One creative woman interviews another – we get to know whatevernbd.com – who’s creating queer LA fashion statements celebrating all things DIY. From weed culture to the gender binary, this interview conducted by Rebecca Zephyr Thomas gets to know not just everything about this popular indie brand, but the owner Kelsey Rubenstein too.
What made you name your clothing brand Whatever No Big Deal? Was it a particular reaction to something that you experienced?
Whatever, No Big Deal is a kind of social commentary on everyone’s seemingly apathetic view to the world and things happening around them. A lot of what I do has a bit of satire/sarcasm, but in reality I care a lot. I really want people to be thinking about where their clothing is coming from and who is profiting off of it. My way of “sticking it to the man” is working for myself, by taking control of what I want to see, by taking someone’s discarded clothing and creating my own trash nasty fantasy. Giving people something a little different. Whatever NBD is also a way of encouraging people to not take things too seriously that don’t matter. To let the bad roll off. To shrug at struggles/disappointments and think ” whatever, no big deal. “
You make all the clothes yourself – what’s your favourite part of this process?
My favorite part is definitely the painting, because I’ve never been too great at sewing. I’ve wanted to design clothing since I was 6. I would draw full on catalogues of clothing with sizes,pricing,fabric etc. but I never went to school. As a pre-teen and into my early 20’s I did graffiti and then for a while wanted to become a tattoo artist. Now I love to paint on clothing. I do it all free hand so it is always fun to see how something in my mind will translate into paint. I’ve learned how to really control the flow of the paint as I would with a spray can and I get so much joy from creating wearable art. Often I will see a garment and I will know immediately what needs to be painted on it. I also love making custom pairs of jeans and shorts specific to people’s size and desires because I know they will be special to them and fit them perfectly so they will wear them more! My goal is to have people wanting less, buying/wearing one special pair of jeans instead of 10 fast-fashion throw away pairs.
What is the piece of clothing from your own brand that you never want to take off and why?
Almost every day I wear either jeans or shorts that I have painted. We have pretty steady weather in California so either is always appropriate. I never used to fit into jeans, but I’ve discovered that I can fit into so many different sizes in Levi’s and they are so comfortable as well as being sturdy and dependable. I feel like I always get a lot of positive reactions from people when I wear them. I look around and I see Levi’s everywhere, they are so universal, but to have a pair that is customized specific to you is just a little extra way of saying ” I like fun”. Right now I am super into the ” sweet leaf” design which consists of neon slime and glitter green weed leaves plus skulls and the cowabunga jeans in black. For FUN TIME shorts I’m going for safety second design ( all over safety pins ) or dice !
Weed culture seems to be an influence on your designs, have you had any revelations thanks to weed?
I don’t know where i’d be without weed. It’s not for everyone, but it’s certainly for me. I battle anxiety and depression everyday, and with weed I am able to have a better life. Weed helps me relax, focus, be kinder and more conscious of the people around me. In California weed culture is so prevalent. Since the 60’s or maybe even earlier. It is completely normalized here. Teachers, Doctors, Lawyers, Police officers all smoke weed and I am so lucky to be able to have a medical program that allows me to take my chosen medicine and not have to depend on big pharma.
You have lived in the UK and are about to visit again, what’s your favourite ‘British’ thing to do?
My favorite ” british” thing to do? Eat fish n chips!! I am vegetarian at home, but when I come to England I always stop at the Fish House in Victoria Park village. Can’t forget to hit up a weather spoons what my husband and his friends would so lovingly refer to as “stabbers” for the cheapest drinks ever. A trip to Pak’s in Dalston for the best glitter eye liner ever, everyone always compliments me on and I think they cost 2 quid, and the best british night out with all the best friends at Vogue Fabrics 🙂 ( Friday June 30th HOPEFULLY SOMETHING WILL BE ON FOR US TO BOOGIE TOO!)
Who is your ultimate Whatever NBD girl?
There is no ultimate Whatever NBD girl because my clothing isn’t specifically for girls. It’s for anyone! The ultimate anyone who feels outcasted, who never says no to a good time, who cares about the planet and the environment. Anyone who loves FUN. Anyone who appreciates owning something that someone else created with so much love that you can see it and feel it in your garment. Anyone who loves people and hates the system.
Some of these photos were taken in legendary cemetery Hollywood Forever, the final resting place of Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone, Holly Woodlawn and Judy Garland, have you been there for any film screenings and which ones?
Gosh, I’ve been to so many I couldn’t tell you. When I was 16 it cost $5 and I went with my friends to see Holy Mountain on acid. That was insane. I puked a lot of red wine. I went to a Johnny Ramone tribute this past summer and got to meet John Doe from X, Henry Rollins from Black Flag and Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols. They played songs and had a panel then showed a double feature of ” Rock N Roll High School” and “Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains”, that was $25, but probably the best one I’ve ever been to! They also do sleep-over movie marathons, of which i’ve been twice. One was trippy films and everyone was on shrooms, there was one about Jimmy Hendrix and I think they played “the trip”. Then another time I went for a 90’s teen night for my friend’s b-day. They played ” can’t hardly wait ” “scream” and something else ( I can’t remember ) and Rose Mc Gowan gave a really odd speech that left everyone super puzzled. They always have interactive things to do like photo booths or craft stalls and you can bring your own booze and food and smoke as much weed as you want. It’s such a fun time. I miss it when I’m in London all summer. It’s definitely something to look forward to.
What’s the best way for fans of Whatever NBD to buy your pieces?
The best way to buy my pieces is to follow my instagram! You can find me at @whateverNBD 🙂 I am constantly posting there about new things. I have a website : www.whatevernbd.com where I release new collections and you can see and order custom jeans / shorts but I love most when people message me directly about things they want to purchase. Since I do everything myself it is hard for me to always upload new items I’ve made onto my website, so often I just have a stock pile of things hanging around or I post what I have for sale directly on my instagram. Thank you so much for reading and hopefully you will check it out 🙂 I really appreciate all of the support and love I get from everyone.
Words & Pictures: Rebecca Zephyr Thomas