Kate Cusack


So I was putting together my piece on Exposed Zippers and came across Kate’s site.  Since getting into this whole blogging thing, I’ve stumbled upon so many amazing designers on accident.  Makes me think I should have gotten into it a lot sooner….

Anyway, onto Kate!

No, she’s not related to John or Joan.  I wonder if she gets that a lot?

Kate wears many creative hats including costume designer, sculptor and jeweler.  Check out this Marie Antoinette inspired wig she constructed using only plastic wrap!


True artists obviously see things we don’t.  I look at Saran wrap and think, mmm…leftovers. Kate on the other hand, having the artist’s eye, sees all of it’s potential.

Kate earned a BFA from MICA (in my hometown of Baltimore) and an MFA from the Yale School of Drama where she studied costume design.

When she’s not designing costumes or sculpting gorgeous works of art, she focuses on her jewelry line that is made up entirely of zippers!

She thinks of her jewelry as a mini-sculpture for the body.  Sure to get noticed, the wearer becomes sort of a mobile gallery if you will.   Her jewelry line includes pins, bracelets and necklaces.  Earrings and rings may not be far off either.




I recently got the chance to conduct a mini-interview with Kate and here it is!

You use materials in very unexpected ways, how much is that unconventional viewpoint a result of your costume work?

I think my love for transforming unusual materials into exciting creations is not as a result of my costume work, but is a result of my growing up in an artistic household.  My mother is an illustrator who creates stitched artwork and she depends on various patterns and textures of fabric to create realistic images. (www.margaretcusack.com)  She looks at a certain kind of fabric and sees a brick road or a roof of a building instead of just a red-ish looking piece of fabric.  Her ability to see more than what is simply in front of her is what I grew up around.  Our family also used to throw a huge Halloween party every year where kids and adults would arrive wearing home-made costumes.  Part of the challenge was to make something outrageous and unusual and, typically, it involved whatever materials were around the house.

These days fashion is driven by celebrities and magazines, how much do you think that success as a designer depends on getting access to that arena?

I think a lot of people who are not confident in their own personal style will always look to the magazines and the celebrities to see what is “in” or “cool”.  So in that sense, the success of a designer can depend on being show in magazines, etc.  Magazines are always looking for “the next thing” so I think the bigger challenge is to be featured in magazines/on celebrities but then to continue to develop and stay relevant.

Obviously there is a creative difference between designing of costumes and jewelry for a larger consumer market.  Do you think your career will lead more towards one field or the other in the future?

Right now, I have decided to really put most of my efforts into developing my Zipper Jewelry.  Recently I designed costumes for a multi-media opera/dance piece.  I used a lot of unconventional materials –like plastic forks and clear recycling bags.  It was definitely a wonderful creative experience, but once it was complete, I was happy to return to my studio to continue my work with the Zipper Jewelry.  The two experiences are wildly different–one is extremely collaborative and the other is very solitary.  I think I may continue to create costumes or sculptural-wearable-art, but it will not be for traditional theater.


I love that Kate doesn’t set artistic limitations on herself. Says Kate, “Because I see everything as an artist, it means I am freed up from certain constraints that typically come with certain professional approaches. I can see the material for what it is, what it “should” be used for, and then I can decide how I want to re-imagine it.”

Whether she’s designing elaborate costumes for stage productions, making wigs out of kitchen essentials, or reinventing the zipper, one constant with Kate is her love of unusual materials and her ability to transform them.

You can, and should, purchase one of her designs here:


Be sure to check out Kate’s blog too!


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