This month @primpmycostume speaks with the multi-talented Louise Holland.
Louise has worked to become London’s most sought-after (and impeccably dressed) Burlesque stage manager. She runs her own Doo-Wop singing troupe ‘The Hey Las’ and has recently launched a design brand @hollandandhussein with Nadia Hussein. You may have seen her recent work in Eliza Delite’s fabulous re-vamped Ziegfeld Girl act.
Charlotte Pacelli (CP): You have been a central figure on the cabaret circuit and worked with such a variety of performers now. Can you remember a particular production that really stood out to you in relation to costumes?
Louise Holland (LH): I have been involved in the cabaret scene for more than 10 years now and have worked at many different shows and events with a huge variety of performers. I’d say production-wise, the @Sublimeboudoir shows have probably stood out the most in relation to costume. They’ve always been in incredible locations, with fabulous sets and props, and with the most incredible talented performers. I’ve been involved with stage managing their shows from the very beginning, starting in Amsterdam in 2012, London in 2013, New York in 2-17 and New Orleans in 2019.
I think the most beautiful and spectacular costume I’ve seen is the beautiful @missbetsyrose’s Firebird costume that was created by the incredible costumier @Saret_costantini for the Sublime Boudoir show in New Orleans in 2018. I’ve always taken great care with my own appearance and costume when stage managing a show. Sublime Boudoir are the only production who have given me any budget to create my own look for the show too!
CP: I know that you trained in fashion and I’d love to hear about how your journey progressed to you becoming London’s ‘go to’ stage manager?
LH: I wanted to be a fashion designer from the age of ten, I completed my fashion degree in 2000 and worked in a design office for ten years as a designer, going on to become Head of Design. I am currently still working as a fashion and textiles designer; now freelancing for the past six years. During this time my twin sister and I decided to form our double act, Twin and Tonic and were singing old swing classics with our band.
I made a couple of our costumes and sourced vintage outfits for us. We performed at a few different cabaret and burlesque events and then also started working as stage kittens at Burlesque shows. Karen then left the bright lights of cabaret to focus on being a mother, whilst I continued on becoming a stage manager. So throughout my design career I have worked in cabaret alongside my design work.
LH: I got married last year, 29th June 2019 and I’d always thought that I would probably make my own wedding dress, it’s the only way I can guarantee to end up with exactly what I wanted. I’d done a little research looking at different styles and I wanted something that was vintage style, elegant but also quite grand. Then I needed to make it!
Six months before the wedding family and friends started to ask if I’d started it yet. I thought, Hey! I’ve got loads on time! Three months before the wedding, same questions. I was thinking I should start it soon but still, there’s plenty of time! One month before the wedding, again “so don’t you think you should start making it!?” At this point I really knew I should start but there were three factors stopping me:
1) I didn’t have the funds to buy 10 metres of silk duchess satin
2) I’d suddenly become really busy with freelance design work
3) One week before the wedding I had also agreed to perform at @therrclub (My favourite Lynchian cabaret show that I usually stage manage) with my DooWop band - @theheylas. We’d created a new Twin Peaks (Candie, Mandie and Sandie) act, so of course needed new costumes for that. So I ended up making three new dresses!
[caption id="attachment_3569" align="aligncenter" width="359"] ©Paula Harrowing[/caption]
Finally, on 25th June 2019, four days before the wedding, I eventually managed to start working on the wedding dress (this brings me out in a cold sweat). I worked on cutting the pattern and making the toile out of calico, the complicated part was draping the pleated bodice on the stand and getting that to sit just right. I then went to Berwick Street in Soho to purchase 10 metres of silk Duchesse satin and also many metres of lightweight tulle for the veil.
I cut the pieces and sewed them together (I wanted to have a nice long train on the dress) but realised that ten metres was not quite enough for the pattern that I’d made. I had a few minutes of panicking but there was no way I was going to compromise on the style! With a little bit of create cutting I managed to complete the final train panel out of two pieces instead of one. Fortunately, it worked and nobody noticed. One day before the wedding I was hand stitching the hem and finished it by lunch time the day before the big day.
CP: Which performer are you always excited to see what they come up with next for a costume and why?
LH: @mlle_vicky_butterfly is one of my favourite performers. Her costumes are always exquisite and have usually been made personally. Her style is unique to her and is always breath-taking. I first came across Vicky when my twin sister and I hired her to perform at our 30th birthday party over twelve years ago and since then have had the pleasure of working with her many times.
When we organised our 40th Birthday party two years ago, we knew that we had to have her back to perform and, being a sci-fi themed party, her “Blade Runner, Night Flowers” act with beautiful LED light wings was perfect! Last year I was so happy to have her perform at my wedding with her beautiful Swan Bride act.[caption id="attachment_3572" align="aligncenter" width="727"] ©Soulstealer[/caption]
CP: What advice would you give to newer performers reading this that are looking to create their next costume but are aiming for something new and original, rather than following current trends?
LH: I think it’s important for a performer to find a style, look and theme that means something personally to them. Give it your own unique twist, that way you will stand out and get noticed.
CP: You have recently started up a new design venture with Nadia Hussein - Holland and Hussein - costumiers for stage and screen/ bespoke bridal wear. To finish off, tell us a little more about how this came about and what you’ve been working on.
It’s only recently that I have started actually making costumes for performers, as my design work has always been something I’ve done in the background. I think it’s only when people saw my wedding dress that they realised I had these skills. Since then I have started to get commissions in from performers. It’s a bit like everything’s come full circle and both my fashion and cabaret career have joined together, which is something that I find very exciting!
I was so happy to be recently commissioned to make @elizadelite’s Zeigfeld Girl costume. I worked together with Eliza and the amazingly talented milliner, @fernberreen who made the star headdress, back piece and wrist pieces, whilst I worked on the white chiffon draped gown. It was a challenge but one that I really enjoyed making and am so pleased with the results![caption id="attachment_3567" align="aligncenter" width="401"] ©Grace Elkin[/caption]
CP: Louise also runs a London Independent Ladieswear range called Maitresse Clothing, that will be launching in the future. Make sure you give them a follow. I’m waiting in that queue for one of her gorgeous pussy-bow shirts!
Big thanks to Louise for such an in-depth look into her fascinating career. I have a sneaky suspicion she’ll be dressing all the biggest names in burlesque throughout the next few years, judging by her incredible costume for Eliza Delite. So if any performers get a piece commissioned by Louise that they want binged up, I am always up for a collab!