I knew of Saira Huff because of DETESTATION but I met first interacted with Saira when I booked her old band FAGGOT at ABC No Rio. Since then she moved from Minneapolis to NYC. While in NYC I watched her continue to be in solid fucking bands, like QUESTION, but I also got to see her really start to take off with her clothing business. Here is Saira Huff on her new store, Saira Huff’s On The Edge Of Time, in Brooklyn…
When did clothes become important to you?
Well, they are a necessity so I would say always?? No seriously I have always loved clothing from as far back as age 2 when my mom dressed me as a cowgirl and a sailor. I was obsessed with what everyone on early-’80s MTV was wearing as a child and taught myself to alter the clothes I had to look like the clothes I couldn’t afford! The obsession really took off at age 13 when I found punk, which allowed me to turn my daily appearance into art. It hasn’t stopped since.
What do you think of people saying that fashion in punk is stupid and superficial?
Some punks are stupid and superficial regardless of how they dress, and some people aren’t “punk” just because they look the part. What drew me to and has kept me tethered to punk is the freedom of creating yourself as the individual you wish to be, not what is expected of you. Much of that applies to how you choose to appear. People seem to overlook the fact that fashion is an art form, and punk-fashion in all it’s diverse artistry is definitely such! I always thought it our duty as punks to set ourselves apart from the masses so there should and is emphasis on dress. It’s an integral part of our culture!
Amen, sister! When did you start making your own clothes and clothes for other people?
The open sewing class at the institution I was confined in at age 14 was where my first complete garments took form. It was just a room with machines and loads of donated fabric, mostly old curtains and tacky polyester, perfect for punk! I continued making stuff for myself and a few things for friends, although fashion took a back-burner to bands till about 10-12 years ago. Living in Minneapolis gave me time to focus on fashion more fully (6-8 months of brutal winter = inside creative time!)and I put serious focus on mastering technique in my years there. I started doing more commissions and avant garde shows from 2003 to present. I moved to NYC a little over 5 years ago and was tailoring on-site for fashion shows/photo shoots/TV/movies within the first year and opened a gallery/boutique of my designs November 2014.
What bands have you been in?
Primary bands I recorded/toured with: vocals with DETESTATION (formative member, ’95-’98, Portland, OR), guitar with ATROCIOUS MADNESS (formative member ’97-’98, Portland, OR), vocals with EPIDEMIA (’98, Berlin), guitar with A MESS (formative member, ’01-’02, Minneapolis, MN), vocals with RESOLVE (formative member, ’02-’03, Minneapolis, MN), bass with FAGGOT (formative member, ’04-’09, Minneapolis, MN), vocals with QUESTION (formative member, ’06-present, Minneapolis, MN and NYC), bass with RØSENKØPF (formative member, ’10-’12, NYC). I have also played/recorded/toured with other bands/projects part time or fill-in: BLACK SHIT, RAPE SCENE, FUTURE BLONDE’S, MUSTALAINEN, ENCHANTED, BLOODY PHOENIX and I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting!
What music projects are you currently doing?
My only current band is QUESTION, and we are on a part-time basis for various reasons, one of which is our drummer still lives in Minneapolis and the rest of us live in NYC. We are recording an LP in January and have plans to tour Japan end of 2015. I am always looking for people to play with but my schedule is pretty full and I am very picky about who and what to play!!! I would love to record a solo project where I play all of the instruments but my time is usually absorbed with fashion and design so perhaps someday?? Music will always have a role in my life, it’s just less prominent at the moment to give space for all of the other creative things I love.
How did your design work play a role in a band like FAGGOT or what your did in the Minneapolis punk scene?
I designed and made all of the costume for FAGGOT and challenged myself to make a new set of costumes for most of the shows, sometimes disposable pieces with only a one-time use. The costumes (for band members and an array of dancers) definitely gave us a performance-art element and turned all of our shows into an audience- participating event. We hosted themed- parties and shows which brought out a lot of creativity in an already diverse and active scene in Minneapolis. There was a lot of care and interest put into the projects out there. People in the Midwest don’t have the social hang-ups of coastal or metropolitan cities so there was a lot more letting loose and being wild and, unlike what you would see in NY or Portland! It was partly the best time of my life and partly the most self-destructive … but either way I look back on it, I learned so much and had an amazing time doing it.
