and keep the business going. Jonathan will keep things moving with the help of the local staff and an American they affectionately call “the Guru,” a woodworking pro and psychotherapist. Obviously.

“It feels like we have a lot of momentum right now. It kind of came out of nowhere.”

Moving forward, they are looking to formalize a training program and potentially team up with other local companies with the need for skilled workers. They have big plans, and are seriously about making a great business, and great products, with a unique customer meets manufacturer collaborative workspace and watering hole on the horizon.

group1Now, would you like to buy all the things? Us too. They are currently selling some smaller pieces at the Tonlé shop in Phnom Penh and for their larger pieces, contact them directly through their (gorgeous) website.

We are thrilled to have spent time with this group of dudes, and hope they keep doing their beautiful work for a very, very long time.

All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.