Costume Couture Confessions: The Designers Dish on Their Creations

Costume Couture Confessions: The Designers Dish on Their Creations

Kaleidoscope of Creativity: The Costume Designer’s Canvas

Step behind the curtain, dear readers, and let me take you on a journey into the vibrant, sequin-studded world of costume design. As a lifelong opera aficionado, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing countless sartorial masterpieces grace the stage, each one a testament to the ingenuity and passion of the visionaries who bring them to life.

My latest foray into this captivating realm began when I stumbled upon the striking works of Kelvin Burzon, a multi-talented artist with a penchant for couture confessionals. Sitting in his home office and sewing studio, Kelvin welcomed me with open arms, regaling me with tales of his diverse creative pursuits – from teaching at prestigious universities to collaborating with the likes of RuPaul’s Drag Race alums.

As Kelvin revealed, his artistic journey has been a tapestry of endless projects, each one simmering on the proverbial burners, waiting to be brought to a resplendent completion. “I always have several pots simmering on the burners, moving from one pot to another until one is brought to a completion,” he mused, his eyes alight with the spark of endless creativity.

But Kelvin’s ambitions extend far beyond the confines of his studio. When I asked him who he’d like to “live in the shoes of” for a day, his response was both thoughtful and poignant. “My very first thought is to think of someone famous or admired or wealthy, but upon further internal dialogue, I would probably pick someone closer yet distant – like a distant cousin who still lives in the Philippines. My entire immediate family immigrated to the US when I was 11, and I’d probably benefit from knowing how families that have been left in the Philippines live their daily lives.”

Embracing the Evolution of the Arts

As our conversation continued, I couldn’t help but marvel at Kelvin’s unwavering dedication to the arts, both in his own work and in the community around him. When I inquired about the growth of the arts scene in Indianapolis, he responded with palpable enthusiasm. “Absolutely, I think there are so many opportunities here for the impressive saturation of talented people. Of course, there is always room for improvement, but I believe the proper culture and structure is set for a progressive growth.”

Kelvin’s passion for the arts extends beyond the realm of fine art and into the vibrant world of drag performance. His connection with RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Silky Nutmeg Ganache is a testament to his versatility and willingness to explore new creative avenues. “Silky and I have had a creative partnership since we met as students at Wabash College,” he shared. “They have always been a huge supporter of my work and part of the reason why my sewing and designing career has continued.”

Intrigued by his involvement in the drag community, I couldn’t resist asking Kelvin about his dream of raiding a drag queen’s closet. His response was both insightful and revealing. “More and more queens are present and relevant in the high-fashion world. RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni such as Miss Fame, Symone, Violet Chachki, and Shea CouleĆ© are invited to fashion events, published in magazines, and featured in couture shows. Being cultured in drag and performance arts, have you ever considered working your way into costume design or set design even?”

Kelvin’s answer was just as multifaceted as his own artistic pursuits. “I’ve done commissioned design for dance and drag performances. My works have been featured by Indiana University’s African American Dance Company, Bloomington’s Echo Dance Company, and on several seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Never have I stepped into a role of designing for a theatrical production, but that might be something that will happen in the future.”

Embracing One’s Authentic Self

As our conversation delved deeper, I couldn’t help but be captivated by Kelvin’s unwavering commitment to self-expression and authenticity. When I asked him for advice he would give his younger self, his response was both poignant and inspiring.

“I’ve seen this question answered many times now, yet have never taken the time to think about what my answer would be. It would probably be along the lines of ‘Focus on the love that surrounds you, ride the support until you blossom, and then return the love and support to every individual you meet that needs you.’ I grew up Catholic and am aware of how difficult it can be for some to feel comfortable being themselves and embracing it.”

Kelvin’s own journey of self-discovery and artistic expression has been a testament to the power of embracing one’s true self. When I inquired about any resentment or pushback he’s faced, he responded with a refreshing sense of grace and gratitude. “Not really. My work doesn’t aim to ruffle any feathers. All I have to do with my photographic series ‘Noli Me Tangere’ is to create a beautiful space for the discrepancies, the individuals in the cracks of the religious conflict, and a space for the conversation.”

Versatility Personified: Kelvin’s Creative Canvas

As our discussion continued, I couldn’t help but be in awe of Kelvin’s sheer versatility as an artist. From his childhood aspirations of becoming a Catholic priest to his current multifaceted pursuits, he has truly embodied the spirit of a renaissance man.

