Thursday 23 June 2016

Interview with Kim Khaos Exotic Ecdysiast

Photo: Kim Khaos by Mark Liddell Photography. Featuring Grace robe, tear away set

To add another installment of burlesque costume goodness I would like to introduce you all to burlesque performer Kim Khaos.

Blue tear away bra for Innocence Bliss
Kim Khaos is a shimmy shakin', heartbreakin' bump n grinder based in Glasgow. Her performance style is heavily influenced by the golden era of burlesque and has a strong exotica flavour. Kim is also an accomplished sideshow performer specialising in glass performances, earning her the tag line 'The Glass Girl of Glasgow'. In addition to her performance skills, Kim launched her costuming business Exotic Ecdysiast in February 2016. Her costumes have travelled all around the world, from London and Paris to New Orleans and India. Her costumes have a very distinctive look and have been styled and inspired around vintage burlesque wear.

Exotic Ecdysiast by Kim Khaos provides traditional and vintage style burlesque costume to the modern age!

I have interviewed Kim about her business and here is what she had to say…

What is your background in garment construction and/or design and/or ornamentation? How long have you been costuming for?

I started my business Exotic Ecdysiast in February of this year, but I have been making my own costumes and taking commissions from performers in the local area since I started performing in 2012

How did you become involved in burlesque/stage costuming?

I quickly realised when I started performing that my sewing skills would be very useful within the industry! I've always loved making things, so burlesque gave me a fantastic opportunity to make all kinds of accessories for myself and others. 

What are some of the challenges of burlesque/stage costuming?

Molly Teaser in pink bespoke tear away
set and panel skirt.
Making burlesque costumes is a lot more involved than any other kind of stage wear, partly due to the fastenings and fit. Every piece needs to fit perfectly and be able to come off as easily as it comes on, so there's a lot of extra thought that needs to go into the construction and shaping of each piece.

Describe some of your favourite projects?

I recently made a nude illusion full costume for a lovely client, and it was one of those rare occasions where everything just came together really quickly and easily! The end result was just beautiful - really delicate and exactly as we had both envisaged it - a real joy to work on.

Which performers can we see wearing some of your work?

Since EE launched I have made pieces for: Innocence Bliss, The Death Do Us Part Danger Show, Ruby Trix, Babette Bijou, Luna TikTok, Peachy Malone, Molly Teaser, Volcanic Ash and Cara Delahoyde (Cirque le Soir)

Who would you love to make a costume for?

I would *love* to make a costume for Trixie Little! She is one of my absolute favourite performers and her costumes are always so clever and inventive.

Have you always had a design in your head that you would like to fulfil?

This changes almost daily! I can never switch my brain off, so sometimes just seeing a piece of trim or a specific colour can set my mind racing! At the moment, I'm pretty fixated on making one of my Grace robes in a rich maroon velvet trimmed with black coque feathers - I'll let myself make it once I've gotten to the bottom of my never ending to-make list!

Photo: Kim Khaos by Mark Liddell Photography.
Featuring nude illusion set
What aspect of costume making do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy working with my clients to design and create their ideal costume pieces - sometimes this can be challenging (getting certain kinds of trims and fabrics in the UK can be tricky!), but it's always worth it in the end when the pieces are sent off to happy customers!

If a new performer was looking to get a costume commissioned/constructed, what should they consider?

Definitely consider how to use costume to make your act pop! For example: lots of fringing on a bra can add serious impact to a shimmy/bump n grind style act. Another thing I would suggest is investing in multi-use pieces - costuming can get really costly, especially when you're just getting started, so I would say investing in a really beautiful and well fitted set that you can use for a couple of acts while you're finding your feet will serve you well. 

What difference would a new performer find from off the rack to commissioned pieces?

Commissioned pieces will more often than not fit a lot better than off the rack pieces, which makes a huge difference to the overall look of a costume/act. My most popular item (embellished tear away bra/thong set) is made to measure for every customer, because especially with the bras, if the sizing is wrong for the wearer, it can totally destroy the look of the costume, and more than anything, it's just really uncomfortable to wear!

Peachy Malone wearing purple Grace robe.
Photo by Red Bairn Photography
All costumiers tend to have a style of costume/way of making or presenting their work. Can you describe what you think makes an obvious Exotic Ecdysiast piece?

Sparkle and swish! Two of my favourite elements to work with in my designs - I love making the big swooshy Grace gowns, just due to the drama a twirl can create; and making rhinestone encrusted sets brings me so much happiness! Who doesn't love a sparkly showgirl?

Do you do courses at all from pastie making, general repairs, how to embellish/crystal, etc or do you save you skills for your own work?

I am in talks with the wonderful folk at the Glasgow Festival of Burlesque at the moment about potentially running an embellishment workshop at the festival in November - I'm still working everything out, but details will be published on their website once we've got everything confirmed - I'm really excited about sharing the sparkle love!

What would you consider important performer must have items?

First and foremost, a good pair of strong fishnet tights (my preferred brand are Capezio), matching lingerie that makes you feel unstoppably fabulous and a gorgeous pair of pasties/tassels. Nothing can stop you with that kind of kit!

Sassy La Showdoll in robe embellished by
Exotic Ecdysiast

How long on average does it take to make a costume?

It entirely depends on what the client has asked for - I tend to say most pieces take around two weeks to make, but entire costumes can take up to a month if there are multiple layers to be made and trims arriving from all around the world! 

What are you most asked for/popular items?

Gowns and tear away sets, definitely! I've added a new option to my Etsy store to incorporate alternative designs and colours for the sets, because I was getting multiple custom orders for different colours! 

How should a performer care for their costumes?

Gently handwashing anything embellished is a must! Delicate rhinestoned knickers don't like the washing machine. Gowns and dresses, I would recommend getting dry cleaned just to be on the safe side. As long as you look after your costumes, they'll look after you!

What would you like to experience in your creativity and/or your business in the near future?

I would love to continue to grow and start taking stalls at shows and events outside of Glasgow and showcasing my work to the wider burlesque community. I recently shot a look book of my basic staple pieces with the wonderful Mark Liddell Photography and I'm in the process of getting them printed to showcase my work. 

What are your long term plans for Exotic Ecdysiast business?

Cara Delahoyde wearing crystal tear away set
Long term plans include expanding my whole range on Etsy and branching out into creating some different styles of pieces. I am also looking into getting stocked in some physical locations within Glasgow too, which would be amazing!
I would like to thank Kim for her time with this interview. For more about Kim be sure to check her out via the below:

Stay tuned for more burlesque posts coming soon!


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