Little Takes 1st at the Annual IIDA Fashion Show

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a Little team, that signed up for the Fashion Show, ’cause winning was their dream.

Each year, IIDA Orange County (International Interior Design Association) hosts a Haute Couture Fashion Show wherein local design firms are pitted against each other to create the most unique, clever and avant garde costumes, all in the name of charity. The catch: instead of using typical garment fabrics, competing teams utilize a variety of interior finishes (think upholstery fabric, tile, vinyl, laminate) to create their masterpieces. Let’s just say if “Project Runway” and “This Old House” had a baby, it would be the IIDA Fashion Show.

Here’s how it all went down….

2013 Fashion Show Theme: “Classic TV”

The Mission: Re-imagine the shows, their casts and iconic pieces from their wardrobes.

The Shows: “The Addams Family,” “Bewitched,” “Star Trek,” “The Love Boat,” “Saved by the Bell,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “I Love Lucy,” “Happy Days,” “Golden Girls,” “Three’s Company,” “I Dream of Jeanie”  and “Dukes of Hazzard”

6 Weeks Before the Fashion Show: At a Fashion Show Kick-off event, participating design firms were assigned a television show (and in case you didn’t catch the hint in the opening line, Little was assigned “Gilligan’s Island”).



A few minutes after receiving our TV show assignments, each firm selected a brave soul to participate in the annual “Fabric Grab” – a mad dash to collect as many fabrics as you can for your team’s costume (these materials must constitute at least 50% of the final product). It was like a Filene’s Basement sale on steroids… claws came out.

Our own Tom McCarthy drew the short straw and represented the only Y-Chromosome in the chaos. We had a quick second to powwow on what to pull from the fabric pile (PRIMARY COLORS), and then Tom was eaten alive.


(Tom smiling before he was trampled by women)


(where’s Tom!?)

Surprisingly, we came away with a lot of great fabrics in our color palette, but now came the hard part. It was Little’s first year competing, so we had a lot to learn. Thankfully, we were sponsored by Tangram (represented by Crystal Paselk) who provided us with a wealth of knowledge about the show’s logistics and expectations.


Next we compiled a dedicated crew with diverse talents:


2-6 Weeks Before the Fashion Show: We met each Tuesday during lunch to present sketches, brainstorm ideas and determine a concept. We also used a private board on Pinterest to share ideas on the fly.

We kept asking ourselves, “What is Gilligan’s Island really about?” And our design concept was derived from the answer: “It’s always the same storyline. They’re stranded on the island, they try to get off the island, Gilligan does something stupid, they’re stranded on the island. Same plot, same characters – constantly reinforcing each character’s stereotypical role, look and attitude.”

AND THEN, a big ‘innovative’ idea came when Jenny found this image – reinforcing the simplistic plot:


(Via Mattson Creative)

Our team was fascinated with the idea that an entire show could be communicated with such little detail and information. It was bold and powerful. As a result, we decided to distill each character down to their most simple and iconic elements (Ginger – orange hair, a mole and gold; Mary Ann – pigtails, red and blue; Skipper – captain’s hat, girth and blue). Our concepts became further abstracted as the iconic elements became increasingly emphasized: a simple color palette (primary colors + black & white), geometric forms, and exaggerated body types, hairstyles and other signature character traits.

The design concept developed into one of minimalism and the simplistic expression of each TV character’s iconic element.


1-2 Weeks Before the Fashion Show: Still feeling like we needed a show-stopping element, the idea of faceless models (like the Gilligan poster image) began to surface. We brainstormed masks, face paint, halftone patterned faces, giant caricature heads, and then someone blurted, “what about full white body suits?!” Problem solved.


1 Week Before the Fashion Show: Crunch time – it was scissors, hot glue guns, sewing machines, thread spools, chip board, dress forms and staplers galore. Sustained on a balanced diet of Doritos, Clos du Bois wine and Milanos, we hunkered down in the sewing lab all weekend to realize our vision.



Day of the Fashion Show 1PM: We rehearsed, and rehearsed, and rehearsed our catwalks at the office. Everyone had a pretty good laugh seeing us in costume. I think we even permanently scarred some folks.



Day of the Fashion Show 4PM: We booked it over to the Fashion Show venue, and finally got to see what all the other design firms had been cooking up for the past 6 weeks. It was an intimidating sight to see! As the other teams filed in and out of their dressing rooms, for hair and makeup (looking super-amazing and well put together), we sat around looking pretty unimpressive without our wigs and masks. Compliments and praise were flying between every team but ours….


(Jenny Diaz as “Mary Ann,” Nikki Mueller as “Ginger,” Tom McCarthy as “Gilligan,” & Benjamin Boyles as “The Skipper”)


… UNTIL we zipped up our body suits and shocked everyone.



Could we see? Not really. Could we breath? Barely. Could we go to the bathroom? Under no circumstances.

We sacrificed a lot in the name of fashion.

Day of the Fashion Show 7PM: Showtime. Nervous, excited and legally blind, we entered the stage and transformed into the cast of “Gilligan’s Island”… Little style. Our coworkers represented in the audience – blowing up beach balls and tossing them into the crowd as we made our debut. The music blared, the crowd cheered loudly, balls bounced through the air – it was a bonafide party.



And then it was over. We did it! We were ecstatic (though you couldn’t tell by looking at our blank white faces).

Now we waited for the results. They said no one ever wins the first year they compete. Until NOW!

“First place goes to: Little!!!!!”



After weeks of fretting, hours of sewing and several serious hot glue gun burns later, our hard work paid off. Bragging rights for a year.



I think we may need to retire. I can’t imagine topping this experience next year. But, knowing Little, we will.


Want more Fashion Show photos (including pics of the competition)?
Visit IIDA Southern California’s Facbook Page

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