As we go through life, evolving from a child to adulthood, mistakes are expected to be made. It has been drummed into us from time that it is all a part of the learning and "maturing process". Surely, this provides minimal comfort, especially if you're caught in the thick of making one of said mistakes yourself. But in hindsight, they can be drawn on as experiences from your past and sometimes the whole situation seems hilarious.
I had my first "bad" Cranberry experience sometime last year. I say MY first because i believe that i bore the brunt of the "blame" simply based on the fact that the customer at the time was brought by me and mostly dealt with me and not with my other 2 cohorts. (Another reason why i stressssss the fact that we are one entity lol). Sit tight y'all...this might be a long one..
So it started out simply enough... I love this lady. I think her and the rest of her family are truly beautiful and fabulous people. She is one of my older sisters best friends, and im friendly with her and most of the other ladies in her family.
When i realised that our very first Cranberry show in June 2006 was in DC, naturally I invited her to view our collection not really believing that she would show up, but to my surprise she did, and she LOVED it. The next day she immediately sent me a text saying that she absolutely loved our collection (call me a LOSER but i might still have that text..there is nothing like seeing someone compliment something that you are so proud of and worked so hard on) and that she wanted a dress for her upcoming 25th birthday. Now i was brimming with excitement, and immediately called my partners on the phone, and gloried in our"props" lol.
Remember that at this point, we had just made our freshman collection with NO previous sewing experience and ALL the clothes were sewn via needle and thread. We had no idea how to use patterns or any real sewing techniques...we just went with instinct. As you might have guessed about 3 or so good materials were ruined and assaulted before we even became more comfortable in our skin as 'tailors'. The clothes looked good on runway, were awesome in pictures..but only we knew the real behind the scenes rips and tears, and orange thread balancing on a green outfit (hey....we're poor kids here..working on a budget!!!).
Be that as it may, i excitedly texted her back my thanks and after confirming with the girls, said that we would love to make her a birthday dress. We had previously turned down so many requests to purchase dresses from us simply because we didn't feel that they should be unleashed as wild and untamed as the sewing was, but yeah..this chick could rock our shit!! What was she thinking entrusting US, designers of about 3 weeks, to make her birthday dress???? No idea!!! But we were flattered and we even offered to do it pro bono, after all she was our first official costumer, all she had to do was pay for the fabric. So she promised to send me pictures of the dress she like liked from the collection. She sent these 2 dresses:
Actually, at first she wanted the black dress, but then when she considered the fact that she was a bit "boob-y"...she opted for the flowing chiffon.
So we were pumped, another exciting new project to get us motivated, although her birthday was in december, and she was moving back to lagos in August, so we had a couple of months to make it. Even better! we make dresses in a day or less (well now that we have a sewing machine....back in the day maybe it took about 2 days). Now one thing we knew for sure .... we weren't making this dress by needle and thread. Not anythin that anyone intended to wear and have it stay together the whole night...and we believe in quality. Luckily Juliet had just bought a new sewing machine.
First...fabric of choice? So sweet lady had decided that she was going to go with the flowy long dress...she was having a garden party by the pool, so it went with the whole Island breeze theme..plus she really wanted to find a way to rock flip flops, and a long dress was the perfect ruse for that. Now to choose the color. She first thought she might have a pink and silver theme...the silver was a bit iffy...but pink was a definite contender, so we went with that. So we went to our ever trust worthy fabric row in Philly to look for any options. We thought we were NEVER goin to find anything..it just seemed so hard..and then finally we found the perfect pink fabric....it changed in color intensity from a very baby pink to a very dark pink and it was love at first sight for us. We thought perfect! Now the price on the other hand...not so perfect. We recognise qaulity and it seems we are naturally drawn to it..cos that material as it turns out was 100% silk...yikes! it was a long flowy dress, and she is pretty tall..so that equaled a LOT of fabric.. and this fabric cost almost 50 dollars a pop! or i shud say per yard hehee... But we were regulars there, and in America i must say it DOES help to be pretty girls..and the permed hair greased up guy gave us 4 yards for $100..and some cake (it was his birthday lol)!!
It still wasn't enough fabric by any stretch of imagination...and imagination we had in stretches. But we figured we could still make it work, and at that point we were inspired by project runway...fabrics could be mixed!! So we showed her the first fabric..she lo-lo-loved it...we couldnt agree on the color of the middle sash though. Silver just wasnt goin to work...she wanted a grape-y color but we were set against it (Hey! i know its her dress but we have to be happy with our designs too right?). So we put the dress on hold and went for our summerly dose of a fabulous weekend in NY, including hotel in manhattan and getting into premiere clubs. By all means depressing ourselves with a taste of the lifestyle and the city we want soooo badly we can almost taste it!
