The Art of the Answer Song

Oh answer song, why do I love you so?  The sixties were undoubtedly a great time for pop music… one of the great celebrations of teenage angst where pop stars were able to create these great mythic landscapes where star-crossed lovers lived out extended dramas involving heartbreak, parental disapproval and gory and/or fiery deaths.  The answer song allowed these fantasies to be extended beyond their natural three-minute life span.

Of course it started before the 60s– there are probably some snappy 18th Century broadsheets spilling some sassy replies to popular ballads of the day.  But certainly by the first half of the twentieth century folks were hearing a hit and chiming in with their two cents worth.  Thus when Big Mama Thornton sang “Hound Dog” and it stuck around at number one on the record charts Sam Phillips got local DJ and Memphis celebrity Rufus Thomas to answer back with “Bear Cat“, which got to number three but nearly bankrupted the label with a copyright-infringement suit.


Big Mama Thornton

Some songs were so popular they spawned multiple replies.  “Get a Job” by doo-wop group The Silhouettes must have really hit a nerve because it got several replies– The Miracles and The Tempos both declared “I got a Job“, while The Heartbeats sang “I Found a Job” and The Mistakes energetically declared “I got Fired“.


Often times the answer song was a ‘right of reply’ type of affair when the original seemed a little unbalanced.  One of my favourites of this type is by The Teen Queens (of “Eddie, My Love” fame) who answered Bobby Marchan’s somewhat creepy revenge song “There’s Something on Your Mind” with their straight up “There’s Nothing on My Mind

teen queens

The Teen Queens

Whether it was LaVern Baker propositioning Elvis the Pelvis or Ginger Davis putting down Dion’s put-downs answer songs were often a welcome comeback in a time with such rigid gender roles.

You could even reply to your own song– The Bobbettes did so well with their song “Mr Lee” (apparently about a Maths teacher they didn’t particularly like– the record company made them re-write the original lyrics dissing the teacher) they followed it up with “I Shot Mr Lee” (I guess he hadn’t gone up in their estimation in the meantime).  Their last hit was also an answer song– this time a reply to Chris Kenner’s “I Like it Like That” pointedly called “I Don’t Like it Like That”


The fabulous Lesley Gore also answered her own songs– most successfully with the sad story of “It’s My Party (and I’ll Cry If I Want to)” which she updated with the wonderfully bitchy “Judy’s Turn to Cry“.  These songs were firmly in the world of teenage drama and high stakes necking/partying/exchanging of rings but the weren’t the full melodrama of the teenage death song.

That tragic sub-genre held the likes of “Teen-Angel” “Leader of the Pack” “Give Us Your Blessing” and “Ebony Eyes” and for myself the crossover between answer song and teenage death song in this pinnacle of both sub-genres.


Lesley Gore

I can’t remember the first time I heard “Tell Laura I Love Her” but I certainly heard it many times over the years sung at me by the parents and older siblings of friends.  Even through the cringing self-consciousness of adolescence I loved the song with its dark romantic story of death at the race track.

It was almost inevitable that an answer song would be penned in response to Ray Peterson’s over the top ballad, but it wasn’t until I heard Skeeter Davis singing the tearful-prayerful reply that I really fell in love.

Skeeter Davis had already made several answer songs that were more in the country music line– her songs “I Can’t Help You (I’m Falling to)” and “Lost to a Geisha Girl” were both answers to Hank Locklin songs, and “I Really Want You to Know” was a reply to Eddy Arnold’s “I Really Don’t Want to Know”.

“Tell Tommy I Miss Him” was a Marilyn Michaels song, and it was also recorded by Laura Lee but is Skeeter Davis who does the song full justice for me.  Her voice has that suggestion of a catch, that suppressed sob while at the same time the strength and resolution that perfectly delivers the melodrama of the song.  It is the same quality that makes “The End of The World” everybody’s favourite heartbreak.

Answer songs didn’t end with the sixties of course– but to my mind it remains the golden age of this art form.  But tell me– what is your favourite musical comeback?


5 Incredible Things People Have Believed About Bananas (that are almost mostly completely untrue)

Laura peels back the layers of banana myth and legend.

If you’ve been on the internet for any amount of time over the last year you may have seen ‘warnings’ over the dangers of eating eggs and bananas together.  This hoax, which seems to originated in Bangalore, claimed that the combination makes a ‘fatal poison’ in the stomach, which was responsible for the death of a young man foolhardy enough to consume both in one sitting.

Of course anyone who has enjoyed a nice slice of banana cake is living testimony to the fact that this combo is not dangerous– but this did not stop many people from worrying about the possibility.

As silly as this might sound to some, it is only the latest in a long line of strange, interesting and sometimes down right ridiculous beliefs people have held about bananas.


Adam and Eve and the Banana

Although early on artists started depicting the fruit that tempted Eve as being an apple, scholars have long debated whether this was in fact correct.  Many point to the latin word ‘malum’ which can be translated as both ‘evil’ and ‘apple’ as starting the confusion.  In opposition to the apple (which many point out wouldn’t have been known to the writers of the Old Testament) many have put forth the banana in its place.

