Showing posts with label Interviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Interviews. Show all posts

Friday, February 11, 2011

Interview with Director of Catwalk Creative Vintage, Louise Sleigh

Louise Sleigh of Catwalk Creative Vintage

I am very proud to present to you a long overdue interview with my darling friend from the other side of the globe ... Louise Sleigh!

Louise is the owner of CATWALK CREATIVE VINTAGE, an online store and valuable vintage resource, and writes her very own successful blog, CATWALK THREADS, which features her finds, thoughts and expertise on all things vintage.  Based in the UK, she has been in the vintage business for many years and is herself a walking encyclopedia in this genre!  I have known Louise now since 2008 when I started The Fashion Birdcage, and I was (and still am) proud that she was my very first interview!

I trust you will enjoy reading this interview as much as I enjoy sharing it.  Louise doesn't do things by halves, so I'd like to thank her publicly for all the time and effort she's put in from her busy schedule to put together a comprehensive interview aimed at providing valuable information for anyone interested in vintage.  

Thank you Louise, you are a real darling for sharing your wealth of information. xxx

Vintage has boomed over the years, but it doesn't look like it's peaked just yet - would you agree?
Yes, vintage has definitely seen a boom over the last few years and I hope it continues. The internet has played a huge part in this by allowing us to shop online in the comfort of our homes. There's a good choice of online shops and selling venues and that certainly wasn't the case ten years ago.

There's now a huge online community with social network sites and blogs, each one touting the benefits of wearing vintage.

Frank Usher Soft Pink Satin/Silk Dress Size Medium c.1970's

Does vintage see fads come and go, just like mainstream fashion?
If your business involves selling vintage clothes then you do see fads come and go to a certain extent. One season, it's flowing maxi dresses and puff sleeve blouses and the next, it's punk and power-dressing 80's style. Catwalks are awash with design influences from the past so it's fun to search out an authentic piece and know you won't find exactly the same on the high street. Summer sees a lean towards fashions of the 1970's although many vintage fashion professionals don't consider this era to be vintage.  Not yet anyway!

Vintage offers us more than a passing fashion trend. It's possible to fill your wardrobe with original design classics that are still very wearable today. You can find everything from chic day dresses to couture evening gowns and everything else in between.  Vintage enthusiasts will tell you that wearing vintage is all about the style and cut of the clothes along with the choice of fabrics rather than a passing trend.

In your opinion, how has the vintage genre changed over the years?
The vintage genre has changed dramatically because there are now so many online venues selling modern reproductions.  Also, clothes are barely one season old before they are deemed 'vintage'. This can be very confusing although it’s great if you prefer your clothes brand-new but want to achieve a vintage look.

That said, there is something eternally cool about authentic vintage clothing that no amount of replicating can achieve. The differences are clear from the fabrics used to small details like buttons.  It all boils down to preference really. Vintage (meaning 20 plus years old), isn't for everyone. 

Your knowledge of vintage never ceases to amaze me!  Where did your passion for it come from?
I'm not sure where my passion comes from.  I just love old things and want to save them for others to enjoy.  You either 'get' vintage or you don't. Whatever I do in life I try and give it 100%.  I appreciate the historical importance of clothing and textiles. It provides a wonderful insight into our social history and I like to spread the word a little. It's satisfying to find a new home for a previously cherished garment.

1970's Lilac Floral Bow Blouse Size Small

Your blog, Catwalk Threads Vintage, has a very healthy following . . . you consistently provide useful information, tips and interviews with other vintage lovers. 
Thank you!  Yes, I love my blog. Ideally I would like to write more frequently but sales are on the up which means I can’t spend as much time on it as I’d like.  I use blogging to promote myself and those in the business of selling vintage or who use vintage materials in their work. I'm constantly finding inspiration from others so again, it’s great to spread the word. I think anything positive you can do to help the small business community is a good thing.  It would be selfish to keep all the talent to myself!

Has blogging helped you connect easily with your audience? Has it helped promote your primary business, Catwalk Creative Vintage?
I would say so.  Blogging has helped me connect more easily with my audience because I see it as another 'public face', I use it to talk about anything 'vintage' related. I've just checked my Google analytics report and can see that quite a high percentage of my website visitors come from my blog.  I'm therefore achieving what I originally set out to do. My blog is free to use so it makes sense to keep the content as fresh and interesting as possible and hopefully attract new followers along the way.

Marie France Lilac Jersey Dress c.1970's

Tell us a little about your business?  What services do you provide and what's your point of difference?
My online vintage business, Catwalk Creative Vintage, was estabished in 2006 although I was selling on eBay long before that.  My background is in business though.  I worked in the insurance industry for many years and built up lots of experience dealing in customer service. I guess my point of difference is that I give each and every customer my personal and undivided attention.  That's great news if you're a control freak like me!  Keeping the business small means that I can do everything from hand-picking my merchandise to tissue wrapping and packaging.  I like the personal touch and my aim is always to exceed expectations.  I've had some wonderful feedback from my customers which makes it all very worthwhile.

