Matt LaPrairie is a MakeFashion designer, notable for winning the 2015 audience choice award for his Obscure Shadow wearable tech project. Matt joined the team on a trip to Shanghai, and shares his experience.

I have been doing my craft for a long time and I thought that you had to create a name for yourself, defining your work by your individuality. Then I was introduced to this group called ‘Makefashion’ and all my gains that I made by myself in my many years of work were surpassed in just one 6 month period. I now realize where I may have gone wrong; in not realizing the power of a makers’ community. This crew of people have created and formed a community where everyone works for themselves but completely support those next to them with the feeling of “their success is our success”. This community aspect of work builds opportunities and partnerships that could never be attained individually.

One of these opportunities came in the form of showing our fashions in China. If you had to ask me what my thoughts or opinions were of a place called Shanghai China, I honestly didn’t even know where I would start. For myself knowing that I was going to China was one thing but it really only hit me as I was being dropped off at the airport. “I am going”. Jumping on the plane and sitting for 19 hours really got me anxious to get off the plane and get things started. My first thoughts were that basically everything is the same as home, yes people are shorter and they may not speak my language but people are still people, there just happens to be plenty more of them. That being said, it certainly seems that things happen very rapidly, with whole apartment developments being raised with housing for tens of thousands of people being built at one time. I was just amazed how everywhere you looked there were layers upon layers of things going on.

Upon our arrival we meet our liaison “Lee”. She came across as professional yet very kind and helpful; I believe that having her as a mediator and facilitator made the experience much more effective and efficient. Every time that we had a question or a request she jumped in and facilitated it. Lee brought us to the venue the second day and all I can say about what I saw was “awe inspiring”. Standing in front of the stage with this massive screen and turning around to soak in the lights and cameras while watching a hundred people simultaneously working together to set everything up I thought to myself “man this is big! This is the big time. Let’s get this done and show these guys what we are made of. ”

Then things started to get better and better, we meet up with our models and these girls and guy came to work. What a pleasure it was to have the opportunity to work with them. The mood was kept light and fun, but when it came to rehearsal it was 100% on. It did not take long before every one of them had the choreography and timing down pat. In fact when we asked for five hours to rehearse, they actually gave us that time and expected us to use it, what they did not understand in translation was the five hours were from the time that we got to the venue and not 5 hours on stage; but this was a good thing as we were never rushed and had ample time for a full dress rehearsal. We went over our routine a couple times and dealt with the language barriers between the technicians for lights and sound but soon got the whole thing rock solid. We started feeling very confident and secure about our role for the next day.

So the next day could not come fast enough, waking up early with anticipation and finding out that the hotel had a free breakfast was almost the best thing that could ever happen, especially cause it was a buffet, no more need to point and pray that you knew what you were about to eat. We left the hotel with great expectations and they were blown away as soon as we walked into the venue, people and tech products at every corner and then some. We made our way into the back room and set up our work space while greeting our models and hair/makeup technicians. Keeping it relaxed and having some down time we have some fun with a few of the girls and taught them some dance moves before it started to get close to crunch time. The mood starts turning serious as we start the final preparations to start dressing and just as we feel compliant our call time suddenly gets moved up a half an hour and we all go into turbo mode. Accepting the challenge we all rally together by working as a cohesive unit and make the time deadline, feeling exhilarated we give each other high fives and usher everyone into the holding area all ready and lit up. We await the go ahead and the invitation to get into place when the producer comes by and lets us know they are now running a few minutes behind. Waiting backstage we see the minutes pass by and every few moments they tell us to get ready so we turn every outfit on just to turn around and turn them back off. After a few cycles of this we finally get to the moment that we have flown across the world for; everyone gets into their positions and we are on. Girl after girl gets released from the staging area and steps onto the stage, with lights flashing and cameras rolling the models kill it. Time flies by and before we know it all the girls are done and we find ourselves on stage receiving a cheer, with the feeling of satisfaction and success we clean up and give our bests to all those involved. Making it back to our hotel we find ourselves completely drained of will and want but very happy, off to bed we go.

The day after; with the feeling of a job well done we set out to have a free day, we start by visiting a university campus learning some history and seeing what could be achieved by collaborative efforts. Moving on we continue the tour and end up in the nice part of town where the streets are filled with million dollar cars and photo-shoots on every block. With a taste of the good life we decide to break off from our university professor and meet up with our good friend “Lee”. This is now her day off and she had so much fun with us to this point she could not resist the urge to show us the town. From fast food to shopping, to temple visits and riding rickshaw with a leaping Shannon we end up at rivers edge with a beer in hand and great company cheering in front of lights galore, we support each other until we end up at a trumpish tower masquerading as a karaoke theater. This is where we separated the talent from the fakers; some laughs, some drink, a little food we burn the hours away and it becomes apparent that the night is coming to a head. Man that was fun, let’s do it again.

matt laprairie