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Kathleen Marie Interview

Kathleen Marie Interview

New York is one of the major fashion capitals of the world, it’s not surprising then that even the alternative designers there are trying to take a slice of that big apple. I always find it interesting when ambition drives people to seek an “alternative mainstream”, aiming to keep some semblance of integrity yet still see their name in lights and reflecting in glossy magazines. Kathleen Marie seems to stalk these aspirations; describing her customers as ranging from “angsty alternative teens to opera houses” she gives a nod to the pole opposites the media relishes in portraying: the vampy teen suicides and the polished avant-garde. Such artisans are in a perfect position as the modern world becomes more accepting and intrigued with the underground lifestyles. Kathleen being mostly self taught has certainly built her skill set from meagre beginnings so it’ll be interesting to watch and see if her designs, as she so desires, make it in front of that garden of camera bulbs and into the wilds of high fashion. After all, she likens herself to Vivien Westwood which is a brave comparison to make…

Q: You are both wigmarker and designer and indeed an artist on canvass too. How do you find all these skills work together and play off each other?
A: I am an artist first and foremost. I design (and usually make myself) material things ( ie: wigs, gowns etc..) to help my vision exist in the third dimension…Thus giving it a tangible living quality. I have my own reality that I need to live in.

Q: You also have an interest in dolls, what is it about them that fascinates you?
A: Dolls are another expression of the human form, which best suits (some of) my creative expressions.
I am enamored with the grace and elegance of the human form, as well as the interesting aspects
of the human condition (sentience, emotions, reactions, addictions, etc..)

Q: Which creative pursuit came first and which holds your deepest love?
A: I started drawing as a child, and have continued to do so. Only now I make the drawings come to life…. I am HIGHLY influenced by music. I LOVE doing shows (fashion or vignettes). There is theatricality in the moving image I adore but it is all so fleeting. And it is very consuming and expensive to undertake..
I would love to do a fine art exhibit with models in gowns, paintings and music that marries all the appropriate aesthetics.

Q: Your style lies decidedly in late Baroque/Rococo periods, what is it about that period in history that particularly appeals to you?
A: I admire the baroque period because of its “grand theater of life” aspect. Religious iconography was given such florid, impressive treatment… I like the idea of everything I do taking on this quality….

Q: If you could dress any character from that period (bar the obvious Marie Antoinette) who would it be, why and how would you choose to adorn them?
A: I would choose the Chevalier D’Eon. I would dress him/her like the glorious dandy/drag queen/fabulous fashionista that (s)he should have been (and using Rose Bertin, the Rococo dressmaker to the stars to sew everything.)

Q: The Rococo period was all about opulence and decadence. What’s the most decadent thing you’ve ever done?
A: I have a very impressively impulsive artistic nature, so I can be rather decadent… Lately, it was being soooooooo inspired (by a particular dress actually) at the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the met I bought 100 or so yards of antique cream organdy to build a gown.

Q: Are there any other influences which you would say also creep into your work?
A: Punk rock-anti establishment themes… I HATE being pigeon-holed, put in a box, about anything…
a little Dickensian fiction, a sprinkle Gothic Lolita, Anarchy in the UK, a touch of Victorian malaise, DIY Death Rock, Elvis Presley pomp and circumstance, and you have ME and my work…. ;)

Q: How do you construct your wigs, from scratch or do you restyle ready-made wigs?
A: I “style” and “build” off of wig blanks.

Q: What are your favourite materials to work with and why?
A: I love oil painting and pastels for drawing… for fabrics: love VELVET especially French velvet, and French lace. A good brocade I have never turned down…. Quality materials are an absolute MUST.

Q: How would you describe your own personal style, the clothing you can most often be found in.
A: My personal style can’t be categories. I recently shaved the sides of my head.. ala old school death rock style. I mix a lot of vintage with new designer things… I liken myself to Vivienne Westward: eccentric, eclectic, with a whole different category of style…

Q: What is your opinion of the fashion of today?
A: Fashion today… this is the million dollar question… I am quite burned out with it presently. After spending over a decade in the NYC fashion arena, I can say it is REALLY about money money money and a side order of celebrity. There are those of us, who are real artists, with unique and (often very skilled) interesting viewpoints… but lack the social circle or celebrity to keep the funding going… It is VERY VERY difficult. SAFE is a very prominent word in the NY garment center. In America in general actually. If a TRUE artist like Christian Lacroix can lose his fashion line… and obviously McQueen was sooo depressed and felt alone…., and Galliano was most probably framed… It is true we are in some very very dark times. ( I consider these three the best of the best designers of late.) It is a playground of the rich that looks to the underground for authentic inspiration. It is a love/hate relationship I have, with fashion obviously.

I have a very intense love affair with fashion editorial. I am not interested in “day to day” reality or the clothes you need to wear in it. I want the grand gestures..and I want to bring them into “real life”. Whatever “real life” means.
In particular what is your opinion of male fashion in general and how it contrasts to historical fashion.
Male fashion exists almost exclusively on the runways (except for the gay population, which are always a step, or a few, ahead!!). I am a huge proponent of equal aesthetic value given between males and females. ALL people look better with makeup, for example….

Q: Why do you think the alternative underground scenes such as Goth have embraced period fashion in the way that it has?
A: I don’t think Goth is ‘underground’ anymore… that being said… in Europe, it is a drawing to a more polite aristocratic, chivalric system. It makes visual and aesthetic sense, the black Rococo gowns, mourning a bygone romantic era…. here in the US, we aren’t so sympathetically romantic, and SERIOUSLY unfortunate cross-cultures happen. I never understood the rave- trend with the vampire fangs, for example… they are called ‘fangbangers’ here… although you don’t see it too much anymore.
those big wide leg pants, with tons of straps, glow in the dark anything…usually a plethora of piercings, and hair extensions ( which also probably glow in the dark) AND fangs… Yikes.

Q: Describe the ideal setting for your clothes to be worn, it can be any occasion and place in the world.
A: At London Fashion Week to a Vivienne Westwood show. At a John Paul Gaultier couture show in Paris, at the annual Met Costume Gala, or a Saatchi and Saatchi art opening in London… all attracting a lot of press coverage!!!

Q: If you could outlaw one piece of clothing what would it be and why?
A: Spandex added to textiles. This equates to the adage “if it stretches to fit, it must be a correct fit!”
Most of the world has become an eyesore in too-tight clothing!!

Q: What does the future hold for you?

A: I am dying to work with Pete Burns!…I think him and I would be a very interesting team.! I admire his spirit so much and to stage a fabulous shoot with him.. I have the perfect idea of what I would make for him…! Making about 4 -6 couture dresses a year, staging elaborate photo sets for them, and then painting a series of works relating to them in a full narrative spectrum. A side of doll work ( if time allows).A pair of French bulldogs. Several tattoos

Published in Devolution Magazine