Jay Calderin

Reflections on the ideas behind fashion that place it at the center of my life’s work.

Thank you Ms. Sweet!

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Thank Your Mentor Day – January 21, 2010

Ms. Shirley Sweet was my sketching instructor at the High School of Fashion Industries in New York. I’ve had many great teachers, but she inspires me to this day in ways that go beyond the skills she was helping me to develop.

The woman did not suffer fools gladly, or at all for that matter. And that had nothing to do with how smart or how talented you were. A student in her class (who wanted to stay in her class) was expected to be present, engaged and ready to produce – not just ready actually, but hungry for the experience.

At the core of her methods was an obvious dedication to the subject matter of course, but more importantly a passion for how to approach anything you do. Even though she never let me get away with anything, and was often my sternest critic, I felt the warmth, the humor and the support that someone feels when a mentor takes the time to make someone else’s development a priority.



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January 22, 2010 at 10:47 pm

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The good word.

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Most people think of the fall when they hear ‘back to school.’ I get to wrap my head around the first day of classes three times a year. Tomorrow marks the beginning of the spring semester at the School of Fashion Design. It certainly doesn’t feel like spring in New England, but I figure that I can use the promise of spring as a light at the end of the tunnel. The truth is that at this time of year I feel more as though I’m slowly coming out of a deep, dark hibernation.

It’s not as if I’ve been asleep the whole time or even on — dare I say it — a real vacation. There have been plenty of things that needed to be addressed, not to mention accomplished over the past few weeks. And let’s face it, the holidays certainly don’t provide much of an opportunity for downtime. Regardless, I haven’t been in a classroom for almost a month. For as long as I’ve been teaching, this period of time in between classes has traditionally been devoted to replenishing my own creative reserves. I’ve learned that you just can’t get students excited about learning if you’re not feeling some creative passion of your own.

Once I’ve crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’ at the end of a semester, I give myself permission to immerse myself in a combination of popular culture that I don’t usually have time for (catching up on movies, television, music, etc.), hours and hours of spontaneous web research, and lots of reading! There always seems to be an intimidating stack of books and magazines that has multiplied exponentially, just waiting there patiently, on my desk. The process, as well as the eclectic assortment of subject matter may seem random to the casual observer, but eventually it all seems to contribute to a cohesive big picture.

This year, a theme is only just beginning to surface. It’s actually more of a sign post. A simple message which is sounding more and more like a clear directive from the universe. “Change the way you think, about everything!” As Albert Einstein is credited with saying,”You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” Change is a hard thing for most people to embrace, but for anyone who is even remotely creative it can be very exciting.

The 1997 Apple campaign built on the slogan “Think Different” featured Mr. Einstein, as well as several other innovative thinkers. Martin Luther King, Jr., Alfred Hitchcock, Jim Henson, Frank Lloyd Wright and Pablo Picasso are just a few of the names on that roster which have special meaning for me. But, contrary to popular belief, you are not restricted to historical figures when embarking on a search for intelligent life on the planet.

No discussion about important thoughts and the thinkers behind them would be complete without a mention of TED. Their global conference in 2009 centered around ‘The Substance of Things Not Seen.’ It brought together some of the most remarkable minds on the planet to explore ideas, challenge each other and ultimately engage the rest of us with a call to action.

In the spirit of TED conferences, these two speakers truly shared “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Please continue to pass on the good word. Change.

Alain DeBotton on Success


and Tim Brown on Design Thinking


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January 10, 2010 at 11:12 pm

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Defining Fashion in Boston

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2010 marks the beginning of an exciting new decade for fashion in Boston! This new era provides Boston Fashion Week with the opportunity to build on fifteen years of experience, while simultaneously benefiting from a fresh new perspective on what ‘Boston fashion’ means. Over the years Boston Fashion Week has served as a fertile proving ground for fashion talents, and the ideal time of year for local fashion professionals to explore new ideas, innovate, and express themselves. This year will surely be no exception.

