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Alchemical Reaction

Photos by Raul Vega

“Here at Jünker, our greatest inspiration is dirt,” says Tod Waters, a deep-voiced dude with dreadlocks and heavily inked arms. “Dirt and rust.”

“Yeah, rust is our friend,” giggles his fellow alchemist Giuliana Mayo.

This new design duo transforms dumpster finds and vintage fabrics into one-of-a-kinds for apocalyptic superheroes: Scraps of cobalt blue pigskins are stitched, screen-printed and transformed into a miniskirt; screen-printed cobras uncoil on a plaid corset; a vintage denim vest is reconstructed with coverall straps dangling from the back and a hand-painted skull butterfly fluttering among Asian-inspired swirls; an American flag is distressed and reassembled as a jacket. Leather scraps with bullet holes add to the slim-cut, edgy aesthetic, which has attracted the rock and pop set: Lenny Kravitz, Britney Spears, Godsmack, Christina Aguilera, J.C. Chasez, Pink and Josh Todd are among the bold-facers making a bold statement.


Transformers: Junker designers
Giuliana Mayo and Tod Waters

In fact, it was Waters’ own decadelong foray into rock & roll — as the lead singer for bands such as Spunk and Down and Dirty — that turned him on to design. “When we were on tour, I’d rip my clothes all the time while jumping around onstage. That’s how I started messing around with a needle and thread — I was always having to fix things back in the tour van.”

Waters went from stitching-up to what he calls “mutating”: “Like, I’d take a gas-attendant jacket and cut it apart, then put flames on it. Shit like that.” His bandmates admired Waters’ handiwork, as did friends. “I started really having fun with it and, you know, coming up with my own doodads and secret concoctions. Plus I realized I wanted to make clothes for chicks.”

His partnership with Mayo has made that possible. Both L.A. transplants — he grew up in Texas and she in Florida — they met in a Hollywood boutique. “Tod had his biker jackets for sale in the store, and I told him I really liked his work. So we just started working together,” says Mayo.

Compared to Waters’ punk and metal insignia, her appearance is sedate, though Mayo is a rebel in her own right. She acquired sewing skills in a formal setting, but came about them in a roundabout way. “I was studying theater at NYU but realized I hated actors, so I immersed myself in costume design. I fell in love with the drama of the clothes,” says Mayo. She dropped out of college and moved to L.A., where “this,” she says, motioning to the sewing machines and bleach-splattered bustiers in Jünker’s labyrinthian workshop, “is what happened.”

Nadia (left) wears a cotton top with lace-up leather pants and grommet trim; Ramsell is in a cotton shirt, leather and vintage suit–fabric pants with patches, zippers and hand-stitching; Courtney wears a cotton T-shirt, leather waist cincher and cotton tartan skirt with leather lace-ups, D-rings and chain.

Ramsell wears a leather vest with a vintage bomber-jacket collar and leather pants with D-rings, grommets and duct tape; Nadia is in a corseted canvas vest with grommets, buckles and a leather collar and vintage denim skirt with grommets and leather lace-up.

Hair: Debi Corum
Makeup: Dawn Broussard (Nadia), Michelle Sanchez (Ramsell, Courtney)

Models: Courtney Cruz, Nadia Salamanca (Dragon Models), Ramsell

Jünker is available at Hollywood Trading Company in Fred Segal, 420 N. Broadway, Santa Monica, (310) 451-9002; Jack Henry, 141 S. Kings Road, (323) 655-6050; and Retail Slut, 7308 Melrose Ave., (323) 934-1339; or www.junkerdesigns.com.


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