Earlier this year when I attended Sexhibition 2016 as a model, I was lucky enough to have lots of spare time to browse the fascinating, kinky, and bizarre stalls that lined the venue. Want to turn your bath into a lube-fest? The Kinksters have you covered. How about a squigy double-sided egg for men that you can use with or without your partner? Go see Innocent Sex Toys! Or why not just go all-out and turn your bedroom into a sex dungeon? BedS&More have the range you need.
Sexhibition was like a department store of sex. The amount of latex, corsetry, lace, silk and luxury on offer was a burlesque fanatic’s dream! I fell in love with sumptuous robes, shapely couture, and skin-tight fetish wear round every corner. A lot of the designers were very friendly, others intimidating. One lady however, could not have made me feel more comfortable. She radiated warmth, passion for her products, and a uniquely crazy sense of style. This lady is Kyla: designer and creator of Koolies Kreations.
“When you are wearing something that makes you feel fabulous, it shines through & you glow. All Koolies Kreations are one-offs, and no-one will have a piece that is identical to yours. They are all designed & made by Koolie at her studio in Wimbledon.”
Kyla offers bespoke and original pieces, lovingly stitched and glued with her own hands. She is passionate about every item that comes from Koolies Kreations, and has added unique and whimsical additions to modern trends in fetish and fashion. I was blinded by her light when I first met her, she is the definition of ‘bubbly’, a phrase I usually hate, but it’s so appropriate! She’s a bundle of colour and energy, thrilled to see people in her creations and recommending colours and trims she could add if you preferred a custom piece.
Amongst her website, Kyla has demonstrated her empathy, support, and understanding for niche markets and fetishes. She has individual lines for Furries, Dominants, Submissives, Sissies, Lolitas, and even a separate site for Adult Babies. Kyla is not here to judge people’s kinks, and would rather create a business that caters for all needs. Her made-to-measure service is equally successful in this market, as specific tastes require specific items!
Kyla was gracious enough to let me sit down with her for an interview and discuss her business, and what makes her passionate about all-inclusive retail. Oh, and unicorns.
Nikee: Ok! So could you introduce yourself, and the name of your brand?
Kyla: I’m Kyla and I’m from Koolies Kreations
Nikee: And if you had to pick 3 words to describe your brand, what would they be?
Kyla: Quirky, Handmade, and Original!
Nikee: Very original! So what was the first piece that you made that caused you to think ‘Oh my god, this could be my thing, this could be a business!’
Kyla: Haha well you’ll never believe me but it was furry hats! There were these hats my friend makes called Ted-Heads, they’ve got little ears and they come down like a scarf? Friends of mine wanted them but they are very limited edition ( I have loads but they haven’t!). I was trying to find a pattern and decided to create something similar in fake fur, and line them with funky fleeces with skull and crossbones and stuff like that. They were even reversible! I made loads of them for my friends for Christmas. My husband said ‘you don’t quite know how good these are, do you? You need to start doing this’, so I started a little stall and I used to head down to Camden market selling furry hats and tutus that I’d made. I started doing lots of depressing craft markets full of scary, uptight women, and honestly I was about to give it all up. I then googled ‘alternative markets in London’, and funnily enough, I found the London Alternative Market! It’s a kink market it London, and I went along to see them. They were the most welcoming, friendly bunch of people and by then I was also doing handbags and accessories. I started selling there, and when people realised that I handmade everything and that I could custom make the clothes to fit them perfectly, that’s when things really took off! The first real outfit I made was a ‘Marilyn in the Seven Year Itch’ style dress. It was a blue cotton with skulls and roses on it, and I originally made it for myself! It wasn’t right for my frame and I realised I didn’t quite like it on myself, but then a friend of mine bought it off me. It looked so perfect on her, and we just went on from there!
Nikee: Amazing! So you’re describing hats, handbags and things like that, however the stall I see in front of me today is slightly more appropriate for this kind of event. Harnesses have become such a big deal now, because designers now feature them on the high-street and catwalks etc, drawing inspiration from fetish-wear. Yours are unique as they feature additions like pearls, fringing, you said you hand-strung the beading yourself?
Nikee: When people say ‘Oh, I could make that’, do they actually make it? No! There’s a lot of things that seem simple but they are not, especially the quality in products. I have seen your use of solid links and punches on your harnesses, the quality is outstanding.
Kyla: It’s taken me a long time to find the right suppliers to get the perfect quality fabrics and the beautiful elastics on the harnesses. Finding good quality lingerie elastic in great colours has been a big challenge! I’ve finally got some really good suppliers. The rings I use and the clasps I use are all tested, I won’t use them if they are gonna break! I’m a really clumsy person so I test drive everything: if I can’t break them, no-one can!
Nikee: I get what you mean, it’s frustrating that you can still get bras on the high street where there are flimsy plastic adjustments that don’t last.
