Katherine Robinson, with experience gleaned from Manhattan’s fashion industry and Hollywood’s entertainment industry (and, whoa! does she have some names to drop!) opened her Whirling Turban “Dream Workshop” where she could make the services she formerly provided to Hollywood available, affordable to other vintage clothing enthusiasts like herself.
All of our creations are one or few of a kind!
Here’s Katherine’s Story
My first fashion job, at 20, was assisting Clifford Olson, a designer who supplied swingin’ boutiques and their celebrity clientele (Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, etc.). I learned to loved the excellence of craftsmanship and creativity possible in a small studio setting. I then worked in Manhattan for eight years. I ran the design and custom-made studio for North Beach Leather on Madison Avenue, in the heart of the Upper East Side amidst the world’s most famous designer shops, where shoppers included a parade of celebrities (Andy Warhol… oh, don’t get me started!) I also worked for couture fashion legends like Geoffrey Beene and Bill Blass.
Next, I moved to L. A. and opened another small workshop. For ten years, I made garments and costumes exclusively for Hollywood’s entertainment industry. The creations that came from my studio appeared on a diverse spectrum; from actresses such as Uma Thurman, Salma Hayek and Halle Berry (just to name a few of the more delicious ones), bands like the Foo Fighters and U2, commercial clients from Intel to Chiquita Banana to Apple Computers, movies such as Steven Spielberg’s Amistad [costumes nominated for an Academy Award, and T.V., including a Bette Midler HBO Special which won the Emmy Award for Best Costumes.
When I went on vacation to Bali, I fell completely in love- as a craftsperson- with Bali’s limitless creative resources. For three years I went back and forth, L.A. to Bali, creating fashions which I then I sold to Hollywood while concurrently learning to conduct business in Asia. I then said goodbye to my workshop in Hollywood and opened another workshop in this beautiful tropical garden studio.
I’ve always been a vintage clothing fan and a student of fashion past and present. Hollywood’s exacting standards helped me refine my eye for the finer points of authenticity as well as helping me to see how attention to detail, and particularly fit, is what turns mere mortals into stars.”
The Whirling Turban Studio in Bali continues Katherine’s lifelong career and craftsmanship, making artful, couture dresses for discriminating lovers of fashion. Now Katherine has a second studio in Austin, Texas, where visitors can see these beautiful dresses in person and have personal measurement-taking and fitting sessions, all by appointment only.
Katherine’s interest in “Vintage Style Wedding Dresses” and “Vintage Reproduction Dresses”
“I have an interest in many aspects of fashion, certainly not limited to the fashions of the 40’s and 50’s. But Whirling Turban has found a home with collectors and there is certainly enough rich material in this historical period of fashion to keep me busy for a long time.
What I have discovered while working in this vernacular is that there is virtually no other company making authentic reproductions. It is expensive and difficult to do quality reproductions, so most folks in this field have to content themselves with making a polyester “reference” to a period garment and calling it a reproduction.
If you are a bride looking for a reproduction style wedding dress or are a lover of “The Great Era of Hawaiian Dresses”, what you will find “out there” can be disappointing. If I was the customer, I’d want all the details and materials that attracted me to the magic of vintage to begin with, so that’s what we strive to create.
It is much more expensive to reproduce vintage styles *well* today than it was when these dresses were originally manufactured. Polyester is ubiquitous nowadays and cheaper than the great cottons, silks and beloved rayons used in mid-century fashion. It takes much more time to construct garments using classic sewing techniques, and todays clothes have as few details as the manufacturer can get away with so they can be sewn on a production line in a matter of just a few minutes!
It is the old construction techniques and those authentic fabrics that give the vintage garments the look we love so much about them! Part of it is the cut; yes, of course. But the charm of the vintage greats is achieved by *all* the details, not just a few of them. The price we can offer, since we have a sewing shop in Bali and not Paris or New York, makes these details accessible to a wider range of customers. (Although I still create dresses for the the occasional, well-known celeb such as Katy Perry.)”
Most Whirling Turban bombshell dresses and pinup couture are made in a small, custom dress studio surrounded by an orchid-dripping and dragonfly-humming tropical garden in exotic Bali.
With a tiny staff of Bali’s best seamstresses, and with the help of local fabric dyers, printers and weavers, we make garments lovingly, by hand, one at a time. Whirling Turban recreate “Vintage Greats”; the most desirable and hard to find styles, using hand work and construction techniques which are no longer practical on modern factories. We offer an array of sizes that only a small shop which can afford to cut one by one can offer, thus giving our customers a “Movie Star Fit”.
Pictured here, one of our seamstresses stitching a custom made dress form, using an individual customers’ measurements and body pics in order to replicate her own unique shape. We will create her pattern and “build” her dress on this form. This is the same technique used in Hollywood to fit stars for the big screen; a medium for which a perfect fit is required.
Vintage styles were so often custom-made, or they were made in the earliest years of factory production when fashions still depended on the personalization that dressmakers could offer. It used to be that everyone could afford the services of skilled, “neighborhood dressmakers” to refine the fit, and fashions of the day depended on and reflected this resource. Nowadays, nearly the only folks that can afford the customization that makes these styles fit so beautifully are movie stars, ordering from the few remaining couture workshops that serve the entertainment industry or couture houses still in existence in Europe.
There isn’t a single garment produced in our little workshop that isn’t “fussed over”. Every customer we have represents someone’s trust in us. We value that trust; we consider it a privilege. We are small enough to answer every email personally and to discuss our customers amongst ourselves by their first names.
All the Whirling Turban Girls here in our workshops in Austin, Texas, and Bali sincerely thank you for your interest and support!!!