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Have you ever wanted to dress glamorously, yet with a mix of Goth and horror? Then Torture Couture is the line for you. It was created by Graciela Martell as a class project at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in LA; her partner Jacob came up with the moniker, and the rest is history.
After graduating, Martell kept Torture Couture going by creating jewelry and other accessories at first for herself, then for others when she realized how much people enjoyed her products. With the help of webmaster Ross Brown and the stunning artistry of CallowLily, Torture Couture is starting to make a name for itself in the business and fashion industry. Fango had the chance to interview Martell about Torture Couture’s past, products and future goals.
FANGORIA: Tell us a little bit about Torture Couture and what it’s all about.
GRACIELA MARTELL: It caters to women who don’t fit into a particular stereotype or category, who like to mesh different styles together. The fashionista with an edge, and a dash of spooky. Torture Couture is inspired by many things, including burlesque, horror, fairy tales, the Gothic Lolita lifestyle, Old Hollywood glam and my infatuation with death.
FANG: Torture Couture is a two-person operation. Is it easier working with fewer people? Would you like to branch out and maybe have more designers involved with your brand?
MARTELL: We’d like to keep it this way for now: more personalized, overlooking every item closely. We do work with artist CallowLily on collaborations such as the Scary Tales Collection from time to time. Her artwork just blends so well with the personality of Torture Couture. With so many things that come with running a business, it would just be easier to carry on as we have.
FANG: How long, on average, does it take to design your products?
MARTELL: To actually come up with a collection/concept—no time at all. I have a lengthy list of items I want to create, probably for the next two years. As far as producing an actual item, that just depends on what it is. A clip could take a couple minutes; a necklace or hat, up to an hour. Some items need the extra time for detailing.
FANG: What are your favorite movies and actors/actresses that have influenced Torture Couture?
MARTELL: THE HUNGER’s David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor in CLEOPATRA, Bela Lugosi, Cassandra Peterson a.k.a. Elvira, David Lynch—my list goes on forever.
FANG: I’ve noticed you have embraced social networking, as Torture Couture has both MySpace and Facebook pages. How have these two helped with the continued success of your brand?
MARTELL: MySpace has been our main connection to a worldwide customer base, and I honestly believe it helps us stay connected to our younger customers—they message us, leave feedback in our photo albums and some will even let us know what they’d like to see next. Facebook is more personalized as far as staying connected; the friends who contact us there are longtime customers or people we’ve met along the way. They’re both pretty decent networking sites, no matter what the negative hype states. I believe our MySpace and Facebook friends appreciate the updates—and secret sales!
FANG: You cater to more of a female audience. Are women more willing to buy your products than men are? Do you have plans on making products for men? I’m sure there are some out there who enjoy the glam look.
MARTELL: We surprisingly get a decent amount of male customers. As a female, it’s just my nature to want to only make products for women, but I plan on having a series of items for men soon. We just recently hired some male models to add to our Torture team!
FANG: What’s the most challenging aspect of marketing Torture Couture? In what creative ways have you gotten your name out to the public?
MARTELL: It’s hard to get your brand out there when no one has heard of you, because people almost immediately dismiss it, but we’ve had a bit of good luck and had some interested media ghouls write about us, such as Alt Noir magazine and Tattoo Couture magazine. We have an advertisement in Wayne Simmons’ zombie book DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, and even made some merch for them. Our form of advertising has been MySpace and Facebook—it works.
FANG: What are your future plans for Torture Couture? You already sell your products on the West Coast, as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom. Do you plan on expanding your brand to other parts of the world with a more physical presence?
MARTELL: At the moment, we’re welcoming shops and web stores that want to carry our merchandise; as far as where it’s going after that—it’s a secret! But I’d like to have my own shop at some point in the future.
FANG: What has been the formula behind your success?
MARTELL: Integrity, originality and most importantly, keeping the customer happy and wanting more.
FANG: Finally, do you have any advice for do-it-yourself designers hoping to create a business like Torture Couture?
MARTELL: Do what you know and love to do. Keep your customer and team in bliss.
You can e-mail Martell at
here, its MySpace page here and its Facebook page here.
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