I also offer a range of styles, each with a different price point. I don’t stick to one era or price band.  I like to include everything from vintage designer gowns at £450.00 to cute vintage day dresses at £45.00. You might find a Hermes scarf alongside a chiffon scarf at £10.00.  I like to mix it up and give my customers great choice.

Pierre Balmain Blue and Gold Evening Dress Size Small to Medium c.1970's

How do you go about sourcing fabulous vintage fashion and home wares?
I have yet to meet a vintage fashion professional that has divulged exactly where they source their vintage from. When I used to do vintage fairs, customers would always come up and ask where I got my merchandise from. Like I'm going to tell them -  not!  Seriously though, vintage can be sourced from various places and it's different for everyone. It takes a long time to build up business contacts and you learn as you go along.  I used to buy everything and anything until I realised it was a complete waste of money. I'm definitely more discerning with my purchases now.

Because I'm a well-established, I find that people now contact me directly via the website if they've got something to sell.  I might also source pieces from local antique markets or similar. There are not many rich pickings to be had in UK charity shops these days, since they tend to sift out all the good pieces and sell them online.  That's not to say that vintage garments have disappeared completely but you have to be on the lookout all the time.

1950's Tureen by Crown Clarence England

Over the years, has it become harder to find quality stock?
I've found it slightly easier to find stock since people now contact me directly to buy their 'old clothes' and I have a clearer idea of what I'm looking for.

What's your favourite era, and why?
My favourite fashion era is the mid-1960's to mid-1970's. My favourite designers are Ossie Clark, John Bates, Biba, Jean Muir and Bill Gibb  I love the glamour and the diversity of styles from this era from pea coats and mini dresses to tailored suits and flowing, maxi gowns with wild prints. Designs were flamboyant and revolutionary during this time but still have a resonance today.

Victorian Half-Canteen of Cutlery with Original Oak Box c.1900

Why do you think people gravitate towards vintage fashion?
I think people gravitate towards vintage fashion for many reasons. Wearing vintage is a great way to develop your style and there are so many designs to choose from. On the whole, vintage clothing is well constructed using quality fabrics, a reason they are still around today. It's a great alternative to the mass-produced fashion found on the high street and it's nice to own something that was 'Made in England' or wherever you happen to come from. There is something quite lovely about wearing an antique piece of costume jewellery or owning an original Art Deco beaded bag. You can successfully wear vintage with the new to achieve a unique look that’s all your own.

Vintage Royal Albert Petit Point Teacup & Saucer

When making a vintage purchase, what should we look out for?
When making a vintage purchase (online or off-line) it's a good idea to have the following in mind:

Measurements: know your measurements and write them down. PLEASE!!! This is key to finding clothes with the right fit. Consider the style of the vintage garment or overall look you want to achieve.  Body shapes differ from one person to the next, and not everyone has the same proportions. In case of an A-line shift dress, it may not matter that the waist and hip measurement are a few inches bigger than your measurements, as long as the bust fits you comfortably. However, in the case of an hour glass shaped garment, it will definitely matter if the bust and hips of the garment are too big, unless you are able to adjust the garment, or you are able to get someone else to adjust it for you.
Refer to our Clothing Size Guide for more information.  Most vintage websites include their own size guide but if shopping online, be sure you know all the important measurements before you buy.  A well informed choice will avoid the disappointment and expense of returning garments that do not fit.

Condition: Always go for the best quality you can afford.  If you're able to view the clothing in person, check seams and weak areas such as under the arms and zips. If you are shopping online, make sure you can see lots of photographs and read the condition notes in full. These should include details of any flaws or alterations made to the garment. Even merchandise that is listed as NOS (New Old Stock) might have condition issues caused by poor storage over the years. 
After Care: You should know the fabric type and whether there are special care instructions.
Is it labelled?  If the garment is labelled, there should be a photograph of it.
How old?  Do you know what era you are buying?  The listing should note at the very least, the decade it originated from.
*  Has the clothing been altered from the original design?  There has been a rise in the 'hacking off' of hemlines in order to cater to modern tastes. This issue is becoming increasingly prevalent which is a shame since there are plenty of original mini and maxi dresses out there to keep everyone happy. These alterations ruin the lines and pattern of the dress and most often are not finished properly. The seller also might fail to mention the alteration which results in the buyer having no clue what decade their garment originated. This might not be an important factor for some buyers - "who cares whether my dress started life in the '50s, '60s or '70s?"  However, sellers should be honest, stating the original date of manufacture along with any alterations that have been made. It is only then that you can make an informed decision as to whether you want to proceed with the purchase. You wouldn't expect to buy something new in a shop, only to find a glaring alteration that the sales assistant had failed to mention.  You'd have every right to take it back and demand a refund.  Why should selling vintage clothing be any different? 
A true vintage clothing connoisseur would always prefer to buy the garment in its original state if possible, although some alterations cannot be avoided.  For example, there may be a fault with the garment that means an alteration is necessary in order to make the piece wearable again.  Many vintage sellers are experienced seamstresses and can make an alteration without compromising the original design.  Any alteration should be mentioned.

1970's Pink Evening Dress by Trina Lewis & Marjon Couture

"Everyone is in tiny cocktail dresses. I'd be much more interested in seeing a girl in a t-shirt and a couture skirt." RAF SIMONS, Fashion Designer.