Anderson (Mrs), active 1858; Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Later Carl von Linne

Carl Linnaeus, the famous taxonomist and botanist was a firm believer in the banana as fruit of knowledge theory; noting that bananas grow at the right height and that banana leaves make better clothing for humans who just been made self-conscious through forbidden snacks.

Linnaeus even named bananas Musa Sapentium, from the latin term for wise, and Mussa Paradissiaca (banana of paradise).

Of course Linnaeus was pretty keen on bananas in general, which may have coloured his thinking.  He was the first person to successfully grow a banana plant in Holland, and believed they could provide cures for everything from prostate problems to coughs and angry feelings.

I can’t help but think that the phallic look of the banana had some impact of this theory of the banana-as-the-fruit-of-knowledge.  Some point to Gen. 1:27-29 where God tells Adam and Eve they can eat any fruit that has seeds in it as proof the fruit of knowledge wasn’t an apple, but of course, bananas in their natural state also have seeds.

If we are going to give the Garden of Eden an earthly location and fix the fruit of knowledge as something that still grows here, my money is still on the fig, which is more historically accurate and itself a pretty sexy fruit.


Mine Eyes!

The potential sexiness of the banana was something that troubled a portion of Victorian England.  While bananas were a very popular snack in Victorian England, synonymous with having fun and good times, one group of mainly ladies believed that the provocative shape of bananas was so dangerous that the mere sight of a banana could immediately produce undesirable and illicit behaviours in the viewer.


Subsequently, they wanted bananas banned in order to protect the morals of the population.  No such ban was ever seriously considered, but the anti-banana feeling was enough that one fruit company at least put out a series of postcards showing ‘decent’ women eating bananas in an attempt to depict bananas as part of a morally healthy lifestyle.


There is no evidence as to what effect seeing virtuous women eating bananas might have had on an unruly Victorian libido, but the sale and consumption of bananas continued anyway.

Ba jiao gui

Banana Ghosts

Considering that bananas are a staple of diets in many parts of the world, it is not surprising that they have made their way into many legends and folklore around the world, making for some banana beliefs that are far more established than those crazy Victorian fads.

One of my favourites is the Nang Tani of Thailand.  She is a sort of ‘lady of the wood’ type character, a beautiful, greenish female spirit who is said to haunt the groves of wild banana there.

She is generally a gentle spirit, reminding people of the sanctity of nature, and providing shelter for monks and other travellers.  One group that really gets her goat though are men who have wronged women, and if one of them breaks off a wild banana they can expect a nasty reprisal.


The Sloop John B..anana

Given how notoriously superstitious sailors are it is perhaps to be expected that bananas should also be given this treatment by sea-faring folk.  Some locate the origin of the ‘maritime banana curse’ with the unlucky encounters sailors had with poisonous spiders or snakes that had hitched a ride on early banana cargoes, or the fact that the ethylene produced by the bananas caused other fruit around them to spoil faster.

Whatever the reason, bananas are now considered unlucky by many sailors and fisherfolk, and a banana on board can be blamed for everything from a poor catch to foul weather.  So keep your bananas out of your tackle box if you want a good number of bites.



Smoke em’ if you’ve got em’

Hands up who wasn’t told at some point in their lives that you could get high from smoking banana peels?

Apparently this rather silly idea caught on in the1960s when people made the connection between the effects of LSD and serotonin on the brain and the fact that bananas too have serotonin in them ( actually the levels of seratonin in bananas is too small to cross the blood-brain barrier).

It spread quickly due to the fact that many people wanted to get high and also had no money, so the ‘a-peel’ of smoking bananas was obvious (no I’m not sorry).

mellow yellow

The flames were fed by the synchronistic release of folksinger Donovan’s single ‘Mellow Yellow’ which contained the lyrics “Electrical banana / Is gonna be a sudden craze / Electrical banana / Is bound to be the very next phase” .  Donovan later definitively stated that those lyrics were about a yellow vibrator and not about smoking banana peels.


Still the myth persisted, despite the empirical evidence of anyone who tried it that smoking any part of a banana could not get you high.  Part of its endurance can be put down to the fact that William Powell, author of The Anarchist Cookbook (1971) included in his cult tome what was in fact a hoax recipe printed in the Berkeley Barb in 1967 which purported to explain how to extract ‘bananadine’– the psychoactive element in bananas.

More than anything this myth, like some of the other strange ideas about bananas seem to stick around because bananas themselves have a hold on our imaginations. Mainly because they look funny and taste good.

Behind the seams with Vivien of Holloway

Natasha meets the wonderfully witty lady behind the Vivien of Holloway empire.

It’s not every day that you get to meet the reproduction vintage pioneer behind one of your favourite reproduction clothing labels.

Vivien of Holloway is a veritable institution in the vintage world. Since 2000, the label has been serving up only the highest quality, authentic, reproduction vintage clothing to pinup and rockabilly devotees worldwide.