Kyla: Yeah, so what I do instead is, most of my harnesses are not adjustable as they are made to measure. They don’t need to have all the extras of adjustments sliders etc as I feel it ruins the shape and the look of the item. It reduces your design choices if you have to have extra little bits that move, it means you can’t have the groovy little designs to the back that I have! It’s a friend of mine that models for me, she shows me shapes with the elastic on the mannequin and says ‘can you do that kind of thing, but in your own way?’. I just played with the dummies and elastics until I had about 7 core designs that I use now. I add a bit of colour here, a strap across the breast there. They are made to enhance the cleavage, but adding a pop of colour as well as the black makes them more interesting. It’s really important to me that the things I make don’t look like anyone else’s: that you look at one and you know it’s one of mine. I can spot a Koolies Kreation from across the room! I went to Club Pedestal in London and as I walked in I spotted, across the whole length of the venue, one of my tutu designs. It’s really cool when you see someone walk into a room and you can see they feel great in what they are wearing and then you suddenly realise ‘hey, that’s one of mine!’
Nikee: Such a wonderful feeling! You’ve told me that you sit holed up in your studio for six months at a time, barely seeing daylight, and you create the entire collection. What’s the process like for you? Do you ever run out of inspiration?
Kyla: No! And that’s the problem with me! I try to solo myself, lock myself away so that I’m not influenced by what other people are doing. Even innocently, you can pick things up from others so easily without meaning to, so I have this secluded mentality while I’m designing. But I am very easily distracted, so although I’m just launched a new collection of lingerie and harnesses with Koolies, I’ve also designed 3 more collections for my friend’s business!
Nikee: And what do they feature?
Kyla: There’s lots of hot pants, crop tops and skater dresses. Very summery stuff, it’s very ravey. She’s down the coast and it’s perfect for what she’s selling. But next week when I’m back in the studio I’m going to be focusing on a range of retro dresses.
Nikee: Fantastic, I’d love to see more of that!
Kyla: Yeah, I’ve got some really good ideas and great fabrics to work with on those. Did you see the harness my assistant was wearing yesterday? That two-tone mermaid-y sequin fabric? That fabric is really hard to get hold of now, but I have some more, and I’m gonna work on some pants and tops! We’ve also got it in a baby pink/rose pink, and as it’s stretchy, we can use it on bandeau-style dresses. Oh, and I’ve got the unicorn and feather head-dresses on the go too!
Nikee: You really have endless ideas, don’t you?
Kyla: It’s hard for me to stop. I finish one project and move on to the next thing! I think that’s why my stall is successful, because I change and evolve organically. You were asking about my process. In the studios where I have a space, there’s artists, designers and ceramicists. I work near a costume designer, and obviously her designs have to be very planned and structured. Her wall full of drawings and designs would make me feel pressured, so I don’t work that way. I just think, ‘these are the beautiful fabrics I’ve just bought, what are we going to do with them?’. The whole business has been organic like that from the beginning, and I want to keep it that way. That’s what works for me, keeps it fresh.
Nikee: You’re obviously inspired by the textiles you buy, rather than drawing up a design with a specific fabric in mind. You’ll go fabric shopping, fall in love with a texture, then work backwards from there. It’s lovely, your stall is covered in colour and texture: fur, sequins, lace. Lets talk about the lace! The reason I was first attracted to your stall was because my friend modelled your design this morning, a gorgeous long lace robe. The thing is, robes, peignoirs etc are very expensive. They are the ultimate fantasy for a lot of pin-up girls, but at the end of the day, I know I couldn’t just spend £100 on a dressing gown unless I was very lucky and won it at Bingo! But the cost reflects the effort that goes into them of course.
Kyla: Yeah, its the quality of what lace I use. I don’t use cheap lace, I use guipure lace which is a beautiful soft cotton lace. It really is so soft, I used it for my god-daughter’s christening gown and for my niece’s wedding dress. Because I work in the fetish community, I’m aware of how important things feel. It’s the sensory side as much as the visual. This is why I use a lot of feathers. I keep my prices as reasonable as I can, I don’t mark up really. I charge for the time and the materials, and I don’t add an overhead, which I should really!
Nikee: You’re too lovely, you’re causing me to worry about people taking advantage of you! Believe me, I will be writing a lot about how adorable and inspiring you are! It’s quite obvious that your passion is within your business. As soon as I approached, you said ‘I’m just going to give you a card and then shut up, otherwise I will literally not stop talking while you browse!’. It’s such a lovely experience to witness somebody get so excited about their items being browsed. I loved looking through the rail at the bolero shrugs, they are particularly gorgeous.
Kyla: Often when I’m working, I wrap the material around my neck so it doesn’t trail on the floor. I was working on a lace wrap dress and adjusted the material, then I thought ‘hold on a minute…’.
Nikee: Those kimono sleeves, they are very plus-size friendly! I love things that cover my arms that are also breezy. A lot of the time, when I put an outfit on and I’m conscious of my shoulders/arms, I put on a basic-bitch cardigan. Then I’m guilty of something a lot of plus-size girls do: they compensate for being fat by covering bits that aren’t stereo-typically desirable. To find a unique design that actually adds to an outfit is wonderful.
