Dita Von Teese: The Woman Behind the Pin-Up Star
Dita Von Teese
American burlesque dancer, model, costume designer, author and actor, Dita Von Teese’s career is nothing short of stunning. This pin-up star, from being trained as a ballerina, to becoming the queen of modern burlesque, and then a fashion icon, often inspiring the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Louboutin, is often seen at the front rows of shows by Marc Jacobs, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton to name a few. A follower of old Hollywood style, she has also walked the ramp in Paris and Milan and has been the face of labels like Vivienne Westwood. Von Teese has an aura that's both glamourous and mysterious and is a trendsetter in her own right. From being the global ambassador of Cointreau, to launching her own lingerie line, to her perfume, 'Dita Von Teese', launched last year, this star continues to scale new heights.
You recently launched your eponymous perfume. What was the inspiration?
I’ve always been fascinated that the art of wearing perfume is vital to creating glamour, which is really everything that I’m about. I understand that a perfume is a very important part of creating your own mystery and glamour. I wore the same perfume for about 20 years, until I had an interesting experience. I was walking down a street in Paris with my boyfriend, who I’d been dating for two weeks, when he asked me, which perfume I wear. When I told him the name of the fragrance, he hesitated and then revealed that this was also his mother’s perfume. And I thought to myself, 'Oh my gosh, I smell like his mother!' This really got me. I started hunting for other fragrances that could replace it and there were some, which I really liked, but none of them felt like the real me or fit me. So, I decided to create my own scent.
How did you go about creating this signature perfume?
The team I worked with in Paris probably wasn’t expecting me to come bounding through the door at every meeting and wanting to get involved. But it was great to be able to do this. It’s not always easy to bring together things that are super-sophisticated with things that are dark, moody and sexual at the same time. I wanted something that is typically me and in tune with who I am. A lot of fragrances in the market are reminders of things from my childhood. Most of them have a girlish, sweet and very juvenile character. However, I wanted something that speaks of wanting to be a grown-up, a sophisticated woman who is in charge of her life. I just love the idea of something that is good, sophisticated and elegant, but also a little bit mysterious, dark and dangerous. These two things together become something very special and magical. I thought about the great women that I admire like Marlene Dietrich or Hedy Lamarr—these sexy, glamourous, iconic women never smelled like vanilla, fruits or candy! And I never took into consideration what men liked, because I think if you wear the fragrance you love, you succeed in being glamourous and that is what it really comes down to. You can’t really please others, you have to please yourself. Choosing the right perfume is very much about that. I discovered that I love big, glamourous flowers like Bulgarian rose and peony, so those are some of the dominating essences. They mingle with spicy bourbon pepper and smoky wood, which creates warmth and mystery on the skin.
What’s your daily beauty fix?
I diligently use a sunscreen and see a dermatologist for skincare concerns.
What’s your diet/fitness regimen?
I follow the diet advice from Kimberly Snyder's book The Beauty Detox Solution. I am devoted to her 'Glowing Green Smoothie'. I also do pilates about four times a week.
What does luxury mean to you and what has been your most extravagant spend till date?
My splurges are usually on the creation of my burlesque costumes. They generally cost anywhere between USD 50,000 to USD 75,000 each.
From being creative to managing business, you've diversified your brand. How do you manage it?
I did, and now I have a new lingerie brand coming out. 'Von Follies' is the name of my affordable lingerie collection. I am a lingerie snob…I own lots of really expensive lingerie because I love it! So I am excited for women to be able to have this line. It comes out in Target [stores] in Australia first, and globally by summer. It will also be available for purchase online. I'm in [business] for the long haul, to ensure it's all just right, so I can continue doing this when I'm done dancing. My first job was working in a lingerie store when I was 15, and I worked there for about 10 years, so my interest isn't limited to putting my name on the product; these things are all part of what shaped my career in the first place.
What are the other projects in the pipeline?
A lingerie collection, a dress collection, perfume, makeup, and my upcoming beauty book.
You’re the superheroine of burlesque, a style icon and a public figure; but you’re elusive at the same time. How do you manage to maintain this image?
I try to manage by not talking too much about my personal life. But I can't control things like the paparazzi, apart from trying to stay away from places they expect celebrities to be.
You have a priceless collection of vintage clothing. Where do you shop and what are your personal favourites?
In Los Angeles, I shop at a twice-yearly event vintageexpo.com, a dream come true for vintage shoppers! I also love The Way We Wore and Golyester on La Brea in Los Angeles, and I frequent the weekend flea markets like Long Beach Antique Market, the Rose Bowl, and the Santa Monica Airport Antique Market. In terms of possessions, I love my Dior New Look 1954 haute couture suit and my two haute couture gowns from Jean Paul Gaultier.
What are the key fashion musthaves in a girl’s closet?
Well-made shoes and a well-made handbag...and no designer fakes, ever!
Who are your style icons?
I admire women who dared to be different: Marlene Dietrich, Betty Grable, Marchesa Casati, Madonna, Gypsy Rose Lee, Mae West...it’s a long list. I am inspired by women who have a strong sense of self coupled with a strong sense of style.
Your take on India…
I have never been there, but it's a place I would love to visit. I'm hoping to schedule a holiday there this year.