Inspired by the timeless style of 1940s and 50s silver screen starlets, her glamourous clothing is made in England and designed to flatter your curves.

It’s an extremely humid Friday morning in late January and Vivien Wilson, aka Vivien in Holloway, is in Auckland and I meet her at Rita Sue Clothing, a vintage inspired boutique in St Kevin’s Arcade, which has recently become a stockist of the brand.

While I’m hungover as hell and my hair is plastered to my skull with sweat, Vivien is a picture of style and elegance. Dressed in a red and white Kitty dress with a striking Hawaiian print, her strawberry blonde hair perfectly coiffed, she’s a walking, talking ambassador for her label.

We grabbed a coffee at a bustling cafe overlooking Myers Park and had a jolly good chat.

Read on for the interview!


Vivien Wilson aka Vivien of Holloway at Rita Sue Boutique photographed in January.

You’ve been making clothing since you were a child and your label started in 2000. So you’re a reproduction clothing pioneer, is that right?

I am the first! I don’t think anyone else was doing it when I was 9 or 10.

I don’t think I’ll tell you how long ago that was! I didn’t start selling  until I was about 14 except to my friends because, obviously I’d make something for myself and then they’d go ‘ can I have one’ and I’d go ‘OK’.

So then I’d make it. And then at the first ever rock ‘n’ roll festival in the world as far as I know, probably the second one actually,  I took some clothes along to sell.


Was this in the 80s or 90s?

 Very early 80s is as far as I’m going to go back.

Was that the beginnings of a scene in the UK?

No there’s always been a scene!


 I went to America when I was 18. There’s pictures all over my personal Instagram…


There was no scene there…no rockabilly scene.

There were a few people there and they said to me ‘there’s nothing here.’


Why do you think this was?

Maybe because it’s so spread out and rockabilly is already a part of their culture. They dressed according to their music but they didn’t dress 50s style.

It was a bit flat to go to America and not to be able to find any rockabilly clubs. But it wasn’t a surprise as obviously I had friends from there who said there wasn’t any. And they were coming to England.

I went out there to meet an English boy who I was seeing and later married and when he picked me up from the airport he had a Chrysler and a ’59 Cadillac and we just got dressed up and went cruising all the time.


And he had a couple of young friends that had Corvettes, so there were cars and people into cars but there wasn’t really a music scene as such.

A few years after that when my friend came over from America… it slowly built from there.


How have you noticed the scene evolve?

The English scene doesn’t really change. People come and go. What’s shocking is when you remember there being a new young person to the scene and then they’re turning 30… Time just goes quickly!

Is the scene a lot bigger than it used to be?

There’s always been a big scene in England. Ever since I can remember really, if anything the clubs were bigger when I was young.


Enter a caption

In New Zealand it seems like the opposite way around. Pinup and vintage culture seem to be booming here. despite us being a tiny country.

I think there’s a big difference between vintage culture and rockabilly clubs. It’s not the same thing.


Viven meets local pinup Dolly Destory.

I guess the scene’s so small here that we don’t really have enough people to have separate scenes..

That’s a good thing it’s not like that in England. I wish more people who are just interested in pinup and vintage would come to clubs, it would make them more interesting.

As it is, it’s just people I’ve been looking at for 30 years.  And oh not you again! Hahaha!

As the first vintage repro label. Obviously everyone is doing vintage repro now. How does that make you feel?

It’s a bit sad that so many of them feel the need to copy my designs!  They do very close copies and then say there’s nothing like it. There’s a million different styles from the 50s- why did you choose to take so much influence from mine?


Vivien of Holloway’s flagship store on Holloway Road, London.

How do you feel about those cheap, nasty, made -in -China knock-offs that people buy on Ali Express and Wish?

One company in China actually stole my whole website! They have now copied a lot of other designers who are now contacting me. And it’s like, well none of you cared …they didn’t have any recognition of the fact that the scene is too small and you need to look further afield.

I started designing 1940s style trousers, I had them with the turn up and buttons and now people  seem to think that that’s the only style of the 1940s trouser instead of looking a bit further and going ‘ there are lots of different styles of 1940s trousers’ you don’t have to put buttons on one side and turn ups!


Do you go after then with lawyers?

When I first started, I didn’t do many designs. The stuff sold really well and I didn’t have to.It sold as quick as I could make it.

But then when people started copying my clothes, I just thought well that’s going to happen and it was just a big kick up the backside to do more designs. So really, they did me a favour.


But the difference with my brand is everything is made in England. Everything has my hand on it because literally those factories are within half an hour travel of my office and I personally check every pattern, I check every fit of every garment.

They’re fitted on one of the girls in the office who’s a size 10, and me who wears a size 18.  Every garment is checked like that- so it fits every person as an average the best. It’s difficult to make something fit at all on a short person.  But what we try and do is do the average of everything. So everything doesn’t fit me perfectly cos I’m tall!


That time I met Vivien Wilson in the flesh at Auckland boutique Rita Sue Clothing.

