Copyright © 1998 All Rights Reserved.
by Carla Duluka
There are certain things in one's life that make you realize you are getting older, the most obvious of which are the inevitable saggy bits, while the others are much more subtle, such as the appreciation of minor details of daily life. Two examples of the latter that immediately come to mind are: a) polite children.(please do not read anything into this), and b) a good phone voice.
Tara Kozak has the greatest phone voice I have ever heard. I sometimes phone Scenarios, the hair salon where Tara works as a receptionist, for absolutely no reason. Pathetic? Yes. But admitting you have a problem is half of the battle.
Tara has been creating clothing for as long as she can remember. Her first show was in 1991 and, feeling frustrated with the lack of organization on the part of the show's producers, Tara decided to take matters into her own hands. In May 1996, Frock You! was born, a fashion show completely organized by Tara and her then partner in crime, Don Wyatt. The team took care of choreography, designer screening, music, hair and make-up. As well, Tara was still filling two segments of the show with her own designs.This may seem like an effortless process, but with Tara's models having at least four solid rehearsals under their belts, it is a very long and trying preparation time.
Tara and Don have been organizing two shows a year since the birth of Frock You. Red Ruby is held every September long weekend at the Warehouse, and all the money raised is donated to the Lupus Society of Alberta. Frock You is held on the May long weekend, with all proceeds going to AIDS Calgary.
At the same time she launched the first show, Tara decided to register her label. However, her label name for five years, Retail Bitch, was refused by the powers that be due to the profanity. As a result, a new name was born, Maelstrom Design. The name comes from a Sisters of Mercy song called "Marian" - the line "Your voice above the maelstrom" struck a chord in Tara.
Maelstrom, as defined by Webster's College Dictionary, is "a powerful often violent whirlpool sucking in objects within a given radius." And such is the definition of Tara's fashion work ethic. She describes her designs as "something you could wear to a cocktail party at the house of Mephistopheles." (Not to be confused with the International House of Mephistopheles, which makes a mean banana pancake.) Her fabrics are very rich in color and in texture, with mixes of velvet, silk and lace. She generally uses darker colors simply because her eyes work better with darker shades.
Is there a demand in this city for designers to showcase their creations, and an audience to view them?
"When I first started showing my work, it seemed like there was a show every weekend. With Boystown, The Banke, Kisaten, Republik and the Warehouse having shows, the emphasis was on quantity not quality. I remember a particular show that I worked on, where a 'designer' showed models in just garbage bags with arm and leg holes. I am sure this was some sort of artistic statement, but frankly, as a designer, I found it insulting. I had worked really hard on my set. This is what motivated me to organize my own shows. And to screen portfolios before selecting designers."
This is in no way meant to be an arrogant statement, quite the contrary. Tara just wanted the designers and their work to be taken seriously. Though many of the designers showcased are currently not available in any retail stores, Tara hopes the exposure they recieve from these shows will help to change that. Most of Tara's shows feature the same group of models, and the clothing reflects their style as well as Tara's.
"Probably 80 per cent of the clothing in the shows is sold directly to the models wearing them," Tara admits (once again an oddity in the fashion show world). "I know these models really well, and know what they feel comfortable wearing. They have no problem letting me know what doesn't work for them."
Though Tara does not yet have a retail space, she has no trouble finding work - through projects with Theatre in Exile, and numerous closets around town to fill, Tara is always getting her name (via her work) out there. Look for Maelstrom designs, and listen for Tara's soothing tones coming soon to a theatre near you.
(Tara's models are PATRICIA BARKASAS, ROBIN FORGO, RENA KOZAK.
All hair was done by the fabulous DON WYATT.)
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