“Every year, the women of New York leave the past behind and look forward to the future.” These words were once spoken by NYC fashion queen Carrie Bradshaw and are repeated during every tipsy girls’ night binge-watching session of Sex and the City.
Bradshaw was a stylish, albeit fictional, newspaper columnist in the Big Apple with a firm belief in fashion and a firmer belief that people should look as good as they can 24/7 when working in a city that never sleeps.
One up-and-coming business is helping fashionistas everywhere do just that. Stationed in New York City, on W 41 St. sits the home base of Gagged Chokers, a company that claims ‘life’s too short to wear boring chokers.’
“Courtney [Reed], was inspired by the choker trend and figured out how to make ones better than what we were spending money on in stores,” says Gagged Girl team member L.J. Wright, taking a break from her busy schedule. “It started small with her making them for the cast and crew of [Broadway’s] Aladdin, but people quickly started asking about them and word spread and we realized the demand was higher than we ever thought. The four of us decided to get organized and created the “Summer in the City” collection as a test to see how it could really work. The response was unbelievable and we haven’t stopped since then.”
The Gagged Gang is made up of founder Courtney Reed, who is currently playing Princess Jasmine in Broadway’s Aladdin, Teale Dvornik, ensemble dresser for Aladdin, stylist and Broadway dresser L.J. Wright, and Miss Teen United States 2014, Abby DePhillips.
It’s been a whole new world ever since. Along with their collections, “Fashion Week”, “Mouse”, “Courtney”, and their newly-released “Halloween” collection, Gagged Chokers came out with the “Broadway” Collection in late September 2016.
“We knew people would be completely surprised and excited by our new models and the adorable fall chokers but the response was beyond overwhelming in every way,” Wright reminisces. “It was more work than we were prepared to deal with but at the same time we were so ecstatic with how much everyone loved it!”
The “Broadway” Collection was created after a great demand was voiced almost as soon as the company launched. The draw came mainly from the Aladdin audience but interest continued to grow and other Broadway fans voiced their interest as well. The Gagged Gang says the “Broadway” Collection is like a love letter to their clients, it’s something they’re passionate about.
The chokers for the “Broadway” Collection are a mix of beautiful and unique designs you won’t find anywhere else. Each design is inspired by different shows on Broadway including Cats, Aladdin, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, this summer’s smash hit Hamilton and more. More specifically, each choker is inspired by the fierce female characters that bring every performance to life.
“We thought everyone would love having an accessory that made them feel close to a character they respect or admire,” says Wright. “The collection also came out in perfect time with the season change so we were inspired by fall fashion in the velvets and deep rich colours and textures. You can rock any choker in the line and just look like you are making a fashion statement while also knowing you are rocking something inspired by a character you love. ‘Traditions’ is definitely the most popular choker thus far in the collection, with ‘And Peggy’ a close second.”
Along with taking inspiration from their characters, Broadway ladies such as Lexi Lawson, Mandy Gonzalez, Ali Ewoldt and Courtney Reed herself, have also played a part in inspiring the chokers.
“The “Broadway” collection was entirely inspired by the strength and beauty of the characters these women portray,” comments Wright. “A lot of these ladies have been supportive and rocked our chokers from day one, so it was such a treat to finally show their faces and include them in the process. It meant the world to have so many of our sweet friends from the Broadway community model and show their generous support. Can’t express how much we love and appreciate all of them!”
Several leading ladies and gents all over the Broadway scene have been supporting the brand since its launch back in July, one being the renowned Laura Osnes, who has raved about them on Instagram, writing, “Love these. She makes ’em all, folks, go get ’em!! #obsessed”
The girls say that so far, inspiration has not fallen short but that it’s important to stay up-to-date on the current fashion trends and NYC street style.
“We listen to our friends’ ideas and look at feedback on social media,” said Wright. “Sometimes the chokers inspire the name or the collection, and sometimes we are fitting choker designs into a collection concept we all love already. One of my favourite things about the four of us is that we are completely different in our style tastes so we are constantly inspiring and sharpening each other. It’s always very exciting!”
As well as being beautiful, each choker is handmade by the Gagged Girls. Reed, Wright, DePhillips, and Dvornik all help make them. That’s right, no genie required. Whether it’s at home or in a dressing room, they have a perfected process which includes millions of pieces of trim, clasps, chains and charms.
“The chokers are actually handmade … a lot of people don’t realize that.” Wright explains “I think that is one of the reasons the brand has had such success, people feel the love and care and hard work that is put into these pieces and it becomes more than just an accessory.”
Even if the final products come out looking effortless, a lot of prep work goes into visualizing and creating each new collection of chokers. Some come together easily while others take more time. The Gagged Girls say it differs depending on the collection they’re working on.
“They all present different challenges, and as a brand-new company we are still learning a lot and figuring out what works as we go,” Wright says. “Personally, my favourite part is naming the chokers and figuring out the creative look of each one. We have so much fun doing it, it’s always worth it on launch day!”
Each collection and design is just as unique to the company as the choker will be to the wearer, as quantities are limited. A set number per collection is made depending on resources and what’s available. Gagged Chokers are a ‘get it while you can’ commodity.
“Here’s the Gag: Complete your outfit with a Gagged Choker and leave the house with confidence!” reads the tagline on the Gagged Chokers website “Make a statement with these unique pieces. You can start with one…but chances are you’ll end up with them all!”
The Gagged Girls are currently hard at work, creating new collections for the coming months.
Gagged Chokers is not throwing away their shot because clearly, these ladies are non-stop.