But it will fit everyone on an average pretty well. Some designs- because they’re made, they might not fit a short person quite so well.


I was actually going to come to that next as I’m sure you get a lot of comments about sizing..

There’s a lot of argument about the sizing. My label has been going so long that the sizes were actually made on the large size when we started.

If you look at an official size chart, it’s not actually that far from our sizing. But also a lot of clothes that are made in China – Asian people don’t have waists like we do so a lot of the clothing doesn’t get made with waists..

28034613_1947677521927239_1990867361_oAlso it’s the same with vanity sizing – if they don’t put a waist on something it’ll fit everybody. But I’m not happy with that. My clothing is limited to girls with one type of figure or maybe two, but it’ll fit them brilliantly.

The thing is there’s a massive gap in the market – for the body shape I cater for. There’s not a massive gap in the market for girls who are size 10. But there is for girls of size 18.

I try and leave little bits of extra [fabric] here and there so you can do adjustments.


Have you ever considered making extended sizes (currently her laegest size is UK22 with a 38″ waist)?

It’s very difficult because we already do 8 sizes. It’s not that there isn’t enough of a market–we could either cut off the small and add another larger size, but I can’t do more than 8 sizes. As it is, every time we make a dress – we make 500 dresses – that’s going to add another 80 dresses every time we do a fabric…

You have to have a cut off somewhere. And that’s kinda where we got to. 

28033166_1947679475260377_2025412431_oA lot of people have asked about larger sizes in the sarongs, but it’s difficult because as you get bigger, different people have their weight in different places and so it’s hard to know where to add the extra. I totally sympathize as I can’t buy clothes on the high street I’m too big…unless I want to go to a big girl’s shop and then just all tents.

In Australia I wear a 16 and at home it would be an 18 to a 20 and most shops don’t even cater that large. And if they do, they do one so it’s gone pretty quickly.

Maybe some of the clothes that aren’t so fitted I could do to a larger size..

28694591_1971569019538089_1357051668_oThe idea of our clothing is to pull you into the shape you should be so if you use a stretch fabric it will just let you out…but I think this year will see us possibly doing a little leisure range so a little beach dress maybe and with me coming to Australia every January , I don’t have anything to wear on the beach.


I like the structure that comes with wearing something non stretch.What about the idea of doing a separate plus size range or even a couple of pieces?

Oh I’d really love to but it’s just not plausible if you understood how small the company was .. because everything we do sells really well so I don’t want to stop… a lot of companies bring out a new range every year. But if we stopped doing anything from our range , people would be unhappy ..

28695235_1971569829538008_909684462_oWhat are the hallmarks of the Vivien of Holloway brand?

Well I like to think we are actually reproduction, most labels are just retro which just means made out of funky fabrics [ or a vague nod to retro] wheras I use the same fabrics – as close to the fabrics as I can get- or we replace rayon with polyester because it washes and it hangs just like rayon but it washes brilliantly or you can chuck it on the floor and put it straight back on.

I try and use fabrics that will hang exactly the same as the original which is where I think a lot of clothing brands fall down.

28695071_1971570499537941_241343011_oSo did you have any formal training in fashion?

No not really. I started [sewing] when I was about 8 or 9 I think – might have been 10. My mum loved old movies so I used to watch old movies with my mum and you know there was always that scene where you saw the women clicking down the road in those heels- stiletto heels with her seamed stockings and her tight skirt .. so I really wanted some of those shoes.


So my mum took me shopping and we looked everywhere and then she went ‘ ok I know where to go’ and she took me to a charity shop which is probably the worst thing she ever did in her life – and from that minute onwards I was hooked. I went in there and she said right- you can have two pairs of shoes and two items of clothing so I remember I bought two pencil skirts and two pairs of shoes and from then on, every single penny I got went straight to the charity shops and jumble sales.


And that’s how I learned the construction of vintage clothing, because I started altering them to fit me – first of all I just made tucks everywhere. My mum always made her own clothing but she wasn’t very good ..and she said this is what you do but then I realised you could start taking things apart and that’s where I learnt all my knowledge about how things were constructed. So that’s how my brand differs from other peoples because I’ve taken thousands of garments apart and I know how to put them together.

1950s-halterneck-turquoise-duchess-dress-p35-12965_image.jpgIn early days I used to just cut a dress in half and use half of it for a pattern and keep the other half to see how the rest went back together.

I learnt an awful lot of things that people can’t teach you .. how seams were made, how darts were made , how things should hang, how a particular style should hang and where it should drape- you need to know all these things.

And through a whole life of being into vintage, that’s how I am ..


Rita Sue Clothing proprietor Cathy Warden models the new Kitty in tiki print.

Have you got anything exciting coming up with the brand or personally?

It’s a bit late for the season but there’s a coat coming. It’s the first time I’ve told anyone we’re doing coats!

katharine-trousers-crepe-scarlet-p2757-12538_medium.jpgAren’t coats quite expensive and complicated to bring out?

