Women Designers Series: Kate Cusack
Our women designers series is an on-going project to highlight innovative designers across the world that incorporate YKK® products into their unique creations.
Today we’d like to introduce you to designer Kate Cusack. Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Kate earned a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and an MFA from the Yale School of Drama, where she studied costume design for theater. After completing her undergraduate degree, she pursued work as a costume designer for theater and dance, and also created window displays for stores. She worked at a few costume shops in NYC building costumes for Broadway. The experience allowed her to learn and explore the concepts of construction, durability, and craftsmanship. She decided that instead of constructing costumes, she wanted to be designing them. This realization led her to pursue a three-year intensive course at Yale to learn about design for the stage. While attending Yale she also started her zipper jewelry business.
What inspired you to start a career in design?
From a young age, I always knew I wanted to be an artist. My parents are both artists and so they were very supportive. When I entered undergrad, I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer, but then within the first year, my interest shifted to creating costumes and outrageous wearable sculptures.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in your career?
As an independent designer, I am a one-person-company. Juggling all of the various responsibilities from creating new designs to book-keeping to networking and always looking for new retailers has been a huge challenge. I have also encountered a lot of copyright infringement from other independent designers to larger corporations. I began creating jewelry from zippers in 2002 and since then many have copied my specific designs or copied the overall idea of making jewelry from zippers. I am a firm believer in registering copyrights for your own unique designs and also in never copying from anyone else.
Tell us a little bit about your creative process… What inspires you?
The material itself is really the main inspiration. I love the juxtaposition between the soft fabric of a zipper and the hard metal teeth. It’s a really incredible material and it lends itself to creating so many shapes. Often when I’m in the process of making multiples of one shape for a particular design, it will inspire me to take that same shape and use it in a different way to come up with yet a new design. After all, a zipper is one long line and you can make anything from a line…!
What is your advice for young people who want to pursue a career in fashion?
Find a mentor or find some people you admire and ask them to tell you their story. Then also get each person to give you the names of three other people to talk with and keep going. Respect people’s time, and ask questions about their experience. Everyone’s path is different but you can learn a lot from hearing stories. Always remember to take time to help others when you’ve become more experienced.
What is your favorite part about being a designer?
Simply put, I like making beautiful things with a non traditional jewelry material. I enjoy watching people experience my jewelry because first they notice the overall design, but the moment they understand that the jewelry is made from zippers, is so exciting! It’s great to create my own career path instead of being funneled through someone else’s idea of a career.
What are some of your favorite YKK® products and why do you choose YKK® products?
YKK® zippers are known for their quality and durability. I know I can count on YKK for my designs. Craftsmanship and strength are extremely important for my designs.
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Visit Kate’s website to shop and learn more about her designs: