Rock and Old
A talk with Merch Junkies Founder Zara Mirkin
By Lindsay Cooper
While not often considered a timeless era of fashion, 1970’s rock and roll subculture will always be the epitome of cool. David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and Alice Cooper, while all once symbols of originality in their own rights, are now the paragon of pop culture. With the racks of fast-fashion five-and-dimes being lined with the iconic imagery of individuality (think the painted face of Ziggy Stardust or the Rolling Stones’ emblematic lips on the tees in Forever21 shop windows across the world), these martyrs of individuality have started losing their meaning.
Having picked up on this paradox, New Zealand-born Zara Mirkin founded her clothing label Merch Junkies. Offering one of a kind band merchandise, Mirkin creates one-off designs for retro icons, with her graphics embroidered or otherwise emblazoned on pre-loved club jackets and tees.
What’s your favourite piece of clothing in your wardrobe right now?
Zara : I wear the same thing everyday, so probably my blue 70’s Levi Flares.
Is there a “Holy Grail” item you wish you had in your wardrobe?
My best friend has this shrunken white, cropped, bootleg ‘diamond dogs’ 1970’s shirt, I’d kill for that. Also someone owns a yellow/red Alice Cooper ‘medusa’ 70’s shirt I’ve been looking for.
Do you have a defining moment where your infatuation with band merch began?
I guess so – When I moved to New York I found the whole fashion thing there really intense and too serious for me. My real obsession was music, and all of a sudden I had access to see almost any band I wanted to see (that was still alive & touring), and amazing old merch if you had enough money. That’s when I took my infatuation to the next level, I guess.
What inspired you to concentrate on one-off band merch exclusively?
As a stylist, I would often make pieces for shoots that didn’t exist, always music related, and very Glam Rock style. Because I was so in love with all these bands and musicians – it was all I cared about when making clothes. I’m not inspired to make anything else.
What was the first piece of merch you created and who was it modeled after?
About 3 years ago I made the first Satin ‘Bowie’ Jacket. It was crimson and silver from the 70’s. I wanted the Bowie jacket from Christiane F so badly that I just made it myself. It is based from classic tour jackets, but this style is more personal and handmade.
Many of your pieces (most notably your jackets) are customized vintage finds. Can you give us any advice about shopping second hand?
It depends how much patience you have. I spent my whole teenage years thrifting at warehouses and opportunity stores, but these day I find it easier and more comfortable to shop online. I think there is less and less out there, and you have to be a super pro at it to find good stuff anymore. I also have a lot of friends that buy vintage as a living so they have been a big help – they will always know the secret spot and get the best stuff. That is the key!
Thinking to the future, are we going to see anyone new being paid homage with your merch?
Yes! There are so many bands and musicians I am going to work into pieces. I decided to start very selfishly and do bands I was obsessed with so it was super personal but that were still pretty commercial so they would sell. I want to start doing more obscure/underground bands, but just one offs for true fans. But also have had so many request for big bands like The Runaways, Blondie, Iggy Pop, Ramones, so I might head that way a bit too.
If you had the opportunity to design the official merch for a band, would you?
If the musician was right – totally. I have already made custom pieces for some musicians/celebrities. I would even consider going mainstream into pop music if I could keep the style of Merch in my vain. It would allow me to have more freedom with what I do.