Blood is the New Black is a design collective that aims to promote the work of emerging artists, illustrators, photographers, designers and writers through continued t-shirt collaborations that are proudly made in the USA and sold in stores all over the globe. Owner and curator Mitra Khayyam works with every artist to open up their unique vision to fans of both fashion and the arts who might not otherwise be exposed to their work.
First of all who is Mitra Shady Khayyam?
Mitra Shady Khayyam is a mish mosh of things. An aspiring creative who couldn't draw a straight line, a curator who never worked in a gallery, a Persian who prefers pick up trucks, a dog lover, art collector, serial entrepreneur, classic country DJ, total nerd and founder and curator of Blood is the New Black.
Wow, I was making fashion magazines and doll clothes when I was 9 years old and I always knew I wanted to work in the industry from way back when. I got my first internship (at Chloe) when I was 18, 2 weeks after I moved to NYC, and kept at it every single day. There were times when I had 3 jobs - all in the industry -and went to design school at the same time. I was manic about my career, and still am, I needed to prove that I could do it, and do it well.
What lead to the birth of Blood Is The New Black?
I started putting together the building blocks of the brand in 2002 when I was working on my senior thesis at Parsons School of Design in NYC. I made an argument that tee shirts were one of the ways artists and designers could make a living. Not only by selling them, but also by them virtually becoming walking billboards for the artists as well. After I graduated in 2003 I ended up with a job offer in LA to work for a tee shirt line. I spent the next year learning everything I could about the business and also what I never wanted to be or become and put it all together to start BITNB in 2004!
For those who don't know how would you explain Blood
Is The New Black?
Created in 2004 as an alternative business model to traditional fashion lines, Blood is the New Black seeks to propel the careers of emerging artists and support the underground community, all while creating wearable, stylish clothes with a point of view. I work with every artist to open up their unique vision to fans of both fashion and the arts who might not otherwise be exposed to their work.
What is it that you think sets BITNB apart from other companies around at the moment?
We aren't trend driven, defiantly so. I really focus on the art and artist - not trying to keep up with what's happening in the fashion world. I'm kinda a luddite in that way. Not really sure what the "it" brands are right now or who a model is. Keeping my head in the sand is part of my creative process to be honest. I think our focus on art before trends, and my obsession with quality, color, cut, and production in Los Angeles are really what make us distinctly BITNB.
How do you culminate the artists and pick the collaborations for BITNB? Can you explain that process?
Initially selecting the artists is based on a gut feeling. I always select artists who's work is uniquely their own and not too similar to other artists in our stable. Seasonally, they submit work to us, then we print hundreds of images and start weeding them down. Some we set aside for that season, and others we set aside for future collections. From there we start putting together our "yes" pile into stories. Vague ones at first, just images that we think work together either in color, style, content, or mood. We arrange, rearrange, argue, defend our choices, and sometimes defer. All to curate about 3 - 5 collections a season! We do this every three months. It's kinda crazy.
What would you say is the main ethos behind the company and it's conceptual direction?
Blood is the New Black is a design collective that aims to promote the work of emerging artists, illustrators, photographers, designers and writers through continued t-shirt collaborations that are proudly made in the USA and sold in stores all over the globe.
One of things I love about Blood is the New Black is the diversity in the imagery and designs.
Thank you! That's the fun thing about "curating." You can tell different stories season after season. Our artists each use unique mediums which keeps the brand very diverse, and being that I get bored easily I'm always on the hunt for artists who have completely different styles from our other talent.
From cult icons to art pieces to dark gothic looks. Is it important to you that the company continues to showcase different and unique designs and artists rather than just the same homogenized niche look?
Of the upmost importance. I am not a one dimensional person and I don't think our customers are either. It's really fun to be able to put together different looks. One day I dress like a lot lizard, the next a fancy Persian lady (cause I am), or like a total label whore. Blood is the New Black is about celebrating artists and designers, not fashion or trends, so I always try to mix it up. It's nice to have something for everyone - even if it is a little schizophrenic.
Is there any one artist out there you would love to collaborate with but haven't yet?
So so many. I've been fantasizing about collaborating with Wes Lang for years though. Maybe after he's done with his Rolex project he can give me a holler.
Are there any projects you are working on currently you can tell us about?
Wow! Yes, tons of stuff. One thing I'm particularly excited about is the fact that we've been tapped by the estate of Waylon Jennings to create a whole line of tees and more based on his legacy. The line, named Midnight Rider (it's an awesome Greg Allman song), mixes my love of Americana, music, and fashion and lands in stores in September!
What do you think the future holds for Mitra Khayyam and Blood is the New Black?
Hopefully lots of adventure. Despite traveling a lot over the last few years (Texas, Tennessee, NYC, Vegas, Morocco, Spain, Israel, Turkey and Peru next....) I really want to satisfy my wanderlust and finally take off in a truck with my two dogs. I give it 18 more months before that happens. It'll be like Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley" but more slapstick.
Blood is the New Black is going through an awesome growth spurt! We've been having so much fun designing new bodies for women like dresses and body-suit, plus continuing to play with awesome new fabrications and more. We're going to definitely let ourselves get carried away creatively and add to the collection - continuing to combine art and fashion only using the best quality fabrics while making everything in our own back yard. Our print magazine is coming out again this fall, plus as always there will be new videos, lookbooks, blog features, and products in the mix!