1960's Day Dress by Marjon Couture Size Medium

What are the pitfalls of purchasing vintage wares online?
The pitfalls of buying online are that you can't try the clothing on before making your purchase.  However, if you measure yourself and use an online shop that provides all the necessary information, you should be fine.

Always read terms and conditions and any shop policies before making your purchase.  I operate in line with UK Selling Regulations and offer a 7 day return policy. However, these terms will differ from business to business so read the small print first.

It also helps to know what country you are buying from.  If you buy online from another country, remember there may be additional customs and duty fees to pay.  It is the buyer's responsibility to pay those so find out beforehand and check carefully what you can and can't import. Certain countries may have shipping restrictions in place too.  Google 'Customs & Excise' or 'Imported Goods' to find out more.

You are relying on the knowledge of the seller so take a good look around their website or shop and get a good feel for the place before making your purchase. There are lots of auction and selling sites now that allow items to be listed as being ‘vintage’ when clearly they are not. Question the seller if you are in any doubt.

What do you suggest to anyone who has just bought something which arrives in poor condition? Can we do anything about it, or just cut our losses?
As mentioned earlier, my business operates in line with UK Distance Selling Regulations so I offer a 7 day return policy no matter what the reason for the return. I would advise anyone reading this to check what applies in their own country.  It will be different elsewhere but read, read, read the seller’s terms and conditions page before making your purchase.

If the item arrives in a condition other than as stated in the listing, you are quite right to contact the seller to voice your concerns. Any reputable seller should mention even the slightest issue.

Vintage fashion professionals provide a superb level of customer service and the ones I know personally are extremely proud of the merchandise they offer for sale. Not only do they source the item but they clean, press, repair and generally get the item ready for sale so you can enjoy it.  Full condition notes should always be provided.  Stating an item is in ‘good wearable condition’ doesn’t mean anything.  If that’s the only information provided, ask the seller to be more specific. The onus is on the buyer to read all the information provided before clicking the ‘pay now’ button.

What makes a garment 'vintage' and what makes a garment 'retro'? What's the difference?
The term 'vintage' and 'retro' means different things to different people.  I refer to anything made 1930's to 1980's as 'vintage' and newer or more casual clothing from the 60’s and 70’s as 'retro'.  Anything pre-1930 is antique. As mentioned, there are many vintage fashion professionals that can't agree on this point and do not consider clothing post 1960 as vintage either.  There's no definite answer to this one.

Blue Glass Clip Earrings c.1940's

You're a proud member of the Vintage Fashion Guild - what are the benefits of membership, and are there many places for vintage lovers to come together and be social?
I've been a member of the Vintage Fashion Guild for a few years.  It's a great place to research the history of fashion and meet like-minded people.  There is a public and private forum so you don't have to be in the business of vintage to participate.

The Vintage Fashion Guild’s mission is to promote and protect the interests of vintage fashion enthusiasts while serving the needs of the members of the Vintage Fashion Guild. To that end its objectives are to:
1. Protect the interests of vintage fashion vendors and encourage professional practices.
2. Promote, establish, and encourage among our members ethical behavior and professional standards of expertise about vintage fashion, in order to reinforce the buyers’ and
collectors’ confidence that the age, style, details and condition of the items are accurately represented.
3. Raise awareness of vintage fashion and provide a forum to bring together buyers and sellers.
4. Establish a central educational resource available to both buyers and sellers.
5. Create a positive environment for and enhance the image of vintage clothing.
6. Encourage the conservation and wearing of vintage fashion to preserve the history, availability and survival of vintage clothing in future years. The VFG discourages the habitual practice of modifying or altering existing vintage to suit the current trend.
7. Position vintage clothing as a viable, attractive and environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional fashion.

William de Lillo Fringed Tassel Brooch c.1960's

You can read more about applying for membership here
Also visit 'Best In Vintage', an informative blog showcasing some of the best online vintage sellers

Halston 1970's Black Sequin Beanie Hat Size Small

There are various social networks such as Vintage Network Worldwide and
CJCI (Costume Jewelry Collectors International).

Amber Coloured Glass Bead Necklace c.1970's

Catwalk Creative Vintage was established in 2006 . . . How has your business changed over the years?
I've seen quite a few changes in the business.  I now offer a range costume jewellery and homeware pieces and have introduced some high-end vintage designer pieces too.  In a few months I'll be getting more work space so I can expand the business further.  It's all very exciting.

What advice would you give anyone wanting to open a vintage fashion business? What lessons have you learnt along the way, and how should they go about their research?
Think very carefully before you go into the business of selling vintage.  It’s not as easy as people think.  It’s a lot of hard work and it can take over your life! However, if you are dead-set on starting your own vintage business then try and get as much work experience as possible.

Work in your local vintage boutique and find out as much as you can about the merchandise, how it’s priced and how to deal with customers.  Go to your library and read all you can about the history of fashion.  There’s loads of research information available on the internet including the Vintage Fashion Guild.  Get reading!

Visit online shops, costume galleries, museums and vintage/textile fairs. Talk to the vendors and find out all you can about how they started in the business.

