Catherine Treu: Fashion to the Masses
VIM: Greetings Catherine, first off, I want to congratulate you on all that you have all accomplished this past year. You and Steven Strazzullo have a blog/magazine dedicated to spotlighting the fashion scene here in Las Vegas. What was your inspiration for starting Fashion Feed?
CATHERINE TREU: I took a cultural anthropology class at CSN last year and it had a profound affect on me. I sort of became a hermit for the semester, crouched over my textbook way more than I should admit. I had become obsessed with how people in communities contributed to culture particularly in the form of fashion, and decided after receiving a lot of positive feedback from my professor, to start a blog. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the fashion scene here and provide a place where these individuals could be featured. There are a lot of amazingly talented people here that design clothing, hats, accessories, and costumes. There are also those that are continuously making choices about what to provide in their spaces to their customers, and are in essence creating an entire aesthetic associated with their brand, like Caroline Aurora of Widow Den and Sarah Nisperos of Coterie. And there are those who express themselves beautifully through the clothes they put on their bodies. I consider them to be visual artists as well. I have not seen a blog or a magazine here in Las Vegas that takes a comprehensive look at fashion as it is derived out of our city. Of course it will always have its outside influences, but I really wanted to take a closer look from the inside out, especially as to how it relates to the renaissance that is currently happening downtown.
VIM: Fashion Feed’s office is now at Reclaimed who recently had their own grand opening celebration. How has it been having your headquarters deep in the arts district?
CATHERINE TREU: It was a leap, undoubtedly, but one well worth taking. My partner Steven and I both felt strongly that having a physical presence would serve us, and so far it has not disappointed. When I turn the corner at E. Charleston onto Casino Center each day Reclaimed stands out like a fresh bloom. Then I walk through the doors with my children and we are greeted with an enormous amount of creative energy. It’s pretty saturated in there. I was there the first night Reclaimed opened its doors in December, the day the owners Jen and Quency saged the entire place, and at their soft opening at the February First Friday. By the time the next one rolled around, we were moved in. It certainly feels like I was destined to be there. I fell in love instantly with the concept. It’s been lovely seeing how the space is progressing. There are all sorts of creatives that come through, and I spend a lot of my time just getting to know anyone who pops their head into our office. It’s a prime location for shoots. Stepping out into to the alley behind the building is a visual feast. The Arts Factory and Art Square are right across the street, and there are 6 locally owned boutiques within walking distance. It’s perfect.
VIM: I have been to Reclaimed, it is a wondrous place. You covered Fashion Week in Las Vegas. How was that experience for you?
CATHERINE TREU: It was thrilling and also a bit intimidating at times. It is an amazing feeling to click the shutter button along with a group of seasoned photographers and capture images that will ultimately hold meaning for not only the designers, but the models, the makeup artists, the directors, the agents, the buyers, and the audience. There were designers from all parts of the world , including Las Vegas, that showed at FWLV, and there were some stunning pieces that literally made my jaw drop. Sometimes I could not help myself from exclaiming loudly, and then I would have to remind myself that I was press and I should probably shut up before I embarrassed myself again.
But I should clarify, fashion week here is much bigger than FWLV, it is also comprised of Magic Market Week and as of recent, the Vegas Fashion Project, which is a really exciting organization created to showcase Vegas designers to buyers from Magic. It was during that event that I was able to meet Derek Smoot of Dapper Industries, who not only designs unique men’s accessories but also has the capability to expand the manufacturing industry here, and is working towards that goal. As of now, designers are only able to produce in small quantities, but that is something that Derek is working to change.
So, Fashion Week ended up being a crazy week. I definitely could have used a bigger staff, but we made it through thanks to Derek De La Luz, one of the photographers who works with us. He was there every night shooting the runway at FWLV, and when Mayor Carolyn Goodman visited the Vegas Fashion Project, he rushed down and took some great candid shots of her as well. I could not have done this without the support of people like Derek that believe in the project and continue to donate their time. And when they come through again and again like Derek has, I get a little emotional sometimes. It just vindicates the fact that we should push on through against all obstacles, which is what we did to get through that week and are continuing to do so here at the office.
In August, Fashion week will be here again, and we will have a carefully thought out game plan, so we can provide better coverage of all three of the major fashion events that occur simultaneously and bi-annually. A bigger staff and better organization would be a start, but at least we now we know the lay of the land. I cannot wait.
VIM: You plan on bringing Fashion Feed to print. How are you all preparing for that and what do you wish to accomplish with a print version?
