An Interview with Kayleigh Fabe; Creator of ‘NXT UK: Takeover Cardiff’ Tag Team Ring Attire
Many women and men work behind the scenes of a wrestling PPV. Teams of people like the stage crew and security all work as one to put together the event. One of the unsung heroes of the ‘behind the scenes’ crew are the designers & creators of wrestling gear. Think about it. An athlete can perform to the best of their ability and put on one hell of a show, but if they don’t look the part (especially on such a grand stage) then they are missing that essential aspect of a top-notch pay per view; the look.
The whole point of something like NXT UK Takeover Cardiff Is that it’s a next-level event compared to the regular weekly TV tapings. There’s more at stake, the matches are more intense and it looks (and feels) like a big-time spectacle.
I bet I could list the last 4 or 5 big WWE PPVs and ask you what Seth Rollins wore, and you’d be able to tell me. And that’s all down to whoever designed & created his gear. It’s iconic, and memorable and fits the occasion.
So who are these people that leave such a lasting impression on our mind? are they veterans of the business? people who just happen to have landed such a role (and do it for the love of design, and not necessarily wrestling) or maybe a bit of both. Well, allow me to introduce you to one such person.
Today’s guest not only created the in-ring gear of the current NXT UK tag team champions (Champions who won said titles on the biggest UK PPV since… well Summerslam 1992 in my opinion) but who also designs and creates her own pieces too. She sells her wares on her Etsy store, but there is a hell of a lot more to her than that.
Introducing to you, the fascinating story of Kayleigh Fabe…
How long have you had your Etsy store for? And did you share or sell your creations elsewhere beforehand? I opened my Etsy store in 2015 making dresses and Donut shaped cushions! Other than an old Rikishi T-Shirt that I had turned into a cushion, I had nothing wrestling related listed for sale and had never before made any wrestling gear. Etsy gives shoppers an option to ‘request customisation’ and it was Liam Slater of ITVS World of Sport fame that first contacted me asking if it was something I would consider.
Who or what was it that got you motivated to make this into a career? Or was it something you always strived for? I’ve always loved sewing and creating. I’ve made fancy dress outfits my whole life. So I always knew I wanted to ‘create’ in one way or another but as it seems such a difficult industry to get into, I tried a number of different things alongside my full time job of managing various bars and restaurants to see which items really took off. My final ‘push’ came when I turned 30 doing a full time job that really hated which made me feel so dispensable that I handed in my notice and never looked back.
Who are your inspirations? I get my inspiration from anything elaborate and grand that takes you away from everyday life. Live shows, films, music and dance performances, theatre, cosplay, anything ‘out of this world’ that has a sense of magic to it. Nothing compares to the rush that you get when see your ideas coming to life after weeks or months of working on it. This obviously doesn’t apply to every single pair of trunks or knee pad covers I create, it is after all, still a job and can be repetitive, but when you get a client with big dreams and visions it’s such an exciting journey to share together.
Once you have a piece on mind, do you see it through from thought to end product? Or do you have several ideas going on at the same time?
Some clients come to me knowing exactly what they want with professional graphic design mock ups. Others have a pencil drawing scribbled on a receipt and are very happy for me to take full creative control. I think the best client is somewhere in the middle. If I don’t think a clients design idea looks good I don’t want to put my name to it. Luckily, 99% of my clients really appreciate my creative input and are very happy with my suggestions. Some will have certain criteria given to them by their wrestling promotions regarding the overall affect the gear will have in the ring and on the show which I will have to abide by.
How did you get involved with the NXT UK Tag Team Champions? I first made gear for Mark Andrews roughly a year ago after he had seen some stuff I’d made for WWEUKs Ashton Smith. I’m very happy to say I still dress both the guys and with Flash being Tag Team Partners with Mark, he saw the quality of my work and decided to give me a try too
Was he very specific with regards to the design? Or did he just ask you to work your magic? Flash and Mark are both great to work with, they both have their base design needs but are also very open to discussing alternatives. We knew they wanted the Welsh Dragon and colours, being Welsh lads, but Flash also wanted to stay true to his ‘Mod’ style and he let me run with it. When I suggested holographic pin-stripe as opposed to plain colours, he seemed a little hesitant before saying “F*ck it, make me look like a mega star!”
Are you a fan of wrestling? And did you watch the show? My earliest memory of watching a wrestling match (and being gob smacked by what I was seeing) was June 1998, Undertaker Vs Mick Foley Hell in a Cell. I fell in love from that day and did all the things they tell you not to like trying wrestling moves on a pile of sofa cushions in the front room! I had posters all over my bedroom, numerous T-shirts, VHS, pencil cases, magazines, figurines; I designed a wrestling themed board game in collage and even had my Wrestling name picked out: Vixen.
When I was around 24 years old I got the chance to start wrestling training with DPW in Wakefield (no longer exists). Around 5 months in, we were being shown body slams. I took the first one successfully and jumped back up happily, took the second one and couldn’t get back up due to my arms going numb. I later found out my C5/C6 vertebrae had split and moved, resulting in my wearing a neck brace for 10 weeks and was advised never to wrestle again. From that moment I was so upset about the whole experience that I didn’t watch or get involved with anything ‘wrestling’ related for a long time, as it reminded me of what I was missing out on. If I hadn’t had that first enquiry from Liam, I may never have become reacquainted.
Making wrestling gear has enabled me to become involved in a world I fell in love with as a kid, in a way that shows off my creativity and utilises my skills. It has completely changed my perspective when I now watch my clients wrestling in my stuff, I no longer feel like I’m missing out, I’m involved.
Flash and Mark Andrews’ match at NXT Takeover Cardiff was the highlight of my self-made career to date. Seeing my own creations in such a big arena provokes the same reaction I could imagine I’d get watching a loved one walk out there, I could have never imagined how strongly I would feel. To make it even better the match was absolutely outstanding and I’m so happy for the pair of them and glad to have been able to share the experience with them in this way.
Do you have any desire to further create in ring gear for the wrestling scene? Damn right – I’m just getting started
And finally, how did it feel to have your work worn by a title winning tag team on a nationally praised show. I had no idea what a big deal this whole thing would be whilst I was sewing away in my little project room in Leeds. I’ve made a point of marking the achievement and celebrating with friends and loved ones. I’m so proud to have been a part of it.
I just want to give thanks to Kayleigh for her time. She’s clearly a very talented lady with a whole heap of drive and potential. If you’re wanting to get in touch with her you can do so at the following, and i suggest you do so before her schedule really takes off.