Perhaps start by ‘testing the waters’ at your local vintage fair at the weekends.  See how it goes and build up a client base that way. Even the experts had to start somewhere. You can also try selling on one of the many online sites now available.

Most sellers of vintage will tell you they're not in this business for the money since you have to put everything back into the business in order to keep your stock fresh. However, be discerning with your purchases.  You don't have to buy everything and not everything old is worth something.

Choose a business name carefully and think about branding your image and what you want to sell. Cost out all your stationery, packaging and stock requirements. You’ll need to hand out business cards and brochures.
It’s not easy working in this business but if you have a genuine love for what you’re doing and have the self-discipline to run your own business, it can be very worthwhile and rewarding.



Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's Time To Live Your Dream @ The Fashion Institute

Sarah Stavrow:  founder of The Fashion Institute

With so many people wanting to get into the wonderful world of fashion, the choice of where to study can be daunting. But not everyone wants to be a fashion designer.  Some want a career in (fashion but in) Public Relations and Marketing, or as a Stylist ...

The all important question:  Where's the best place for me???

If you're lucky enough to live in Sydney, there's a simple choice:  THE FASHION INSTITUTE!  On offer is an exciting array of well-rounded subject lists to whet a thirsty fashion appetite.  I'm excited to present an interview with The Fashion Institute's founder, Sarah Stavrow, as she talks about her brand new venture and the start of something very, very promising ...

The Fashion Institute has opened its doors and is about to start classes for 2011.  You must be thrilled at your recent accomplishment.
I’m very thrilled!! Everything has fallen into place so nicely and I’m very fortunate to have an amazing team working with me making sure everything is on track.
What, in your professional opinion, sets The Fashion Institute apart from other fashion institutions?
Having worked in the industry for many years and also teaching at another fashion college I wanted to give our students a completely unique experience. What sets us apart is the awesome line up of teachers who are all industry leaders – I challenge you to find such high profile teachers at any other fashion college anywhere in Australia. Our diverse curriculum gives students the opportunity to have a ‘taste test’ of the industry and see what works for them; along with the support and mentoring that not only myself but my very experience staff will provide to them.

The Fashion Institute

What do you hope to achieve with The Fashion Institute?
Our main aim is to build a reputation for producing talented, highly skilled and motivated students who have an edge over others and will go on to work and be very successful in the fashion industry.  I want the industry to look to TFI  (The Fashion Institute) first when hiring new staff or choosing candidates for Internship programs.

I’ve read you dreamed of working in fashion, but couldn’t find anything specializing on the business side of it - it must have been frustrating for you. How did you get around this?
I settled on a business college specialising in PR and Marketing, where I met some amazing contacts, through which I actually got my first job at a PR agency  Ultimately I would have loved if there was something out there like TFI but I look at it like:  I worked out how to make it easier for the next generation of fashionistas.

With a client list boasting high profile brands such as Bonds, Seafolly, General Pants, Country Road, Berlei, Miss Louise, Sunsilk and Ella Bache, your work as a Fashion Publicist is impressive - did you always want a career as a Publicist?
I actually always dreamt of working for a magazine, but fell into a PR job when I was 18 and never regretted it. I’ve been very fortunate to work for many great brands and talented people. Owning my own fashion college was the last thing I thought I would be doing but now, after having the opportunity to teach at another college and combining my experience in the fashion industry and my passion for nurturing young fashionistas, I
can’t imagine doing anything else.

In your opinion, how has the role of Public Relations and Marketing changed over the past five years, and where do you see it heading for the next season?
Obviously the online world has boomed. Social mediums like Facebook and Twitter along with bloggers and websites are a big part of any strategic communications plan these days, which was not the case 5 years ago. It will be interesting to see where the next five years will take us.  There has also been a change in the way people view consumerism. Eco-Marketing is now a trend including in the fashion world. Organic cotton, locally made products are now very popular – 5 years ago no one cared!

The Fashion Institute

What can The Fashion Institute offer someone wanting to pursue a career in fashion?
They can expect a first class education from industry leaders; guidance and mentoring from teachers and staff and industry experience at leading Australian fashion companies (arranged by TFI) and once in a lifetime opportunities such as working at Fashion Week and parades. Standout students will also be offered the chance to go behind the scenes on TV shows such as Australia’s Next Top Model and Project Runway.

You offer your course part time over a one year period - why is it part time?
The course is designed to make be very flexible to suit all individuals. It allows you to work, study and undertake work place training all at your own pace without being stressed and feel under pressure. It means it’s accessible to those who need to work to support themselves throughout the year.

This course provides a well-rounded fashion education. What’s the feedback you’ve received from prospective students?

Students love the fact it covers Business, Design and Industry modules as it allows them to be exposed to all aspects of the fashion industry. I also think it’s important that future fashionistas have a well-rounded view of the industry - this is what will set them apart from others. 

How has The Fashion Institute been received by the industry? Did you find people were positive about your new venture?
I’ve had amazing feedback from people in the industry; so many great people have stepped up and approached me directly to teach. It’s very overwhelming.

