Ever wondered who makes your favourite Scottish wrestling stars ring gear? Well in this Behind The Art special I’ve had the privilege to pick the brains of three companies who make some of the best custom ring gear around and enhance some of the best wrestling talent in the world.
Before we get into the processes though I’d just like to say that these are just three companies that I spoke to and admire. There are of course many fine talented gear makers out there including honourable mentions to @airheaddiva and @kayleigh_fabe_wrestling_gear, who in particular hugely impressed me not only with her work but also with the fact that she reuses old parcel envelopes to send her wares out to her clients #reuseandsavetheplanet.
But let me introduce you to the ones I did chose and let’s get ‘Behind the Art’.
Vickstitch was started by Brett and Vicky about 8 years ago. Brett was a wrestler at a time when it was hard to not only find a gear maker but also to get exactly what you wanted made. So through necessity initially, Vicky took up the challenge and now, with their website, it’s grown into a thriving business.
JJ Wrestling Creations was born in 2015 creating wrestling gear for athletes all over the world.
Their love for fashion and art always ‘ran wild in their veins’ and in 2016, they moved from Italy to the UK to expand their business and empower their brand.
Empress Pro Gear specialise in making female ring attire, although not exclusively. With only 2 years in existence it nonetheless is blessed with 17 years of experience. Emma used to make costumes for the theatre but through her passion for wrestling she decided to branch out.
Now, let’s get a picture of just how a piece of ring gear is made from start to finish shall we?
First thing to start with is the idea.
As we all know in wrestling anything goes gimmick-wise. Nothing is too insane or too over the top. And talking to fast rising talent Ian Skinner about his ring gear he agreed, “if ever I’ve a silly idea that just might work, they [Vickstitch] are the ones… I watched Game of Death and was like “I NEED BRUCE LEE GEAR”… hence my yellow and black gear.“
And although Vickstitch happily admitted that “generic tights with logos on the legs and names on the back are our bread and butter type jobs, the different stuff is always far more enjoyable, customers letting us have creative input into their gear and helping with their design ideas. We love having new and unique designs that are challenging and give us something exciting to make.”
But do you really need a vision when going into the process of commissioning custom ring gear? How important is an idea or a vision?
JJ Creations replied: “It is essential, as it is the starting point of the whole creative process. Sometimes our clients have very clear ideas about what they desire. Some other times they ask us to guide them through. I love when they trust us so much that they allow us to put our own imagination into their costumes creation.”
Empress Pro Gear talked me through their ideas process:
“For the majority of my clients I just bring their designs to life. I’m supplied with a design and I offer them the choice of fabrics from my preferred suppliers. I help guide in the sense of practicalities and any concerns they have, but I just enjoy being a part of helping them represent their personalities, I don’t interfere with their vision. For others I will help put all their design inspirations into sketches and work from those alongside them, however this isn’t something I tend to do until we’ve created a comfortable collaborative relationship over time.
I find it takes one or two projects to get a real feel for someone’s style, I want my work to be authentic and reflective of them. I have certain clients who’s aesthetic mesh more so with my design style than others but I also enjoy the challenge of going outside my comfort zone. I’ve spent most of my career designing for characters in musicals etc. so I find it more natural now to have to design for a character rather than represent my personal style. I find this concept translates nicely into the world of gear making as the characters are so important; just like in the theatre you want the audience to get a feel for the character immediately from their entrance and appearance. In my eyes It’s not for me to define that character, I’m merely here to make the Wrestlers vision into something tangible.”
So an idea should have an aim of establishing a character. But just how important is an image? And does a strong image give a performer more confidence? Flamboyant Scottish luchador Lucha DS told me “you can see by my in ring look I need to have a look that sets me apart from my opponents but still have a theme that works across all the various sets I have. They [Vickstitch] are pivotal in helping me project the vibe I am going for.”
Ian Skinner also confirmed this too: “Vickstitch made my first set of gear and what they made gave me the confidence to go out in front of a crowd in trunks.”
JJ Creations as we told you in the introductions came across from the famous fashion capital of the world, Italy and have made Scotland their second home. They’ve worked with WWE stars like Nikki Cross, ‘Viper’ Piper Niven, Candyfloss, Jazzy Gabert and NXT UK Women’s Champion Kay Lee Ray. Their garments are just as high end quality as they are fashionable and they rise to the challenge of breeding confidence into a performer with their creations: “…the crazier the idea the better it is. We love our job because it’s exciting, challenging and very rewarding. The best part of it is to make people happy and confident.
So what have we learned so far. A vision is important but can be worked out through some brainstorming. And a good design and image can instill confidence in a performer.
It made me wonder though. What were the major differences and difficulties between making gear for male performers opposed to female performers? Was there any?
JJ Creations: “They differ in proportions. We need a deep knowledge of both male and female body shapes.”
