Lucia Jackson, 33, was nicknamed “Vogue” as a young Halloween-obsessed Iowan girl. She painted the faces of her friends in her father’s basement before school dances. Now, as a firm believer in playing dress-up at any age, she runs a costume shop out of her attic in Northside.
The Mount Mary University dropout abandoned her courtier dress-making studies because, for her, college wasn’t the place to learn how to run a business. Instead, she spent her life in retail.
She worked her way through corporate mall jobs before vowing to herself and her son, Oscar Franklin, 7, that they would spend more time together and that she would land a sewing job. Today, she pays the bills by working as a regional auditor for more than 40 tanning salons, inspecting their equipment and ensuring their cleanliness.
But her goals revolve around Kintimate Costumes
, the business she named in a late-night journal entry. She has narrowed her sewing dreams down to creating costumes. And not just any costumes. She wants the people who come to her for costumes to leave with an experience.
Q:Where did the idea for Kintimate Costumes come from?
I’ve tried to put a definition on when wanting to be a wedding dress specialist to a costume designer happened, but I don’t know when my focus switched.
One night I was up writing about what I wanted my own company to be, and I said that I wanted it be a more intimate experience. I wanted people to be able to come to me for anything that they wanted, and then that turned over into Kintimate.
I’ve always had a thing for costume design. It started when I was a little kid. There was a Halloween where I had to dress myself up last-minute. I was supposed to be a French maid. It was way too cold in Iowa to be a French maid—why my father allowed me to be a French maid as a child, I don’t know. So, I had to go up to my grandma’s closet and be left to my own devices up there.
I came down[stairs] with a black fur hat on and I painted my face red with lipstick. I had on a red cape and I was dressed in all black. Everybody asked me what I was, and I said I was a Russian. In the beginning of the ’80s with the Cold War and the Russians being The Reds and hearing it and picking up on things like that, when I came down like that, all the adults just absolutely lost it!
That reaction—I remember having that, ‘Oh my God kid, that’s so cool’ [reaction] and being like, ‘I want everybody to react like this all the time.’
Q: What’s up there? What’s really in the attic?
My life savings. There’s a lot of money up there. I hope it all comes back.
I’ve got everything up there from cowboys and Indians to a whole entire sports group. I’ve got my old cheerleading uniform from high school. It goes really perfect with the referee, which is really kind of creepy and perfect.
I’ve got one race car person—I found it on the side of the road.
I have an inflatable red suit. I have about a thousand country bumpkins. I’ve got some really neat vintage clothes, and a few old wedding dresses and some beautiful gowns. One hundred and one anime masks. Over 140 belts. My real closet and all my storage fabric. Random black stuff, random white stuff, random green stuff, hippie stuff. A whole dresser dedicated to hair and hats.
Kid's costumes, guy's costumes and random costumes. I’ve got my marching band costume that I wore in the Fourth of July parade. Thirty-four of my friends got together with me and we had a Kintimate float and we promoted it. I dressed like the leader of the marching band. We had Vikings and Indian warriors and a Christmas tree and a Santa and a witch doctor and some pirates.
Q; Where did everything come from? How’d you acquire it all?
Thrift stores. Hours in thrift stores. Hours, days, months, years—I’ve spent more time digging through thrift stores than anything. I’ve eliminated the search and destroy of the thrift store for everyone.
You need a big thick belt to be Amy Winehouse? You can come get it from me. You don’t have to go to six thrift shops to try and find it yourself. I’ve done all that for you.
And that’s one of the good things about my corporate job now. As an auditor at the regional level, I have so many locations that are spread out. I’ve got 42 different areas of Cincinnati and Dayton and Columbus that I go to once a month now, so I try to block off an hour or two to stop into thrift stores all around.
It’s perfect because I get paid for my day job to go and build my inventory for my dream job. I feel so lucky.
And I’ve had a few friends make really nice donations of costumes. Since all of this has come to life, I’ve come home, oh, maybe 10 times to bags of stuff on my porch, like, ‘There you go.’ Sometimes with a note, sometimes not.
Q: So how did Kintimate go from an idea to reality? From just your stuff in the attic to people buying and renting things?
People would call me randomly saying, ‘Hey can I borrow stuff?’—knowing that I was a hoarder, and then it turned into a costume shop.
If you have a purpose behind it, it’s not hoarding, it’s collecting. Right?
I don’t know that it’s hit me that it’s real. Seeing my name in CityBeat‘s [Best Of] next to Cappel’s and Casablanca and Talk of the Town, all these places that I walked into when I was 22, looking around. This is so neat. It’s still unbelievable to me.
Q: What sets you apart from those places?
I do custom costumes and nobody else in Cincinnati really does. Nobody has a place where you can go to them and say 'I want to be Poseidon, make me something.' You can go to places and say I want to be Poseidon, what do you have? But that’s not my focus.
I’ll do whatever you want.
There are different levels of service that I provide. You can get a custom costume or costume rental—you can come pick it up, it goes in a box, it leaves, you bring it back.
You could also have an appointment. I’d do your hair and make-up and you leave completely transformed.
Q: Since Kintimate is still in its beginning stages, what are your goals? What plans are you implementing now? What do you see this becoming as it grows?
I feel like this last year I’ve really got my presence out there. Right now, if anyone’s Googling Kintimate they’re not getting anything—maybe the Facebook. And that’s fine. I’ll leave them questioning and wondering and in a few months—blast off.
There’s some really neat things on the horizon that have been proposed to me. I’ll announce the logo, the website and everything during the [Fourth of July] parade.
My focus for all of 2013 is turning this hobby into a business. It’s always been such a hobby and I’ve done it in my spare time, and not as my focus. So this year, it’s about taking all the inventory I have currently and getting it online, so that people can browse and see what I have.
Another goal going forward is to not have the costuming process take over my whole entire house. Because it does. I end up with stuff—Halloween 2012, this entire area was full of costumes, and that’s how it was Fourth of July too. I had like 37 costumes hanging up here, right here in this doorway. It's neat, but on the other hand, it’s overwhelming.
I mean, Cappel’s started in somebody’s basement—Kintimate can start in my attic.
Q: What is it about what you do that makes you love it every day?
I get to play dress-up. It occurred to me recently that my life is like one giant role play. I get to wear different costumes whenever I feel like it. Not that I walk around like Catwoman every day, but you know, if you’re having a bad day, it doesn’t hurt to put on a wig or funny hat.
Elese Daniel is a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati's Journalism Department. You can see her video work featured on Vimeo.