Traditional runway shows, special events and parties will always be a mainstay of a week that celebrates fashion, but I’d like to personally extend a challenge to both the creative forces behind the week and their audiences, to think differently about fashion. Shrug off preconceived notions. Delve into the possibilities. Experiment, with everything. Our region is internationally recognized as a hub of creative thinkers in so many different disciplines. Those who love and create fashion in the area are in a unique position to define the future of the local industry and how it is perceived locally, nationally and around the globe. So let’s do just that!

SAVE THE DATES: Boston Fashion Week 2010 – September 24th thru October 1st

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January 3, 2010 at 5:28 pm

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Pop Up Design Studio @PEM

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Sunday morning.

Enjoyed my bagel. Nursing my cup of Starbucks and I’ve got Pandora cranked up on my computer, playing a Diana Krall inspired selection of jazz. I’m feeling very relaxed.

Although I was confident that we had done everything in our power to prepare for yesterday’s day-long celebration of fashion at the Peabody Essex Museum, there is always a certain amount of apprehension about the unknown. I get up in front of students almost every day, but the grandeur of the PEM, not to mention living up to being a part of an event celebrating someone as iconic as Iris Barrel Apfel is bound to inspire more than just a pinch of pressure.

Thankfully, all went more than well. Robert dedicated his day to helping make it all go smoothly — as well as documenting the day in pictures. My students (Sketching Level 3 from the School of Fashion Design) have been working on collections inspired by Iris. They spent time in the galleries sketching and taking notes — a kind of inspiration scavenger hunt. They also answered questions and provided sketching how-to advice for museum-goers. They were a big hit! Thank you  Karina, Ketny, Sarah, Emily, Mary, Anabelle, and Chelsea! Iris was so gracious — posing for pictures with them and even signing their sketches (of designs she inspired)!

Victoria (Dominguez-Bagu) and I set up our little Pop Up Design Studio in the center atrium of the museum. Great fun demonstrating how ideas are transformed into 3-dimensional garments through draping. We became a kind of live art of fashion installation. It was great when guests engaged us with questions, allowing us to share even more about what we’re so passionate about.

My publisher Winnie Prentiss and my editor Alicia Kennedy both paid a visit. Friends Louis Selvitella and Michiko Imai stopped in to take it all in. Photographer Tracy Aiguier who shot a lot of images specifically for the book attended with Terry Mahn, Jane Conway Caspe and her husband Mitch.

I heard great things about the panel discussion about ‘The World of Fashion’ with Pulitzer Prize–Winning Fashion Journalist Robin Givhan, Designer Michael Vollbracht and Iris Apfel. I had to man the fort, but I was able to meet Mr. Volbracht (very charming) and had the opportunity to have Iris sign her book, as well as the page in my book that features a write-up and photo of her.

I also gave her a tiny little accessory (not as glamorous as her usual fare) that I had made up for my students — a I Heart Iris pin.

The School of Fashion Design has been celebrating all things Iris for a few months now. Below is a window dedicated to Iris that was installed when the exhibit first opened. The gown is by student designer Gina DeWolfe and the jewelry was provided by the Peabody Essex Museum Shop! The shop also carries Form, Fit & Fashion. I was very happy to hear that they sold out of it yesterday! I’m hoping that it is a sign of good things to come. Fingers crossed.

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December 6, 2009 at 2:17 pm

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The Art of Fashion in Action!

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I’m very excited about an upcoming event that celebrates the iconic Iris Apfel with a whole day of hands-on fashion. I will be leading a behind-the-scenes look at how a garment comes to life, from the fashion sketch into a 3-dimensional draped creation on a dress form. Assisting me will be designer and School of Fashion Design alum Victoria Dominguez. A group of my sketching students from the School of Fashion Design in Boston will be sketching throughout the exhibit rooms. These students have been developing Iris inspired collections all semester, incorporating original high, low and accessory designs.
For those who are interested I will be available to sign copies of my book, Form Fit Fashion.


Saturday, December 5, 2009, 11 am–4 pm, Atrium

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November 25, 2009 at 11:45 pm

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