FORMER OUTFIT DESIGNER MARIA CONTESSA
March 31, 2014
I had a successful leather & clothing design studio in New York City called CONTESSA STUDIOS. It was 1973 when Gene Simmons walked in the door looking for someone to help create the costumes for a new rock band called KISS. The result was the
very first leather costumes for Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss.

Gene Simmons told me that they would be millionaires, but I never imagined that these 4 guys, (wearing my costumes,) would become the world's most famous rock band.

From 1973 until 1983, I made many of their costumes for stage, tours, photo-shoots, television appearances, and film, including the 1978 motion picture, KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK.

My first set of costumes is seen on the cover of HOTTER THAN HELL, and the last work I did for KISS was during the LICK IT UP days, (with VINNIE VINCENT and ERIC CARR.)

Shortly after, I traveled to India for a few years, and then relocated to Miami Beach, where I opened a very successful design studio called ZOO14. I kept in contact with the guys from KISS for a few years, but eventually lost touch.

In August of 2013, after much prodding from my friend Douglas Hudson, I reconnected with Ace Frehley at the Contamination Defcon Convention in St Louis. I spent some time with ACE, hung out and signed a few autographs, and was overwhelmed by the reaction from Ace and the hardcore KISS fans.

Until then, I really never thought much about the impact I had on those early days of KISS...to me, it was just a job. To hear KISS fans tell me how they anticipated every new costume design was a complete surprise to me, and was quite humbling.

Bodyguard Chris Kiszka introduced me to Keith Leroux, who put me in touch with Paul Stanley. Doug and I were invited to attend the September 2013 KISS Acoustic Show and Concert at the Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida, as Paul's guests. It was there that I reconnected with Paul and Gene, (and also met Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer.) Paul and Gene spotted me in the audience at the acoustic concert, and made a big deal of introducing me to all of the fans. I met the road crew, and spent time backstage with the wardrobe department, sharing stories from the early years.

Now, I had reconnected with 3 of the 4 original members of KISS, with only Peter Criss left to find. Again, Chris Kiska stepped in, and set up an emotional reunion with Peter in October 2013 at the Spooky Empire convention in Orlando.

The next night, thanks to Adri Becerra, I was an invited guest at the KISS KRUISE Pre-Party in Miami, where I met that sweetheart of a guy, Bruce Kulick.

In just 2 months, thanks to some incredible people, I was able to reconnect or meet 7 current or former KISS members. (I would love to reconnect with Vinnie Vincent, but it doesn't look like that will happen.)

Who knows where this will end up, but just like 1973, I am enjoying the ride.

Maria