Our Femme Fatale today is Kerry Fitts, creator of the vintage inspired southern gothic designs of Bayou Salvage. All of the materials in her designs are either vintage,commercial salvage or eco-friendly newer materials sourced in the USA and she’s been featured in an array of media including Mother Jones Magazine,Southern Flourish,Readymade Mag and New Orleans Homes & Gardens. Kerry is as charitable as she is talented – 10% of her profits go to local causes.
I’ve been making clothes from an early age and started making jewelry in graduate school (UNO FILM) just for fun. It was a great release from schoolwork and first it was like ohh look at all the pretty colors and then after spending so much money on materials and supplies I started to sell them at the first show in town, Bywater Art Market. My first market there was Christmas 2001.After selling out at that show I was addicted!
Is it your full-time occupation?
What is your earliest recollection of design and/or sewing as a passion?
It started with Annie Hall. Not only did I love the movie when it came out but dressing in buttondowns, ties and vests was so much fun in 6th grade. It was like playing a part in a school play but no one knew you were in it. Shortly after my grandmother taught me to sew. We went to the mall and my allowance didnt afford buying all the clothes I wanted. We went to the fabric store and came home to sew. By the weekend I had 5 skirts just like the ones at the mall but better colors. Wish that cute pink and yellow striped dirndl number was still around…
My mother was also a bit of a fabric collector and clothes hound. It was heaven to look through her closets at her pill box suits, Chanel bags and crazy 70s caftans from her travels. You could piece together her mysterious girlhood with an outline of the outfits.
Vintage fashion was very accessible and undervalued in that day. It was nothing to go to Goodwill or Salvation Army and buy gorgeous vintage clothing for just a few dollars. I started buying early and often. At one point I had close to 10 leopard coats. Kinda crazy for the deep south!
Tell us a bit about your creative process. Do you start a project with a beginning, middle and ending in mind or does it evolve as you go?
I am inspired by both materials and nostalgia at the same time. The beginning is amassing fabrics or sample vintage pieces that remind me of a time and place that seems fun to visit or revisit.
Who’s work has inspired yours?
I have an undergrad degree in creative writing and an MFA in film. Literature and film are a guiding influence. I love dressing characters in my mind from Tennessee Williams’ plays, Flannery O’Connor’s short stories and films by Elia Kazan. I grew up watching Perry Mason and Turner Classic Movies on the sly all night long at home. The only designer I know of to any extent, besides Edith Head, is Coco Chanel because of a school paper on her.
If you find yourself losing interest in a project do you feel guilty and push yourself to finish or set it aside saying, “ah it’s just not meant to be”? Do you have any tips you can share regarding motivation and/or discipline in completing projects?
Some projects just cannot be saved. It is hard to let items go. Over here, seasons dictate the viability of designs. If samples arent completed before the season begins, chances are they will have to wait until next year anyway. It is a good idea to put the project out of site for a while- maybe in a box- and date it. If you do not go looking for the box for over a year, probably best to let it go and dont look back!
Where do you see yourself and your work in 5 years?
I’d love to design costumes for another film-it is really cool to see how wardrobe wraps itself around narrative and character. It would be great to do a few more fashion shows and even a video or two.Collaborating with more fabulous women artists like the pictures shown. I hope to intersect design and story perhaps by fashioning characters into the written page as well…
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WARNING: Be prepared for a Bayou Salvage addiction when you visit her Etsy shop. I’ve already contracted a serious itch.
Thank you, Kerry, for a delightful chat!
Connect with Bayou Salvage on the web:
Bayou Salvage on Etsy
Bayou Salvage on Twitter
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Photos styled,modeled and taken by Janet Antene 2010