Creative Shayna Ariel works in many mediums. She has her own line, Darkm0th Industry, with designs for people of all sizes, genders, race and orientations; she also makes dark, industrial music with her partner under the name ABRV.
Ariel's fall/winter fashion collection premiered November 8 at 303 Denver Fashion Week. The styles on the runway were layered, long-lined, draped, generally edgy and avant-garde, but looked comfortable and ready to wear. "There were sixteen outfits in the collection, and I also dressed a few people to attend and myself," says Ariel. "I am more than willing to take on the challenge. I work best under pressure and seeing the time constraints."
Despite those time constraints, Ariel found time to chat with us about her brand and what inspires her designs.
Westword: Where are you from?
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Shayna Ariel: I grew up in Baltimore, moved to Denver two years ago. Before Denver, I lived in Boston. I've lived everywhere, all over.
How do you like Denver so far?
I totally love it. I don't see myself moving again anytime soon — which is nice, because I hop around a lot. It is great, because there is the city with a lot of art, but then there are the mountains. I feel like it's a really good combination of stuff.
Did any of the places where you lived in the past influence your aesthetic?
Definitely. I think because I moved around a lot, and just being into fashion and being into so many creative projects, I've always had so much stuff. Moving all across the country to Los Angeles, Boston and Baltimore, it forced me to cut down on things. That inspired me to get into the minimal style I am currently working with, and also creating gender-free clothes. I ask myself, "How can I create something that anyone can wear?" A guy, girl, whatever, any race, any size person: If you like the aesthetic and you want to be able to throw on something and you dig the vibe of the clothes, you should be able to wear it. I am inspired by city wear in general. Baltimore street style can be anything; there are so many different types of people there. Boston is a little more conservative; people might dress up if they're going to some posh nightclub. L.A. is a whole other story. Everyone has such a different style; it's hard to pinpoint one out there.
How did you first get into fashion design? Have you always had an interest in fashion?
I've definitely been interested in design my whole life. Growing up, I would constantly rearrange my parents' furniture in our house and get into trouble. I've always loved clothes, as well. My mom taught me how to sew when I was pretty young. She is petite, so she was always taking clothes to get altered, and I would see these people alter her clothes, and eventually I was like, "I want to learn to do that." I took classes from these people. My mom was an artist and very creative, so I definitely got a lot of that from her.
In high school I did a full runway show. That was when Project Runway was on TV, and I was very inspired by that. My friends and I started a fashion club at my high school because so many people were interested in it. We had our friends model and had makeup and everything. We made it as professional as we could. It was super-fun.
Have you been designing clothes since then?
No, actually. I applied to a fashion school in New York and didn't get into the school I wanted, and I was super-depressed about it. My parents encouraged me to apply to music school in California since I was passionate about music. While in California, I was singing and performing, and I did fire-breathing, spinning and hula-hooping and all kinds of stuff. I would design my costumes and outfits during that time. I didn't even think of it as fashion design; I just wanted something that wouldn't catch fire or something organic. Since I would perform so many different genres, I was always changing my looks and my wigs.
It wasn't until I moved to Boston that other people started to notice, like, "Oh, I like your style, can you make me some clothes?" So in Boston I was designing for other performers, musicians and different artists. I noticed that I enjoyed working behind the scenes more than being on stage. When I moved to Denver, I just kept going full- fledged with fashion. Everything unfolded easily, and I was able to get some jobs from some companies to help them sew. Now I have been doing Darkm0th full-time for eighteen months, and I love it.
Have you been creating more work since you moved to Denver?
A lot more. Before, I was just designing random stuff. Ever since, I homed in on my style and the gender-free and size-free thing, and the sci-fi aesthetic. I want the clothes I wear to be easy; it shouldn't be difficult, but it should still look smart. Once I figured out my look, I think people took more interest in it, and having people as a muse really pushed me to keep going and do more and more. Denver had a big part in that, for sure.
Who or what inspires your style?
That is really difficult, because so many things inspire me. I have such a bi-polar brain, both physically and metaphorically, because I love the minimal aesthetic and I really love the super avant-garde. If I had to pick a designer from both ends, I would say Alexander McQueen for his runway shows and crazy passion that you can see on the runway. For a forward-thinking person, I would say Iris van Herpen; she is doing a lot of things with 3-D printing and handmade couture. She prints out all of these 3-D objects and pins them together to create a crazy 3-D masterpiece. But then, I love Eileen Fisher, who makes chill, loose pants and shirts in these amazing fabrics like organic cottons and bamboo, and it is simple and smart and anybody can wear it. I would say that those designers are on the opposite sides of the spectrum, but equally inspiring.
What is your favorite color?
I would say black, for sure, but that doesn't really count as a color. I'm really into heather gray right now. It is a beautiful color that has a blueish, velvety tone to it, which I love. I also like orange for a pop of color.
What is your favorite accessory?
You know, I really don't wear accessories, but right now I am all about the fanny pack. I also like several straps. I will wear a strap as a hip belt or empire-waist thing or leg holster. I am not a purse person. I don't like having things in my pockets. I like a purse that is on my person. I am definitely a utilitarian, so I can be doing stuff.
What can you tell me about your music project?
Music is a fun side project that my partner and I do. It is very dark and industrial, and it does go hand in hand with the clothing. We are in the process of finishing up our first full-length album now. We will put everything out all together. We are trying to really take our time with it, because it's a passion project and it's really for fun. I'm anxious to get it released.
What is your jam of the moment?
I love Nine Inch Nails. I recently saw them for two nights at Red Rocks and it was amazing. With Teeth is an amazing album that I love. I really love female vocalists. I really love Chelsea Wolfe — her singing and her clothes and everything. Her voice is hauntingly beautiful, with a really bad-ass band behind it.
What is your favorite film?
Muholland Drive, by David Lynch, hands down. It is so inspiring for many reasons...not only aesthetically for my art, but also for how I want to create my art. Lynch is a huge inspiration for me. The film is open to interpretation, and I love it. I've watched it so many times and see something different each time. It is a film for an artist, because you can take out what you want from it. I think it's cool that everyone can find something they like in it.
What is your style mantra?
I wish I had one, because it would make my life easier. For me, it's a feeling. I will put something on really quick and be in a weird mood, and then I'll feel anxious...so I'll change it until it feels right. It's the same when I'm styling other people, too. I'm into shapes, so if the shape doesn't look good on a person, I get anxiety. I don't have a mantra; it's a little more chaotic than that.
I love changing up the shapes of people. People are fluid, they are curvy, beautiful and different. I love squares and triangles. I like taking human shapes and putting them into a more boxy and angular shape, playing and having fun and destroying that norm. Deconstruction is a huge inspiration for me. On a philosophical level, it is really cool to apply that to clothing: deconstructing the idea of a pair of pants and a T-shirt. I like to explore what else a pair of pants can be, or the possibility of what a shirt can be.
Is that how you arrived at your current, gender-free style?
I don't think I thought in my head consciously about it. I just thought about myself and wanted to make it easier for other people to get dressed. I just wanted it to be simple. How can I make something that fits the curves of a woman and and be for a man, maybe not have your penis showing? I thought about it as, okay, I am going to dress a person.
Where do you shop?
I make all of my own designs, mostly. My partner and I have this rule that if we buy a new piece of clothing, we have to get rid of ten things: I have been following that to keep in line with minimalism. I want to wear what I make, anyway. It's fun, and I've been collecting clothes forever, so if I do shop I will pick one piece from a designer I love, or buy a piece from friends who are designers, I like to shop from them. I love thrift stores. Once I find a fabric I love and am obsessed with, it's like, why not use that and make everything from that?
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Describe your style in three words.
Minimal, deconstructed and smart.
Like Ariel, always dress to match your feeling, Denver.