They will be, but they’re worth it. It’s very beautiful and already under way and they’ll be made when I get back to England and they’re very beautiful and they’re going to be very limited – I think we’re only making 20 to start with!


We just started a new range before I went away called the Pink Label Deluxe and that’s because so many people admired clothes that I was making for myself but the fabrics were too expensive for me to put them into our range for a similar price so the pink label – probably most items will be twice the price as everything else but it’ll be because the fabric is really nice quality.

I mean we use nice quality already but this will take the limits off what I can spend on fabrics which means I can buy whatever I like. And we’ve already brought out some of the pink label items which are absolutely beautiful.


What is the label most known for? 

Well if you go to my live page on instagram, you’ll be able to see how I spend my life.

What are you most proud of?

My son! He’s just turning 30. He does work with me sometimes but he’s a musician- he’s in a metal band called Counting Days. They’re quite well known but there’s not an awful amount of money involved in music at the moment..

Fashionwise it’s usually my latest thing: I make clothes for me basically. If I want to wear something, then I make it. I might make something I wouldn’t wear now but everything I make is things I would have worn at some point in my life.

28642991_1971570889537902_1730123199_oHow has your style evolved over the years?

I very much dress for my body shape and for my age and I think the label probably reflects that but when I choose fabrics I make sure I choose fabrics that suit every personality and age so I just pick fabrics I think are beautiful and will look good in design- I might not wear them all.

I go to some very high end events a lot and even though I’m surrounded by people in designer clothes I’m always getting people stop me and tell me how amazing I look. And that’s everywhere I go really.

28822071_1971573742870950_422064913_oMy friends find it really funny that some people actually chase me up the street to tell me I look amazing. Year ago they used to laugh but now they understand what it [vintage] is. It’s in the press so much that people understand what you’re doing.

I used to go to a lot of fashion parties with stylists and fashion people . I myself am not really interested in getting involved in the fashion world, I’ve never been to fashion shows, I don’t think it’s got anything to do with what we do.

28695591_1971570639537927_2061382378_oBut I go to fashion parties with other people and whereas people used to look at me like I was weird and ignore me, now they tend to treat you like you’re some 50s movie star or something because they get it. But before it was fashionable, it was like ugh who’s that? The fashion industry can be really catty.

Want to find out more? Check out Vivien of Holloway stock in store now at Rita Sue Clothing or visit the website here.


Vivien and yours truly. Thank goodness for Vivien’s beloved ‘beauty app’ LOL


New Vivien of Holloway kitty dresses in store now at Rita Sue Clothing!

In the closet with Labretta Suede

Welcome to the sixth installment of our In the Closet series! This week Natasha steps inside the exotic wardrobe of Labretta Suede and the Motel 6 frontwoman Labretta Suede.

Although we’ve been friends for well over a decade, my first memories of Labretta Suede go back to my teenage years in the early to mid-90s. 

Even then she still rocked her trademark look which was part Ronnie Spector, part Bettie Page and part Poison Ivy. 

There was the same enormous black beehive, winged liquid eyeliner, ripped fishnets and short shorts –and the same raucous laugh that could be heard several blocks down the road!

More than 25 years later and she’s barely changed style-wise. As the diminutive but feisty frontwoman of Labretta Suede and the Motel Six (read our interview with the band here), she’s notorious for appearing on stage in outrageous, barely there ensembles. However what you might not know is that Labretta is a longtime lover of vintage clothing and has amassed an incredible collection thanks to many years touring the USA and the world.

Alongside her hubby Johnny Moondog, they’re also the proprietors of Cockspurs Vintage, a boutique specialising in true Americana vintage (catch them vending on the second floor of the Rebel Roundup markets this weekend).

Read on to find out why she prefers to be a purist, how she developed her signature style– and why you should never leave a good frock on hold at the thrift store! 

You seem to have a great wardrobe. Wanna take us on a tour of your closet?  
Home invasion much?  OK – I’ll give you a sneak peek then. Come on! Down the rabbit hole we go….  

thumbnail_Labretta Suede-7675_preview

Photo by Megs Moss.

 What would we find within?  
Lingerie and corsetry, feathers, bullet belts, ripped fishnets, leather things with zips, pristine 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s evening dresses. Authentic 60’s dresses and  playsuits, Las Vegas show girl sparkly dresses, cowboy boots, 1950s -1970s short-shorts, 1940s – 1970s Westernwear, 1910- 1960’s Hollywood glamour night slips, all the way through to custom-made Spanish flamenco dresses from Barcelona that I bought when I was 19 years of age.

Labretta Suede-7751_preview

Photo by Megs Moss.

Labretta Suede-7765_preview

Photo by Megs Moss.

 Are you a vintage purist or do you wear repro pieces occasionally too?  
I am more purist than repro. I tend to not buy newly made items of clothing. The world is over flowing with too much cheaply made, slave labour clothing and junk as it is. Consumption needs to stop!  

