| creative women with a conscience | Kime Buzzelli from 'The End' Yucca Valley, California. Stylist, costumer designer, desert dweller, vintage buyer, shop owner and painter.
Photos by: Carly Valentine / carlyvalentinephotography.com / @carlyvphoto
Some people dream of climbing the highest mountain, spending the summer on the Greek Islands or jumping out of a plane; my dream was to visit 'The End'. A curated vintage & designer shop in the middle of Mojave Desert in California, owned by Stylist, Painter/Artist and Costume Designer Kime Buzzelli. When I learnt about the rainbow, coloured vintage dream shop I made it my personal mission to tick it off my bucket list - I'm not even kidding, it was a magical place that I just had to visit - and it did not disappoint. I met with Kime on a sunny, Friday morning where she opened up her store to chat exclusively with 'tommie' magazine. I've never been one to fan girl, but I have no shame in saying; I am no longer a fan girl virgin! Kime is my ultimate girl crush in more ways then one! She has a keen eye for vintage, loves colour, community and is one of the sweetest humans I have met. Her energy makes you feel a sense of unity and togetherness instantly, and anyone who loves imagination and story telling like her, will always win my heart. She's the kind of person you know you'd be able to tell your deepest and darkest secrets to and she'd keep it with her forever.
She's definitely a 'creative woman with a conscience'!
What do you think is happening at the moment with the vintage market? I've been surprised whilst travelling along the West Coast to find that there seems to be a scarcity of vintage, when the US was known for its affordable and unique pieces.
Can you also tell us how you release all of your amazing pieces out into the world and not keep them all for yourself?!
The prices have been elevated and they're just too high. A lot of the good stuff seems to be have such high price points. I've been a vintage buyer my whole life, I started working in vintage really young. When I first moved to L.A I was a buyer for a long time in Wasteland, and I feel like you get a good gauge of things. Sometimes you'd see six of the same thing come through in the year. Then it became easier to let go of, because the more I let go of, the more I actually got back.
I had a blog for a while where I photographer all of my favourite things. I photographed things that I loved, but I didn't wear all that often. I'd do crazy photo-shoots with my friends, and then I'd be able to say 'I have pictures of this, I can let it go'. I've gotten really good at releasing things into the world - in Ohio where I grew up, there is definitely this collector’s mentality, though.
It must be a practice that needs to be carried out over and over again to get used to letting go of special pieces?
It's definitely still hard sometimes, but there's so much to go around in the world. I've come to learn that the more I get rid of, the more comes into my life too.
I'm actually a book hoarder more than clothes; I love art books and fashion books - and every time I move house the collection is bigger. I was really good this year and got rid of almost a third of my books!
That IS a lot, and it's hard with books because they're so personal...
I use them a lot, you know, a lot of my friends have magazines that they never look at again. As an artist I'm always looking for a pose to draw from, or when I'm working on a TV show, I'll need a reference for say a preppy person. So I'm looking for something different to when I originally bought the magazine and I was only looking at one editorial. But then when I'm looking for something else, I'll find what I need - they just keep giving. When I buy expensive fashion magazines, I keep them - that's maybe my bigger thing to hoard.
But I do find that I attract clothes, I don't have the mentality anymore that I have to keep everything. One year at 'A Current Affair' I sold 50 of my favourite coats! And I can't say it wasn't the hardest thing; I had a lump in my throat as people were buying them, but I took pictures of every one of them. So I let them go - and then it's so crazy because a day or two later, some woman calls and says she's having an estate sale! So there's always something cool to replace them with.
Sometimes I'll buy something at 'A Current Affair' and wear it once or twice, if I've already worn it to A Current Affair, (that's my most fun place to wear something) then I probably won't wear it again. So a lot of the time I'll resell it. The good thing about the vendors is that we don't get upset when we see it on another sellers rack. I've sold stuff to people and at the next A Current Affair I'll see it on the rack. If I've sold it for a price at the time and that's what I wanted for it, I don't have any problems with people re-selling things at whatever prices they want.