I’ve read that confirmed teachers include Fashion Editors from some of our nation’s top magazines. How did that come about, and what was the rationale behind this decision?
I wanted to ensure that our students had the very best people teaching them, I’ve always had a personal mantra to “aim high” and this is exactly what we did. We have teachers from magazines including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Yen, Shop Til You Drop, Grazia and Famous just to name a few.

Also on board, you have Donny Galella (Celebrity Stylist); Natasha Silva-Jelly (Fashion Editor at SMH);  Elle Halliwell (Journalist at The Sunday Telegraph;  Tahli Koch (Senior Publicist at David Jones);  Hamish Tame (Designer at LeSpecs);  William Lazootin (Project Runway);  Stephanie Somers (Buyer at General Pants);  Nadine Andrews (Head Female Booker at Chic).   PR teachers include Publicists from ARC Factory, Maxted Thomas PR, Tailormaid PR as well as Detail Marketing Communications - these are big names!
Very big names! As I mentioned before I don’t think you’ll find such high profile teachers like we have at any other fashion college in Australia. These teachers are exclusive to us and all of them will be offering student work experience and mentoring.

I notice that the Business Module includes a comprehensive subject list including, but not limited to Magazines, Blogging/Online Magazines, PR, Marketing Management, Styling, Visual Merchandising, and Buying … would you consider offering this module as a standalone course?
Further down the track I will look at offering the Business modules as a standalone course (with the option of a Statement of Attainment in Design) and also a comprehensive Design course….stay tuned!

What career opportunities can graduates expect on completion of the Fashion Course?
Most students will go into Junior / Co-ordinator roles within fashion companies, PR agencies and magazines but the world is their oyster!

Sarah, what you’re doing is really exciting. I wish it was available way back when I was looking at fashion courses as it would have been absolutely perfect for me! I noticed that you offer Blogging and Online Magazines as a subject in your Business Module. With the fashion industry starting to embrace bloggers more over the past few years as a valid form of exposure and distribution, what’s your personal view on the role of the blogger today, and why did you decide to offer this as a subject?
Blogging and Online Media is a massive part of the fashion industry, we’re seeing blogs generating more traffic than traditional magazines, it’s definitely the future of our industry and I wanted to make sure the course was relevant to our Generation Y and I students  We have some great Online media teachers including Nicole from Gary Pepper Vintage, Valeria from X&Y Magazine, Eleanor from Pretty Gritty – and if you’re interested I would be happy to have you on board too!

What are your plans for the future of The Fashion Institute, and will you be adding courses to the mix?

Next year we will be offering Business as a standalone course, you can choose to add a Statement of  Attainment to it, also a more in-depth Design course.  Our Styling and Design Workshops start in March and will be a monthly event; these workshops give prospective students an insight into the industry.  We’re also looking to open campuses around Australia in the coming years.

The Fashion Institute

I’m just wondering, for people reading this article with an interest in your course, when do classes begin for the year, and how do they go about enrolling?
Classes officially start January 31st but prospective students are free to start any day of the year. If you would like to enroll contact us on 1300 FASHION (1300 327 4466) or email

What important piece of advice would you give anyone wanting to pursue a career in fashion?
Work hard, always be nice to people and do any job - even if it’s taking out the bins with a smile - and you’ll go far!

I hope you enjoyed reading about The Fashion Institute as much as I enjoyed writing about it!  You still have time to enroll in this amazing course, and it will be absolutely fantastic to have the college expand and be situtated in other states.  Please come to Melbourne .... !!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Style Never Goes Out Of Fashion: Interview with Lenka Padysakova

Photography by Ondrej Bires

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing a very talented young designer, Lenka Padysakova.  With a deep interest in theatre and the glamour of 1940's Hollywood, let's take a look at what makes this gorgeous Slovakian fashion + costume designer tick ...

You graduated from London College of Fashion with a degree in Fashion Design in 2008.  What inspired you to become a fashion designer?
It is something that I always wanted to do without even realizing it.  Since I was a child, I was making outfits for my dolls and later on in my teenage years I signed up for an evening sewing course and started to make clothes for myself.  But what exactly inspired me, I honestly don't remember.  What I know is that I had many ideas in my head and I needed to let them go out.

When did you launch your label + what makes it unique?
I launched my label at the same year of my graduation - 2008.  During my studies at London College of Fashion I was standing out from my schoolmates because of my female, lady-like style.  Because of my rich colours.  All the others were doing androgynous collections, cold, minimalistic, using only black and white colours.  My sense of elegance, Hollywood glamour and unusual colour combinations made my label unique.

Where are you currently based?
In London.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
In Hollywood in the 1940's.

Who would you say are your favourite designers + why?
Erte, Edith Head, Colleen Atwood, Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, John Galliano.  I like them mainly because of their approach to their work.  Edith Head was creating gowns according to the needs and enquiries of each actress.  And that's how I work, too.  Dior brought us unforgettable elegant and flattering "New Look", Coco comfortable materials and Galliano is breaking borders between fashion and theatre.

I think it might be fair to state that style is an important part of life - do you agree?
I definitely agree.  Your own style is something you can be recognized for.  Remembered, described, standing out from the long crowd of only followers.