CATHERINE TREU: This is something that Steven and I go back and forth on a lot. Although we feel that the digital age is here, we also have a long-standing love affair with magazines in their original format. Case in point, the Vogue Fall Fashion issue. Swoon. So yes, it is definitely something we are exploring. Steven has been learning how to create an ebook from a rented textbook and when he is ready, we will implement that as an option. Then the magazine will have the capacity to be downloaded onto a Nook or Kindle. Nevertheless, it would be great to have some printed issues floating around downtown that people can pick up, grasp and finger through. It is such an important part of the experience of reading, don’t you think? Touching, holding and turning the pages? The smell of the printed paper? I have been a bookworm my whole life, preferring to stay inside and read over playing outdoors as a child, so there is a sentimental attachment there. I also really love trees, and want to save them, so it’s an issue I obviously struggle with. If and when we do print out, the copies will be limited.
I suppose the same issue applies to the office itself, do we really need a physical space or could we just exist online? Could we in theory do all of this from our laptops at home and a few meetups with our contributors? Absolutely. However, there is much to be said for the human contact, spontaneous conversation, and connections we are able to make with a tangible piece of the infrastructure of downtown. We want the office to be a magnet for anyone who loves fashion. I am certain that these people are going to start coming out of the woodwork and will one day wander into the office. I want them to contribute, because that is the whole point. We want to help these people create their own blogs, feature them, and get to know them personally. It’s about real connection, and less about shiny pages, I guess.
VIM: Tell us a bit about yourself. Were you born and raised and Vegas? What has been your overall experience living here?
CATHERINE TREU: I was born on a small farm outside of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and moved into the city when I was 3 years old. My father was an english professor and Mother was a nurse. On a family trip they took my sister and I to see the Milwaukee Ballet production of Swan Lake, and we both became obsessed. We begged them for ballet lessons, and we quickly rose through the ranks at the studio to join the other advanced dancers. Luckily, we both ended up being very talented, and shared a great passion for the art. My parents had no choice but to support us and continue with our lessons all the way through high school. Although we both attended college for a time, we ended up dropping out and pursuing dance as a career, which we were successful at for many years.
In 1998, I was working in a show in Atlantic City that got picked up by the Luxor in Las Vegas. I flew here from New Jersey and was put up in the hotel with some of the other performers for 6 months. I didn’t have a car, so I had to take the bus and cabs everywhere. There weren’t that many places to go out back then. I remember going to the Voodoo Lounge, The Hard Rock Center Bar, and The Drink, where someone slipped me a rufee one night. My girlfriend realized what had happened and gave me a ride back to the hotel where I blacked out. I remember waking up the next morning lying on the cold marble in my hotel bathroom next to the toilet with a splitting headache. Eventually I saved up enough money for a car, but was fired from the show shortly after for having a bad attitude. It was the quintessential Vegas crash and burn.
I remember getting up at dawn the day after I got fired, driving out to Red Rock, and contemplating my life. I knew I wanted to stay in Las Vegas and further my career as a professional dancer. I was determined to make that happen, but it didn’t quite work out that way. I started auditioning for everything and after a few weeks I got hired for a show that was going on tour in Brazil. It was directed by Tiger Martina, an iconic choreographer. The rehearsal process was my first experience working with a group of seasoned Vegas dancers and I stuck out like a sore thumb in a bad way. I hadn’t quite grasped the essence of what it is to be a showgirl, because they certainly are a brand of their own. A Vegas dancer can wear a 6-foot tall headdress, a tiny costume made of more sequins and rhinestones than anything else, and 3 inch heels without batting an eyelash. They can exude class, grace and sex all at the same time. They can perform with their eyes, and make getting in and out of a box look effortless and sensual. And they can dance. At this point, the only thing I could do was dance. The rest I had to pick up from observing the other women during rehearsals without being too obvious and from being constantly ostracized by Tiger. I figured it out eventually. It was my rite of passage.
After I got back from my tour, I felt like I had come home. I was ready to set down some roots, but first I needed to find work. For a second time, it didn’t work out that way. I was offered a show in Berlin, and could not pass it up. My time in Germany was strange. I enjoyed the show and the choreography very much, but made some poor choices and found myself engaged to an abusive partner. It all got to be too much, and one morning after a bad episode, I grabbed my passport and flew home. I left all my belongings there, and never returned.
For the third time, I was ready to set down some roots and work as a dancer in Las Vegas, and I finally got my wish. I had nothing but my purse and the clothing I had worn home on the plane, but I was lucky enough to find work quickly, and could not have been happier. I have lived here ever since, and worked in over a dozen shows on the strip. I was here when the club scene blew up and when everybody was making money and not afraid to spend it. I was here for the crash, and lost my home like everybody else I knew. I fell in love and got married here, and retired from dancing to raise a family. It’s my home and I honestly don’t want to live anywhere else. My roots go deep now.
VIM: I want to thank you for being part of Our Art Talk Series at Mingos this past March. I think it's up to all of us to give back in some way to the richness of the culture being created here. Our series is usually a casual round table discussion where we discuss our vision and experiences in the 18b arts district. What has been your experience in bringing your vision to fruition?
