INFORMATION ABOUT THE DESIGNER - KAREN VON OPPEN
Professional Studio Name & Website: KvO Design
Any Special Information for prospective clients: Happily accepting commissions, offering rentals and selling through my Etsy store: www.kvodesign.etsy.com
Tell us about yourself.
I was very fortunate to have parents who encouraged my creative side and supported my passion to become an artist. At the age of 20, after two years at The Center for Creatives Studies, I escaped Detroit and moved to New York's Lower East Side where I studied at Parson's School of Design. My degree is in fine art and illustration, but my weapon of choice actually turned out to be fashion.
Q. What do you design?
Women's clothing, corsets, costumes, accessories – pretty much anything alternative, unconventional, left of center and dramatic. I embrace the idea of any finery that will enhance the way you feel about yourself, whether you're living out a fetish fantasy, making a sub-cultural statement, or stepping out for an elegant evening.
Q. Where did you learn to design?
I'm self taught as a fashion designer. My training in fine art honed my eye for design and my studies of anatomy and the human body help to give me more intuitive insight into pattern making and draping. Clothing is actually more akin to sculpture to me, especially when it comes to something like corsetry, because I approach it from a more 3-dimensional perspective.
Q. What inspires you about your design work?
I love the ability of clothing and fashion to be empowering. I want every woman out there to feel her most confident, beautiful and strong - I'm always honored to be asked to bring out that feeling in my clients. I'm self taught as a fashion designer. My training in fine art honed my eye for design and my studies of anatomy and the human body help to give me more intuitive insight into pattern making and draping.
Q. Tell us about your greatest Challenge.
I was commissioned a few years ago to create a pageant gown for a Miss New Hampshire hopeful. At first, I thought that would be my worst nightmare but it turned out she wanted something elegant, classy, and, well, not anything like the typical tacky pageant gowns you see on the stage. I got excited about the prospect of a sophisticated gown, took on the challenge, and then quite literally squealed with delight when my client actually won the evening gown competition!
Q. Advertising often uses the word "Brand". Everyone actually has a "brand" – it's what they stand for in their profession; it's a "promise" that they deliver through their products, designs or services. If you have a "brand" or you imagine yourself having one, where do you see your "brand"evolving to over the next 5 years?
There is a void in the ready to wear market for women in the workplace who want more expression in their clothing. My vision is to fill that void by blending the edgy sophistication of my couture with the everyday world!
Q. Tell us about something that is unique about your design style and brand.
My designs celebrate fantasy and romance for free spirits who are not afraid to come out and play.
Q. What did you do before you became a designer?
I've been designing clothes since I was a teenager, even through my years at art school, so it's pretty much what I've always done.
Q. Besides "Erotica", what is your favorite thing to design?
I think nearly everything I do is sexy in one way or another – it's who I am. It's an integral part of my process, so it's always there.
Q. Who is/are other designers you admire?
The usual suspects, of course, like Alexander McQueen, Gaultier and some of the classic masters of theatrical drama like Mackie and Capucci's late-in-life sculptural dresses... but also many illustrators like Luis Royo, Erte, Beardsley and Alistair. I've had a fantasy for years of executing Erte's beautiful adornments for exhibit, or collaborating with Royo to actually bring his provocative women to life...
Q. What do you find is the hardest technical thing about your design work?
Marketing and administration. I'm so right-brained that those aspects of the business are difficult for me. My books are a mess, I have social network accounts all over I can't keep up with, and even my website needs updating. I need to clone myself with some left-brain skills!
Q. If you would like to share, please tell us about the type of equipment, design materials, suppliers and processes you use to create your designs?
I once had a small factory in Brooklyn, so in my garage are several industrial sewing machines I would love to someday set up again. Meanwhile I'm currently working out of a small studio with two industrials, two home machines, a butcher block table for cutting leather, an additional small room I call "the annex" - but is really the breezeway between the house and the garage with no heat and no cooling – and an adorable dog who wants nothing more than to sit in my lap while I sew.
Q. What is it about your designs that you believe stands out?
I think how I design each piece is one aspect of what sets me apart. In my custom work, I tailor each piece to the client herself, and this allows me to really rock the details. What also stands out is the meticulous fit and fabrication of my work. In my line of ready made pieces, my customers all know that they can count on that same level of love and commitment.
Q. Where you get your creative inspiration?
From everything – from the streets, from nature, from history, from within.... ideas and inspiration come from everywhere for me.
Q. What was your worst client experience?
I have only one – and the client was me if that counts!
I once made myself a pair of really kick-ass leather pants, wore them out to clubs, got great compliments and then foolishly loaned them to one of my more well-endowed male friends. Not having been aware of this little fact when I loaned them, you can imagine my horror when I got them back, put them on and then looked in the mirror. He received one helluva birthday gift that year.
Q. What was your best client experience?
Ah, well, I don't know that I have a best experience, but I do have a best client. I have a wonderful customer I've been working with for over 10 years who surprises his wife every year with custom made designs he and I have worked on together for months. He packs her suitcase full of sexy new clothes and then takes her on a romantic vacation. She never knows what she's going to wear that week until she opens her luggage. I love that.
Q. Is there anything special you would like to tell us about yourself, your erotic fashion designs or products, your profession, or your career?
I'd like to add that I do rent out some of my items for shoots and events, if anyone needs something short term (and without the investment!) Recent photoshoots of my wares can be seen on my Model Mayhem profile at http://www.modelmayhem.com/517512 and you can either contact me through the site or directly through one of my email addresses:
Any custom requests or inquiries can be sent to me via email or through my Etsy store at www.kvodesign.etsy.com
Q. Is there any advice you would like to share for prospective "erotic" fashion or product designers, prospective models, or photographers that might help them in their career?
Be good at your craft, because if you're not, it shows.
Find good people to surround yourself with.
Photographers and models are always looking for awesome fashions to shoot, and as a designer, you're in a wonderful position to form productive symbiotic relationships with them.
Get a print portfolio together, get your name out there, get on Model Mayhem to hook up with other creatives and post pics all over the social networks. Open a store on Etsy. Look for fashion shows to showcase your designs. There are always events looking for new designers and shows looking for vendors to sell their wares. Be original, respect other's designs and no matter what you do, always be true to yourself, even when you're creating a client's vision. Remember, they came to you because you are you.
Q. If you had to pick an image of one design, photograph, painting or piece of art to look at for the rest of your life, what would it be? If you would like to post it, please note it here:
Almost anything by Gustav Klimt.
Q. What is your best "Erotic" fashion design or product? If you would like to post it, please paste it here.*
There was one special white lambskin ensemble that I've always loved. It was a client commission, so I only have a photo of it on a dress form, but here it is. The corset is a full over-bust; a tight lacing corset with detachable cups, and the chains on the collar are all removable. It's not just uber-sexy, it's a really practical piece of clothing!
Thank You Karen.
Wow! As we say at FashionErotica, "Women Dress to Undress".
This is one number that would inspire one to be undressed - ehem - one little tiny piece at a time - oh what fun!!
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