Not to say that all repro is cheaply made, as much of it is not and I have a few custom made pieces from high-end repro designers. I think many of them are brilliant and it’s nice to see quality fabrics and beautiful styles reproduced again. Especially when I see someone in the mainstream wearing it and I can finally not be offended by bad fashion. Ha!  

Growing up as an artist with my love of the bizarre has kept my heart true to indiviual asthetics. I am horrifed by this era of comformity and lack of imagination when it comes to expression, or rather lack there of.  

What are some of your most prized pieces in your vintage collection and why?  
Hmm.. tricky. I have some amazing pieces that often are too sentimental and valuable to me to ever see the light of day. Although, my go-tos are my old beat up leather jacket which has seen me through many an escapade.  However, my short-shorts collection, my on-stage, two-piece outfits and my sparkly dresses have been what I am most famous for.  

unnamed-2  unnamed
Then there is my handbag, purse and clutch collection.  My love for wicker hand bags is a bit out of control. My fur and velvet handbag/hand warmer muffs. Mmmmm…. Nothing like good accessories.  
My sterling vintage Amercian Indian jewelery keeps me grounded and provides endless facination in my day-to-day when meeting people. Again, some never see the light of day as it’s too dear to me and I have lost many a family heirloom at shows/gigs and mosh pits. So, perhaps this punkabilly has learned a few things over her years around the moon.  

Any noteworthy recent purchases?  
The last trip to Melbourne took the cake. While mincing around in one my favourite stores, I hear my husband say while pointing to a garment hanging on the wall, “check that out! You have to have that and I know that it will fit you”. He then frantically asks the shop attendant to pull it from the wall and the tag said ‘on hold for Sally’.

My husband was adament. “Whose Sally? Has she put a deposit down?” The shop attendant called the owner as I tried on the dress. She hung up with a very unconclusive answer …until, she saw the dress on me and said “WOAH! You said you were playing a show right? Ok, I agree you have to have it”   So, I handed over very little- in my opinion- for the dress and boy were we excited. My husband more so.  
Here it is!

Labretta Suede-8100_preview

Photo by Megs Moss.

Labretta Suede-8116_preview

Labretta Suede-8114_preview

Photos by Megs Moss.

How did you first become interested in vintage style?  
Being that I am vintage in age…teehee… I still own and wear those items I first bought which are now deemed vintage. You could still buy cool punk labels right off the racks with stores like Bluebeat and Vivian Westwood. 
I still own them but I always had a very unique style from when I was young and I have pretty much looked the same since I was about 12. Winged eyeliner, pale face, red lipstick with a punk/goth/country style and themes throughout my dress code. I have always been tiny but curvy, so have had to be creative about fashion.


As newly made off-the-shelf clothing never fit nor did it suit me and admittedly still doesn’t. Ever since I was a child I would always go thrifting and op shopping with my mother and I would chop and alter things to fit me. My mother to this very day sits and helps me come up with outfits and creations. She gives me ideas on the best way to sew or cut the fabrics. It’s still some of our favourite bonding time.  

What is it about vintage clothing that appeals to you the most?  
The quality of the fabrics, the styles, the patterns and cuts. They are feminine and flattering and oddly most vintage fits my slight but shapely physic purr-fectly. 

How does it make you feel when you wear it?  
Being that I wear it most everyday I guess that is a loaded question.  Different outfits give you different super powers. Some can be drop-dead sexy, where others can be wholesome and cute. I do love my dangerous bad girl outfits but the next day could be wearing a gorgeous 1930s evening dress that gives me that same sexy dangerous feeling by with elegance. By in large I like to feel outside of society, as I do like the exotic and other worldly….  

What are your favourite eras when it comes to vintage clothes? 
Well, the era’s that truly suit me are the 1910-20s burlesque style, a touch of the 1950s more casual styles, with cuts that are high waist but I feel I can be a bit small for 50s styles and they tend to look a bit matronly on me. The 1960s are super cute on me and late 70s punk are my go-tos.  
As a musician and in my early career as a burlesque performer I have had a great affinity with the 1860s- 1930s burlesque styles. I have a big crush on the broken down Hollywood glamour look but for me it’s not about singling out one era.  

Where are your favourite shopping haunts and why?  
Most of mine are sadly not in New Zealand. They are mainly based in the USA with a few in Melbourne, Australia. These shops are eclectic and I get giddy with excitement just knowing we are going to visit. Stopping in to visit these stores are as important as our shows and gigs when we are touring the globe. 

Sadly, many are closing down or do not have the calibre of quality anymore, due to the vintage trend spiraling into the mainstream. Although, this is only part of the issue. It is just simply getting harder and harder to source as we move away each year from those finer eras.  

What are your general thoughts about op shopping and vintage shopping in New Zealand?  
You can definitely find some good finds in New Zealand when it comes to kitsch household items, deco mirrors, retro furniture and curios. 

However, New Zealander’s have always been fairly casual when it comes to fashion and design. Thus, the design was never as detailed as clothing or furniture made in the USA or Europe. When my parents first arrived to NZ in the 60s from Greece, they looked like the mafia with their beehives, A-line dresses and three-piece suits.

