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Women Making History: Indie 184


New York graffiti artist-come-fashion designer Indie 184’s art can be seen from South Bronx to Oslo. The Puerto Rican-born, NYC-raised artist’s work has been featured recently in Grand Theft Auto IV, and, just last week, in a solo exhibition called “Go Hard!” hosted by Munky King Gallery in LA (we were there!). In our exclusive interview with Indie, she talked about her roots and the artists that have influenced her and helped get her started.

What woman, besides your mom or grandmother, do you find inspirational?

Lately, I’ve been inspired by Maria Montes, she embodied fearlessness and passion. She had a goal, conquered it and stayed consistent until her death. At a young age she set her sights on being an actress so she learned English, moved to NY from the Dominican Republic and eventually Hollywood where she became superstar. She set her sights beyond her culture and didn’t let adversity be her crutch; she just took life by the horns and rocked it. I love that she created her own opportunities instead of waiting to be discovered. She made an impact and also embraced motherhood. I love reading biographies, very encouraging reading the path of how ladies in history (or herstory) came to be.
How did you get your start as an artist?
When I was a kid I was constantly drawing family members doing activities things every child does in the beginning. Growing up, I wasn’t encouraged or discouraged but I didn’t continue to pursue it, which I regret. Then I got into music in Junior High school being in a marching band and even auditioned for Julliard School of Music. I didn’t make the cut and moved on to high school where there was no serious art or music curriculum. So art kind of died out for me. Then as I got older I went to the public library and found the two graffiti “bibles” – Spraycan Art and Subway Art – they completely blew me away! I would try to mimic graffiti pieces in there. Then I started to really take notice of all the graffiti in my neighborhood. But being that graffiti is like a secret society I didn’t have access to that world until my early twenties so until then I remained clueless and searching for my voice in art.
I didn’t nurture it until I go acquainted with the graffiti around my neighborhood in the Bronx and upper Manhattan as as young teen. Finally, I would meet graffiti writers, painters and photographers so it was like a renaissance period for me. Graffiti is like an apprenticeship art form and I met a few generous writers who would give me outlines with my newly found tag name. Creating my graffiti alter-ego allowed me to break my shell. I never went to art school I always would take my curiosity to lead me somewhere or just submit to being a business woman. During that same time I discovered graphic design and one of my close friends would give me tutorials. Once I got a taste of the art and design world, I was eager to satisfy my appetite for my new found hunger.
What’s your favorite piece of art that you’ve created?
There are so many! They are all special! Every piece is a piece of me. To take time out to create a painting in the studio or the streets takes time and sacrifice so I am happy to just create it. But if I did have to pick a favorite it would have to be the graffiti piece I did in Paris 2010!
How did you transition from art to fashion?
When I was a little girl I was sketching my back to school outfits so  my mom would know what exactly to buy when she’d go shopping. Later, when I was living on my own I started painting my t-shirts by hand and even started getting orders to custom bedazzled cut up t-shirts. Later I would work at a licensing company, creating backpacks and accessories for The Jim Henson Company, Hillary Duff, Crayola and others so I got to see the creative, production and business side of fashion. It was a natural transition for me to start my own brand since I have always craved to be an entrepreneur developing my own ideas from conception to production.
What’s the meaning behind Kweenz Destroy?
Kweenz Destroy is derived from my partner Cope 2 and (cope2.net) graffiti crew, Kids Destroy that he started in the South Bronx in 1982, which later became Kings Destroy. I was tired of experimenting with brand names and I finally found one that represented my purpose for the brand I had intended. Kweenz Destroy with Queens spelled differently to keep the graffiti legacy so it means Kweenz staying on top dominating and destroying all obstacles in her way.
Who do you want to work with? Who do you want to see wearing Kweenz Destroy?
I would love to see more around the way and worldwide girls rock KD. I would love to work with Rita Ora shot by Terry Richardson – random vision. We recently worked with Maluca on our lookbook “Koncrete Jungle” shot by Marley Kate and styled by Oscar Sanchez. We had such a blast, her energy on set was amazing. For KD it would be amazing to see a capsule collection with OBEY. For my art I would love to collaborate with a cosmetics brand or even a sneaker brand- my graffiti graphics would be so explosive on their product. I think if you open your heart and put the right energy into the universe anything is possible! I always like to think big. The sky is the limit!
What part of being an artist and running a clothing line is the most challenging and do you dislike the most?
For the most part they are both full time entities add family responsibilities in the mix and it can be overwhelming. It literally is a balancing act but with smart time management all is not impossible. Cut out a lot of unnecessary noise and get right down to work and create. I am happiest when I am producing, creating and seeing progress. Having even short-term goals is necessary, accomplish a little of both each day and you will see the progress. Everything counts.
Any advice for ladies who are just starting out in a career path in art or fashion?
I have many mantras – Be yourself, Be fearless and don’t give up. Don’t stay stuck on one hit you have to stay consistent and keep evolving. You have to create your own opportunities because no one is going to hand them to you. Keep it fun and simple. Don’t forget to smell the roses.
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