Meet Brooklyn-based stylist Zara Mirkin of Merch Junkies, purveyor of “homemade band merch”
Spending most of her time on her bedroom floor in Brooklyn passionately scrawling 70s band logos and lyrics on one-off vintage basics, stylist Zara Mirkin of Merch Junkies is making rare music memorabilia accessible to all. The Kiwi creative and eBay connoisseur first took an interest in rock ‘n’ roll as a teen, getting shoddy logo tatts and collecting OG band tees that she would source off the deep web. Now, with custom artwork and embroidery, Mirkin makes her own “original bootleg” tees, jackets, and jeans that reflect her obsession with British heavy metal and glam rock. Dazed caught up with Mirkin to discuss her insane live experience at Deathfest, rock icons who live through her clothes, and her custom pair of T.Rex Bang a Gong, Get It On underpants.
Were you surrounded in music growing up? When did you first become interested in merch and memorabilia?
Zara Mirkin: I didn’t really grow up surrounded by music, but my mom's first husband was a famous rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey in New Zealand, so we would always listen to his radio show in the car growing up. It was full on classic ‘dad rock’ songs, so that was embedded in me as a kid. As a teenager, I would discover new bands and became deeply utterly obsessed by them. I would go as far as getting tattoos of their logos and always had to own an original shirt found on eBay. I was truly a fanatic fan and always have been about anything I have been into (music or non-music related). If I loved a band enough, I dedicated my life to them for that time.
Do you have any wild memories of live shows you have attended in the past?
Zara Mirkin: Many! My first year I moved to America, my best friend and I got a train to Baltimore to Deathfest. It was like Heavy Metal Parking Lot! People tailgating in the carpark – I had never seen that in real life. We literally saw ten of our favorite bands play back-to-back. Wino from Saint Vitus gave me his knife and Lips from Anvil signed her Motörhead shirt. We didn’t bring a change of clothes or know where we were sleeping for three whole days. It was awesome.
What types of music scenes/eras are you inspired by?
Zara Mirkin: Musically I’m really into NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal), which is a music movement that started in the late 70s in the UK. Bands like Judas Priest, Saxon, Angel Witch, Witchfinder General, and Motörhead. All the earlier stuff from the 70s is so good, it’s just badass rock ‘n’ roll that was faster and heavier than anything anyone had ever heard. Style-wise it was a transition from 70s flares and glam tops to leather jackets and bullet belts. It was all mashed up to create something so awkward and beautiful.
For Merch Junkies, 70s glam rock is the biggest influence. Alice Cooper, T.Rex, David Bowie and Kiss. I always wanted to look as cool as them. Those guys are true, proper legends that changed the world so much with their music and style.
Authentic band merch is usually very rare and expensive — how do you aim to make tour/music memorabilia accessible?
Zara Mirkin: To buy an original Bowie or T.Rex shirt is almost impossible to find and can cost sometimes up to $1,500. We are making stuff that is just as cute to wear and looks/feels old (because it is vintage and also has a story of its own), and is totally authentic. The pieces are still rare, especially cause they are one-offs, but it’s more accessible as we are restocking every month and sell pieces from $20 - $520.
What has been your favorite piece to make so far?
Zara Mirkin: Recently I scored a bunch of little boys 70s sportswear and ribbed kids underwear while traveling. They were all faded in different places from being on display for years, and every piece different to one another as it was all that was left of that style after so long.
I spent a day with colored felt tips drawing out band names and lyrics from my favorite songs, and then got them embroidered. They came out so good I had to keep a few for myself including a pair or undies that said “Bang a Gong, Get it On” on the butt in bright red.
Models Kaia and Eli Abraham, Blue Lindeberg, Jani Lucid, German Fernandez