How did Shrine clothing get started?
I have an art background and a business background. I wanted to create a business, because I was always drawing, or sketching a lot of ideas for clothing I wanted to make. I used to wear some crazy outfits when I would go see bands on the Sunset Strip back in the late 80’s, and early 90’s. So, I knew I wanted to do something with clothing. I started doing those sketches way back in the early 90’s, and I started selling, and making my early prototypes. I had a booth on Venice Beach from like ‘91 to ‘93, and from there, I opened the store on Melrose in 94. Then, I just kept creating stuff, and kind of finding what style I wanted to go into. I was definitely geared towards a “rock-and-roll” style, but a little darker with some Gothic elements. After I opened the store, I really started to make my line my own, and it’s kind of been a developing process since then.
You touched on this a little bit, but where do you mainly get inspiration from for your designs?
Historical. A lot of historical inspirations. Like early Rolling Stones, kind of over-the-top outfits that people like Jimmy Hendrix, or Alice Cooper wore back in the day. So definitely that historic elements combined with the rock-and-roll style. I also got a lot of inspiration from going out to clubs, where a person can see someone wearing something really cool, or they put something together that looked really cool. I get a lot of inspiration from people in the club scene.
What’s your favorite fictional or historical depiction of vampires?
The original Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That’s a really interesting book. That kind of really started my fascination with vampires. Of course, there’s a lot of lore concerning vampires, but I think that is like the first “real” fictional account of a vampire. It’s one of my favorites, definitely. And it’s still popular today! It’s been made into movies over and over. That’s definitely one of my favorites. From there, it’s like Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat. Definitely very inspirational to my work, and it definitely got me interested in vampires even further than I already was.
We’re coming up on the anniversary of Dracula this year, 125 years.
Interesting! We sold at a show, (I think It was like at the Airport Marriott,) that was for the 100th anniversary of Dracula, and that was really cool. They had a lot of really cool vendors and speakers and that kind of thing.
What are the biggest challenges you faced in business?
Getting enough money to make all my ideas, definitely! It’s really important to keep selling stuff. Nowadays, with online stores, it’s actually a little bit easier. When I first started the business, I had all these crazy ideas and of course I wanted to make them all! You need the money to keep buying the fabric and everything, so you’ve got to sell what you make. Then it becomes a constant process of trying to build up inventory, and selling it, and then buying more fabric and making more stuff and all that. So it’s kind of just keeping up with all the ideas I have and being able to finance the manufacturing. Definitely. So, yeah. Cash flow. Cash flow, absolutely.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
We’ve dressed a lot of cool people, and that’s the accomplishment, I guess. Dressing people that influenced me back in the 80’s, or whenever, who ended up coming in to my store and buying stuff. That really made me happy. People like Prince, Cool and the Gang, Commodore. They all bought stuff in my store, and they had definitely influenced me growing up. So that really made me happy, and kind of fulfilled the inspiration that they gave me.
Is there anyone you’ve always wanted to work with or any project you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t gotten to do yet?
I want to just continue developing my line and do more stuff. I would like to do more casual things. Like, I do very dressy kind of evening-wear for men and women, very gothic rock-and-roll stuff. I would like to do a more casual daytime line, or even like athletic wear that has a little bit of a darker flare than what you would buy at the Nike store. I do some pieces that work during the daytime, but to do daywear would be really nice. I’d really like to do that, but it’s just my time to make all the normal stuff and finance it also, because you make like black T-shirts or black shorts or whatever. You have to make a lot of them to really bring the price down. Not to mention, everybody has that stuff. Like you can go to the Sporting Goods store, or the Nike store or whatever and find black shorts. To make it competitive, you’ve got to make a lot of it, or maybe even have it made overseas. That takes a good bit of money to put into it.
It’s definitely harder to manufacture here. But you have more control. You can do it better.
I’ve made stuff in China, and India, before, but right now I prefer to make everything here in the US. I’m trying to pay my workers, like, a living wage.
Import is expensive, too, especially in the last couple of years!
Yeah. Still, it’s definitely a lot less than making stuff here. The flip side of that, however, the advantage to making stuff here is that I can make like fifty pieces and make it cost effective. To have stuff made in China, you have to make like 1000 pieces or something, and finding the fabric is a little harder.
I can go down to downtown, and just buy like ten yards or something of some really cool fabrics. Though, honestly, I try to avoid doing that because then people want me to remake it, and you can’t find the fabric again! Usually I try to find something that’s like a lot of fabric. It’s online, so I can reorder it. When I had my store, I would just go down and buy random fabrics that are really cool. People love that because it’s definitely a one-of-a-kind item that way. Of course, then they always come back, and say, hey “I lost that shirt I bought here. Can you make another one just like it?” and I have to be like, “No, that was a one-time fabric, and I had bought the last five yards.” So that’s kind of a drawback to that, and people go crazy because they can’t get it again.
It’s cool that they really do like it that much. That’s awesome. Is there anything else that you share that you’re currently working on?
I’m stocking up for 2022. The pandemic kind of really inhibited me from manufacturing for the first three months of the pandemic, We were supposed to isolate, and quarantine, and all that stuff. I was stuck inside, and I was trying to avoid contact with all my workers. So we kind of relied on the inventory that we had. We had quite a bit of stuff back there, but now we’re getting a little bit low on inventory, so I’m really excited about just stocking up on stuff. I’m going to stock up on all our basics, like the tail-coats and the vests and the pants, and then, from there, start making new stuff, probably towards the fall.
I have a lot of ideas! A little bit more in the wasteland, Mad-Max style. I’ve been doing that for a while now with the kind-of ripped up with the T-shirts and stuff. I kind of want to develop that side of the business a little more just because wasteland’s become so popular. I like that style and it’s a little more casual.
Where can people find your clothing?
I allow people to make appointments to come in and try stuff on here in my warehouse. You can find it on our website. Shrinestore.com. We sell at stores in New Orleans, and New York City. Here in Los Angeles there’s a store called Typhoon which is on Melrose that sells all our stuff. (That’s just a men’s store, so it’s just the men’s items.) There’s FashioNation in Denver, Trash and Vaudeville is a store in New York that carries our line so we’re kind of out there. There’s Subculture Corsets & Clothing in Jacksonville, and Roadkill, in New Orleans. (That’s a really cool store. A lot of really cool stuff there.)
That’s the end of my question. Is there anything else you wanted to add?
I love the vampire scene. I love going to the vampire balls. People really dress up and there’s not a whole lot of events where people can dress really cool and elaborately in that way, so I really appreciate the vampire scene and I love being a part of it. I’ve always been kind of a big fan of vampires in fiction and culture. It’s a lot of fun. I’m glad that people who go to the vampire ball like my stuff too!
It’s kind of interesting, that crossover. I’ve always been into Anne Rice and Bram Stoker’s Dracula and all that so definitely my stuff kind of went from rock and roll and kind of veered into that direction. It’s cool that there’s a lot of people out there that appreciate it and support us!