Were you or was someone you know a teenage girl in the '90s? If you answered yes, chances are pretty high you know what Delia's is. Or rather, dELiA*s.
The retailer has been geared toward capturing the hearts of teenage girls (and the wallets of their parents) since 1993 but is probably best known for its '90s era catalogs with miXeD cAPs tEXt, Mad Libs, stickers, and fresh-faced models who were willing to be goofy and wear approximately one billion pounds of ripstop nylon at once.
In its golden age, the Delia's catalog was an iconic part of teenage girlhood and a form of cultural currency for the school-age set. Unfortunately, we're far from those days of boxy twin sets, "pedal pushers," and Franken-sandals.
Much conversation was made earlier this week thanks to Buzzfeed's report that Delia's was on its "deathbed" in light of the company's most recent quarterly SEC filing which outlined that the brand would be delisted from the Nasdaq Global Market if it failed to meet compliance (that is, if its stock failed to close at a minimum of $1.00 for at least ten consecutive business days) before Monday, November 3, 2014. Unfortunately, the Delia's stock failed to even break above 90 cents in the allotted time period.
And while this certainly appears to be a bleak time for the company, that hasn't stopped fans of the brand and the mark it made on their youth from turning up everywhere pon de web, sharing their memories of the Delia's glory days and lamenting that we ever collectively let it get to this point.
Fans of Delia's connected with every aspect of the catalog, especially its roster of cool-but-approachable models who introduced a generation of girls to denim maxi skirts, cargo pants, flame lick everything, and layering t-shirts. Which is why, as part of our grieving process, we had to interview Kim Matulova, one of the most recognizable Delia's models of the brand's glory days.
Kim (pictured above and in every single catalog scan in this article) graciously took our phone call and let us pick her brain about what made those early days so great, why this could be good timing for a revival of the original Delia's aesthetic, and of course, clodhoppers.
MTV: So, we're talking today on pretty unfortunate circumstances but you were one of the most prominent and popular Delia's models of the '90s. How long was it that you were modeling for Delia's?
Kim Matulova: Oh gosh, I must have done my first one at 15 or maybe even younger, 12 or 13? I did it all through high school and kept modeling for them until, like, 2001.
MTV: Was it your first gig or had you been doing other modeling before you became "that Delia's girl"?
Kim: I had actually been modeling for a while. I had already done a lot of stuff like the Gap, J.Crew, all kinds of stuff. I signed with Ford when I was, like, 8 or 9, and I think I might have done J.Crew when I was, like, 7. [laughs] My mom was one of the assistants to the stylist, so that's how I got in that. And then yeah, it led me to end up doing Delia's which was a really big part of my life.
MTV: How has it carried over into your life after being in the catalogs?
Kim: Well, I still see my photographer, Kevin Hatt, sometimes. I still run into him, and I actually bug out when people still come up to me! Girls will come up to me and just be like, "Oh my god, you're that girl! You were in Delia's! I watched you in high school!" I can't even believe it. It's been—what—15 years? And I get shocked people recognize me. It happened at Coachella. I went to Coachella this year, and a bunch of girls came up to me. I just thought it was really funny that people would still recognize me. I look sort of the same, but not really, I was a kid!
MTV: Did you get recognized when you were younger? Back when you were shooting with Delia's?
Kim: Oh yeah, my friend and I—Janelle, she was another model at Delia's—when we would walk through a mall back then, we couldn't even get two feet without a girl coming up to us and recognizing us. I would get all embarrassed and be like, "No, no, it's not me." [laughs] Or girls would follow us and shout, "You're the Delia's girls!" and bug out. But that was of course more in the beginning, so I always get really surprised when it happens now. It's funny, it's like a cult!
MTV: Yeah, Delia's was such a huge cultural touchstone for girls of a certain age in the '90s. Did you know Delia's would be such a huge thing when you initially started modeling there?
Kim: Well, I had been shooting, like, Seventeen magazine and YM, those kinds of things at that time, so I was definitely in the teen circuit at my agency. We had Lindsay Lohan, a bunch of girls! I just got sent to the casting at George Brown Studio in Soho, and I totally already knew about Delia's. It was still fairly new, but I knew that was, like, the cool thing happening. I met with Kevin Hatt, and I probably had a skateboard with me, I was skating-heavy at the time. [laughs] I just always remember it being really fun.
MTV: Are there any shoots that particularly stand out?
Kim: They were all memorable, every single one. I have a huge box at my mom's house full of old Polaroids and outtakes because, you know, those were the days of Polaroids! Kevin was shooting tons and tons of Polaroids, and there would be, like, mess-up ones, funny ones, silly ones, so at the end of the day, we'd get to keep some. I remember my mom coming with me. We would take the Long Island Railroad. She came with me to all my shoots back then, and I just remember Kevin taking pictures of us on set together. I think Kevin at the time might've been shooting the Beastie Boys, so he was in that world and was always playing the Beastie Boys on set. It was, like, the cool shoot. You would go there and have fun. The clothes were exactly what every girl at that age wanted to be wearing.
MTV: Yessss, let's talk about the clothes!
