Tuesday Bassen's illustrations have an unmistakeable point of view. The women she draws are aggressive and unapologetic, brazen in their leather jackets and tattoos, but with feminine touches: a perfectly manicured hand (holding a dagger), pink hair, heart-shaped lollipops. Bassen's unique illustrative style has captivated the internet—and now she's translated that style into a clothing collection.
The artist made headlines this summer when she called out mega-retailer Zara for copying a number of her illustrations without her permission. But she hasn't let this alleged plagiarism stop her from continuing her creative work. We chatted with Bassen about breaking into the clothing biz herself, designing duds for badasses, and the importance of supporting independent artists.
Last year you had some T-shirts for sale at [Omaha-based retailer] Hello Holiday. What inspired you to make a whole clothing collection?
I made a lot of designs then that translated to my collection now. I had a T-shirt showing a girl wearing a jacket that said "Hail Satin" on it—and now that jacket is in my collection. I've actually started making the clothing that originally appeared in my illustrations. It's been really incredible living in Los Angeles and having manufacturing be more available to me so that I can pursue all of these ideas that I was putting down on paper.
Your collection is called "Aggressive Fall 2016." How would you describe its aesthetic?
It's what the girls in my drawings wear. It's a strong, confident look that isn't someone's weird mood-board idea of what confident looks like. I feel like either you get something from the mall, maybe, that's a stereotypical look, or you get fed some image of beige power suits in a magazine. I wanted to do something that felt powerful, something that's casual, unique, and makes you feel like your best self when you put it on.
You're also the owner of the shop Friend Mart, which opened in Los Angeles last month. What was the inspiration behind that?
I opened Friend Mart with Ben Getting, who runs the e-shop World Famous Original. It started out as a pop-up series. We decided instead of paying other people to rent their spaces, we really just wanted to rent our own space and have a more permanent setting where we could promote the work of artist-owned businesses. We still have events almost every week, but now there's a more permanent place for all of that to reside.
Are there any retailers or designers that you really like right now, that you find influence your work at all?
I really love clothing by Samantha Pleet, Hannah Kristina Metz, and Rosehound Apparel. They're unique, but they all come from a similar, illustrative background. Samantha was the first person who really introduced me to the concept of making your dream clothes. I love that, and I've tried to move forward with my own dream clothes—which are very different from hers—but I think her work is incredible.
How would you describe the Tuesday Bassen girl—the girl in your drawings and the girl wearing your clothes?
I think of them as taking no shit, and being aggressive and confident. Oftentimes I make drawings when I'm feeling angry. It's a cathartic thing for me to draw, and the illustration ends up being the most badass manifestation of what I'm feeling. Sometimes it's a very visceral revenge feeling [that comes through], like standing tall, emoting, but not really letting anybody take advantage of me.
It must have been crazy, getting all this press about Zara stealing your designs, and then coming out with your own complete clothing collection so soon after.
It was crazy timing for a lot of reasons, because we were just about to open up Friend Mart and I was at Comic-Con [in San Diego] and I was starting to get samples of my clothing line back. It was an overwhelming time, but I feel really grateful that people received me so positively. I ended up finding a sympathetic audience that was deeply invested in what I do.
"It's a strong, confident look that isn't someone's weird mood-board idea of what confident looks like."
I think it also made people more aware of the fact that there are so many awesome, independent designers and artists who don't always get the acknowledgement they deserve.
Yeah, that's incredible. I hope that's the case.
That support of artists seems to be so much of what's driving Friend Mart. Do you see that impact?
I feel like Los Angeles in general has been an incredible place to have an independent business, because so many people are invested in supporting artists. Some people who hadn't heard of me before are maybe coming to Friend Mart now, but I also feel like it's the audience that we were serving before—just now we have a permanent home.
You did a few clothing pieces in collaboration with Mowgli Surf. Do you have any dream collabs?
I was joking that my dream collaboration would be with Rihanna, but I just did a live mural for her [at her Fenty x Puma launch], so that's close enough—dream achieved. I think for me, a dream is being able to have the opportunity to make clothing that I like wearing and that feels special to me.
If you're looking to give your wardrobe a powerful kick, shop Bassen's new collection, below.