CATHERINE TREU: Thank you, Jorge, I am so glad you invited me. I am new to the Arts District, and it was lovely getting to know the individuals that attended. I think it’s a great, non-stressful way to get your message out, and would recommend it to anybody who wants to learn a bit more about what’s going on in 18B.
My experience in bringing Fashion Feed to life has been an emotional one. I haven’t felt this passionate about anything since I retired from dancing. It certainly feels similar. Like falling in love with someone new, it can be all-consuming. I realized I needed to act after about 6 months of constantly thinking about it, and I don’t regret any decision I have made yet, I think it’s all been a necessary part of the journey.
The most rewarding thing for me has been all the people I have met along the way that have offered their support and ideas. It is really touching. Last week, a friend of mine was doing some carpentry work in our office, and I was there babbling on and on about the project to him. That evening, as I was driving back downtown to watch the Cube burn, I received a text from him saying he wanted to donate all the work and materials to the project. I burst into tears. Needless to say, my aspirations for Fashion Feed burned up inside the Cube that night and are now part of atmosphere.
And I could not do this without my partner, Steven. After months of reaching out to other bloggers, he was the one who stuck with me, and when I thought I was going to lose him too, he pushed back the other way and said he wanted to go full-throttle. He shares my passion for this project and I think this is just the beginning of a beautiful partnership. We have a lot of work to do, but we are on the right path.
VIM: There is a new app called Nomic that has served to help bridge and connect the local artist community. How did you get involved?
CATHERINE TREU: Caroline, the owner of the Widow Den, urged me to join Nomic, so I did without fully understanding what it was. At that point it hadn’t quite evolved yet. A month or so later, I met up with Nate Boyd, one of the founders, and we realized that Fashion Feed and Nomic had a lot of similar objectives, so decided to join forces. We share a common goal of helping people get connected into scenes within the community, and the fashion portion of this is where I come in.
Right now there are a lot of people doing great things for fashion here, but they aren’t all connected, and I hope to change that with Fashion Feed. I want it to be the go-to place for Las Vegas fashion. Similarly, Nomic is quickly becoming the go-to directory for an inside look at the scenes that are developing here. It’s a great service to be on, especially if you like to engage in conversation with people that share your interests.
VIM: The arts district is filled with lots of wonderful personalities and efforts forged by the community. What movements or artists have served as an inspiration to you?
CATHERINE TREU: First off I have to give Hillary and Michael Welsh of Hillary Salon the most credit for inviting me in. They are an 18B institution who not only own a salon in the Arts Factory, but play in a band together called My First Rodeo, along with other various artistic pursuits. Over the years, they have always kept their doors open for me, literally and figuratively, and it is because of them that I kept finding myself wandering into the Arts District.
Another inspiration is Caroline, the owner of Widow Den. I am so impressed at how far her shop has come since last summer. Her first space on the second floor of the Arts Factory was tiny, but it packed a punch. She really knew exactly what to do to create a complex story inside a tiny boutique. It became an extension of Caroline herself, and her aesthetic. It is important for an artist to have a space, and I think seeing hers made me think about the potential a space for the magazine could have.
Lastly, I have to give a shout out to Alex Huerta. He is another artist who opened his arms to me. He gave me some words of wisdom that have stuck with me. “Let things happen organically”, is his saying. I try to keep that in mind when things get hectic and stressed. It will usually be a better outcome when you aren’t forcing the issue, and if you stop to look around and take stock of your surroundings, the answers you are searching for are usually right in front of your face.
VIM: What personal fashion tip or idea would you pass on or like to share? I want to commend you most of all on the fashion choices you picked for our shoot. It was great being able to capture you at your brightest and most vivid.
CATHERINE TREU: I had a blast at the shoot. 18B is a great place to dress for. I hope I did it justice. Most of what I wore was from Electric Lemonade, a boutique that is just steps away from the office. They have great pieces.
My advice would be to edit, edit, and edit some more. Fashion is all about the moment, so all things need to be considered and reconsidered: weather, mood, hormones, lighting, comfort. The best possible outcome will be when you decide what to wear in the moment, not before. Like a blog, you can always add or change, keep it fluid.
VIM: I look forward to seeing how Fashion Feed LV evolves. What are some things you are looking forward to? Any other projects on the horizon?
CATHERINE TREU: I am looking forward to creating a strong blogging community here and integrating that as much as possible into the magazine. A group of dedicated bloggers with a large combined following can serve to promote local businesses in a unique, relatable way. I am very excited about the support that we will be able to offer the individuals that are contributing to the fashion culture here, and this will be another way we can all work together to promote one another.
Another project for Fashion Feed that I want to start working on would be to host a benefit fashion show to help hungry kids here in Clark County. It is an issue very close to my heart, and I know it is an ongoing problem, especially when school lets out in June. Come to think of it, it’s how I came up with the name Fashion Feed in the first place. Well I guess this was all meant to happen then. And it will. I am sure of it.