On that note of inclusivity and support, I have to say, I've found the women I have met along the way on this trip so inspiring. They've been so open, and there has been such a strong sense of collaboration and this idea of a communal environment. In the U.S you have mentors and coaches, and that's just not something we have in Australia...
That's been my favourite thing about the desert especially. You know, every store I've had has formed a community as far back as the one I started in Ohio - and I was young when I started that store. But that store was the one that made all the local kids like vintage clothes. When I moved to California, I opened 'Show Pony' in Echo Park and that store was so fun because we had so many cool, up and coming designers, we didn't have solely vintage as much. It was definitely more like having a fun, creative lab utilising reworked vintage or one offs. There's something about me helping people, you know, I have a harder time bringing myself higher, but I like to bring people up!
When I was making art all the time, the majority of my fans were 15-18 year old girls, and they would write me these amazing letters, saying that they were doing a paper on me - and that was way more rewarding then getting a big pay cheque. In the desert it can be isolating and lonely at times, but there is such an amazing group of women here! The coolest and most exciting thing about living in the desert is that so many women are insane makers and collaborators, and create in this empowering sense. Usually women can be quite competitive, but here I don't feel that, like I did in L.A. And there's not a youth mentality either; I have a stain glass teacher that is 89 yrs. old, and I'm so inspired by her everyday! She's still drilling, sawing and making glass. There are all these different women here; like ceramicists and women with their collection of turquoise jewellery - and that to me is the great thing about living here. There's agelessness in the desert unlike any other city I've lived in before.
You can totally sense that, and this is why I've wanted to come and visit for so long. There seems to be such a sense of community and empowerment for women, without the extra baggage of living in a fast, paced competitive city where you can just focus on what's important without the daily distractions of living in an urbanised city...
Well there's that famous quote, "Burning out someone else's candle doesn't make yours shine any brighter". And I really believe that, because everywhere else I've lived people talk about one another, but here you kind of have a free pass - you can dress as simple or crazy as you want, and you're not going to be judged for it. There is something about being somewhere small that makes you be more present. There's less distraction, and I always say it reminds me of when I was a kid and I used to visit my grandma and there's not a lot to do, so you have to hang out with your siblings, play board games and hang outside more. Here I meet with my girlfriends for breakfast a lot, which I never did in L.A - we'd talk about it, but we'd never do it. It's fun here too because people have these dinner parties at their house.
How long have you lived in the desert?
We bought our house in 2010 and moved in 2011. We had to fix it up before we moved in. In the beginning I travelled back and forth [to L.A] because I was still working in T.V and worked as a costume designer. In a way it was great because a lot of the shows when they would get cancelled or ran their course, would have these big sales where you could go and buy all this stuff from the show. It was nice because usually you spend all this hard working energy finding these amazing clothes for a TV wardrobe and then you have to let them go because they're not yours. So it's fun to...
to buy them after you've spent all that time sourcing them?! The life of a stylist, right?!
Yesss! You know when you're buying vintage, it's so much harder than just going to Macy's and picking out something. So it's so cool when you've sourced these amazing shoes and you're like 'Oh I can buy and own these personally!'. So the first year of the shop was a lot of my stuff from the TV world.
What kind of TV shows did you work on?
I worked on fun teen shows like Awkward for MTV, 90210; I've always done editorial stuff. I work with BUST magazine a lot because they're a great feminist magazine. We can do what we want creatively which is really fun - I feel like you can't really do that, all that much anymore with editorials. I used to do music videos a lot too, more so when I was younger though.
So you're a jack-of-all-trades. You have so many skills and talents!
I really miss the art part though. I feel like what started to happen was that I used up all my energy to curate this store and working in television, to the point where there wasn't a lot left to make paintings with. But now that this shop is functioning on its own - we have great employees who work here, that are really creative - I can kind of step back and get back to making art works, too.
I'd love to get back to printing clothes and fabric, which I haven't done for ages!
You do so much, Kime!
I'm kind of a workaholic! That's probably my worst quality; I hate to not be really busy. I always say this to my friends who want to move to the desert... you're still busy. Because they'll often say, "you know if I move here I'll go to yoga..."
...That was my next question! Do you find yourself still being busy in the desert?
