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Dragon boots and blood-stained armour: meet the woman who dresses Kiss

Hannah Kinkade, head of costume for Kiss, tells us what it’s like to dress the Hottest Band In The World

(Image credit: Keith Leroux)

How many professionals start their day by scrubbing blood off demonic battle armour? Hannah Kinkade does.

Hannah is head of costume for hard rock icons, Kiss. She’s toured with them six times over the last decade through her business Go for Wardrobe, both in Europe and worldwide.

How much do those platform boots weigh? How do you get bloodstains out of spandex? What’s it like to be responsible for iconic costumes with over forty years of heritage and a loyal army behind it? 

We took the opportunity to ask what it’s like to dress the Starchild, the Demon, the Spaceman and the Catman. Here’s what she said.

How did you first get involved with Kiss?

I’d been touring with Madonna in 2009 on the Sticky and Sweet tour in Europe with my head of department. She used to work with Kiss, and she was leaving, so she recommended me for the job because she thought I had the right personality.

Did you have to do a lot of research before taking the job?

I hadn’t grown up listening to much Kiss at all, but I knew the big hits. The first thing I did was get straight on the internet. I was looking at loads of pictures, trying to learn who was who and what they all wore.

One of the women I was going to be working with, who had previously done the costume, she sent me lots of notes and photos detailing each person and what they wore. So, I had cheat sheets!

What does a normal day on the job look like?

It depends on the venue and the country you’re in but usually we wake up on a tour bus and wait for the rooms [in the venue] to be picked. Once you’ve been given a room, our costume cases will come off the tour truck and we’ll load them in. Then I’ll get my room set up.

I’ve usually got laundry to do first. I’ve got blood to clean off from the night before. I’m trying to dry the shoes, get everything clean, and then start polishing, shining, putting new rhinestones in. I check every single one every day to make sure that nothing’s come loose. There are thousands – Paul Stanley has a lot of rhinestones.

After that, I get the costumes set out in the rooms for the band before they come into the building. Once it’s time to get dressed, I’ll get them into their costumes, make sure they’re happy, get them on stage and then we’ve got a rock show!

Once the show’s over, I do more cleaning. I’ve got to try and get the costumes on fans to get the moisture out. Then I have to get the worst of the blood off. Usually that’s where I find a shower, just to hose it down.

It always looks like a crime scene in the shower when I’m done. It looks like someone’s died in there! It’s not real blood though, obviously.

Hannah cleaning blood off Gene Simmons' costume (Image credit: Keith Leroux)

Who designs the costumes?

Wendy Benbrook is the designer for the outfits in my era, she’s based in LA. Most recently we’ve had a gentleman working on Gene Simmons’ costume called David Pea.

Kiss live shows are notoriously raucous; how do the costumes accommodate this?

We have two of everything, which helps! We have back-ups so we can rotate things if stuff gets broken. There’s a lot of repairs and it takes me all day to get the costumes prepped and ready for the show. The costumes are all fire retardant, too — there’s a lot of fire on stage!

Which elements of the costume have been the trickiest to manage?

For the End of the Road tour, Gene’s costume has been made in a different way than it’s been made in the past – they’ve used different materials and it’s caused quite a few maintenance issues for us. It’s broken a lot more than we’ve ever had before. I’ve overcome it and worked out how to fix it all but the first few months were a little bit rough.

You’ve had a few wardrobe malfunctions, then?

I had to run onstage a couple of times with cable ties and black Gaffer tape for Gene. Nothing’s ever going to completely fall off because everything’s attached to itself.

Sometimes a wing will come loose, and I’ll run on with a cable tie and reattach it! Normally Gene will just keep playing. Sometimes he’ll come to the side, if he’s coming off anyway, but most of the time I just have to run on!

Gene’s costume looks the most technical, can you talk us through it?

There are eight pieces to that costume. It probably looks a lot more complicated than it is! Our dressing routine is the same every show, we’re very systematic — everything just clips together. The mechanisms are all hidden but they’re quite simple.

What’s his costume made of?

It’s carbon fibre. It’s been made of different things over the years but the one he’s wearing now is carbon fibre. It’s not as strong as I’d like it to be, but it looks amazing. You can put a hole through it quite easily!

Hannah preparing Tommy Thayer's boots (Image credit: Keith Leroux)

Let’s talk about those platform boots! Who makes them?

The boots are made by a company called Andre No. 1 in LA by a gentleman called Gary. He’s been working with Kiss for years. They’re amazing and I definitely couldn’t walk in them!

How heavy are they?

They are heavy. I can carry one pair, but I can’t carry them very far! I think they’re about ten pounds each and about eight to nine inches high, depending on who’s they are.

Gene’s blood spitting antics usually leave him covered in the stuff by the end of the show. How do you keep the costumes in good shape?

A lot of elbow grease, basically! Gloves, lots of water, toothbrushes, scrubbing brushes, sometimes a shower if there’s one in the room. If I can, I’ll hose it down in the locker room once he’s out of it.

It’s very sticky, so yeah, lots of elbow grease! I have a big cleaning kit with me everywhere we go. Once everything’s clean, it’s onto repairs – fixing holes, gluing things. Nothing is completely Gene-proof!

Does your kit require special tools that you’d only use when touring with Kiss?

Yeah, I don’t use much epoxy resin with anyone else! Lots of rhinestones, lots of black shoe polish. I don’t get a saw or a drill out very often for anyone else. I have a full toolkit with me!

Perks of the job?

I love going out and seeing fans dressed up in their homemade versions of the costumes. Especially the kids. When you see these little five-year olds dressed up as Gene or dressed up as Paul, or Tommy or Eric. It’s brilliant!

Follow Hannah and Kiss on tour via Instagram or find her at Go for Wardrobe.

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