What are the 5 fashion essentials every woman should have in her wardrobe?
Fitted trousers, long sleeved blouse with standing colour, brooch  for the collar, blazer and I would also add as essentials for every woman, quality perfume and lipstick.

Do you have a style icon?
Marlene Dietrich.

How would you describe your personal style?
Elegant, feminine but mixed with items from men's wardrobe.

What's the one thing you simply can't live without?
Red nail polish.

Photography by Miss Aniela.  

Your work has a distinctly theatrical aesehetic.  Is this deliberate on your behalf, or is it subconscious?
It was subconscious from the beginning, but after I realized it my work changed and I would say that I am more Costume Designer than Fashion Designer.  Theatre and film is what I am concentrating on.

What is your favourite fabric to work with + why?
Fabrics for interiors - curtain fabrics.  I love their texture, their strength and recently I've found beautiful and interesting colours and patterns.  I made dresses, skirts or corsets out of them and the result is fantastic!

What is the most interesting + rewarding aspect of your work?
That my work is to make people happy and feel good about what they wear.

You've chosen a challenging industry to work in.  How are you finding it + what's the biggest lesson you've learnt so far?
It's hard and stressful with lots of competitors.  I've learnt that it's important to know what you want, believe in it, and stand for it.  To be sure about your steps.  You have to make others believe in you by showing them your knowledge.   But the biggest lesson I've learnt is that the only person you can really trust and rely on is ONLY YOU!  There are lots and lots of very selfish and fake people around us!

Do you remember the first design you created - if so, what was it?
Yes, I remember.  It was a red pencil skirt I made out of an old cotton fabric I found at home as I didn't have enough money to buy new one.  It was an incredible feeling once I finished it.  I was so proud of my work.  I was 12 years old!

I read somewhere that you also style for many private shoots - are you able to tell us a little about this?
I work as a Stylist for different modelling studios and also for private clients.  It means that anyone who needs help with their own style whether it's a private person, singer or band or in need stylist for a photo shoot, video filming etc can hire me.

Photography by Jon Gee

Do you personally style your fashion shoots + catwalk shows?
Yes, I always do.  While creating an outfit, I am thinking of everything.  What accessories are going with it, what shoes, hair, make up ... it's part of it.  An outfit is not complete for me without all of those details.

How did you get into styling for Toni & Guy?
I stopped once with a friend in one little cute bar in East London for a last drink before going home.  It was already quite late.  There were only a few people in the bar, pretty drunk but very communicative and friendly.  One French boy started to talk to me asking me what I do for a living, etc.  When he found out that I am a designer, he gave me his business card asking me to contact him.  He was one of the best Toni & Guy hair stylists in London.  Two weeks after that we were doing our first photo shoot together.

Which films have you designed costumes for?  How different is it compared to designing for fashion?
Designing for film is very different compared to designing just fashion.  In film the character is the priority.  Even though film is a mixture of fashion, costumes, history ... I worked on a few short movies, videos and TV series like for example 'Armstrong And Miller', 'Jon Culshaw' and I also designed a dress for a film 'Burlesque Fairytales'.

You worked with Vivienne Westwood - is this true?  Please do tell!
It is true.  During my study at college and a bit after my graduation I worked at Vivienne Westwood studio.  I was working closely with the main pattern cutter.  I created patterns and some of them were used for her Gold Label Collection.  It was an amazing experience.  I learnt a lot!  I was also a fitting model and that helped me to see Vivienne in action - I could see how Vivienne is thinking, how she is changing toiles and creating new shapes.

I've just been watching BLACK BEAST on YouTube.  Can you please tell us about the idea behind it?
I've been approached by the director of this video, Bet Orten, to design the costume for this video but also to be the main character.  It was about a crazy girl who wanted to bury herself alive.  Bet wanted to create the contrast between my elegant look and madness.  She wanted me to look as glamorous as possible but behave as made as possible.  The final dress I made was from over 10 metres of black fabric with a huge crinoline underneath and a tight corset.  Having this dress on gives you completely different attitude.  You feel so powerful.  We were shooting in a forest during the most coldest day of the year.  I was so freezing that you can still see my red nose in this video ;)  But it was real fun!

Velvet Cabaret - Pascal Pino

I noticed that you sponsored Velvet Cabaret.  How did that come about?
After I designed staff uniformas for MICCA CLUB in Rome, I wanted to continue collaborating with this club.  I absolutely love MICCA, it's my favourite club ever!  During my stay in Rome, MICCA started a new night called VELVET CABARET which was the idea of the artistic director of MICCA, Alessandro Casella.  I offered him to create costumes for some of the main performers of this cabaret, and for himself.  My promotion helped me to bring customers from different parts of Italy.

You've recently been collaborating with MR PUSTRA for his VILLAINS shows.  His costumes are absolutely stunning!  You've done an amazing job - are you pleased with the end result?  How did you find the experience?
Thank you for your lovely words, Enkha.  Yes, I am very pleased with the result and there is still more to come!  I have been designing and making costumes for MR PUSTRA for over  a year now.  I like his style and very much enjoy his performance.  Because I was working with MICCA CLUB I helped him to perform at VELVET CABARET as his acts were perfect for this cabaret.

