This month @primpmycostume speaks with Canada’s “ambassador of glamour” and headlining burlesque icon Scarlett James. Scarlett is also the Founder and President of the Montreal Burlesque Festival, runs a YouTube Vlog, and has an online fashion store at fashionablebrat.com.
Known for her lavish events and exquisite performances, Scarlett has performed all over the world. She pioneered the first authentic burlesque performance in Dubai at the legendary Buddha Bar and has featured in shows for Bentley Motors, Moet & Chandon, and M1nt Shanghai.
She has an inspiring presence across social media and always pops up on my Instagram timeline with another super glamorous photo whilst I’m sitting eating a sandwich in my day job, which I always appreciate! She was also the first high profile performer to show support online for Primp My Costume. So, I thought it was about time we got to know a little more about this fabulous artist.
Scarlett James (SJ): Oh, my goodness, God forbid indeed! That is a really tough question... They are all my babies and since I work with my Mom on all my costumes, they are all very close to my heart and I am so attached to them. It is a bit emotional I know, but I really cannot help it. I think I would go for my diamond costume, but really I cannot make a choice.
CP: I love that your Mom is behind the scenes, gluing away! Let’s discuss the design process. Which costume had the longest planning stages? What made it so complicated?
SJ: Well, from the time I have the concept in my mind to the time it gets on stage, one year can pass. But it is not really the costumes that were that challenging to me, it was more the stage props. Finding someone to make my crazy ideas come true is the challenge.
Like my giant moon. Lots of people have a moon so I had to find a unique idea to make mine happen. No-one that I discovered, had one that actually came down from the "sky", so there it was for me. My moon comes down from the ceiling of the theatre, and once installed on the ground, it pivots, so one side is a clear moon crescent and the other is a black moon crescent. Still the only one of its kind today. That was a lot of planning and engineering actually and that, I loved. Nothing less of spectacular for my audience, cherie!
CP: Even the moon gets a costume change. Brilliant! Having started your burlesque performance career in 2007, how would you say your personal costume style has evolved over the past three years in particular?
SJ: I can see the savoir-faire and the maturity in my creations compared to when I began. I feel like my costumes also have a life of their own, as each time I tend to them I tweak, repair, alter, and improve them. But from the very first act I created, the ultimate goal was glamour and to push the feminine energy to its optimum.
The shiny, glittery dream is always present, the femme fatale is embedded in my soul. Everyone has their own interpretation of what Burlesque is for them. For me, it is my dream. I write Burlesque with a capital B always, as I love it and respect it. Classy, sophisticated, glam, seductive, and passionate. It is with a constant effort that I try to portray this particular energy within my costumes and acts.
SJ: Ahhhh, the shoes... I could be completely naked, not even a hair on my body but if I wear shoes, I am golden. I need nothing else. The shoe is the finishing touch of a costume. It is imperative that it matches and can rarely be used for another costume. To each its own pair. The heel must be high, the curve of the foot, well supported, the style to flatter the leg, and complimented with coloured bling - the highlight of the costume. Shoes are my favourite item, along with the corset. I have had a love affair with shoes since I was a very, very young child.
They reflect one's soul. If you don't take care of your shoes, it tells a lot about the level of attention to details you like to give in your life, or your things, or relationships. Birkenstock's should be outlawed. And they are, by the way, forbidden in my house.
CP: I am guessing what you may think about Crocs! Finally, having produced the Montreal Burlesque Festival for years, you must have seen a wide range of costume pieces. Is there another performer’s costume that has really taken your breath away in the flesh? Why was it a league above the rest?
SJ: Aside from Dita's? It’s hard to say because although a LOT of performers have beautiful costumes, it is very rare that I fall in awe. The pieces that make me fall over are more Haute Couture. The work, the details, the precision, and the craftsmanship give me inspiration. So often I see a costume that looked good on stage and not so good backstage. Or some were really well made but fell flat for me as they were lacking personality or ingenuity.
There is of course Grant Philipo, who designed the Las Vegas showgirl costumes. He also created for Silver Screen's sirens for mega-productions like Cleopatra or Gilda and designed for Rita Hayworth, Mae West, and Josephine Baker.
CP: Thank you for giving us a peek behind the curtain!
Keep up to date with Scarlett James at @scarlettjamesofficial on IG/ Facebook/ Twitter, Scarlett James on YouTube, or visit ScarlettJames.com. Visit Scarlett’s online store at FashionableBrat.com - also available on Etsy and Amazon
Find out more about the Montreal Burlesque Festival at MontrealBurlesqueFestival.com