Greg Rivera: Here's the Weird

Originally conceived as a medium for their innovative graphics representing their own world of music, horror and kaiju-inspired iconography, Mishka has developed remarkably over the years. Our latest feature sits us down with brand founder Greg Rivera.

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Within the first 9 months of 2010, Mishka made some big moves in expanding the brand’s platform. Originally conceived as a medium for their innovative graphics representing their own world of music, horror and kaiju-inspired iconography, the brand has developed remarkably over the years. Earlier this year, we saw the opening of two new flagship stores in both Los Angeles’ Echo Park and Tokyo, a compliment to their original space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. For those who saw the brand’s 2010 fall/winter collection, the range was unlike anything seen before. While we’re confident the graphical side of things won’t deviate too far from what Mishka fans love and expect, the styling and direction of the whole line was undoubtedly more refined than anything previously seen. This season’s collection was further accompanied by a video release which brought forth a new way of presenting the fall/winter offerings. In a recent interview we discussed with brand founder Greg Rivera the last few months, his special haunted camera, what it’s like directing a video and what’s the reason behind the success of Mishka.

Interview: Eugene Kan
Photography: Stephen Wordie

The last six months seem to have been a busy time for Mishka with store openings in rapid succession for Los Angeles and Tokyo. How was the planning for that?

The planning was pretty intense. I think we found the perfect location for the brand out in LA. We had been thinking of opening a LA store for a while, but the location had to be right, and I think we found that in Echo Park. At the same time our Japanese distributor had come to us with the idea of doing a Tokyo store. Again, being out there, we found what we thought was suitable spot for the store. We didn’t plan for both locations to be open so soon and within such a short period of time, but in some respects I am glad we did. Luckily we had an amazing team to get it all done. John Prolly designed both locations (he actually designed Brooklyn as well) and did a really good job. In addition, our in-house design team was integral and also dug through personal collections of toys and “weirdness” to get the right vibe. It was all a fun and amazing time.

What other parts of the world also hold a strong contingency of Mishka fans? I assume you’ve covered a lot of ground with New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo.

We have always had a strong following in Europe and other parts of Asia. I think some of our most die-hard fans come from countries like Sweden and United Kingdom.

Generally the graphical part seems like the most distinguishing factor of the brand, but how would you say the brand has evolved over the years?

The brand evolved in the same way people evolve. As our interests and sensibilities change and grow, so does the brand. I think that’s a pretty natural evolutionary process. I mean in the most obvious way we are doing more than t-shirts. We are doing more of a collection. We are creating iconic elements that are very Mishka and very identifiable.

A lot of your past lookbooks in recent seasons have followed a certain stylized photographic style. What sort of added element does the presentation of the photos enhance your collections?

They are shot with a haunted camera that we bought off eBay. Since the camera is haunted, we do not really have too much control over how the photos come out. There is however a blood sacrifice that must be initiated before each use.

With the 2010 fall/winter season, you decided to compliment your usual lookbooks with a video format. What was the reasoning behind it?

To be honest, we had a really hot girl ask us if she could dance around in a bunch of Mishka gear. And what red-blooded male would say no? Video has been something we have been using in our brand for a bit now, maybe not in a lookbook format but definitely in a creative way with our monthly Bloglin posts including the Creepy Touch and Kill with video.

When it comes to directing and organizing a video, what creative element (music/sound/cuts etc) are you given that a regular photographic project doesn’t allow?

Since we are not using a haunted camera, we actually have to think about the creative process. Thinking makes our brain hurt. Lots of time we just press record, do a lot of drugs, and see what happens next. The theme was pretty simple… Hot girl dancing around in Mishka while we were stoned out of our god given mind. Doing drugs and looking at boobs is pretty much the best way to spend a day.

When I look at Mishka, the brand resonates over so many levels including fixed gears, music, toys, art, and even the Bloglin. Do you think this diversity (together with your “Mishka aesthetic”) has been your greatest asset? If not, what is the reason behind Mishka’s appeal?

Yes to all. We have continually from the beginning of Mishka been trying to stick out in this scene. We have always been different and always pushing what we are really into. We have spent way too much time on our designs and caring about what we produce. Sometimes to our detriment. Now kids are getting eyeball and bear mop tattoos. Our biggest asset is our fan base. Oh, and the giant gold coin vault that we swim in, without that we would really be nothing. You mentioned the Bloglin. I think that is our nerve center behind the brand. It sorts of lets you know what we are all about and what we are doing at the time. It’s not a personal blog or a “who’s who” in streetwear or people deemed “cool”, its just about us and what we are doing on a daily basis.

Any last words, what else is on tap for Mishka upcoming here?

Well I personally have decided to stop shaving and grow my fingernails as long as I can. I want them to curl up around themselves so I have to wear a special glove to do most of my everyday tasks. We are working on sick collaborations now. We currently found some ancient alchemical texts and we are attempting to make lead into gold.

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