My parents still giggle about how New Zealander’s would wear stubbies and jandals just about anywhere. One of my fathers friends got sick of seeing him in a suit and cut his tie right off his neck at a party. So, I think I definitely acquired my sense of style from my lineage.  My grandfathers were both shoemakers too.  


Photo by Carlos de Treend from The Juice Lab.

What are your holy grail pieces?   
Not telling…. A gal needs some privacy in her long lost search.  Ie: back off bitches it’s mine! Teehee!  
Fave labels/ fabrics/ outfit types?  
Leather is a true love for me. Sorry vegans but for the most part it is vintage. Thus, saved from the landfill by being reglamourised by yours truly. I have never been a label basher, or rather labels have never concerned me. I like what I like and it’s all in the hunt and the find.  unnamed-1
Whose closet do you envy and why? Who are some of your style icons and influences?  
It would have to be a combined envy of Bettie Page, Siouxsie Sioux, Zsa Zsa Gabor and a little of Daisy Duke.  


The Queen of Curves: Bettie Page.

Bettie Page for her risque, wild but always sweet sensibilities. Siouxsie Sioux for her extreme dark edge and uniquely appropriated fabrics.  Zsa Zsa Gabor for that always overly dressed hollywood sparkle and style. Daisy Duke for her sexy hillbilly casual charm.  


Daisy Duke

Can you remember the first vintage piece you bought? What was it?  
Growing up in a immigrant family with four children there were a lot of hand me downs that I appropriated and being the only girl I got my mothers cool hand me downs. I would ritualistically sink them in a boiling pot of black dye. Mmmm…. that smell but they never did come out black, Always charcoal, deep purples and deep blues, which made them more interesting still. I certainly stood out at high school in a sea of Guns & Roses T-shirts.  


Labretta and Johnny Moondog  with members of the Hallelujah Picassos.

I remember my high school outfits fondly but as for my first purchased vintage item, it must have been a leather jacket or some kind of undergarment. As I do remember spending years looking for just the right leather jacket. Or maybe it was records? I was and am still a vinyl junkie.

How do members of the public react to your getups?  
It’s a swinging pendulum really. I either get complimented all day about my style or people take a wide berth. I prefer the latter. Not good with compliments. Thanks New Zealand for that affliction.  


Do you wear vintage to work as well?  

How is your style received in the workplace?  
Mostly people are intrigued as to what I will wear the next day. I seem to be a bit of a runway model for many and a person of interest. It’s healthy and fun and gets most people out of their workplace modes and opens up some really fun conversations. So, I feel I get to know a lot of my co-workers on a deeper level.  


Photo by Carlos de Treend of The Juice Lab.

Does your vintage obsession extend into other areas too such as home decor, car, accessories and other collections?  
Yes, my husband and I are lifers. We have 1950s-built home, decor is broken down Hollywood glamour. I have owned my 1963 Dodge for over 15 years and my husband is a fan of vintage cars and motorbikes too. Complete with two red dingo Kelpies …one is vintage the other a newby.  It’s a colourful household!

Anything that you’d never be caught dead wearing? 

Gray marle and sweat pants.  


Catch Labretta Suede and the Motel 6 live at the following gigs:

February 17 and 18, Rebel Roundup, Pukekohe Park, Auckland.

March 1st, Stiff Little Fingers, The Powerstation, Auckland

March 17, St Patrick’s Day, Kentish Pub. Waiuku, Auckland.



All Kooped Up: An interview with lounge lothario Koop Kooper

Natasha Francois chats to Cocktail Nation radio host and arbiter of all things swank, Koop Kooper.

Koop Kooper vividly recalls visiting his grandparent’s home as a child and being dazzled by the mid-century furniture inside. He would lie on the couch watching old movies from the ’50s and ’60s while his mother and grandmother sipped tea.

Sometimes he would take his mother’s old Bluebird wooden tennis racket outside and hit balls against his grandparent’s wall imagining he was playing [Australian tennis pros] Rod Laver or Ken Rosewall. “It was like my own little portal to the past, he says. “Even as a kid, the mid-century appealed to me.”


“I had quite an active imagination for a 10-year-old. Also, I remember little things like the fact that it was a very old neighbourhood and to me, it felt like ’50s America. Add to this the fact that my mother also used to like listening to old music, I guess it tends to get into your head.”

At 14, Koop discovered the rockabilly subculture. He remembers sitting in a ’50s style milkbar with a friend, watching the local greasers with their vintage clothes and slicked back hair, and thinking they were so brave and he could never do that.

“A year later and I had my hair piled high in a pompadour and was dressed head to toe in vintage 1950s clothes,” he says.


By the late ’90s he’d drifted away from rockabilly towards jazz and swing. A girl he was seeing introduced him to the Ultra Lounge series which he began collecting and fell in love with all things swank.


25 years later, and the 40-year-old radio host is still wearing clothes from the era. Granted, it’s a more adult style, but still mid-century to the core. “I have several shirts and jackets I picked up in the early days and I am pleased to say they still fit!” he says.


