We love to think as Kaytee Papusza, independent designer behind Papusza Couture, as our very own Darling Alice! Kaytee just recently was asked to embrace that very persona in a photo shoot featuring Papusza-wear for Above the Fray magazine (check it out here). Kaytee was one of the very first designers (awwwhhh) to open a boutique here on Smashing Darling coming up on almost three years ago, wow! We love to hear what she is up to, and since we haven't interviewed her since 2007 -time flies when you are having fun- we thought we would take a moment and get all the knitty gritty on this fantastical photo shoot. Enjoy!

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Darlings: How did this shoot come to be? Where did it take place and how did you pull it all together?Kaytee: Mikey Pozarik, the fantastic photographer who did the shoot, contacted me about the project and doing a feature in Above the Fray. I was immediately really excited about the project because I love Lewis Carroll's Alice as well as Through the Looking Glass. I had wanted to do a shoot involving the story for years, it was easy to be inspired!The shoot took place in the East Village in early October. The whole team was awesome: gorgeous, amazing photography, really fantastic, creative hair and makeup, and very good models. I have to give a huge shout out to the models since the day of the shoot it was freezing. The girls were all in dresses, corsets, and bodices without sleeves. Even though you can't tell based on how fantastic they all look in the photos, there was shivering, and even some talk about numb fingers at a couple of points. They toughed it out though, and did a really great job getting into character. So kudos to the whole team!I built a lot of the props for the shoot, which was super fun. I enjoyed bringing special touches from the original story into the set. The birdcage was one I found out by the dumpsters near my loft. I took it home, cleaned it, bent it up with wire pliers, painted it, and then covered it in ribbons and feathers. The eyeballs where the final touch. I liked the idea of making a birdcage with a face. I also made a "DRINK ME" bottle, and a huge heart shopped clock. I liked bringing in these elements of time, size and surrealism from the original story.

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Darlings: LOVE those tights and all the accessories, give us the scoop on those!Kaytee: YES! Lot's of great contributors in regards to accessories. The blue feather millinery was from millinery designer Tessa Morehouse (www.VelvetAntlerNYC.com). The crochet collar was from miss Siri (www.SiriusLux.com) and the big feather earrings came from Roxy and Nicki at Mayapple designs (a duo based out of Arkansas and Seattle). I am really lucky all these fantastic ladies were kind enough to loan their pieces for the shoot. The looks would not be complete without them!

The tights and gloves were hand-dyed by me. I have been working on hand-dyed legwear for awhile, and have a lot of it to accompany my Oceania Etherea collection. The gloves are a new thing I am doing for winter. Some of them have little buttons and embellishments, some are fingerless and some have fun fringe. With both tights and gloves the primary intention is to focus on the dye and how it stains the fabric. I like creating wave like patterns with the dye, and leaving some of the pieces looking slightly discolored, as if they are antique items that have been sun spotted, and dimmed over time. These will soon be for sale on Smashing Darling. I am calling them Papusza Limbs.

For this shoot, fantastic stylist and accessories designer Rachel Singer helped me pull all the final looks together.

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Darlings:Do you have an alter ego? If so what advice does it give you? OR What does it tell you to do that you haven't done yet?Kaytee: My alter ego is my mother voice, the one which nurtures me, and reminds me it is important to take care of myself. In being an individual who is highly driven by my creativity it is easy for me to get carried away in the chaos of my thoughts, and daily life. Living in New York I feel I encounter chaos everytime I walk onto the street. It is easy to forget the calm. In order to create in a way that is healthy and functional it is very important for me balance out the chaos with the calm.The advice I get from this alter ego is to take time to relax. To drink tea and smell flowers. To make curried vegetables, and read a good book. To take a hot bath, and look at the shapes the clouds make in the sky. To leave the city every once and awhile and let the beauty of nature renew my spirit. It also tells me that when I decide to leave New York I need to use the resources of nature to create beautiful things for Papusza-ful girls to wear. The ideas behind these creations have been culminating in my brain for awhile now. I look forward to sharing them with the world once I have made them.

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Darlings: If your studio walls could talk what would they say?Kaytee: "SHE'S INSANE!!!!" Haha! Seriously, there probably would be some talk like that, if the walls could speak. When I get into my creative head space it really takes over, and I do things that might not make sense to people looking in from the outside. I am known to talk to my garments when I am making them. I usually give personas to the pieces I make. Swan dive dress. Neapolitan cupcake gown. Seagull wing bustle.The walls would also probably be able to quote you a world of Bjork lyrics. They might call me a mad scientist for the hours of spattering dye over garments, burning hems, and hand stitching taxidermy like a lunatic. They would have lot's of stories to tell about the depths of the night, I am nocturnally creative, and feel that I bond the most with my work at the silent hours of dawn, after working on a piece for 12 hours straight. These walls would have some stories...

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Darlings: Are there any misconceptions about what you do that you want to clarify?Kaytee: People are often freaked out by the use of animal products in my work. I love fur, taxidermy, bones and leather. I find it odd that people are so creeped out by this. I have even had people confront me with animal rights issues in regards to my use of certain materials. I guess it makes sense that some people would respond this way though, being that I have no disclaimer anywhere stating where I get these materials, or why I use them.To clarify, all the fur I use is reclaimed. I find it when I am thrifting, from vintage garments. I cut it up work it into my pieces, because I love the texture. I think this is okay, because nothing is being killed for my benefit. In regards to the bird parts or bones I use, they are things I find already dead in nature. I collect their remaining parts, treat and clean them. I like using these elements of nature because they are very special to me. I find the use of birds especially to be very spiritual, and I love all the details in their wings and little bones.In a lot of regards I think of what I do as being very green. I am taking things from nature which are already decomposing, and using them to create something beautiful. From an anthropological point of view people in tribal communities have been doing this for thousands and thousands of years. It is their way of celebrating the earth and giving back. I view my work the same way.


Darlings: What is your absolute favorite moment(s) in your studio ... the thing that you won't let yourself do until some of the drudgery is done, the thing that is the prize at the end of it all?Kaytee: After putting hours into a piece and working all night I like to sit back and absorb. It feels really good to loose myself in the moment of creating, to lose all sense of time and reality, and become one with what I am making. Sometimes I go into this zone for twelve hours straight. When I come out of it I like being able to sit back, relax, have a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and admire my work. I know that might sound narcissistic, but it is like feeding off the fruits of my labor. The ability to create with my hands is what drives me.Ultimately, this is what makes putting shows on worthwhile too. That moment, after having spent hundreds and hundreds of hours culminating and constructing a collection, when I am able to sit back, and watch it walk down the runway, see the faces of the people that absorb it... that is what I live for. I like watching my art come to life. It is like having children and watching them grow up and go out into the world. My couture pieces are my babies. I wouldn't have it any other way.

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