My journey began in a grungy, decadent cabaret and burlesque joint in the heart of Camden. Me, a wide-eyed 18 year old, city-life virgin, wrote a professional, timid email and slap-up CV to send to the club asking for part time work. The reply I got shocked me somewhat, it read; ‘Send us some pics xxx.’ This was just a footnote of what I was to learn about the industry altogether… It turned out my college friends’ photography coursework pictures of me in an old studio were just what they wanted and I got the job immediately. The job, I soon discovered, quickly became part of my life. Albeit, the party came to us. Think, Coyote Ugly but with less gawping men. We wore corsets and stockings and danced on the bar until the early hours of the morning, we did shots with customers and didn’t get told off for being drunk on the shift… As you can imagine, quite tempting for an 18-19 year old! The thing I always remember from that job, as much fun as I had, was I always envied the performers. I saw the way they were worshipped. Curvy, thin, blonde, brunette… The audience members loved them, the staff loved them, and they all loved each other!
A Glove, A Stocking, A Stiletto
Whether it a glove, a stocking, a stiletto… The waitresses ran around in the shadow of the performer, collecting dismissed items that had been seductively flung to the opposite side of the stage. Each costume more exquisite than the last, I thought, I’m going to do that. It was a mix between wanting to have that much fun on stage, whilst wearing something so elegant and, well, sparkly! Like most jobs in the nightlife industry, it soon consumed me and turned sour, so I left and took up a job in a totally different Cabaret venue. It was up-market, well-paid, professional and uptight… There were no bar-top dances, shots, or even strip teases! Alas, it boasted a dressing room department the size of a small island, where myself and all the other front of house team were decorated head-to-toe in Taurus-advocated showgirl outfits (look up Taurus oxford street, you will probably recognise most dancers’ outfits!). This, I knew, was going to feed my design-eye some more.
The Girl with the Bicycle Tattoo
My next biggest influence is the beautiful rhinestone (see what I did there? Warning, showgirl themes running throughout!) that is Southern France. My marvelous family have moved around the country more often than most people, and if you ask me where I’m “from” exactly, er, I wouldn’t really know what to say! The reason we moved a lot was due to my father’s job, working with retired racehorses, which means wherever we ended up was consistently plonked in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It’s safe to say I was brought up in Narnia… But anyway, back to France! My parents purchased a little village house, near 15 years ago now, in a region called Languedoc-Roussillon. It is typically French; you know, wine-y, bread-y and cheese-y! It was, and still is, so homely to me I could never skip a summer to visit it. So this brings me to the meaning behind my first tattoo… A french bicycle on the back of my hand. Don’t ask me why I had it done there, I freaked-out in the chair and thrust my heedless hand towards the artist. From that day on, I was known throughout college as ‘The Girl with the Bicycle Tattoo’. There are worse nicknames to acquire at college, right? Probably not.
Now, I’ve met a lot of burlesque performers and cabaret folk in my time, and I’ve heard all the names in the book. There are the more traditional names, the sexy names, and the plain and simple ‘jazzed-up’ version of ones real name. I didn’t spend long in thinking up a name for my brand, after all, it’s a pretty nice name! It reflected a feminine, elegant line of lingerie I’d expect people would believe in. But my ‘stage name’ as such, was another unintentional score… My double-barrelled surname made up the initials ‘TS’, hence, the name ‘Jessicats’ just stuck. More links to my name started occurring when I was developing my performances, doing a number of ‘cat-themed’ performances. I had a lot of fun performing, choreographing and modelling under my Jessicats character and feel this is what allowed me to expand in ways not many designers can. I was not only the performer, but the inventor, the designer and the advertisement. Not wanting to stray far away from my ‘whiskers’, the brand Jessica Ellen Lingerie was built consciously on a feline, sultry and sexy identity.
To Be Seen
The customer for Jessica Ellen Lingerie is every inch of the word C O N F I D E N T. This is no lingerie for the faint-hearted. I did not, I repeat NOT, break every sewing needle in the building to stitch together leather bra’s for someone to hide under a Nike sweater! This is lingerie of the future, lingerie To Be Seen. Sure, it’s probably impractical to wear Swarovski-sprinkled thongs to run to the grocery store, so by designing such wonders, I want to spread a message…
You are a canvas. Decorate yourselves any way you want. Use garments, jewels and make-up to express yourselves. Take not only inspiration from Cabaret-influenced lingerie, but a Cabaret-influenced life! Life, in the words of ol’ Liza, actually is a Cabaret! Therefore the sooner we learn to embrace ourselves, the better we can begin to feel. I created an alter-ego with the brand Jessica Ellen, whilst I worked away in my curry-stained sweater and old leggings (which by the way, no models-come-designers care to admit), but I truly believe good lingerie, show-stopping lingerie, is a huge way of releasing the glamour-puss within.