And then we found fabric row in NY...located somewhere a couple of streets down from the Parsons' new school of design..it was like being in heaven. Vast array of fabrics of all colors, textures, patterns...i never swipe my card so freely before. We weren't even 5 minutes before we found all that we were looking for. Again, we got our usual discount at the counter lol (after the old geezer flirting with us asked us if we were students at Parsons and immediately we claimed it (AMEN!!) and we got the parsons student discount LOL). Now we were really excited. We had run off with a whole new theme for the dress. It still had the same basic concept but we started to think out of the box. I mean we REALLY wanted this dress to embody fabulousity. We had a vision of shades of pink and a slight purple swirling out of band in a vision of light silk materials...falling regally to the groud in about 4 or so layers of slighty alternating fabrics ...ooh it was gonna be so HOT!!! we couldnt wait to transform our vision into a reality. We were more than ready to go!!!!
Now, the challenge of the sewing machine. I still remember that night so clearly at the back of my mind. Doreen could barely keep her eyes open lol...Joan and I were tryin to DECODE the instruction manual (that thing could NOT have been english). It took us literally about 2 hours to figure out how to thread the sewing machine, and another 2 firgure out what the deal is with that BOTTOM BIT!!! We three pored over pattern books...we were covering all the bases...we wanted to get this right!! I still remember how hesitant we were to cut the fabric lol..noone wanted to ruin it! and we were tryin to use every inch of fabric we could..there was no room for waste. We had NO idea..aside from the fact that we had zero idea how to handle silk as it was our first time workin with that LIGHT a fabric, we didnt even know then the there were different needles for different fabrics on a sewing machine..and a needle that might sew cotton, might punch HOLES in silk. So we trudged on, soldiers that we were, ignorant but A+ for determination, and it went quite well!...for the halter top. We had no problem making that (expect feverishly praying that it would hold her boobies) but then it got to the BOTTOM i.e. the skirt.
We had about 5 materials that were supposed to come out in layers...we had no idea how to do it lol...hey...I'm not a tailor.. We were all just learning. By this point we had grown to LOATHE the sight of the material and the problem it presented to us..being so difficult to maneuver... and being so light it was easily frayed. Anyway we did what we could..it just felt and looked like a semi disaster. By this point I was highly resentful of the fact that I was the only one having to speak to her all the time and I was probably goin to have to explain to her why her dress looked like it had been run over by a very HUGE tanker and dragged through a shredder for about 15 minutes. Noone likes to shoulder blame, but i do accept responsibility for my actions.
The first time she came to see it.. my heart was in my throat..i think i was actually perspiring. My hope was that she could see past the er...sewing..to appreciate the vision of what could be. (Hell i wished she'd take the fabric and take it to a tailor in NIGERIA to sew the damn design) I also wanted her to come alone and without the judgemental eyes of her siblings and friends lol. I dont even remember what her reaction was like now...they say we are too hard on ourselves and i swear all i remember thinking was that the dress looked like total and complete shit. but the boobies were her size!!!! Still all hope wasnt lost and we were far from completed...surely we could still salvage our dream dress??? (really the dress became more about us than her) Eventually...we DID "salvage" the dress....but i knew it still wasnt up to par and i felt dread giving anyone that dress to be labelled as 'cranberry'. But she was sweet about the whole thing..she seemed to not HATE it..infact she almost liked it. But she and i both knew that she was never going to wear it. Infact being the great Paroo that i am I had visions of when they got home and actually unleashed their REAL comments.
All i know is we breathed a SIGH of RELIEF to have that dress taken off our hands and that responsibility off our shoulders. THAT really told me that I wasnt ready to make clothes for anyone yet. This was about August 2006. The months following that, we easily got the swing of the sewing machine, and often we would look back with regret like damn we wish we had that dress again..it would be a whole different ball game!! Infact we got so good at sewing that sometimes hours before an outing we (JOAN mostly lol) would make an outfit impromptu.
So fast forward to december..time for the yearly migration to Lagos for christmas holiday. On my first day back my sister asked me to accompany her to sweet lady's house. There was actually a photo shoot for Haute magazine (which im a writer for and desperately avoiding my editor in chief cos i owe some articles LOL) going on there being shot by Jide Alakija, and she was meant to "assist" him apparently. I thought it would be very interesting so i was very willing to accompany her. The first words I heard when i walked in there was "Come and see my birthdayyyy dresss!!!" (A dress that was obviously not ours lol)
but not really. So she laughed and said Oseyi come and see my BIRTHDAY dress and stressed it for emphasis and i too burst out laughing. And then we talked about it...mostly with her sister who had a "bone" to pick with me about the current state of her sisters dress. I was silently cursing the free ones who were not subject to the scrutiny and good natured teasing, as i was all the while cringing inside. But it was all good in the end though and i made them understand that if this was now we wouldnt be havin this conversation. We also had a very interesting "talk". And i guess they didnt lose faith in us, cause their cousin has been bugging me for a dress!! I kept having to remind them to include Joan and Doreen in the blame too! lol..
All in all...it was a fantastic learning experience...oh and her birthday was just fahhhbulous...the decor was off the hook and everyone looked so classy..