The problem with most clothing that attempts to incorporate tattoo art is that it mimics something without ever fully comprehending it — like trying to speak Spanish when all you really know are a few phrases in Spanglish. 36 Ghosts is a clothing line that aims to directly translate tattoo art to fashion by going to the source. “The idea for 36 Ghosts first occurred to me after ordering a t-shirt with an all-over print design that featured the artwork of one of my favorite artists, Frank Frazetta,” explains Nate Heim, founder of 36 Ghosts. “I absolutely loved the shirt, and it got me thinking about the possibilities of wearable art. Up until that point, I'd seen pre-existing paintings, photography and clip-art adapted for use in all-over design in clothing. I thought it would be awesome if artists could make designs specifically for all-over print clothing.”
Initially a capsule collection of sweatshirts featuring six different artists’ original designs, the brand has since branched out to include men’s t-shirts. Featuring Irezumi and traditional artwork from artists like Timothy Hoyer and Brian Bruno, 36 Ghosts is a direct descendant of tattoo art, never once edging into cheesy, contrived territory. With plans to expand into women’s apparel featuring original designs from Claudia de Sabe and Jill Bonny, the idea behind the new collaboration is to have a line created by and for women. “We're lucky enough to have some of the best artists in the world working with 36 Ghosts, so the biggest challenge is making sure their artwork is represented properly,” he explains. “Since tattoo artists are experienced at making designs that flow with the human anatomy for tattoos, the artwork they've created has naturally transitioned to the clothing very well.”
Available via the 36 Ghosts website with plans to sell through a few smaller retailers in the near future, Heim prefers the exclusivity of the brand for now. “We enjoy our direct-to-customer relationship...because it allows us a more personal interaction with our customers with instant feedback,” explains Heim. “By eliminating third parties, it allows for us to keep our manufacturing within the United States, which I feel is important.”
36 Ghosts is not some cheap imitation, nor is it a bizarrely tacky version of traditional flash art, bedazzled to appeal to a younger, flashier audience. It is tattoo inspired fashion conceptualized and designed by real artists, and although they’re still gaining their footing in the industry, the list of world renowned artists that are already vying for a chance to work with the young brand speaks more to the quality than any words ever could.