Kyla: With those shrugs, they become part of an outfit. And they are really fun, with the bat wings, you can fly around…
Nikee: If anything, they make it better, and might even become the centre of attention on the outfit! You’ve got them in a gothic black, a vintage nude. They really caught my eye, in terms of being plus-size friendly. It’s something all plus-size shoppers, bloggers etc look for. Well tailored items are great, and when we find a bargain, we love it! But specifically, when something comes out that might look better on a plus-size woman, because it’s meant to look full and big and exciting. It’s great to know that the designer has been all-inclusive.
Kyla: That’s exactly what I do with my catwalks. I use some slim girls, some mid-sized girls, and larger girls too. The main thing is, they are all curvy. I want people to know what my clothes will look like on them. One of the first catwalks I did, I send a size 20 girl down the runway in a black PVC strapless prom dress with a huge bow on the back that trailed down. It was absolutely fierce, and she loved it so much she bought it! She was so nervous originally, but as soon as she put it on, this change came over her. She knew she looked good!
Nikee: And this weekend, you’ve practiced what you preach too! You told me this was the first time you’ve had a bare midriff.
Kyla: Yeah! I’m all about getting people to embrace their bodies, so I have to start doing it for myself.
Nikee: Over the weekend, you’ve worn various kinds of fabulous leggings, various spangly bottoms and spangly boobs. You’ve been modelling your harnesses and adding any accessories you can find, including furry cat ears! Next, in general, I would like to talk plus-size. You said that you don’t charge extra for custom sizes in any of your items?
Kyla: No, a lot of designers charge extra for customer work. If you’re like me and you make a handmade pattern for every item, then you have to do it from scratch anyway? It doesn’t make sense to me. I wouldn’t charge someone for something I was going to do anyway. It’s important to me that the customer gets the value out of the item. I don’t want to charge them extra because I can, I want them to understand why I charge what I do. I’m not taking the micky, I’m not taking advantage. I love dressing people! I want them to love what they are wearing, and I could never rip anyone off.
Nikee: I don’t think that’s possible, you’re far too genuine for anyone to think you were ripping them off. At the end of the day, a lot of love and attention has gone into your designs. It’s obvious every penny you charge is because you are very talented. I hope you get told that a lot!
Kyla: Thank you!
Nikee: You really are. Now looking to the future, you’re looking at going back to clothing?
Kyla: Yes, I worked hard on the lingerie and harness collection so that I could launch it at Sexhibition 2016. It was perfect for this event. Going forward? I want to concentrate more on clothing, the retro dresses. I make what I would want to wear. I love fashion from the 50’s and 60’s, and if you look at my website you can see a lot of retro dresses I’ve made previously. I love peter pan collars, cap sleeves, A-line skirts, prom style and skater dresses. I love capri pants! And I haven’t done those yet, so they will be in the collection!
Nikee: Ahh! I’d love to see those! And these leggings you’re wearing, you made those?
Kyla: Yes! *pings her waist-band* What’s important for me with leggings is a big high waist-band, they don’t fall down when you’re running for a bus!
Nikee: I’m excited to see the fabric choices you have for leggings. It’s quite a trend nowadays, lots of bright, high quality lycra leggings from brands like BlackMilk. However, they are rarely plus-size friendly. It’s great to know we have a UK-based designer who will custom make these items that won’t fall down!
Kyla: I’ve got hold of some great lycra lately! There’s some booty shorts on the stall, they are made from the same lycra! I’ve got red, green, mermaid, electric blue, fushia, gold, mad holographic colours. I don’t even know how to describe this one? *points to her leggings*
Nikee: It’s like holographic trifle? Lemon, peach, pink, like a sunset…
Kyla: I bought it and decided ‘this one is mine, no one else is having it’. I can get a bit precious! I want the only unique pair of these leggings in the world!
Nikee: The whole ensemble is eye-catching! It’s great to see things like booty-shorts in larger sizes. It’s also great to see designers embracing high waist, I’m so over low-rise. Even if it goes up to a size 32, it’s not going to be a good fit.
Kyla: You just won’t feel comfortable! If something isn’t long enough it will roll down, crease in the wrong place, and make you feel rubbish. The booty shorts in plus-sizes will have a strong high waist, the capri pants will have strategic buttons.
Nikee: I’m so excited to see what you do in the future! I’m imagining holographic jumpsuits and everything.
Kyla: Oh my god, I’m getting a visual!
Nikee: You’ve said you have quite a diverse range of customers?
Kyla: I have furries, adult babies: it’s really fun going ‘nursery fabric shopping’! I also have a lot of geeks too, they love to Dr Who fabrics! I’m going to do some festivals next year, I think the lycra and sequins will be well received.
Nikee: Thank you so much for chatting Kyla, you’ve been a sweetheart, now lets go take some pictures!
Thank you Kyla, for being professional, beautiful, inspiring and adorable! Your designs made me feel like a goddess and you deserve all of the happy customers that you have!