Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up your own costume shop? Gavin: What was it like for you getting set up and opening your business up to the public? Jen: A good experience, mostly.
I had to move it out of my house and downtown in when things just got too crowded there. I was using super-heavy-duty polyester fabric and the cat hair would literally fly across the cutting table to cling to it. It was simply time to find a public space.
In our space downtown, we are an animal-free, smoke-free shop, which matters professionally, especially to people with allergies. Our shop downtown was located in a second-floor loft for a number of years, then we expanded and moved it downstairs into a storefront two years ago when a space opened up. Gavin: One of the primary focuses of your designs is in corsets and tightlacing. What made you choose that specific type of fashion designing as your centerpiece? Jen: It was kind of a fluke at the beginning that led to a discovery.
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There were people looking for this service and it became obvious that Salt Lake was ready for a real corset shop. It just seemed I was the person who could or should make it happen. I had the experience, the equipment, and the tenacity to do something ballsy and ridiculous and do it right. Anyway, my shop makes the best. Real ones, with real steels, real grommets, real attention to perfect custom fit and details. Oh and did I mention we have custom order layaway?
Gavin: For you, what's the process like in creating a new costume, from design to final product? The client, my crew and I are creative partners. We ask clients to bring in their own clipping file, to collect pictures of what they want. We take measurements. I create sketches and renderings to show how all the elements fit together, calculate the yardage requirements and develop a bid for individual pieces, usually based on a per-yard labor rate.
The client gets to look at our fabrics and select from them. I love it when I get to develop new patterns. That is never boring. Gavin: As well as corsets you also have full costumes, masks, jewelry and more. What made you decide to expand the business and how has it worked out for you? Jen: My creative partners and I at one time thought that the boutique part of our shop needed to have something for everyone, so we accepted lots of consignment items, used costumes, collectibles, etc. Last month, I decided that it all has to go, and it has.
There was nowhere for the eye to rest in our boutique. As we continue with our remodeling, we will be showcasing the work that our own crew makes, then adding our guest artists back into the boutique very selectively.
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The criteria will definitely be related to genre, articulation, quality craftsmanship and appeal of their items. I need to mention the specialties and talents of our resident artists here. Mel B. Jones is a fantastic jewelry and assemblage designer plus an outstanding graphic designer. Melissa Welinsky is a gifted designer whose felted wool, crochet and upcycled creations are sumptuous and inspiring.
We have also Tony and Lyra, who have busy schedules but come in periodically to pinch hit. Tony loves making gowns. Big ones. He loves wearing them, too. Lyra is a painting and sculpture major at the U and has also completed corset apprenticeship with me. She is one competent corset maker as well as an innovator when it comes to wearable art and sculptural clothing. Gavin: Over the years, what's been your most favorite custom design to make for someone?
The design went through a few evolutions and the stakes seemed to really matter. Go figure. Anyway, it was so cool to see how a company would naturally, publicly stand behind its production decisions. The shit even flew a little after a couple of critics cringed and a Facebook flamewar erupted, that naturally, I incited.
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That reefer orgy is a really sexy number, and I loved the discourse, stakes and controversy around it maybe as much as I loved making costumes for Dark Horse and that musical. But I digress. This whole outfit is so gorgeous and in such beautiful fall colors and unexpected tones, even the corset and underwear! My least favorite items to make are black corsets, which clients ask for regularly. Someone please pass the Prozac! Gavin: Some other services people might not be aware of is that you also do props and slip covers, as well as production services.
How did you get into doing that? Because of the diversity of our design work here and extended network of artists, our activities segue nicely into talent management and event production, which I also do and love. I have such a great community of talented friends, performers, directors, choreographers, visual and 3D artists and other creative types. Providing referrals for them and booking them for events that we stage ourselves or coordinate for others is a part of life here.
Gavin: What kind of work do you do with the theatre productions in our area, and what plays have your designs been featured in? These include the steampunk crowd, burners, goths, fairies, Victorians, themed wedding parties, the Girl Scouts of America, the Higher Ground Learning kids at fashion camp, the Furries, the Dandies, the BDSM and leather crowd, the Lolitas, the re-enactors, the trannies, the closet cross-dressers, the secret superheroes and many more than I can possibly describe.
It is a really rich ecosystem out there! Gavin: What's it like for you personally to see someone in one of your pieces? Very satisfying. Gavin: How did the opportunity come about to move into Pierpont, and how has it been for you taking over the new space downstairs?
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Jen: I moved the shop to Pierpont about seven or eight years ago. The cat fur at my house and the polyester tuxedo for the sumo wrestling suit I described to you earlier Our neighbor, Lindsey, closed her frame shop and gallery when the sidewalk out front collapsed several years ago and was blocked entirely then under reconstruction for far too many months under the aloof management of ArtSpace, which still leased the entire building at that time. It must be force of habit. We try to keep them entertained with something new every month. New art in our gallery, new costumes and work-in-progress in the boutique, plus we have a disco ball!
Gavin: You've also been a major participant in fashion events around the state. How is it for you going out with your work and showing off along side other local designers? Jen: If I do decide to participate in an any given event, I have to make a huge personal commitment because I have a need to visually dominate the space. That means I have to design more fashions, bigger fashions, cooler fashions, unexpected fashions.
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