Although only just turning one year old this month, Leeds based independent line Black Sails Clothing have really made a name for themselves on the circuit, and have gone about celebrating their first anniversary with a brand new line and website. With designs focused strongly on the occult and demonology, and a tagline that reads “WEAR MORE BLACK”, it’s like a line built and catered for the modern age member of The Addams Family… and cat lovers. We spoke with founder and designer Daneel Johnstone to talk about the launch, how their first year has been and what we’re still yet to see from Black Sails. Oh, we’ve bagged a discount code for you all too.
DP!: So, the new line for Black Sails has just dropped, how does it feel to finally have it out there for people to start wearing?
D: It’s a huge weight off my shoulders, haha. This has been in the works for months now and I’ve cut tons of designs and had numerous setbacks and issues, but it’s all come together and it’s a huge relief to finally get it out there and see peoples’ reactions to the new stuff.
DP!: Black Sails has been going for a year now, looking back to the day when you first set up shop, how do you feel about what you’ve achieved so far?
D: It’s weird, because although the past year has gone incredible quick, it also feels like Black Sails is something I’ve been doing for years. I think the culmination of my old labels all coming together for this project and the fact that I’ve put every ounce of my effort into this company has kinda dragged it out. I feel I’ve achieved so much, I started the label with £100, one t-shirt design and some pocket mirrors, and now it’s taken over my house and we’ve seen customers from all over the world buy and wear our clothing. It’s an awesome feeling to see the hard work finally start to pay off.
DP!: Do you have any notable highlights that you’d like to mention which really stick out for you?
D: We set up shop at our first event a few months back, the Leeds International Tattoo Exposition. There was a point shortly after we’d finished setting up where my girlfriend pulled me out to the front of our stall and made me look at it and told me how proud she was of what I’d started. One of the most awesome moments of my life. Other than that, it’s just been cool seeing customers from strange countries like Madagascar, Iceland, Chile and a few other cool places pick stuff up, places I’ll most likely never even visit, but there are kids there wearing clothes I’ve made. It’s a weird, awesome feeling.
DP!: Going back to your early days, why did you open up Black Sails and can you explain the reasoning behind the choice of name?
D: Basically, I’d had a few other labels in the past, always working closely with a few friends to make stuff we were both into. After those companies naturally fizzled out, I just wanted to do something for myself. I was sat in my room at 2:00 in the morning designing things and listening to AFI‘s album ‘Black Sails In The Sunset’, and it just all came to me at once. I stayed up ’til 6:00am designing an entire line of clothing that night and sent off for the first t-shirt design to be printed the day after, using money I was supposed to be saving for a tattoo.
DP!: Speaking of the name, have you ever watched the TV series Black Sails? If so, thoughts?
D: It was an unlucky coincidence that about 4 or 5 months after we launched we caught wind of this TV show being made with the same name. We were hoping it would be a flash in the pan show that no one would watch, but apparently it’s totally rad, haha. Pirates and titties. I immediately had to change all our social media names to include the word ‘clothing’ so that people would stop messaging us telling us they loved the show…
DP!: Most of your designs focus around the occult and somewhat dark art, including that of demonology. What would you say inspires your designs and the Black Sails brand the most?
D: I think a few other brands hint on that sort of thing at the moment, but even with my old clothing lines and design work I’ve always been fascinated with symbology, the occult, weird folklore, UFO conspiracies and the spirit world. It wasn’t something I purposely based the brand on, but it’s something that comes out in everything I do because of the books I read and the music I listen to. Lots of the design inspiration comes from my thoughts on creationism and a love for cats and metal music. I try and keep a similar theme running through everything I do so all the clothes are monochrome, quite simple and very dark and strange.
DP!: Many would say that music is a big inspiration for designs, especially within this scene. Would you agree with that for Black Sails?
D: I wouldn’t say it directly influences the designs we have, but music is a huge influence on my life and I’d like to think Black Sails is a visual partner to the music myself and the other designers here listen to. The words you’d use to describe the clothes we make would probably also describe the music we listen to while we design them, haha.
DP!: Whilst we’re on the subject of music, you have a bunch of bands that you also sponsor. Who would you recommend people check out, sponsored or not?
D: We’re lucky enough to work with some amazing bands from around the world. Bands who wear our stuff include Alestorm, From First To Last, Chelsea Grin, The Browning, Empires Fade, The Infernal Sea, Sirens & Sailors and a few carefully selected local bands that we’re pretty confident will soon take over the world. Anyone who wants to find some cool new music just needs to check out our blog and give those bands a listen. Guaranteed awesomeness!
DP!: Do you have any particular designs, both in the brand new range and from previous selections, that you’d consider particular favourites?
D: I’m my own worst critic, so my favourites are all the ones designed by other people, haha. My good friend James Armstrong, a tattooist from Doncaster, has designed a few pieces for us and they’re all absolutely top notch. My favourite is one of our best sellers that gets a re-stock every now and then, our Death tee. He also designed the Mandala that features on our sunglasses, skateboards and stickers. We’ve also got a few more illustrated pieces in our new line that help bring a bit of variety into the mix, so hopefully that’ll be something we keep doing.
DP!: With so many clothing lines out there today, what would you say helps Black Sails to stick out from the crowd and succeed?
D: I think the key is to just do what the fuck you want. We don’t take notice of other labels or what the current trends are, and I think it’s something that (I hope anyway) shows when you see our collections. The whole point of Black Sails is to not fit in, there’s no point doing something that has been done a 100 times before and there’s no point following trends. I’d rather stand out by printing weird shit that no one wants to buy than just play it safe and have no one pay attention to what we’re doing.
DP!: For others out there who are currently working on a clothing line of their own, or are considering setting one up on the future, what would be the best advice you could give to them?
D: Just do what you want. Don’t see another label and think “I want to do what they’re doing”, just take all your unique experiences and interests and spew them out onto a t-shirt. If you start out with the goal of setting trends rather than following them, it may take a long time to get it right and make something you’re truly happy with and that everyone else thinks is completely awesome, but that’s all part of the fun.
DP!: Following this new line, what else do you guys have planned for the remainder of 2014?
D: We’ve got a few more conventions and shows planned. We’ll be hitting up Tattoo Royale in Harrogate, the London Tattoo Convention and hopefully a few more before the year is up. We’ll be doing our usual routine of relentlessly re-stocking our old stuff and making new stuff as often as possible. We’ve also got some awesome new products coming, including our own hand-engraved ouija boards and some other really cool shit that we’re not allowed to talk about just yet.
DP!: With a prediction of another year ahead, where do you hope and plan on taking Black Sails?
D: The past year has been so crazy, there’s no way of telling what might have happened by this time next year. I just wanna do whatever we’re doing now but on a bigger scale, employ a few of my friends and see more of the world. The long term goal is to open an actual shop selling clothes, taxidermy and records, but that may take a little longer than one year…
DP!: Do you have anything else that you’d like to say or share with our readers and your followers?
D: Thanks for reading this far, taking an interest in our stuff and being generally amazing. Make sure you check us out on all the usual social networks, check out our new collection and most importantly WEAR MORE BLACK. You can also use the discount code DEADPRESS to get 10% off anything in our store!