For the past six years, Vandalia native Katie Calcaterra has made a name for herself in the fashion world while working on many projects living in New York.
As a wardrobe stylist for television and commercials, her credits include the Fall 2014 show “Believe,” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” Are We There Yet?,” “A Gifted Man,” “What Not To Wear,” and more.
While enjoying her success, she missed the process of creating and designing, something she focused on during her studies when attending Stephens College.
Then in the fall of 2011, her fiancé Kurt Peloquin began wearing suspenders. She thought it would be fun to make him a pair.
Calcaterra said she fell in love in the process of making the suspenders and realized there was an opportunity for her in the suspenders marketplace.
“No one was doing that,” she said. “I felt it was different and it’s not overly saturated in the market. I feel like there is a coming of age of men going back to the art of dressing well and getting into certain things like appearance and the way they dress.”
Her suspenders are handcrafted and one-of-a-kind. The suspenders combine re-purposed fabrics and durable hardware from her studio inn New York. Calcaterra said she sometimes uses vintage fabric in her creations. With a new product came the need for a name.
She mentioned to Kurt that her grandmother’s name was Mary Jane Lane. Her fiancé instantly encouraged her to pay tribute to her grandmother by naming the suspenders line with her name.
When Calcaterra visited her grandmother in Illinois, she noted how she always enjoyed going through the collection of the former seamstress.
“I found a pack of her original labels and they said they were handmade and fashioned by Mary Jane Lane,” Calcaterra said of her grandmother who said it was okay to use her name. “So I feel like I wanted to continue on with her name.”
In the past two years, Mary Jane Lane suspenders have been worn by comedian Reggie Watts, worn on “Comedy Bang! Bang!” on the IFC, worn on the show “Portlandia,” as well as worn by a contestant on the game show “Million Second Quiz.”
The product was also a hit at a Jazz Age Lawn Party, a popular event in the New York area. The party features a 1920s theme hosted by an orchestra.
“I did very well there and got a lot of press there as well,” Calcaterra said.
Calcaterra also donated a pair to the Presbyterian Church of Vandalia’s Lord’s Acre Sale to be auctioned off. Jane Heim won the bid and the pair was hand delivered by Calcaterra to Norman Heim for Christmas.
Her vision is to get her product line into stores across the country.
“Right now I’m researching manufacturers in the U.S.,” she said. “Right now they are handmade and I’m looking to expand and have them made by a factory in the United States. I’m just looking to grow the business in all aspects and develop a following…”
She said she’s done a lot of custom work as gifts for groomsmen as well as gifts for women.
Her vision also includes making more accessories like pocket squares, ties, and more.
One of her first customers was her dad Dennis Calcaterra, who resides in Vandalia with her mom Ruth Calcaterra.
She gave him a pair of suspenders for Christmas and he now has two pairs.
“My dad was so happy when I gave him his pair; he was just so proud and it felt amazing,” she said.
She said she’s given a pair to all of the men in her family, including her male cousins and uncles.
“They were just so proud to wear them,” she added.
“I got to show my grandmother with that label on them…It feels incredible to see somebody wearing the product that you made and be really into it. I have some really die hard fans and customers. That really propels me forward.”
She is taking orders through her website http://www.maryjanelane.com.
Calcaterra said potential customers can just send her an email and she will be back in touch with them.
The average price is $65-$85, with the price increasing for custom-made suspenders.
Calcaterra added that she’s been very thankful for the experiences she’s had in her career.
“I just feel really blessed that I get to (do this),” she said. “That I really followed my passion and that I’m actually doing it. At first I felt so scared. It felt impossible to make a living doing styling work and creating products and art that I love.”