By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
“I don’t really have any surplus,” Abbott says between sniffles. “I shoot one thing for Etsy, and if someone buys it from me, I make it for them on the spot. And so now I have to get all this gear together. I make everything to order, so if someone has weird measurements, they can give them to me, and I can make it for them. Which, you know, would never happen at the Gap.”
Her clothing on her Etsy store ranges from unique silk-screened items (favorites prints include: the leather daddy, the Michael Jackson mugshot and the evolution of Britney print, titled The Good, the Bad and the Britney) to “rock & roll capris” with black chains sewn on, link by link, lining the outseam and the gifted halter dress, her flattering best-seller with a ruffled collar and a keyhole opening. She says being a part of the Long Beach Craft Mafia has helped motivate her to do more. “Coming to these meetings, I’m like, God, I have to get off my ass,” Abbott says. “These girls are doing stuff all the time; I got to do something.”
Abbott grew up in Brentwood—“Before it was super-nice,” she insists—where she started making her own clothing at the age of 12. She attended the Academy of Art in San Francisco before heading to New York to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology.
She’s done everything—she was a cigarette girl in LA and San Francisco, and she’s sung in a few bands, including the Roulettes, a “’60s girl group done New York Dolls-style.” She was also the go-go dancer previously mentioned. Abbott says the club, Stinky’s, was popular and remembers a time when Vince Neil and Tommy Lee came in. Michael Stipe visited once, too—but “just kinda stared from behind a pole . . . ugggh.”
“I had a friend who did an act called Boobzilla. She had amazing boobs, and she’d come out and stomp on Little Tokyo and dress in full monster gear,” says Abbott. “One night, we did a battle where I was Muffra. I had these big wings, and I made it look like I had a vagina on my back. It was really bad.
“And now I’m boring,” she concludes. “I just sew and do my podcast [The Leatherette Heart Rock N Roll Hour].”
“What I do is called ‘technical design,’ and it’s a new field basically because everything’s done in China now. You get the measurements of something, and you make a diagram, and [workers in China] make the outfit fit that,” she drones. “It’s just really boring, tedious and technical—there’s always a language barrier, and I have to tell them to ‘submit blap blap blap.’” Abbot motions her fingers over a keyboard. “I call it speaking robot because you can’t really say anything. No one wants to work domestically anymore.”
She brings out her array of bright, bold dresses, blouses and skirts—chainlink is a common theme. She credits her style to her love for music, especially old-school punk rock. A wall of decorative mirrors is adorned with images of Sid Vicious and Debbie Harry; another wall has hanging toy guitars.
“Everything now is a conglomerate. How many boutiques do you know of anymore? I buy a lot of clothing at H&M and Forever 21. You know Forever 21 is the devil—you just know it—and you buy there anyway!” she says. “The thing is, I think there’s more of a trend in looking more individual—and I think the crafting thing helps that. It helps foster individualism.”
Abbott left Paul Frank after not even a year. While she did think it was a cool company to work for, “I just couldn’t take the corporate fashion thing. So I’m doing this indie fashion thing now. Start my own empire. The Puff Daddy of Etsy.”
The morning of the Long Beach Second Saturday Art Walk, Abbott’s garage door refuses to open. “This never happens when you’re going to work!” she remarks. An unhelpful landlord meant that her racks, tables and displays wouldn’t make it that Saturday. It’s only with Cooper’s help that Abbott makes it down to the East Village with her clothing and jewelry.
Tote bags of items lay about the two EZ-Up tents the Craft Mafia occupy that afternoon. The girls have already set up their individual tables.
Lee’s is draped with a vintage cloth covered in yellow elephants and clowns with red hair, with her stuffed dinosaurs, journals, print, candles and hats fanned out carefully. For most of the afternoon, she spends her time crocheting a purple hat.