“I definitely wouldn’t have been my true self if I followed that path,” he mused, reflecting on his religious upbringing. “The allure was through culture and traditions. I believed in the religion because it was my familial and cultural identity, and because I was attracted to the drama, theatricality, and camp of it all.”

Kelvin’s artistic prowess extends far beyond the realm of visual arts, as he has seamlessly incorporated dance, music, and photography into his creative repertoire. As he shared, dance has been a integral part of his life since childhood, but it wasn’t until he was working on his graduate degree at Indiana University that he truly began to see it as a medium of expression.

“All the credit goes to Iris Rosa and the African American Dance Company for introducing me to the power of movement,” he revealed, his eyes shining with a newfound appreciation for the art form.

Equally impressive is Kelvin’s mastery of various mediums, from photography and garment design to instrument playing. “I’ve always excelled in anything creative,” he shared. “I don’t think I can pinpoint a moment of epiphany, but I can say that I’ve always been aware of my strengths and have relied on them for expression, regulation, and self-reflection.”

Embracing the Duality of Art and Faith

As our conversation delved deeper, I couldn’t help but be struck by the duality that seems to permeate Kelvin’s artistic journey. On one hand, he has embraced the bold, unconventional nature of his work, pushing the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable. Yet, on the other, he has maintained a deep reverence for his Catholic upbringing and the traditions that have shaped his worldview.

When I inquired about any pushback he has faced from his family or members of his church, Kelvin’s response was both heartening and inspiring. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by nothing but support. Without the culture of love and blessings, I would have never conceived of making the work that I do. My privilege is the voice that is provided to me by those around me.”

Kelvin’s artistic prowess is not only a testament to his technical mastery but also a reflection of the depths of his personal experiences. As he shared, the pieces that depict and explore his relationship with his parents and family are some of the most poignant in his portfolio.

“I recall a piece early in my exploration I called ‘The Living Bible,'” he revealed, his voice tinged with emotion. “It is the Bible that I have altered by stitching in family photos, writing confessions, apologies, insults, and affirmations. It was one of the most emotionally difficult pieces I’ve attempted, and it is the object that has led me to the artist I am today.”

Blending Tradition and Innovation: The Liwayway and Galicia Garments

Kelvin’s artistry extends beyond the realms of fine art and photography, as he has also made a name for himself in the world of fashion and costume design. His unique creations, such as the Liwayway and Galicia Garments, seamlessly blend traditional Filipino influences with a modern, sustainable sensibility.

As Kelvin explained, the Liwayway collection, where he recreates traditional Filipino clothing as portraiture for his family members, came about after his family completed the naturalization process. “Renouncing my Filipino citizenship encouraged me to examine my family’s relationship with nationality, the immigration process, and our changing identities as Filipino Americans.”

The Galicia Garments, on the other hand, are a testament to Kelvin’s commitment to sustainability and wearable art. “Galicia Garments is my label for my costume design work and sustainability-focused upcycled garments,” he shared. “It came about at the dawn of COVID-19 when materials were scarce, but time was ample.”

When I inquired about his personal fashion aesthetic, Kelvin’s response was both playful and self-assured. “Classic, creative, and sufficiently extra,” he quipped, a mischievous glint in his eye.

Embracing the Power of Transparency

Throughout our conversation, I was struck by Kelvin’s unwavering commitment to transparency and authenticity. As he shared, it is the creative outlets he is immersed in that have provided a healthy environment for discussion and expression.

“Art,” he stated simply, when I asked what has supported him in finding his voice. “The creative outlets I am immersed in create a healthy environment for discussion and expression.”

This transparency is evident in the way Kelvin describes his own outfits, using just three words: “Homemade, sustainable, personal.” It’s a testament to his belief that the clothes we wear are a reflection of who we are, a way to express our values and innermost selves.

As I prepared to leave Kelvin’s studio, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe and inspiration. Here was an artist who had seamlessly woven together the threads of tradition, innovation, and self-expression, creating a tapestry that was as vibrant and captivating as the costumes he designs.

Whether he’s collaborating with drag performers, creating sustainable garments, or exploring the depths of his own family history, Kelvin Burzon is a shining example of the power of the creative spirit. And as I make my way back to the musical theater center that commissioned this article, I can’t wait to see what other costume couture confessions the designers have to share.

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