House of Ivory - Interview

Ever wondered where Burlesque performers find their costumes? Most make them or customise pieces with crystals and fringing. We do! But we also, for group numbers have a fabulous costume designer in the form of House of Ivory

The fabulous Rob Ivory made both the opening and closing costumes for this years London Wonderground shows, and our resident Banged Up. We couldn’t NOT let you meet him!

How did you begin in costume design?

The truth is I sort of fell into it.
As a teenager, I attended secondary school on a music scholarship and had been performing for years before that (but those days are a little hazy now). I was always involved in performance in one way or another, be it actually performing or as backstage. By the time I finished GCSEs I knew the school could not provide me with the tools I needed anymore.
My direction had changed. I applied last minute to a local college to do a diploma in pattern cutting for fashion. During my time there I was constantly told my ideas were very ‘costume’. I didn’t really understand what they were talking about as I always got inspiration from the haute couture fashion, and my ideas were tame in comparison. After finishing there I applied for university. I didn’t get in and so I went for work experience as a visual merchandiser at Harrods. Shortly after, I was offered a two week placement with fashion designer Zandra Rhodes. I was assisting the chief designer Ben Scholten with the SS 2010 collection. Well, 5 months later and after a trip to meet the buyers in Milan I was given a place at London College of Fashion to study pattern cutting and left with a high 2:1. Later, I went back to Zandra Rhodes as her Personal Assistant and gained the confidence to go it alone and start up the House of Ivory.

Where did you Meet Tempest Rose & The House of Burlesque?

I met tempest at the House of Burlesque’s monthly show ‘Burlesque Idol’. I went to the show nearly every month for about a year and a half before I got the courage to talk to her. I was very new on the scene and wasn’t sure how to approach her, or anyone for that matter. I was there as a guest of the MC of this event (Barnaby Slater) and eventually asked him to introduce me to Tempest. After that first conversation I had a good feeling that we would have a good relationship in the future and here I am now. I’ve been working with Tempest for just over a year, making several ‘one off’ costumes just for her, along with items for two of her shows.

What are your Costume Inspirations?

My inspirations come from lots of places, usually based around my mood and the music I listen to while in that moment. I do however look to the performers for my inspiration. If it is fashion or costume, I have always felt that the outfit should sit comfortably on the client/model/performer and match their personality or support the character they are trying to convey. Although I will still look for references from the past, there are stimuli everywhere today that catalyse invention.

What is it like to see your work on stage?

There is always an element of shock when I see performers wearing my clothes on stage. I think when you handle something for a long period of time it can loses some of its ‘sparkle’. Then when a performer brings it to life, there is always a sudden realisation that it was me who created the outfit, which is now seen in a new light. I have always found that mental and emotional disconnect-reconnect very interesting. 

Do you have a favourite piece you have ever created?

I am proud of many of my items.  It’s hard to choose a favourite as what I’m working on now is always my focus. If I had to choose the outfit I am most proud of for overall effect it would have to be the cage skirt and jacket that Tempest is currently wearing for London Wonderground. It is one of the pieces from my first collection that I showed late last year. Working out how to structure and balance it was really enjoyable and actually quite mathematical. Architecture has always pleased me visually and this was a good marriage between two of my passions.

What do you think makes a good Burlesque Costume?

It is hard to define what makes a good burlesque costume. I’m interested in more than just the superficial; I love working out how the costume works for the performer and the technical issues therein. Even the simple addition of a ribbon on a zip to enable the wearer(performer) to take it off more easily pleases me. I am also interested in the layering and interchange of costumes and the different effects their versatility allow.

You can catch Rob’s designs in action on our last London Wonderground show this Thursday 25th September or at BANGED UP! on the second Friday of every month at Madame JoJo’s