Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Zippers: Functional and Fashionable

Seven years ago, when Kate Cusack noticed a long zipper holding the edges of an old slip cover together, she instantly became inspired by the multi-functional piece of material.

“I thought of it not as a zipper but as a faceted piece of metal,” she says.

After experimenting with the malleable material, Cusack delved into the realm of jewelry design, creating what she calls “wearable art.” Her first collection in 2002 was a line of zipper pins. Cusack hand sews the zippers into large, brightly colored flowers, available with both gold and silver hardware.

The visually intriguing pieces are a refreshingly unique interpretation of a material we all use on a daily basis. “I like to find typical materials that I can use in unusual ways,” she says.

Cusack first started giving her pins away as gifts and then, in 2003, she began selling them after teaming up with Marissa Alperin, an old high school friend who owns a studio in Brooklyn Heights. Alperin, also a jewelry designer, features delicate precious and semi-precious earrings, necklaces and rings. Cusack brought her chunky, eclectic zipper jewelry to be showcased alongside Alperin’s. From there, Cusack says the popularity of her designs was “very organic.”

When Alperin’s shop was featured in New York Magazine’s, Cusack’s jewelry also received a spotlight in their “Best Bets” column. With this exposure, Cusack then moved her wares to the Fellisimo Design House, located at 10 West 56th St., where they were featured in an exhibit entitled “Made in Brooklyn.”

The success of her pin collection soon led Cusack to start creating new designs. She has now expanded her collection to include necklaces and bracelets, with her retail prices reflecting the complexity of each design. Zipper pins retail for $85, bracelets retail from $120 to $300, and necklaces retail from $300 to $1,200.

The intricate designs are both eye-catching and beautiful. “I like the contrast between the soft material and the hard material,” she says. Cusack plays with shapes and loves the “aha” moment when customers realize they are made of zippers.

Customers can find Cusack’s pins and select bracelets in her online shop, while her necklaces are sold in galleries such as Julie: Artisans’ Gallery in NYC and the Snyderman-Works Gallery in Philadelphia. To see Cusack’s whole zipper collection, check out her website.

With zippers being such a huge trend in the fashion industry right now, Cusack says she likes to think she started the whole craze. Each of her designs is original and Cusack says it can be very tricky when a lot of other designs from mainstream companies and designers start to look similar to hers.

“Even though the zipper trend is out there, I think it brings a lot more attention to me.” And that attention is growing to global proportions with Fergie being spotted in Melbourne just recently wearing one of Cusack’s necklaces.

Her work has been featured in a number of magazines, including Cosmopolitan, InStyle, and WWD. Italian Vogue also borrowed some of her zipper pieces for a photo shoot.

But jewelry is not Cusack’s only design success. After receiving her MFA from the Yale school of Drama in 2006, she worked extensively with theater design, creating costumes for a number of plays and projects. She was also commissioned by Tiffany & Company’s 5th Avenue flagship store to create five elaborate “Marie-Antoinette style” wigs for the 2002 Mother’s Day window display. The stunning headdresses were all made out of household plastic wrap, keeping true to Cusack’s design aesthetic.

Although Cusack continues exploring all areas of artistic design and creativity, she devotes most of her focus to her zipper collection, saying that she enjoys this endeavor the most.

In addition to remaining creative and happy while creating new and interesting designs, Cusack says she would also love have Lady Gaga wear one of pieces. “That would make a big splash!”

"Fashion Is Foremost Inspiration"

Erin Simpson


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