Empress Pro Gear specialise in female ring attire but not exclusively as we mentioned. She can count Sammii Jayne, Ashley Vega, Nina Samuels, Killer Kelly, Zoe Lucas and Xia Brookside among her clientele.
Empress Pro Gear: “I personally find women’s wear comes more naturally to me, I’ve worked in both fields and I’ve always had an easier bond with making clothing for the female form. I’ve suffered from body dysmorphia growing up so I feel more of an organic connection with women’s bodies and trying to enhance what makes them feel confident. That’s the main reason I decided to focus mainly on Women’s wear however I do currently work with several men and regardless of how anyone identifies I’m excited for working on their ideas and creating their vision, I love being part of that collaboration. I’m just grateful any time anyone chooses to reach out to me; it’s a huge compliment when there’s so many incredibly talented makers out there.“
All three companies attested to the importance of choosing the right materials and learning about new processes when making their gear.
Vickstitch: “We both work full time at this and are continually growing and evolving as new methods and materials become available. Also the trends in the industry continue to evolve so we try to keep ahead of that curve too.”
I asked JJ Creations about this also and what pieces challenge them the most.
JJ Creations: “We mainly work with stretch fabrics, as we are wrestling gears makers. Our customers need comfortable and durable costumes, because they fight in them. Depending on their gimmicks, their ideas and desires we always suggest the best options and designs. Our goal is to make everyone feel unique and special…The most challenging are definitely the coats and the long jackets, they take a lot of time and care, but because of that they are also very rewarding pieces to create.”
Empress Pro Gear: “Each set has its own learning experience especially as for each individual I create a garment pattern from scratch for their measurements and design. Every persons body is different so I don’t treat them as a cookie cutter when it comes to making clothing. I find when I’ve worked with someone more I get to build up a collection of tried and tested garment patterns which takes a lot of the guess work away. I particularly enjoy working with Nina Samuels as her style really blends well with my background in theatre and dance wear, she has such a star quality about her and her presence. I love layering up the lace and Rhinestones and she allows me a lot of creative freedom with the detail. I really enjoy working on any sets where there’s lots of detail and I have a weakness for rhinestones I blame the dancer in me.“
Through wear and tear and what these clothes are being asked to perform it’s no wonder that every now and again they fail in some way or another.
But how do gear makers prevent and minimise these faults happening?
Empress Pro Gear: “I’m quite particular about what materials I use and in what locations on the garment, sometimes someone may request no stretch materials in areas that you need maximum stretch so I will offer more practical alternatives. I prefer to use suppliers who’s materials I know are high quality and are tried and tested by myself but I am flexible and love to learn more from others ideas. All my garments are fully lined and I use drawstrings as well as elastic where necessary. I’ve learnt over time from being around dancer’s wardrobe malfunctions and through developing my gear making little techniques of how to make fastenings a bit more secure. I’m still learning more with each set I tackle, it’s an ever moving learning curve.“
So we’ve learnt about the processes and careful choice of materials. The next big question and one that probably gets asked a lot is ‘How long from start to finish does it take to make a piece of custom made clothing?’ Just how long is a piece of ‘thread’?
JJ Creations: “It depends on the type of creations. It could take hours or even a few days.”
Empress Pro Gear: “The time to make the gear varies depending on how complicated it is. I’ve had sets take several days and some items several hours. If there’s rhinestones involved they’re very time consuming as they have to be individually glued to the garment, same with the rivet studs and eyelets that have to be marked out and hammered in.“
What happens after a piece is made, delivered and the customer is happy. What’s it like to be an ‘incredibly talented gear maker’ and see your work out there on the scene and in some cases on TV?
Vickstitch: “We always get asked what our favourite gear is and we really don’t know there has been so many made.“
JJ Creations: “Even though we are proud of all our gears, we felt a particular sense of satisfaction towards the ones we made for WWE, NXT and NXT UK. Watching the tv and seeing our baby gears is something indescribable.“
Empress Pro Gear: “It blows my mind each and every time, the little girl in me cannot believe it. I won’t lie I may have shed a couple of tears seeing them live in person and on TV. I’m so grateful to anyone who’s contacted me, ordered gear and supported me.“
So there you have it. From start to finish. The birth of an idea made into fully functioning wrestling gear.
Please remember during these tough times that these people are highly skilled self employed artisans and have been affected badly by the recent crisis. Please don’t forget them. Keep them busy with new commissions. The world won’t always be locked down. Shows will return soon hopefully and a bright shiny newly improved wrestling scene will commence once again and will require their services to keep it, and our favourite characters, colourful.
You can find all three gear makers at the following contacts and I highly recommend you check them out.
- Instagram: @vickstitch
- Facebook: Vickstitch Customs
- Twitter: @vickstitch
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @j_jwrestlingcreations
- Facebook: JJ Wrestling Creations
- Twitter: @J_Jcreations
- Email: email@example.com
Empress Pro Gear:
- Instagram: @empressprogear
- Facebook: Empress Pro Gear
- Twitter: @EmpressGear
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org