photography by ANNA GRANBERG

    An interview with Fräulein Frauke

    Written by Michaela Widergren

    It is a dark and cold Friday night in the beginning of October and I am on my way to the oldest traditional theater house in Stockholm, Södra Teatern. This weekend there are a lot of international artists in town, maybe not the typical ones, these ones are burlesque performers and I am about to see them perform at the 3 year old Stockholm Burlesque Festival. If you are not in the burlesque platoon it can be quite hard to even have an idea of what they actually do on stage.
    We all know it is about getting naked in the end, but what about the beginning?
    When I hear the word burlesque I immediately think about Dita von Teese lying in a giant champagne cup covered in Swarowski crystals. To find out the actual facts I went backstage to discuss the world of naked women and tassels with the burlesque dancer and festival co-producer Fräulein Frauke.

    First, tell me about the festival…

    The festival is one of Europe’s biggest burlesque events and is running in Sweden for its third year. It was initiated by Duchess Dubois and The Amazing Knicker Kittens in 2010, had a break in 2011 and my husband John Paul Bichard and I, were asked to join the production team for last years festival.
    It is a great celebration of burlesque, and all the joy, creativity, and warmth this art form has to offer.
    In a festival there are many performers from all over the world, so its a great way for the audience, both “burlesque veterans” and those new to the scene to really get a big and grand experience, as well as it is working as a lovely “community mingle” for us performers, to hang out and get to know each other.

    What’s the essence of burlesque, what’s it really about?

    In one sentence I would say it is “cabaret entertainment with a feministic undertone, using some form of striptease as a medium”.
    There are two forms of burlesque, one can argue: what we call “classic burlesque”, a tribute to the women that did burlesque before the porn industry changed the adult entertainment world in the begining of the 60´s. Ie, a vintage inspired ode to these times (typically 1880-1950) and these amazing and strong women.
    And then we have “neo-burlesque”, that is more “modern” in its take, not necessarily adhering to the vintage aesthetic, and is more about conveying humor, politics, theatre and crazy stunts.
    A lot of performers do a bit of both and in a club there is usually a mix between the two “sides” of burlesque, which is a great way of making it interesting and relevant today, rather than just “pretty”. In all burlesque, neo or classical, feminism and the politics of women in contemporary society are an important element.

    How come that you became a part of the burlesque scene?

    Before I knew what the world “burlesque” meant I already loved it! I have always been interested in sexuality and how we as a society sees and react to sexuality and erotica. I have been singing jazz since I was a kid with my pianist father and always loved the film classics such as Cabaret with Liza Minelli. When I started to do pin-up and retro styled modeling it felt very natural to put all of my interests together and take it to the stage!

    While talking, we are standing in the hallway by the make up room, it looks exactly how you would image it, with large mirrors framed by lightbulbs and with several international artists getting ready for the stage. I feel like a spectator invited for a quick peek into a peculiar world run by sparkling women and men in mustaches.
    I look at Fräulein Frauke, she looks like a 50’s pinup model all dressed in vintage and with carefully curled hair, and I ask how come that you are able to work with some many international artist?

    For a festival, a big community get-together, we have people apply to be part of it. Nobody gets rich from performing at festivals, but its a great way of mingling and meeting promoters and performers from other countries as well as being inspired to up your game and develop. There are often workshops and happenings around a festival which are great for career building. We (me and my husband) also runs “Fräulein Frauke Presents” , one of Europe’s largest burlesque clubs, where we have built up a wide reaching international network of performers and producers.

    What facts do people tend to get wrong about burlesque?

    I think it is getting better and better. In the beginning I had to explain a lot that what I do is not porn or degrading to women. But sure, people are sometimes a bit confused. It seems like it is hard for some to understand that female sexuality and expression, on our own terms, is NOT a degrading thing and that we are not there just to please a male audience.

    Who is the ultimate burlesque style icon and why?

    Oh, that is hard. My favorite burlesque performer is Gypsy Rose Lee- an amazing performer who mixed a lot of humor and wit into her über-glamourus performances. She was biggest in the 40´s and went on to have her own TV show. Today, of course Dita von Teese is the most famous one and she is a glamorous ambassador for the whole scene, but there are countless women (and a few men) both from history and today that are amazing performers and truly inspiring.

    There is a delicate atmosphere in the room. The performers are deeply concentrated but still joyful and energetic. A man whom I later realizes is the master of ceremonies is asking for a cigar without any success. The show is about to start so I begin to round things up with Fräulein.

    What reactions have you gotten from “first-timers” leaving your show?

    Oh! So positive, which is lovely! People usually absolutely love it, because it is not just watching the show that is the deal at a burlesque event, it is the atmosphere and fantasy space we create and invite people o take part of. Most people come amazingly dressed and really immerse themselves in the great environment and open atmosphere where everybody, all sizes, all ages all genders are welcome.

    Later that night, I walk out from the theater all happy and whimsical. It has been a strange evening. I am not sure the last time I got drawn into a different world like this, and it was definitely a long time since I laughed this much. During the show I was surprised how political and gender transcendent many of the acts were. There were overwhelming cheers in the saloon when the group Black Bird Burlesque Cabaret gave a kick to Putin. It made me realize there are many ways of questioning inhumane ideologies and burlesque is most definitely one of them.