The funny thing is, the first few years I lived here, I thought this is where I'm going to do it, I'm going to get Zen and I'm going to focus. But it's just in you - "wherever you go, you take yourself with you". Just because you move somewhere doesn't mean you're going to be making more art and plant a garden; there are times where I haven't been to Joshua Tree for like 6 months, and I live in the next town. But I think you just get busy. Anywhere you live that becomes your home base, where all your stuff is and all your stresses, is usually where it'll be hard to slow down. I've been a lot better lately about really trying to not chase everything. I think people have this idea where they think if I have this [thing] I'll be happy, or if I acquired this then I'd be happy.
I really moved to the desert to do less. I moved to the desert to work less, and not compare myself to other people, and just to enjoy my life and my family and my animals; and I think I really have accomplished that. Sometimes I sit back and think, 'I've created a really great home and life just the way it is, and it doesn't have to be any better than right now'. I'll be driving up my driveway, and think, this place is magical! I never get tired of seeing sunsets in Joshua Tree, this place still amazes me every day! I love seeing wild rabbits in my yard and roadrunners - so there's something definitely amazing about it here.
And I have to say, now when I go to L.A or I go to a city, I get excited, it charges me. But then I get to come back here. It's so funny though, the city does have this tendency to suck you up; as soon as you arrive in a city you're paying for parking and all of these things, where as here, you can go days without having to spend any money at all.
The desert is definitely a harsh environment, and its not for everyone. But in some magical way, that's what I like because the desert is its own great equaliser. If you're not meant to really be here, it kind of pushes you back out. I have friends who moved here and they were like, this isn't for me. It does bring things to the surface, which I know I've said a lot to friends. My one friend told me the desert will crack you open, and at first I didn't know what that meant... It really does have this amazing quality where because there's less distractions and if there is something you haven't dealt with, it's like a mirror, forcing you to look in it. And it's forcing you to deal with those feelings, or whatever it is. For me it was this notion of 'if I move somewhere, I'll become this person..'. And for me the best lesson that has come forward is, you are you wherever you go and that's not going to change, just because you've changed locations.
And you may have to deal with your fear of this, this, or this...And I think sometimes for me I keep really busy because I don't want to focus on certain things; like that I miss my family who live across the United States. So when I first moved out here, those things would come up, I felt lonely. In the city you can eat more food, or go to an art show, and here you don't have that buffer!
So if you can sit with it and face it, I do think great things can happen here. I have definitely changed a lot of my workaholic mentality. I've gotten offers to do TV show jobs that I've turned down because I thought,'I don't know if that's good for me right now, to disrupt what I have going on'. When I was younger I'd take any jobs, and now I think about my animals, and if it's the right time, and think about the other things in my life as well.
Do you ever feel - when you do say no - that you've regretted it later on?
I really believe in manifesting things, like for example I thought it'd be really great to do the fashion illustrations for this favourite magazine once, and literally the next day they'd write me. So I believe in it!
Did you study costume design?
I was a painting major in college, but I was always obsessed with costumes. I own a lot of books, so I guess I was self-taught. That's the other thing that was kind of great that I realised... I always thought you had to go to theatre school to know all these things, but I think a lot of it you learn hands on by assisting people and some of it is just so innate. I have worked with some people who've had all this training and a lot of it is really being able to work well with people and go with the flow. That was the hardest thing for me at first, because I like to plan things, and if I do something I want to do it right. And a lot of the time on set an actor might drop coffee on something, or the director will say, we're going to lose this part of the outfit - that's like the most important - and there's all these things that kind of happen and you have to roll with it. If something breaks and you have to go to camera immediately, what are you going to do...so you think in the moment, and it actually made me a little more easy going, and have the mentality of 'we'll get it done', instead of freaking out. I've worked with people who freak out and it doesn't make it any better! So you might as well just think, 'we're gonna get it done' and calmly do it. You're only as good as your team, and if you trust your team and you guys are all a unit, you'll always figure out a solution.
When you were doing your painting major how did you get into costume design?
I was always obsessed with clothes my whole life, so that was a given. So even when I was a painting major, my BFA show in college was all about fabric. I meat tenderised pulp paper to look like lace fabric. And I made these insane wallpaper lingerie and dresses. I created this whole environment; I was really influenced by Sophie Calle and feminist artists' like Kiki Smith and so I created this whole installation based on saving all these slips from thrift stores, so it was like this thing you walked into, and there was this old motel door with keys on it and photos, like voyeurism. After I graduated I thought I'd teach art, but weirdly I got a job in vintage and met a lot of big stylists' who did great shows and some would ask me to assist them. I started to make my own clothes and sew crazy outfits and wear them to work. And I'd make all these crazy necklaces, and I loved taking photos, so I'd photograph all these paper dresses I made, that kind of looked like Victorian paper, in these abandoned houses with my friends.
I was always inspired by telling a story through clothes, and models. And that's more of what I loved doing. It seemed natural to kind of go down that path, so what happened was I opened Show Pony and it was a store that supplied stylists' with items. Then a costume designer had said to me "have you ever thought about working with music videos?" So pretty much from the first year I moved here, I started assisting on jobs..
What do you love about Costume Design?
I love solving fashion puzzles and I love characters – it’s so different from styling, with costume design you're creating a character. So when you think back to some of your favourite TV shows, or movies, those actors are most likely not like that, but you've given them this persona based on the clothes...
How were you able to open your first store?
It was totally on a whim; my first store I opened in an old beautiful pharmacy in Ohio. It was massive and it had an apartment in the back, the rent on the whole place was $400. You didn't really have to open, you could just live there, that’s how cheap it was. But that store I had for just two years, and Show Pony I had for 9 years. In Show Pony [Echo Park L.A] I had a lot of beautiful consignment pieces. A lot of my friends had consignment pieces at the store, so it wasn't a huge overhead to start it. We had some displays, we built a loft and we had a lot of fun! We did a lot of art openings and themed stuff. I think I had like $100 to my name by the time the doors opened, so it definitely was on a shoestring budget! I was really delusional when I was young, I'm a little more realistic now, but when I was young I thought I could do anything or be anything. In Ohio many would have said, 'you didn't go to school for that?'. But I always thought, 'whatever I'm going to do it anyway!'. In L.A it really is about who you know, and I did a lot of stuff for free; I did a lot of stuff where I didn't get paid, but I thought it was so fun to be on sets!
I feel like you're not only a store, but you've created this whole experience, this community. Do you feel like you can do that only through a physical store? What inspired you to open your own stores?
I have friends, like Jaimee from Coast to Coast vintage who is super adorable and I love her, and I think she has created a really great brand and her whole aesthetic is amazing to me, and I like her style a lot. I think you can, but a lot of those people do pop ups!
It's interesting when I think about it like that, because when I opened Show Pony in 2000, I was really inspired by a few things; number one I was inspired by the sixties and number two Betsey Johnson paper dresses and these strange paraphernalia where woman would stand like strange models. And then I saw this movie, 'I Love You Alice, B. Toklas' a Peter Sellers psychedelic movie where this girl works in this kooky boutique in the 60's, where they have cookies and they can make something on your body, and I always thought that was so cool. So when I opened Show Pony, I wanted it to be a 'happening'. I wanted it to be somewhere you could get a makeover or get your tarot cards read. People back then weren't really doing stores like that. So it was really fun; we did these really weird theme shows, we did one called, 'Fame I want to live forever' and all the tags were from People Magazine. You could also get a fabulous makeover. We had silk-screened these tabloid covers and you got a polaroid with this air brush backdrop... and we had a red carpet! We did this one where people made these giant cakes that were divided by pretzel rods, and they had all this artwork of old cake recipes from the 50's, and the whole store was confectionary with pink everywhere. It was a weird store! It wasn't open all the time and we were all kind of weird artists', so there would be days where we'd have a note saying, 'gone fishing'. People would sometimes be mad at us, because it definitely wasn't a practical store. Bands played there, so it was really a lot of fun!
So this [The End] isn't anything like that, but in some ways it is. We've had pom pom making workshops, and we just had a plant medicine workshop and it's definitely like a home base.
If some one came to me and said I want to teach a class, I'd say ok cool let's do it!