Describing his distinctive sartorial style as “vintage 50s/ 60s Cary Grant meets Don Draper meets George Clooney,” Koop favours skinny ties, single breasted thin lapels suits and stingy brim hats. For casual wear, he loves jack shirts and gab pants.

“I wear vintage every day of the year. Same with my hair, royal crown pomaded pompadour.”


“Too many people play at a lifestyle and don’t actually live it day in and day out. From wearing vintage clothing or vintage-inspired clothing every day, to driving a classic car everywhere (his current ride is a 64 Austin Healey Sprite), I don’t just dress up for the weekend out.”


“This is how I look all the time, says the one-time pro tennis chair umpire, “I don’t listen to modern music, I constantly read books written about the past or written in the mid-century. I’m not interested in the latest viral sensation, To me it’s just another fad that will disappear faster than you can say Jack Robinson.”

“This lifestyle is 100 per cent for me. It’s not just about physical things but also thoughts, attitudes and manners.”

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However, unlike many vintage fans Koop doesn’t consider himself a collector. “I bought all my furniture and brick-a-brac with the intention that I actually use everything I buy. I don’t want to live in a museum.”

His favourite era is the late 1950s to mid 60s. To him it “epitomises the zenith of style where design and love of technology started to come together.”


These days he hosts the internationally syndicated weekly lounge music podcast Cocktail Nation which he broadcasts from his Sydney penthouse to an audience across the globe. The hour-long show, which first aired in 2006, fuses interviews, commentary and advice with an eclectic mix of neo and classic tunes.

The music runs the gamut from lounge to exotica, with detours into many other sub genres, but the smooth-talking Aussie is in his element when it omes to interviewing luminaries and pioneers from the world of cocktail culture such as The Martini Kings, Marina the fire-eating mermaid, mid century bongo master Jack Constanzo and tiki cocktail guru Jeff “Beachbum” Berry.

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Tiki cocktail guru Jeff “Beachbum” Berry.

Having worked as a radio announcer on commerical Australian radio for years, and as a professional voiceover artist, Koop felt that there was a gap in the market for a show which combined music along with interviews, a gig guide and news from the world of lounge.


“I wanted a late-night feel of a show that had a feeling of exclusivity about it. This wasn’t meant to be something that was readily accessible to the public, it’s always meant to be slightly alternative. Certainly this is something which has come up when dealing with potential syndicate stations who want a cutesy pie top 40 of the 50s, we ain’t that.”

Koop’s top five neo-lounge tunes

Check out the show at:


The Cocktail Nation is a radio show and podcast broadcast across the world via various radio stations. Every Saturday night, host Koop Kooper talks to the movers and shakers of the lounge and Exotica scene while mixing it up with the very best in swingin’ tunes from the 50s and 60s.


Nun better– 5 unmissable acts to check out at The Others Way Festival!

Laura takes a look at The Others Way line-up and places her bets on the acts to catch.


Back for another year is The Others Way festival.  Put together by the fine fellows at Flying Out and taking over six K’Road venues The Others Way treats punters to over twenty seven bands for one melodious night on Friday the 1st of September.  My completely personal and biased top five picks follow!

1. Hex


These charmed ones have owned me ever since I heard the psychedelic invokation that is Witches of the Hex—the gothy-metal bass lines and trippy vocals were a beautiful snare. Whether you are looking for a direct line to the power of the waxing moon or hoping to rock out or both Hex will have you covered.


2. Disasteradio


Remember that feeling of joy you got as a kid when riding your bike really fast in the rain? What about the feeling of holding hands with someone you really liked while watching Children of the Corn on VHS? No, me neither—but Disasteradio opens a portal in your chest that leads to a dimension where you have full access to these emotions and many more—plus dancing. Luke Rowell has just released the first new Disasteradio album in seven years and I am ready for it to grab me by my sweaty palm.

Find the new album here


3. Sneaky Feelings


It is a well-known fact that I was born in Dunedin. What is less well known is that babies born in Queen Mary Hospital in the sixties and seventies were subject to secret mind manipulation experiments whereby upon hearing certain combinations of chords they automatically put the kettle on and pull on a jumper in anticipation of enjoying a cuppa in the tepid sunlight. This partly explains my keenness to see Sneaky Feelings play their awesome jangly harmonies in person.



4. Queen Neptune


I want to see these guys play because they are my husband and my sister in band-form. You will want to see them play because they deliver some of the most beautiful and clever songs made by people and machines working together. Ever.


5. Unsanitary Napkin


State of the world got you down? Feel like there is no point to it or you’re all alone in kicking against the pricks? Come and join in the joyous fuck-you that is Unsanitary Napkin. Renew your faith in people and supercharge your armour against the slings and arrows of today’s awful world.

Also always reliable–  salty angels Hopetoun Brown,  smart alecs Street Chant and sugar pops The Courtneys.  Tickets are $69 from the Flying Out store (80 Pitt Street) or online from or !  Who are you guys hanging out to see?