  • photography by JÖRGEN AXELVALL



    Written by Jörgen Axelvall

    Always do shoot (or whatever you do)

    I recently went to NYC as a finalist in Vogue x Bottega Veneta New Exposure Award 2013. Now I am back in Tokyo as the international winner.

    As a contributor for Odalisque Magazine I was asked to show the work that was exhibited in NYC and also to write something about it myself.

    The competition was introduced to me by a friend who coaxed me into sending my portfolio. I had never done anything like that before and didn’t take it very seriously. However, I managed to submit a small portfolio on time. After submitting my portfolio the competition was no longer on my mind. Shooting was.

    I always shoot. If not actually pressing the shutter button I constantly take mental pictures. I had a very clear idea of something I wanted to do. Not for money. Not for any competition. I just had the urge to shoot.

    I don’t paint or draw or make sculptures or music- at least not yet.
    For now I express myself by taking pictures. One night, my friend Alexander, my model and I set out to do a series of images that I had already exposed to my mind more than once. It was perfect; just what I wanted. It was a happy night-and easy.

    After some sleep I started editing and soon I had a series of 20 images that all had what I was looking for.
    Just as I felt finished editing and color correcting I got an email from the people at Vogue. They liked my portfolio very much and where happy to announce that I was selected as a finalist.

    For the next step they wanted to see 4-6 images in a series that were telling a story-
    Much the way most editorials do in fashion magazines.

    As I was reading the email, my newly finished project was also on the computer screen. I saw Vogue and Bottega Veneta, both names that say fashion in a pretty big way, but there was no mention that the next submission must be fashion related. I figured I will show them what I just had done.

    With some more editing, and I had the required 6 images. Easy.

    Along with the pictures they also wanted a paragraph describing my concept.
    I had known for a very long time what my concept was. Putting it into words was just a matter of minutes. Easy.

    Only a short time later the next email from Vogue invited me to come to NYC, where my images would be exhibited together with all the images of the other finalists.
    I am never too busy to travel and I was certainly not going to pass on a free trip to my old home town, and the chance to see some of my dearest friends.

    Off I went and the rest is, as they say, history.

    Oh, and the concept of my story.
    Well this is what I wrote:

    I live in a big city
    the biggest in the world by some measure
    I am a foreigner here
    very much so
    at times I feel trapped, alienated and lonely
    amongst the millions of people calling this their home

    These images were all photographed in central Tokyo
    not far from my home in Shibuya
    at my sanctuaries
    where I find peace


  • photography by MARC LITVYAKOFF

    An Interview with Katya Shehurina

    Written by Marianne Lindgren by Sandra Myhrberg

    Katya Shehurinas dresses are made of materials that touch the skin like a gentle evening breeze in the summer. Floating silk, fur and lace. The design is sleek, yet Bohemian. Pretty far from the anti-fashion Katya grew up with in Latvia, then  still occupied by the Soviet union.

    I was born in 1983, and remember the Perestroika times. During the Soviet era it was difficult to find something different or unusual- because everyone was supposed to be equal. I believe that is the main reason why people of my generation are so eager to create something beautiful and different, full of personal identity and strong spirit. 

    When did your interest in fashion and fabric begin? As a small child. I couldn't sew but desperately wanted some clothes for my dolls. So I cut arm holes in fabric tissues and draped and belted the dolls. Actually this is how it worked during the Soviet era; everything we couldn't buy we had to creat ourselves!  I am grateful to have been born then; it gave me a huge creative force!

    You mostly work with exclusive materials. Have you ever thought about designing casuals? I have tried it. Immediately after I finished my degree in haute couture in Paris, I started my brand and focused on everyday clothes. This was despite my love to exclusive clothes made with love and long hours of handwork- because  I thought it was easier to start this way, with casual clothes.

    But after some years of experience I concluded that it was impossible to compete with monsters like Zara, H&M and other companies who can create stylish clothes with fairly good quality at a very reasonable price. That is how I returented to my roots. Today I believe that in near future there will be only two types of clothes- the cheap, stylish massmarket clothes and the very luxurious type made with devotion. Everything in between will disappear.

    Since 2011, you have your own boutique in London. That seems quite bold, the comptetion in London must be severe? I was too young and naive to be afraid when I started, and that helped me a lot. I still believe that everything is possible. I am surrounded by great people who are helping me a lot which is very important. You can’t do everything by yourself.

    How was it to be an aspiring fashion student in Paris? How did you experience Esmod and the Parisian fashion atmosphere, isn't it quite an harsh environment? It was from a really harsh environment at one hand but on the other hand: where can learn better if not in the cradle of fashion itself? I was really lucky to have such great teachers! 

    Where do you find inspiration? I try to find inspiration everywhere, this can be people, art, emotions, strong historical figures. The most difficult and important thing in my work is to find something new each season, whitout betraying my brand’s essence.
    Favorite  material right now? For the last seasons-the combination of lace and microfibre.

    How and where do you live now? I live in Riga but  travel a lot to London and Paris.

    Which person, dead or alive, would you like to see waring your design? I would like every person to wear our clothes.  It is one of the greatest feelings in my life to see someone wearing and appreciating something I've created.



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