A Conversation with Erin Mahoney

We recently caught up with this multi talented force of nature and got the chance to ask her a few questions about how she is spending her time.

1. What made you want to be a designer?

Being a designer comes naturally to me because I feel a deep need to express myself with the choices of color, texture proportion. Doing something I enjoy and am good at is really important to me.  I live the transformative quality of an outfit.  How one feels inside, how others respond.  It’s so fascinating.  Like a small personal theatre everyday!  

2. Tell us about you & your work.

My husband of 14 years and 2 cats share the home with me.  I like to do the domestic side of the things, the shopping, cooking and decorating. He gets kind of annoyed with so much costumes and shoes around, but I do my best to corral the clutter.

I’ve been going to the carnival of Venice Italy since I was 18.  A girlfriend paid my way to join her and 5 others, and one of them had been going for 6 years: she knew her way around and several of the eccentric society regulars.  My eyes were as big as saucers trying to soak it all in.

The carnival seemed to me to be magical and other worldly, a great escape from the everyday routines.  I felt obsessed with the ancient beauty, decadence and decay of Venice and vowed to always return. For 24 years now I have been making costumes for myself to wear at the carnival.  There is no payment for it, and I don’t try to make costumes for the others.  What’s important for me is to have the international platform to express myself through peacocking parade and dive in the middle of this eccentric, creative family of like minds.

3. What projects are you Most proud of?

The number one thing I am most proud of is being able to manifest my dreams. Its been a long road of learning confidence and how to have a voice.  There has been a lot of near misses and lucky chances.  It’s a miracle I’ve made it this far really!!  Looking back, seems like a clear, deliberate path, but it did not at all feel direct or stable along the way!

I am most proud of having resilience, the ability to adapt with changes and keep going. The creative projects I feel most proud of are the costumes that are made out of ordinary basic objects but are elevated with transformation. Now since the luggage limit is so tight on flights, it’s more of a challenge to get light weight volume.  It’s  all about pop-up costumes for me!

For example, 16 hula hoops inside the pumpkin skirt, or car wash sponges make up a cactus costume, and ping pong balls become a bunch of grape epaulettes. Lately, what I am spending creative focus and those design skills to create a community center and home base for performers and freaks like me. *After you try to do a fashion business alone, everything else seems easy!

My husband and I bought a bar, and with the cabaret license we are able to produce shows of all sorts.  I especially enjoy vaudeville and variety shows.  The dressing room has become a little club house.  It’s been so fun to curate and decorate. We will soon put up a juicy red valance and curtain over the stage.

4. How would you describe your own style?

How many people do you know who has been called Mary Poppins by strangers on the street?  People have been taking notice of my flair since an early age- for better or worse. During college, I worked as an art model and plenty of students invented their own wings, horns or tail for me/ as a fantasy character.

Strangely, I’ve always evoked this kind of dreamy character for others. My personal style is eclectic- includes everything with the kitchen sink!  It’s so fun to do all kinds of fashion.  My strength is diversity.  I live for vintage styles and classic glamour looks but it’s important to add a TWIST.  It’s most interesting for me to take risks and experiment with new looks, still maintaining personal limits of exposure and formality.

5. Who was your mentor?

My grandma thought me to sew at an early age.  She went through the depression.  She was very thrifty with materials and clever to not be wasteful.  She said in her day, one had to choose between career and family.  She wanted to be a dress designer but it was not elegant at the time to choose a career over having a family, and too complicated to do both.

Having that head start with making things and seeing really helped keep going. Also, once you make something and wear it, and are celebrated in it- kind of nothing else is important. Over the years there has been designers that inspire me.  McQueen for his extreme visions and innovation, Guiltier for his signature Parisian silliness, and DeLaRenta for his choice textiles and simple elegance proportions.

Now I am looking to drag for inspiration.  The diva attitude, campiness and surprises- including clever repurposing of everyday materials.  For example: pop poms on everything.  Rhinestones on everything. Big hair and heels. It’s all about EXTRA.

Over years, the I tried to  fit in to lots of different groups like the Art Deco society, the costumers guild, the couture community,  and honestly I feel the most like ME, among ultra femme impersonators.  There is a level of personal humility included that I can relate to.

To be Continued….

About Key of B

Key of B is a virtual landing-place for top fashion and beauty picks from some of your favorite designers. We know the paradox of choice is real. Online is now more cluttered than an outlet store on black Friday. And our social calendars are more complex than a flight plan. We hope to do some of the heavy lifting for you by sorting through the trends, the deals, and the singularly creative pieces that form the fabric of enviable wardrobes and interior spaces. We’ll show you how to mix and match, and share inspiration for your next knock-em-dead ensemble. We are a team of fashion lovers and exotic wanderers with expertise in designer brands. We look forward to sharing this passion with you.

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