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“Growing up I always had an interest in fine arts and fashion, and before I started college,and before I started college, I did a semester studying just that at the Paris American Academy,” says Linda Cho, winner of the 2014 TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award, which will be presented on Friday, May 2 at the Hudson Theatre in New York City. “I then attended McGill University in Montreal, Canada where I studied psychology with an eye towards medical school and hopes of becoming a plastic surgeon. There I took a fascinating elective, Costume Construction 101, taught by a nurturing teacher who encouraged my interest, and subsequently, I pursued further studies at the Yale School of Drama.”

Currently represented on Broadway by The Gentlemen’s Guide To Love & Murder and The Velocity of Autumn, Cho approaches a new project by reading the script, hearing from the director, researching, doing preliminary black-and-white sketches, meeting again with the director, getting notes, making revisions, and coloring the renderings. She has worked as far afield as Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK, Can Stage in Canada, Hong Kong Performing Arts Center, National Theatre in Taipei, and Stratford Shakespeare in Canada.

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“I think I have different categories for challenging,” she admits about creating costumes. “There’s challenging design like in Twelfth Night at Hartford Stage. The director wanted to use the artist Erte as the source of inspiration but not rooted in any particular period, so we created our own visual vocabulary. Then there are challenges in production. A costume designer is constantly balancing elements like budget, various personalities on stage and off, materials, and time, all at constantly changing venues with new people each time. If any one of these elements tips the scale, it can create a big challenge. I’ve lived through every permutation I think. The saving grace is a wonderful experience that can tip the scales back in your favor.

For The Gentlemen’s Guide To Love & Murder, Cho’s process developed in an atypical way. “Since it was a new work, it was work shopped over the course of many years, so I got to see early staged readings,” she recalls. “Jefferson Mays plays all the D’Ysquith family members, and in the reading he had so many simple and brilliant physical transformative ideas that brought each character to life. Before I put pencil to paper, I met with him to get his input on what he envisioned for each of his characters. For one of them, he requested an eye patch, safari helmet, and mustache. It made me think of Steampunk fashion, and so I carried it throughout the design. Using this sexy, contemporary reference was liberating in that I could step away from the traditional modes and mores of English Edwardian dress and bring something fresh and fun to the design.”

The TDF/Sharaff Young Master Award is presented to a designer whose work, beyond being promising, has come to fruition. The award, honoring a designer of distinction early in his or her career, is given in recognition of Irene Sharaff’s wish to see young designers encouraged on their way to fully acknowledged success and excellence in the field. “I think this is especially meaningful because it is an award given by fellow costume designers,”says Cho. “Their recognition is profoundly meaningful.”

See more photos in the latest issue of Live Design. Get the free downloadable app for iPhone or iPad at the Apple App Store.

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New to FIFA 14 is Precision Movement

New to FIFA 14 is Precision Movement, a feature that recreates the dynamic movement of real-world players. Precision Movement was created from new locomotion technology developed by the FIFA team. Locomotion is fundamental to all areas of gameplay, determining the way players move on the pitch.For the past two years, the FIFA team has been developing step-based locomotion technology that will enable players to move around the pitch in the most realistic way possible.

 

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Artisan-Driven Boutique Production in Coastal Mexico

It was never Amber Sellers’ dream to have her own accessories and apparel factory—until she discovered what she could do with it.

“I personally have two missions: The first is to help people, the second is to make beautiful things,” said Sellers, founder of Quality Skills Center in Punta Mita, Mexico. “My priority is to keep these artisans and apprentices of Quality Skills Center working.”

There are a myriad of things that can go wrong in the production chain, and Sellers has dealt with nearly all of them. She started her career in fashion assisting high-profile stylist Andrew Richardson in New York. Every day was a hunt to obtain garments by any means necessary for photo shoots or to unearth the exact right vintage pieces that the creative director desired. Her talent for figuring it out brought her to Los Angeles, where she was hired by a luxury T-shirt brand in start-up mode expanding into a full collection.

Quality Skills Center in Punta Mita, Mexico, trains apparel workers through a paid apprenticeship program, then hires the workers to produce apparel made from traditional Guatemalan- and Mexican-made textiles.

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“I kept watching deadlines come and go without anyone accepting responsibility, and I thought, ‘There has to be a better way,’” Sellers said. “I was shocked by the lack of accountability. The dyehouse blamed the delay on the fabric vendor. The sewer blamed it on the cutter and on and on.”

After cutting her teeth learning the ins and outs of Los Angeles manufacturing, she went on to become a production manager for Planet Blue’s Blue Life label, then at a factory that made private-label apparel for fast-fashion companies. But it was the goodwill work that she was doing with her father, Pat Sellers, that inspired her to produce differently.

Now a Kentucky-based retired naval officer, Pat Sellers dedicates his spare time to various philanthropy projects. One such project was partnering with a local woman in Antigua, Guatemala, to help artisans make an honest living from their handicrafts. Through the mentoring partnership, they established a brand built on the beauty of traditional Guatemalan textiles with a stylish spin. Amber Sellers designed and strategically placed the product in fashion boutiques. A percentage of each sale went into the Helping Hands zero-percent-interest micro-loan program, which offered the workers capital to invest in their own ambitions.

When it came time for Amber Sellers to open the doors of her own factory, Quality Skills Center, she applied many of the same business practices she learned from her father and added further steps.

“The combination of a production facility and a skills center is a powerful tool for self improvement and professional advancement. It’s amazing to watch the workers’ confidence grow every day,” Sellers said. The skills center offers paid apprenticeships and training. Once sewers have mastered the sewing skills, their income rises corresponding with their skill level. Amber Sellers’ experience sourcing traditional Guatemalan and Mexican-made textiles has won over boho-inclined boutique labels in Los Angeles, as well as L.A. contemporary brands seeking small production runs. QSC also makes apparel for shops in the neighboring tourist beach town of Sayulita, Mexico.

Amber Sellers chose the location because of its proximity to the trendy surf village, which relies on tourist dollars. During the low season of June through October, most of the workers are laid off from their service-industry jobs. “During high season most of the waiters and cooks and concierges are men, leaving the women with limited options of housekeeping and store clerks—for those fortunate enough to have been taught English somewhere along the way,” said Amber Sellers, who often visited the neighboring beach town Punta Mita on vacation

“Apparel production happens all year. We provided a sense of security to our workers. Sourcing production closer to home also results in shorter lead times, and our clients have the option of ground transportation as opposed to slow boats and expensive air freight companies,” she continued. Shipping from Mexico to the USA is duty-free under NAFTA.

Amber Sellers makes her factory attractive to new fashion risk-takers by not enforcing minimums. “It’s always been heartbreaking for me to watch a designer slave over their design, spend the money for the development and then have to cancel the style because they didn’t meet the minimum in sales required for cost-effective manufacturing,” Sellers said. “There’s no way for them to recoup the cost of the sourcing, pattern making and sample-making fees. Most LA factories consider anything less than 50 units to be sampling, which doubles the production cost of cut-and-sew.”

The Quality Skills Center approach reflects a changing tide among the millennial generation. Younger companies and consumers care about accountability and transparency when it comes to the foods they eat and products they buy. Brands started in California—including Krochet Kids, 31 Bits and Our Hands for Hope—established their businesses based on helping women rise above poverty in Uganda and Peru. In many cases, the brands offer a paid apprenticeship to learn the trade and also utilized the ancestral talents of the local women—for example, Peru’s rich history of textile weaving and knitting.

“Our clients are investing in their own brand by working with us, and they are investing in the future of our employees helping them to help themselves and contributing to the success of our apprenticeship program,” Sellers said.

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