In this interview with Sasha Skullmaker, founder and designer of the Nothing Holy streetwear brand, she talks about collaborating with tattoo artists and why she chose to undertake this exciting endeavor. Her curatorial intuition is stellar, as is her talent for discovering and collaborating with new talent. Rather than rely on big names to boost her creations, Sasha sticks to what inspires her most: bold authenticity and freedom of expression.
How did Nothing Holy get started? Is there a philosophy or mission behind the clothing?
Everything started when I saw ring tattoos on the hands of my neighbor who had just returned from prison. My grandmother told me nothing was holy for that man, and she asked me to stay away from him. But instead, I together with other children in our neighborhood asked him to draw something similar on our hands. I guess that’s how to understand the origin of the name of the brand "Nothing Holy".
Russian prison tattoos are a language, which is used by members of criminal world; it is reputation, position in society, biography in beautiful pictures, and your words mean nothing if they don’t match your tattoos. I fell in love with the philosophy of this style and since then I take tattoos really seriously.
Many of the pieces look inspired by tattoos. Why was this an important aspect of your designs?
To begin with, I always wanted to be a part of tattoo art, not only as a regular customer of tattoo studios. But how is it possible if you read, watch and know a lot about tattooing but you can’t draw? There were lots of situations when I was asked to find a decent artist in a certain field or to create a sketch. And it was interesting for me to help, as there is nothing better than a “clean” part of a body where you can create a new masterpiece. That’s kind of how I came up with the idea of creating tattooed clothes where you can fantasize endlessly and there is no need to be able to draw.
The main purposes were self-realization, doing what I love and constant development in this direction. I take the biggest pleasure when people who don’t have a single tattoo buy my clothes. By the way, most of my clients are such people.
How did you get into fashion? Why was this something you were drawn to?
It should be noted that I haven’t worked in fashion before; I am just starting to create clothes. In Ukraine there are several brands that produce tattooed clothes; many of them have been existing for years and the competition is high, but I’m not afraid of it.
More than ever before, the idea of clothes is at its peak and almost every famous person releases his own line of clothing. Then these brands build collaborations, companies create clothes with their logos, and many tattoo artists want to have merchandise with their own tattoo sketches on them. But not all of them want to deal with production and realization.
What do you love about the Ukraine fashion scene? Are there any fashion designers/artists that Nothing Holy looks up to?
In Ukraine, there is a huge amount of talented designers, for example, Dastish Fantastish or Nomad. But I get my inspiration from western designers with a long history, such as Vivienne Westwood. She makes work that people sit and notice for decades, both by her collections, catwalks, and her own personal style. Her radiant make-up and always changing red hairstyles impress me. But, most importantly, is the energy projected by a person and how this energy matches their clothes, like that created by Vivienne. It was she who created the punk style in fashion and I’m a fan of that.
Do you work directly with tattooists for each collection, or are you inspired by certain artists? How do you choose which tattooists you work with?
Another purpose of Nothing Holy is to create awesome clothes together with tattoo artists, help them to manifest themselves in this sphere and promote the idea of tattoos.
I collaborate with 3 artists in the current Fall/Winter19/20 collection: Lesya Zverevа, Ros Moritz and Elmira Tagieva. Before collaborating with an artist I know what sample of clothes will have his or her works, what colour it will have, what fabric will be used. Later the conditions are set and a contract is concluded, where I undertake to pay a certain % of the cost of each sold item in exchange for providing the selected sketches for the coming season until the last sold item during discounts. And I’m incredibly grateful to everyone for trust and opportunity to work together! As my brand is young and a no-name one, I can’t guarantee a stable high income for artists. At the end of a season, we stop cooperation for a while or forever as there are thousands of talented artists and I want to have the maximum quantity of goods in collaboration with artists from all over the world!
The selection process of sketches is the most interesting for me. When I see an artist, whose
works I like, I start to imagine clothes with these works. It’s all about intuition, I rely only on it! It looks like a jigsaw puzzle where everything should make a single harmonious picture. I can’t say that every item has its history of creation, rather a set of chosen sketches reminds a story, which you can “read” with the help of your imagination. The sweatshirt with the works of Ross Moritz reveals a story about a strip dancer who became a victim of a serial killer.
Concerning Ukrainian tattoo artists, I have really long list of those whom I admire. Especially since Ukraine has lots of good examples. But I prefer to keep an eye on young, relatively unknown tattoo artists. Recently I’ve rediscovered such artists as Alice Irene, Marina Sokolova, Polina Tarasenko. Certainly, I would collaborate with each of them in my next collection.
Concerning commercial purposes, it would be more beneficial for me to cooperate with famous tattoo artists who have a lot of fans, but I am interested in revealing new talents.
Many of the pieces have text like “hell is fake”...since words are powerful, how do you choose which words to use and why? How do you hope people feel when they wear your clothes?
With inscriptions like “Hell is Fake”, you’ve noticed that I like, and even prefer, bold and brave statements, sketches and designs of clothes. Reverse crosses, metal chain instead of a belt, semi-transparent fabrics. I love provocative looks. Isn’t the main mission of the tattoo to stand out from the crowd? Customers often ask “Do you have something less cheeky?” or “No, I can’t buy it, the picture/phrase is too provocative for me!” Then I realize that I’m going in the right direction as my clothes are not for everyone: they are only for brave and confident people. And I hope that people wearing my clothes feel freedom.
What are your future hopes for the brand? Any collaborations, goals, or special projects you’d like to share?
At the current stage, I improve the production process as, for me, it is really important to create a high-quality product. I, like any other designer, want to tell about myself and reach a large number of people. That is why the bigger part of income is spent on advertising for the brand.
Nowadays every self-respecting brand tries to be more beneficial to society apart from pursuing its main purpose. Some companies deal with ecological or recycling issues. But my interest lies in helping orphanages, an amount of which is huge and conditions leave much to be desired. In every next collection, I plan to create a design of clothes the proceeds of which will be spent on assistance for one of such establishments.
All-in-all, I wish my brand only good luck, since I put my efforts into it on a daily basis!