Why did you move to NYC?
Specifically to pursue work in fashion. I intended to avoid playing music (impossible?) and focus solely on fashion, which for the most part has happened.
When did you start doing Total Crap?
Total Crap, Unincorporated, started in 2004, my first “label.” I liked the irony of a well designed and constructed piece being called “total crap.” I still print “total crap” on t-shirts/bags but found the name too limiting. As “Saira Huff” I can do whatever I want, I don’t just have to make “total crap.” I transitioned into my own name while formulating new designs for the store.
How has making clothes, organizing fashion shows and creating DIY creative spaces utilized your background in the punk scene?
The do-it-yourself ethos of the punk scene enabled me to feel that I could do whatever I wanted, if I put forth the effort. I applied this towards setting up shows, helping/creating spaces, events, bands, zines and building a life that by all odds should have landed me dead or in jail (I wasn’t set up to succeed in life). For all of my complaints about punk I will always consider and regard it as family. Within punk I was nurtured to believe and rely on myself — if you want something done do it yourself. And why not? I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with work completed, to create is to be free!
Where have you sold Total Crap? Where has it been featured?
Due to my aversion towards the marketing side of business dealings, where and how to sell my work has always been an issue … I have been commissioned by people throughout the years for various stand- alone pieces and costume, and sold a few batches of leather vests and skirts at Trash and Vaudeville on St. Mark’s in NYC. Opening my own retail/showroom location seemed the most feasible answer to the selling question.
Tell us about the store, Saira Huff’s On The Edge Of Time.
Saira Huff’s On The Edge Of Time is a boutique and workroom for my designs. It is primarily a retail location for my clothing (and an opportunity to pay homage in murals and name to my favorite band, HAWKWIND) but also a venue for showcasing my other interests in interior and graphic design and an archival gallery of all creative works throughout my history. I make all of the new clothing, but also carry a small selection of vintage and music. The store is unique both in content (there are few locations featuring authentic non-commercial punk-inspired design and decor) and that the garments seen on the racks are made before your eyes in the visible workroom at the store. The endeavor is both terrifying and exciting! I believe the best answer to the awful state of the world is to create the life you feasibly wish to live to the best of your ability. To contribute to what moves and inspires. To be one of the too few examples that life can be what you make it to be. That’s The Edge of Time for me.
How difficult was it to find a space?
Not at all, I started looking online and found my location immediately. I signed a 10-year lease at a reasonable rate. It’s not impossible to find a cool space in NYC! Living proof!
How are you handling the logistics — rent, renovating the store space, getting the word out, employees, hours, and so on?
Fortunately, I am still able to tailor freelance to offset operating and cost of living until the store takes off. The rent is reasonable and I used crowd funding to help with some setup costs, which were fortunately minimal. Everything else is a process, some of which I am familiar with and some not. Media and marketing has never been my strong point so I struggle with that the most. My talented, supportive friends and acquaintances have been immeasurably helpful both physically and psychologically. Thanks to all of you!
How can we support your label Saira Huff? How can we stay up on all that you’re involved in?
My social media have regular updates of my assorted involvements and projects (tumblr, facebook, instagram, twitter, yelp, etc). Visits, searches and shares are a huge support and will keep you up to date! You can also visit the store if you are in NYC (located in Greenpoint)
Saira Huff’s On The Edge Of Time
517 Meeker Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Wednesday–Saturday 1pm–8pm, Sunday 1pm–6pm.
Any last words?
Thanks so much for the interview and interest in my projects! Stop by Saira Huff’s On The Edge Of Time if you’re in NYC!!! I will be hosting social events at the store on a weekly basis. Stay tuned! Please support and encourage idealistic visions and diversity! Take chances socially! Explore intellectually! Allow your mind to stay open! There are no absolutes, only in death! Life is for living, why bother breathing otherwise? Exemplify what life could and should be. Give yourself a chance to be the most and best possible!