If you're a horror/cult/gore fanatic like me (who isn't?) then you've hopefully heard of Neil Autry and his label Western Evil. If you haven't, then here's your chance to meet the designer behind one of the most high quality counter-culture fashion labels in the US.
I recently sat down with Neil as he gears up to take the Western Evil crew to Chicago Comic-Con and tried my hardest not to throw myself at his adorable feet. (Spoiler alert: I totally failed, but that's why you love me anyway.)
VB: You began Western Evil in 2007 after the death of a friend inspired you to go after your dreams. With everything going on around the country right now, can you talk about turning a tragedy like that into something so positively transformative?
NA: Well, it took a little while to turn the actual idea into a reality. Something I could grab and say this is mine, I made this. A lot of times it's hard to find something positive in tragic events. Life is short and should be enjoyed that's something that should always be remembered. Go after what you love to do. Wasting your life in a job you hate won't get you far; before you know it your window of opportunity is gone.
Of course you're a horror fan, given your source material - but what specifically lead you to turn your love for cult and exploitation films into the inspiration behind a successful clothing label?
It's not just films but exploiting any taboo, or ugliness in the world. If it happens in life one should be able to find a beauty or humor in it. Just because it's not a butterfly or something visually soothing doesn't mean it isn't beautiful. My view of art differs from most people's... Death, nudity, and vulgarity are very natural. I'm not just spoon feeding somebody something for shock value though. There is obviously that initial shock, [but] there is more to it though, underlying statements that are sometimes overlooked. Something not too preachy but entertaining with a wink and a nod. On the flip-side, even I have my lines that I feel shouldn't be crossed.
One thing that struck me about Western Evil is your attention to quality and detail. What made you decide to forgo the easy route of cheaply made products and hold your designs to a higher standard while still keeping them affordable for everyone?
Have you ever went to a show or a convention and threw down 20 bucks on a shirt? Wore it a couple of times and then it cracked or looked like crap after you washed it? I wanted to create something that was almost an in between. Comfortable and complimentary, but affordable. We really stepped up quality this last year, but right out of the gate it was something very important to me and always will be.
Alright, anyone can see your lovely mug on the site, fantastically giving model face - did you find it harder or easier to be taken seriously when you first started out given that you look like an even badasser (that's a word because I say so) James Dean?
Don't tell anybody but I'm actually hideously disfigured. It's all latex and make-up with a few good angles. Hopefully my product speaks for its self and that's what has made things successful. Although, a little charm and looks have made room for me in a few beds in time of need on the road.
Okay, one last thing I have to ask - do you still have Elvira's breasts?
Of course! They are in a glass case. Signed to me up on display. Along with my taxidermy collection and a face cast of Traci Lords. One day I will Frankenstein them all together and make the perfect woman!
Read my full and uncensored interview with Neil at The Donnybrook Writing Academy! And you can catch him and all the crazy kids from Western Evil this weekend at Chicago Comic-Con from August 9-12.
All Photos Courtesy of Neil Autry and Western Evil