Housewives on Fire: Let There Be Light, 2015

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“When I first saw Olie, I thought, ‘Who the fuck is this fucking Frenchman? I was a little intimidated; he was a designer and so was I. It was two cocks looking at each other. It’s a man thing, isn’t it?

“Eventually, I walked up to him and said, ‘Listen, we need to talk about this and what we’re going to do.’ We asked if he wanted to come over to the studio and talk on the Sunday and he agreed. ‘Maybe he’ll show, maybe he won’t’, we thought. And… he did.”

“What was the first Mardi Gras like?” I asked.

“Mad!” said Olie.

“We had twelve days to produce one-hundred garments. And we produced them all,” said Max.

“We didn’t have time to think about it,” Olie said. “We did the first sample, and then went into production like crazy. No time to think; just go and do it. It was really rushed.”

“We worked right through the night before,” said Max. “We were so pumped up, we forgot to make something for me! We switched off the last machine at twelve, because we needed to be there at one, otherwise we’d be locked out of the marshalling area with the outfits. We sped there in the car, half asleep.

“When I realized, I said to Olie ‘I don’t have an outfit’. He said, ‘Leave it to me’. He got some fabric in Marrickville, and bought some Roman armour made of rubber from a costume shop, and I had to wear that.

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“I was so tired, I went to sleep while everyone was getting ready. When I got to the marshalling area after, everyone was partying on and I was walking around like a zombie. I went into the cab of the float truck to sleep, but the roaring of the crowd in Oxford Street was unbelievable. I jumped out of the truck while it was moving. I was hooked!”

After the glitter had settled, the Housewives took stock of what their first Mardi Gras had taught them about the design and production of costumes on a large scale.

“It was nerve racking,” said Max. “The studio was not set up for over one hundred outfits. [I had] too many machines and bits and pieces. Before Olie, I’d been working for two years, doing what I could. When he came, we realized the business had to take a different avenue.”

The synergy between Max and Olie was so strong, and tested to breaking point by the first Mardi Gras that going into business together seemed a foregone conclusion. While that was the case, they had yet to adopt fetish wear as their official direction.

Said Ms Heit: “Before the Mardi Gras, Housewives on Fire was kicking goals. Max had his hands full with between seven and eight garments a month. Olie was being treated badly where he was working – he was on his last legs with it. He was close to a nervous breakdown. He resigned.

“Max asked me about going in [with him] as a business partner; I said it was his decision, because HOF was really his thing. At the end of day I pay the bills, but they’d be bills I’d pay, anyway.”

It was Fahren who provided – or discovered – the catalyst some weeks later.

“We all went down to look at a boring label in Newtown. The boys would have committed suicide after the first month. We walked past a chemist and I saw a display in the window of umbrellas with Swarovski crystals around the handle.

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“I’ve got a magpie eye – I love anything that’s blingy. I said to the boys, ‘Let’s go into fetish and glam it up. Whips and chains, but make it classy.”

Housewives on Fire had crystallized as a unit, forged through the mad intensity of the twelve-day rush to produce one-hundred costumes for Hot Kandi’s Warriors of Love float. By the time the next Mardi Gras had arrived, the trio knew what to expect. They were also armed with a structured, fully realized concept.

“For the first one, everyone wore the same hat, to achieve a mass effect,” said Olie, idly patting the dog. “Afterwards, we looked at what we’d done, analyzed it in terms of where was [the] strength and weakness; at night, you couldn’t see everything.

“We decided to improve by putting lights on [the costumes]. Make everyone more visible. The second time around, we had much more time to think about the concept. We wanted to do something quite different. There were twenty-three different costumes. You have to think about a mass effect for Mardi Gras, as well as being pretty.”

The 2014 float, Hot Kandi’s Sea of Equal Love presented a panoply of sea creatures ranging from mermaids, blue bottle jellyfish, sea urchins and mermaids, all of which revolved around Trishy Dishy, who was adorned as the Queen of the Sea.

“My second relationship, I was really into leather,” said Olie. “I was always going with my boyfriend to Berlin for leather parties. And that’s the Housewives on Fire trademark. It’s about dressing the nude; dressing the nude for sex.”

The fetish element was far more prominent amongst the Sea of Equal Love. Costumes were largely constructed from transparent plastic and fairy lights. The foundation of my own costume, as a sea urchin, was a jock strap and harness.

The jock strap was made of soft, clear plastic and encrusted with glitter and sequins to obscure the X-rated parts. The harness supported an enormous pair of fairy wings, filled with Christmas lights whose light was reflected by the glitter impregnated between the two sheets of plastic wrapped over the scaffolding beneath. Essentially, the wings looked like a great big kite.

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