Today we’d like to introduce you to Justin Mensinger.
Justin, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
Growing up I was very interested in motocross and skateboarding. From a young age, the bold graphic design and aesthetics of skateboard decks, t-shirts, and even dirt bikes themselves stuck out to me and intrigued me. As a child, I was exposed to both rural and suburban America, but it wasn’t until I was in high school I was exposed to Chicago and connected with the clothing scene that was happening there. It reminded me a lot of how I identified with skateboarding as a kid, stickers, bold design, and of course creative expression. Music was also a key element that stuck out to me and has always been an integral part of my creative expression and an outlet for me to connect to emotionally. After being exposed to this new world I began to dabble in creating my own t-shirts and sewing on patches to jackets in high school not really knowing what I was doing. It wasn’t until I went away to school at Michigan State that I realized how different I was from the mass of people there. I had already been selling things online throughout middle and high school and had always dreamed of owning my own business. I don’t know where the drive came from inside of me to be an entrepreneur as well as an artist, but it just continued to manifest as I focused on where my gut was telling me to go. After working on my first brand ADNS for two years at Michigan State I grew from literally knowing nothing about clothing to screen-printing my own shirts, learning photography, and moving quite a bit of product. The experience overall allowed me to see my impact and voice externally, but I still didn’t feel I had tapped into what I was trying to say to the world. After having a conversation with my Grandma who had taught me a little bit about sewing (for tags in my shirts and etc.) she suggested I reuse old material to create something new. I didn’t initially tap into this idea, still not knowing anything about garment construction or how to sew well. As the idea sat in the back of my head I had become engulfed in the vintage clothing scene to make some money along with my own brand. I fell in love with all of these pieces of clothing from the past that really felt more like art to me. Nothing in the modern realm spoke to me the way these old pieces did. Having accumulated quite a bit of vintage wear that I would use for material in my new pieces, I absorbed as much information as I could on sewing. I learned quickly that sewing wasn’t just sewing; the process is actually more intricate, with sergers and overlocking machines that basically are used on all of our pants, shirts, hoodies, etc. This whole process has just been a journey of learning and discovery, as well as finding myself and my voice. Once I figured out the tools necessary to get the ideas out I had in my head, I did exactly that. Posting my work on Instagram as well as my website and to my community on grailed (it’s like eBay for menswear but very social), I began to receive strong feedback. Currently, I have been creating pieces for individuals on a commission basis; putting out cut and sew items, as well as more traditional scalable items such as tees. My vision and end goal is to reduce the amount of waste and pollution attributable to the fashion industry at large. There is no reason to be getting rid of, and hyper producing garments at the rate the world economy has over the last several decades. I believe my role is to combat this mass production by combining artistry in my pieces with my ability to turn something undesirable and old and repurpose it into something new and original. I would like to provoke thought and obviously evoke nostalgia in all my work, and that’s what I will continue to do.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I create clothing and accessories that provoke thought and nostalgia. Allot of my pieces are made reusing vintage material and therefore require more time and artistry. My message or motto is “Always Dream Never Sleep” in an attempt to wake people up to the idea that they are powerful and their dreams matter. Anything can be accomplished if you set your mind to it, just don’t stop working. I hope everyone knows that I put a lot of emotion and thought into my work. When I put something out there is a reason I designed it. Whether it is the tees I made that say “Watch the screen as the screen watches you” or it is a pair of patchwork shorts that use a 90’s colorway that speaks to a moment in time, I always try to do things that speak to a certain perspective.
Artists face many challenges, but what do you feel is the most pressing among them?
The biggest challenge facing all people, not just artists, is fear. Fear of being criticized, fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of financial insecurity, the list goes on. If you speak from your heart and stand by what you represent you should have no problem connecting to people who want to see you succeed. The biggest challenge is overcoming that fear of letting yourself be vulnerable and open to others.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
People can see my work on my instagram @justinmensinger, on the street when people are wearing it, or at my site justinmensinger.com. Support means something different to everyone, whether it be talking positively of my work to friends, or buying a piece I made, all of it helps spread my story and message.
All images were taken and edited by me.