Kim: So good! And well, first of all, that stuff is so back in style right now! It was, like, this weird normcore, clodhopper shoe. I always really loved how they accessorized us. It was, like, either an outfit would have a simple long necklace with, like, a cool little bauble. That was, like, popular at the time. They were charms, and I remember I used to have an Alice in Wonderland one. Really cool stuff. So, it was either something simple like that, or the stylist would be like, "Heavy on the wrist. Heavy on the wrist. Heavy on the wrist. Heavy on the neck," and they would just put a ton, a ton, a ton of choker ball chains on us, crawler chokers, weird thick wristband watches. And the shoes are what really stick out in my mind. Clodhoppers. [laughs]
MTV: Ugh, YES, and those giant sandals with a foamy platform!
Kim: Mmhmm! It was always fun, though. I wouldn't say there was one shoot that was particularly more fun because every single one was fun. It was like, when Kevin was shooting it, there was always a lot of energy and it was very natural, unforced, and spur-of-the-moment. Kevin would just turn on the music and let us girls do our thing, and he'd capture it. We'd be dancing, we'd be jumping all around. I think that I was definitely known for being the girl that made the crazy faces. Somebody said that to me once. She recognized me and was like, "You're the girl in Delia's! You were the girl who always made the crazy faces!"
MTV: Oh, I never thought about that before! You were like the original Cara Delevingne!
Kim: [laughs] Somebody actually said that to me, too. That's funny. I definitely had thicker eyebrows for the time and was making all the crazy faces. But yeah, the catalog kind of went through a transition even when I was there. I remember when we first started, the shape of the catalog was very square and small and thin, and there were maybe only two girls other than myself that were featured in it. And then, there started to be more and more characters and we switched studios, we were in a bigger studio. But it was always like a family.
MTV: Do you think part of the success was because they used a lot of the same girls over and over and you really identified with them?
Kim: Absolutely. I think that, especially as teenage girls, we look for something to kind of idolize and they built those characters out of us. It was also nice because you could see how one girl or the same few girls could transform themselves and look so different just with clothes and accessories and doing different hair. I think having a set of characters was definitely part of that appeal. You see it today with Victoria's Secret. They have the Angels, and people have their favorite one and they buy what she's wearing.
MTV: So, where has life taken you since Delia's?
Kim: Umm, after Delia's I kept modeling and acting. I had some little film come out, and I got into music. I've also been making jewelry for a long time. Now, I'm actually designing clothes for a brand that I used to model for called Black Scale. They started a women's line. It's fairly new, and I'm designing all that. I've been doing it for—going into my second year now.
MTV: Very cool. Did you have an interest in fashion before you started modeling? I guess your mom is a stylist, so it's kind of in the family.
Kim: Yeah, but I don't think I was really concerned with fashion when I was kid nor when I was a teenager. I was more into, like, editorial, the beauty of a photograph. I really didn't start caring about fashion until way after Delia's, probably in my mid-20s. That's when I just caught the bug. I'm sure it was always in me, and I had been collecting vintage clothes since I was a kid, but at the time, I just didn't really care that much. Baggy pants, big shirt, I was into all the styles of the time, but I never thought about it as fashion. It was just what everyone was wearing at the time.
MTV: Totally, and it's so funny now because we have so many fond memories of Delia's, but looking back at those clothes from that time... It just feels like it was never about being flattering, right? There were massively flared out JNCO jeans and then boxy v-neck t-shirts with ringer stripes and just the worst fit.
Kim: Well, this is what's crazy about hearing that Delia's is going downhill right now! It's come around so full-circle to the point where it really resonates right now. That's why it's so sad to hear that it's going down.
MTV: Totally. I think that's exactly why the reports of Delia's being "on its deathbed" have sparked so much conversation. Because not only was it beloved at the time, but it's probably more relevant than ever right now given the way trends are going.
Kim: It's so silly because the next style that is about to really blow up mainstream but is already bubbling up on the low is the original Delia's. That whole normcore movement. Ugly shoes. Not fitting pants. The whole thing is about to be in now! Maybe they just need to revamp? [laughs] I was totally bummed when they originally changed their catalog. I know they had to keep up with the times and that time had passed, but I think a lot of people loved the original Delia's. Not to downplay what they've done since then at all, just in the context of today, what they started is exactly what people are looking to now for inspiration in fashion.
MTV: I totally agree. Honestly, there's not a more opportune time to revert almost completely back to that.
Kim: Yeah! People would dig it. Do you remember they also started doing the furniture catalog? And it was bedroom stuff?
MTV: Oh YEAH! With the blow-up furniture!
Kim: Yeah, all kinds of Delia's-esque stuff. So, I started doing that one, and they would build all these sets. Instead of just shooting on the white, they would build scenes with stuff happening. [laughs] I have all those catalogs. They were so good! They even made a sticker out of me one time. I still have it! It's really cool.
MTV: Oh my god, I forgot about the stickers! And then there were those Mad Libs that would go across pages...
Kim: OK, yeah, we didn't even talk about that yet! The Mad Libs and the stuff that was written in there was everything. That's what pulled you in and made you interact with the catalog. Or the words said something for the characters and made you identify with them. That was what separated Delia's from other stuff and what made it underground and kind of cool.
MTV: Right, it wasn't just a catalog. It was full of really fun and cool clothes, but you weren't just looking at it for the clothes, it was a whole experience.
Kim: It was a moment. You were like, "I want to be that girl who's hysterically laughing in her JNCO jeans with a choker around her neck!" Aww, Delia's was so awesome! I'm very sad to hear they're having troubles.
MTV: Us, too, Kim. Us, too.
Not enough throwback dELiA*s for you? Check out even more catalog scans below, PLUS you can download these stickers we salvaged from our own personal stash! ByEeeE~*