The Pechuga Blog / Upcycle
A Year in the Making
Monday night as I lay down to sleep I told myself tomorrow was going to be a better day. Something didn’t feel right, however. Was it really going to be a better day? I had to say it out loud. So I said it out loud in Spanish. Mañana será un día mejor. I found that more comforting.
Being the owner of Pechuga has been tough. I expected the work. I didn’t expect the paperwork, however. Nor did I expect the legal doings and the amount of people that were going to be involved in making this business not only successful but profitable. Oh, right, and a pandemic. I don’t think anyone was expecting that this year. After all wasn’t 2020 supposed to be the year of clarity? But I digress.
I woke up Tuesday from a DM from Steven La Fuente, Ashley Graham’s stylist, with a link and little heart emojis. The link was to Graham’s “7 Days, 7 Looks Feature” in Vogue, one of my pieces was in it. Tuesday did turn out to be a better day, indeed.
Any time Pechuga is mentioned anywhere I count it as a blessing (I got called a snake the other day by an anonymous user in the DM’s and even that was a blessing, it means they were thinking of me, I mean they took the time to write the message right?). But any time I’m mentioned in Vogue I’m always surprised. Pechuga, in Vogue? However, this time it wasn’t just any piece that was highlighted in Vogue and it wasn’t just on any person.
This was a piece a year and a half in the making.
In the Beginning There Was Rosé
July 2019, 2 bottles of rosé deep (fine maybe three, but who was counting), Jesse (the corset maker behind my Vivienne Westwood corset restorations one and two) was in his studio blasting Saweetie and working on our second project. I was taking pictures of fabrics, labels, I had just approved a $600 DHL customs and fees charge (heads up paying your bills drunk is the best way to go, it’s akin to falling flat on your face after a night of drinking and not feeling a single thing) for another Vivienne Westwood corset.
This Vivienne Westwood AW90/91 “Portrait” corset needed customs clearance (she would later sell for $12,000, by the way). That’s when I had another idea. The corset trend was in full throttle, Pechuga was spearheading the busty movement forward with rare Westwood corsets that at this point were locked up in museums all over the world but now suddenly found themselves in my hands (in Koreatown out of all places).
“Why don’t we make our own corset…?” I asked Jesse.
“Sure.” He said rather bluntly.
I continued, “…Because, see, I found this dress.”
Pechuga's White Whale
When I used to work for Vivienne Westwood there was a piece in the shop that I remember being completely enamored by. It was this red lurex corset with the most ostentatious bejeweled appliqués in peridot hues. It was from Vivienne’s SS13 Gold Label show, if I remember correctly it was around $2-3,000.
The corset was purchased by the daughter of a 70’s rock legend and I have never been able to find the corset ever again. In my weekly quest to locate the red number seen above, I stumbled upon a diamond in the rough.
Those appliqués! I knew this dress had to be from the same season as that red corset from the shop, I went ahead and purchased the dress and that’s when the wheels started turning. Now you may be wondering why this took a year and half to make? Well because with as much that piles on a daily (mind you, Jesse himself as a full time job) there needed to be a reason to push the project forward, after all I was going to be funding this all by myself (in the back, Shangela’s infamous Drag Race “Sugar Daddy” speech plays softly).
Finally in September of 2020 I got a call, a client needed a corset made for a project she was working on. There were two requests, the corset needed to be a size US 16 and preferably with sleeves. That’s when I called Jesse and we hit the ground running.
Let's Get to It
I wanted to use as much fabric from the dress as possible, purchasing the dress was a risky investment already. Ruining it by cutting it up was going to break my heart. However, Jesse said this was feasible, he would take the bottom part of the dress and use it as the side and back panels. As soon as we got the measurements from my client, Jesse started to make the muslin.
After a couple of days the body of the piece was starting to take shape. Jesse had boned the stomacher and the back. The appliqués had all been rearranged to flatter the shape of the corset better and now it was time to make the sleeves. For the sleeves I asked Jesse to send me some reference images. From the images he sent over I chose the sleeves from a 1770 stays.
I particularly loved this 18th century piece because of the soft ribbons at the shoulders. Plus this meant options with our new corset. The wearer can choose to take the sleeves off simply by untying the silk chiffon ribbons. I love having options when I wear certain pieces. My clients should have options as well.
Jesse was successful in using most of the fabric for the side and back panels. However we did need to make two more runs to Downtown LA to purchase more fabric, for the sleeves and for the ribbons, and lastly for the zipper closure. I wanted the zipper closure to be sturdy but I also wanted it to look expensive and dainty, I went with a metal teardrop ("Metal Teardrop" is also the name of my new metal rock band, we only wear Westwood, look us up).
An Emotional Rollercoaster
From start to finish making this piece was no easy task. There was a pandemic that we had to tip-toe around, fabric stores were operating at irregular hours, zipper shops were essential businesses but somehow trimmings weren't. Throughout the whole process, however, I had my client's expectations in mind and making her happy was really the end goal here.
The corset was a success, the client was happy, I crossed off another task on my never-ending bucket list of things I wanted to achieve for Pechuga: design an upcycled piece for the shop.
This is what the original SS13 dress looked liked
...and this was the final result
7 Days, 7 Looks with Vogue
In mid-November I received another DM, it was a pull request for Vogue's newest series, "7 Days, 7 Looks". Ashley Graham was going to be the model featured and they needed looks sized US 14. I always get a bit nervous pitching pieces to clients. My thoughts sometimes betray me. What if they hate my options? Or worse yet, what if I send over options and they tell me that it wasn't what they expected it?
The Pechuga corset needed some mending, some of the metal boning was sticking out. I was a bit embarrassed to send over a piece with that slight imperfection. But as they say, time waits for no one and when Vogue and Ashley Graham want something uh, you better send.
The end result was nothing short of fabulous. Thanks again, Steven, for letting me be a part of this, Ashely for looking stunning, Jesse for bringing my vision to life. Hope you enjoyed the post, fellow reader!
Until next time.