No Atlanta drag queen has made it as far as Violet Chachki in the hit show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the local favorite has turned heads all season on the hit Logo show.
From her catty confidence to her sardonic wit and runway skills, Violet Chachki is a 19-inch waist away from winning it all when the season finale airs Monday, June 1, going up against the two other finalists, Pearl and Ginger.
On Monday, she will be wearing a custom dress designed and created by Atlanta’s own Anthony Ladd Canney, owner and lead designer at The House of Canney. Canney is also the designer behind Violet Chachki’s corsets, including the one made famous in her “Death Becomes Her” runway look on RPDR.
Canney was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, and was the lead costumer as a student at Savannah Arts Academy. Canney also received a scholarship in fashion to attend the Rising Star program at SCAD, but instead went on to get a BFA in Media and Performing Arts Production. Canney has been designing since
Canney then moved to Atlanta in 2007 as a freelance designer and performer, joined the Sukeban crew and competed in Dragnique Season 2, a drag competition held at Jungle.
Violet Chachki’s eye-popping “Death Becomes Her” look. Corset designed by Atlanta’s Anthony Ladd Canney.
Canney answered a few questions for the Georgia Voice, including the House’s role in ensuring Violet Chachki secured the title of smallest waist in RPDR history.
How did you meet Violet Chachki?
She ran into me at the Other Show one night (the popular drag show held every Friday at Jungle; Violet is a regular cast member) and I believe I was sporting one of my gentlemen’s corsets. She already knew me from word of mouth, but the corset got the conversation started. There’s no way Violet could have had the “smallest waist in Drag Race history” she sports now without her House of Canney to thank for that, along with Violet’s determination to always turn heads and whittle that waistline down inch by inch. You just can’t get that kind of silhouette with an off the rack “Corset Story” deal. They simply aren’t cut for any real reduction, and no one really wants a hog body, just ask Adore!
So, tell us about Violet Chachki’s dress she wears in the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” finale. How long did it take to make? What was the inspiration for it?
Ahh!! What a dress! It truly went above and beyond what I hoped and it is my new favorite piece of work to date, though I feel I say that quite a bit! The pattern drafting and construction took over 40 hours alone and this doesn’t include dying the corset mesh, and glove mesh nude, or the multiple violet dye baths throughout the process of building the dress.
The initial inspiration came from Violet Chachki herself, when she returned from “her trip to Ecuador.” She came with a sketch of a fitting straight gown that had a dripping effect that created a sort of fringe [and the dress was] intended for the finale. But we had no clue how to accomplish this effect. We considered fringe beading, liquid beading, silicone caulk, liquid latex, among other things. She took the sketch with her and we continued to bounce ideas off of one another for a couple of months. What we ended up with came from my determination of wanting it to be so sheer that you could see her belly button, while still snatching her waist [cinching in a corset]. We also wanted a unique shape that would stand out on stage. I rewatched every season finale (and episode that goes along with it) of RPDR to to get more ideas and silhouettes that were too popular and to be avoided.
Inspiration came from [Alexander] McQueen, [Thierry] Mugler, and The Blonds, particularly their beaded “dripping blood” effect. The final design came to me around mid-April and I went straight into production. I used quite a few different techniques and several new ones that I figured out as a went along. I think the most important technique beyond the caged sleeves and hip fins, would be the drips themselves. Each section of hand-cut polyester plastic heavy weight corset mesh had to be melted along the edges to prevent them from fraying. I also made up templates for the drip effect first, and I would transfer one side exactly (left for example), while using it merely as a guide for balance for the other side (right side). This allows for the gown to be balanced and appear generally symmetric while maintaining a natural asymmetry.
Have you designed other costumes for Violet? Which ones? Do you design for other drag queens in Atlanta or elsewhere?
In terms of what aired on the show, I only made her black corset which she wears in pretty much every episode on the runway, be it exposed in her “Death Becomes Her” look, or covered up like her Mod Hello Kitty concept. I made her stunning Lavender Organza number she wore on the red carpet premiere as well as her main burlesque costumes.
I’ve yet to personally work with other girls from [RPDR], though I did make matching retro Barbie swimsuits for Violet and Trixie! As to queens AND kings in general, I have dressed more than I can even begin to count! From outfitting Bianca Nicole and Vanessa Demornay when they won National Entertainer of the Year, to Aurora Sexton’s give up opening act for the same crown, to Shavonna Brooks, Tahjee Iman when when she won Continental Plus and Nichelle Paris when she won Miss Black America. I’ve sent drag costumes and corsetry as far as Ireland, Germany and Paris, France. You could even say I have dressed the Lady Chablis since she stole one of my dresses when I was on cast working at Club One back in the day!
Does Violet have a lot say in what you design for her?
She definitely comes to me with ideas in mind, but in the end the concept is loose which allows me to meet her needs while allowing me to breathe life and meaning into design. And it’s great that she pretty much just trusts me to do my thing.
Sort of like the finale gown—she had a loose concept and then we piled on elements (shoulders, hip details, dramatic skirt), and then after heavy marinating the final vision comes pretty much complete, creating a narrow hobble skirt bottom to the broad dripping wing sleeves, which gives a dramatic V effect to the whole dress. I sort of think it adds a subconscious element, if you didn’t know her name before, you will never forget it after that night!
Who do you want to win RPDR (laughs)? Why?
Ginger, so we can stop hearing the lame excuse of how a “big girl needs to win,” as if size alone has anything to do with talent. We ALL know the REAL big girl is Violet because that head is so big there is NO chance of failure, and that’s what I find so amazing about her!
Below: RuPaul’s “Born Naked” studio remix featuring Violet Chachki, Ginger and Pearl.
Below: Another look at Chachki’s tiny waist from a performance at the Other Show.
Another House of Canney design: