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Kim 'Kylla' Dylla: Virginia's heavy metal seamstress

Tuesday - 5/27/2014, 6:38am  ET

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Designer Kim 'Kylla' Dylla in her studio. (Courtesy Kylla Custom Rock Wear)

WASHINGTON -- Kim "Kylla" Dylla is not your average fashion designer. She's also not your average academic or heavy metal musician, and yet she's all of those things.

Dylla makes custom stage and ready-to-wear clothing for musicians and their fans out of her Charlottesville, Virginia, home. Her designs are inspired by "Mad Max" and bands such as Motley Crue and Guns N' Roses.

Dylla primarily works with salvaged denim and leather that is then destroyed, bleached, painted, studded and even welded.

She has fitted some of the biggest names in heavy metal -- Machine Head, Trivium, Slipnot, Arch Enemy and Carcass -- but still calls herself an academic.

"I was working in digital humanities [at the University of Virginia] and just making clothes on the side," she says.

"My friend in Slipknot wore one of my designs on stage with Rob Zombie and on the red carpet and suddenly everyone wanted to know where he bought it."

That was about three years ago, while Dylla was still creating three-dimensional models for Rome Reborn, an international initiative that uses computer technology to bring the ancient city back to life.

See a video from Rome Reborn below:

"They used to call me the heavy metal professor," Dylla jokes. "I was kind of the weirdo on campus."

Since then, Dylla's Kylla Custom Rock Wear fashion line has grown into a full-time endeavor. She turned the second floor of her Charlottesville home into a studio where she spends eight hours, on average, per custom-made piece. Clients email her their measurements and design concepts, and Dylla does the rest.

The 31-year-old says she learned basic sewing skills from her mother, a communications consultant who specializes in science and technology, and picked up the rest along the way. There is now a two-month wait list for customers willing to pay $200 to $300, a relatively low price compared to other stage wear.

"Most high-end designs can cost up to four figures," she says. "But I want this to be affordable. A lot of metal bands don't make a ton of money."

Dylla is able to keep prices relatively low by using only recycled materials found at thrift and Army-surplus stores. The latter are especially valuable to her craft, because military uniforms are made from durable material that is well worn by the time it's donated.

Ben Ash, guitarist for English metal legends Carcass, says putting on Dylla's designs helps to prepare him for the show.

"Some musicians just go on stage in their normal street clothes," he says. "When you put on the show, you have to play the role to a certain degree and having good stage attire, so you can actually move around the stage comfortably and with strut, is very key."

Dylla's own experience on stage inspires her designs, which play on post- apocalyptic images of decay and chaos. She is the lead singer in Virginia bands Kung Fu Dykes and This Means You, and says that fashion has to be functional when it comes to rocking out on stage.

"You need super-reinforced crotches and breathable material. When it comes to corsets for women, no boning, so you can really move," she says.

Of her fashion accomplishments, Dylla says outfitting German singer Dorothee "Doro" Pesch was a highlight.

"That was so cool," she says. "I mean, Doro! I really want to do more women's clothing."

See Arch Enemy wearing Kylla Custom Rockwear in the video below

You can see Dylla's designs on her website and Facebook page. Journey will sport her looks on its upcoming tour.

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