Kelle Kutsugeras is such a consummate clotheshorse it would take a stable to house her massive collection. That being hard to come by in Los Angeles, she settled for the next best thing: a barn-like garage.
“Basically it was a cup-runneth-over issue,” says Kutsugeras, a fashion/video stylist and costume designer whose wardrobe runs to 3,000-plus articles of clothing and 500 pairs of shoes. Her collection grew even more last year after Kutsugeras inherited the wardrobe she assembled for Juliette Lewis and Brad Pitts for “Kalifornia,” a feature film now playing in theaters.
Kutsugeras says the Eagle Rock house she shares with her fashion-stylist husband, David Kaufman, was so overrun with suits, dresses and shoes that the couple either had to add a room or convert the garage into a closet. “We were having overflow problems anyway. But the ‘Kalifornia’ haul pushed us over the edge,” she says.
These days, the California bungalow-style detached garage--transformed with the help of a friend in the interior-design business--is a bi-level space housing clothes once worn by Quincy Jones, Jermaine Jackson, Rod Stewart, Michael Bolton and Tina Turner, all of whom Kutsugeras has outfitted for album covers or videos.
It also contains a metal cowgirl hat made from used-car parts, a striped lampshade dress, a men’s paper-and-corrugated-cardboard outfit and an Astroturf suit with matching hat and shoes (a get-up for a Kinney Shoe commercial that won this year’s Museum of Modern Art fashion award).
“My taste ranges from the $2 polyester shirt to that $400 wanna-be polyester shirt,” Kutsugeras said, adding that she started collecting three years ago. “Before that, I think I had a normal but extensive designer wardrobe.”
Although she wears only about 10% of the things she has accumulated, Kutsugeras says the garage/closet is designed to maximize her options. “If I’m going into a power meeting, I have my Donna Karan or Chanel, what I call my ‘take-me-serious’ clothes. If I’m going in for a hip-hop or R&B; album cover, I go for something more casual. But the real me is a funky version of Edith Head or Coco Chanel.”
Lately, however, she’s been on “a bad-taste 1970s binge.” In addition to “seven good suede hippy coats,” her favorite acquisitions include a $25 suede patchwork ‘Superfly’ jacket from a garage sale and a hand-embroidered Guatemalan skirt and a pair of white vinyl loafers with gold buckles. She found the skirt for $3 and the shoes for $2 at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store near downtown.
“Rarely do I pay full retail for anything unless it’s something I absolutely have to have,” says Kutsugeras, who spends about 40 hours a week shopping.
She finds most of her bargains at discount outlets such as Monopoly, on Third Street in the Mid-Wilshire district; Max Mart, on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, and Junk for Joy, on Magnolia Avenue in Burbank. “I also like to shop the Neiman Marcus sales,” she says.
What happens when the garage/closet gets too full, a twice-a-year occurrence? The couple throws a by-invitation-only celebrity garage sale. “We invite people from record companies, fashion costumers, artists’ reps and musicians. Then we serve punch and hors d’oeuvres to get everybody in a shopping mood.”