MR PUSTRA.  Photography by Oliv

After seeing VILLAINS in London I recommended this show to Alessandro Casella from MICCA CLUB.  And here we are, in a few weeks VILLAINS will be at the TEATRO PALLADIUM in Rome.  It's going to be a fantastic show, with lots of costume changes.

Where can people purchase your gorgeous collections from?
All the details are on my website but I am working mainly for made-to-order clients.

Darling, if you were a cocktail, which would it be?
I don't have one favourite cocktail but I have few favourite bartenders in Rome in the MICCA CLUB and in Sabaudia.  They always make a cocktail especially for me.  It tastes and looks fabulous!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Interview with The Dark Muse of Vaudeville, Mr Pustra

Mr Pustra in Villains
Mr Pustra in Villains 
Dress by Lenka Padysakova.
Image by

I bring to you today an interview with the talent Mr Pustra - Vaudevillian extraodinaire - an interview which I've wanted to do for ages and have finally done. If you haven't already, don't forget to check out my feature on him but now, it is time to sit back, pop your feet up, get some bubbly and see what makes Mr Pustra, well, Mr Pustra!



SBS: You're about to embark on a tour for your show, VILLAINS - are you excited? How long have you been preparing for it, from the concept to end product (set/costumes, etc), and where did the inspiration for VILLAINS come from?

MR PUSTRA: I am excited indeed but many sleepless nights lay ahead. 'Villains' started out as an idea to do a show with only boys in it. I wanted to create a fantasy, a dark tale, a dream world where Mr Pustra could run free and the show just gradually developed and grew. Like mould. 'Villains' started in May of this year as a revue in London. I wasn't sure what I wanted it to be. I knew I wanted to do something theatrical. Cabaret has served me well but I wanted something more, Cabaret is not very satisfying, so a bigger platform is needed. I met a director in Rome last year and he told me: "you need a bigger stage for your art. You're a shark in a small pond and you need to swim in the ocean". He will be involved in 'Villains' so it's a great opportunity to work with him.

Of course, I will marry this man and move to Capri.

SBS: For people who aren't aware of your work, what is your show about?

MR PUSTRA: 'Villains' is an offbeat fairy tale set in different locations: Hungary, Berlin and Coney Island and of course ... Hell. It has a distinctive style and as I am all about the visual, the costumes and content is carefully selected. We are lucky to have this show in Teatro Palladium as it's quite an experimental theatre in Rome. The story has 2 main characters: Mr Pustra and Joe Black. They are very different characters with different layers. It's turning out to be quite autobiographical.

Joe Black.  Image by Scott Chalmers 
Joe Black
Image by Scott Chalmers

SBS: Joe Black is your chosen partner in crime, so was Mr Black a natural choice for you to work with in VILLAINS?

MR PUSTRA: I invited Joe to come do the London show with me as I thought we would complement each other and it would be interesting to see two strange boys, with the same 'look' on stage.

Mr Pustra + Joe Black in Villains.  Image courtesy
Mr Pustra + Joe Black
in Villains. 
Image courtesy

SBS: Your VILLAINS show will be in Rome on 1st + 2nd February 2011 at the Teatro Palladium. Why did you decide to take your show to Italy?

MR PUSTRA: The promoters approached me while I was in Hong Kong on vacation as they had two dates available in Teatro Palladium. I worked with them before and they knew of what I did and wanted to stage a show in a theatre rather than in a 'cabaret' space. So here we are.

SBS: How would you describe your journey into the world of Vaudeville?

MR PUSTRA: I come from a musical theatre background but never quite 'fitted' or made it into mainstream musicals. (Obviously). The parts of men were either too 'butch' or too specific and I just couldn't see myself in any of the shows around. I gave up on auditioning as I was getting nowhere and drifted for a few years doing shit soulless jobs. About 5 years ago, a friend and I formed a double act called PUSTRA/VILE-EEN, as you know, and our love for comedy and the absurd just took over. Vaudeville was then still an unknown term as it was all about the Neo-Burlesque scene that exploded in London. Now, every venue or artist calls themselves a Vaudevillian. It is funny.

SBS: What particularly inspires you about the dark, melancholic side of Vaudeville?

MR PUSTRA: I am attracted to the darker side of theatre and life in general and I have always been a melancholic person. That interest has nothing to do with Vaudeville really, but just how I want to express myself as an artist and what I want to communicate to other people. So I am using Vaudeville as my platform. I have a special affinity with the downtrodden, misfits and the lonely souls out there. I am my own person and don't fit into the various 'cliques' of the London Cabaret scene. I don't lick anyone's arse and I follow my own path.

SBS: Does Vaudeville's Darkest Muse have a muse of his own?

MR PUSTRA: Klaus Nomi, Anita Berber, Claude Cahun, Andy Warhol, Edith Piaf, Coco Chanel, Toulouse-Lautrec, Tennessee Williams, Poppy Z. Brite, Elvira and Depeche Mode. The list is infinite.

SBS: How would you describe yourself + your style?

MR PUSTRA: I am complicated. I have a strong work ethic which can cause a lot of frustration for myself as I don't find that in most people I work with. I understand everyone works at their own pace, but it gets on my tits when people are lazy and just rude or want to be famous for doing nothing. Work for it.

My style varies. I love fashion and love to experiment. I love Gareth Pugh and Vivienne Westwood. I would love to use more fashion in my performance work. I love edgy looks; Weimer Berlin is a big part of my style, Circus, Vintage, and even New Romantic styles. I love looking at Haute Couture. I don't like Lady Gaga btw, she annoys me.

SBS: Your aesthetic is repeatedly likened to Tim Burton - do you think this is a fair analysis?

MR PUSTRA: Yes. It was a calculated move on my part - my style is evolving constantly and I am attracted to his work as film is my favourite mistress. I want to work with him - he should do a Pustra animation.

Anita Berber.  Image courtesy
Anita Berber
Image courtesy

SBS: You seem quite natural and uninhibited on stage. How easy is it for you to become Mr Pustra? Which aspects of his persona do you relate to the most?

MR PUSTRA: Oh, nothing came natural to me. I had many inhibitions to overcome, hence my admiration for Anita Berber. She just didn't give a shit and I like that. When I was about 19, I went to a fortune teller in London to have a tarot reading done and she told me Showbiz is not the career for me; I am too sensitive and weak. I had to face this at college and only in my second year I blossomed. I wanted to give up as I struggled like hell. I felt stupid. Even then I was very determined with a clear mindset of what I wanted to do. I wrote my own little show after leave college and had no support from them as I wouldn't submit or conform to their mold. I didn't want to be 'produced' by them.

SBS: Which performers of the 1920s + 1930s inspire you in your work, and why?

MR PUSTRA: Anita Berber: she pushed people's buttons and was very forward thinking. I love that she exposed herself in hotel lobbies looking great in fur with her pet monkey. How fabulous! Oh, and Josephine Baker. What a story she had.

SBS: You have quite an underground following. Do you find that you have 'regulars' frequenting your shows, and if so, how as an artist and performer does this make you feel?

MR PUSTRA: I think I have a 'small' following, I think a lot of people are unsure of me and don't know how to 'label' me. I get many emails from people all over the world telling me they really appreciate my art and 'get' the emotion in what I do. Joe (Black) tells me I need to be more specific as people don't know what I am about: I am a performer and that can mean many different things to different people. I try to be an all-round artist: Fine Art, video, performance and writing. After a show, I do get really shy or uncomfortable with compliments or praise. I tend to hide backstage. It's weird. We were in Dublin a few weeks ago for 'Villains' and people were really kind and showered us with admiration. So, I don't think I will cope well with fame. I just want success.

Success I have earned by working hard. But I guess the two go hand in hand?

SBS: Do you design your own costumes, or do you have them commissioned?

MR PUSTRA: I source different items and style myself. When you have no money you learn how to do that. I have also learnt to make may own props and customising various costumes.

Lenka Padysakova + Mr Pustra.  Image courtesy
Lenka Padysakova + Mr Pustra
Image courtesy

SBS: Lenka Padysakova created your costumes for VILLAINS. How did that come about?

MR PUSTRA: We met in Rome last year and I wore some of her garments for a photoshoot. We stayed in touch and developed a friendship. She supports what I do and wanted to create some costumes for me in 'Villains'.

Mr Pustra + Adam Ant.  Image courtesy
Mr Pustra + Adam Ant
Image courtesy

SBS: I read somewhere that 80s music icon, Adam Ant came along to your show and loved it. How did you feel about meeting him?

MR PUSTRA: I was quite embarrassed and flattered - I was introduced to him when he arrived at the club and then was given the green light to perform. I met him afterwards briefly and heard later he liked my act and wanted to book me for his show. But of course, that never happened. That's showbiz!

SBS: You recently produced a video for avant garde fashion designer, Marko Mitanovski. How did that come about? How did you find the experience?

MR PUSTRA: I was asked by my friend, Nina Butkovich-Budden, who runs a salon in London. She knew Marko and loved my video work and is very supportive of me. I was thrilled to do it as Marko's designs are amazing and right up my street. The video did a lot for my self-confidence and I loved directing and editing. So it was a very positive experience to be part of a great designer like Marko's rise to fame. I am planning to film showreels next year and start a small business. The day job on the side thing.

SBS: Next year you'll be appearing at Coney Island, New York. Will this be your first time in the States? Why did you choose Coney Island? A short US tour will follow - when will this take place, and which cities will you be including in your tour?

MR PUSTRA: I was invited by Dick Zigun who runs the Sideshows by The Seashore to come play the Musical Saw in some event. My other interest is of course Circus/Freak Shows and to be part of the legendary Coney Island is just a dream come true. I am still working our the details for the rest of my trip, but it may include Washington DC and more dates in Manhattan. Hopefully LA as well. Stay tuned.

SBS: Your fan base is global. Is there anywhere in the world you'd like to tour which you haven't already, and do you think you would pop down to Australia at some point in the near future?

MR PUSTRA: I have a global fan base?

Mr Pustra
Breeches by Lenka Padysakova.
Image by Matilda Temperley

SBS: If you had your time again, what would you do differently?

MR PUSTRA: Made an effort in dance class. I really admire dancers.






More Fashion Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...