Punk Empire

Punk Empire is the product of the dynamic duo Calin (a jewelry designer and fashion consultant) and Ron Dean Horn (knitwear designer), who met 8 years ago when Calin was looking for someone to design bags. Comprised of one-of-a-kind t-shirts handcrafted with appliques, patches, yarn and pins, which are hand-dyed different shades and topped with paint. Punk Empire "speaks" to its customers through wire dry cleaning hangers that say "We Love Our Customers" and nouveau punkisms like "Vegas jackpot", "obsessed" and "foxy".

Athough Joan Crawford taught us to loathe wire hangers, the Empire crew revere their efficiency. "I've always worked in a showroom and always needed more space for bulky hangers, which are also hard to transport. The wire hangers solve that problem, plus they're raw. They're like the punk outlaw version of a display hanger. Barneys is even using them in their store," chirped Calin when I asked "Why, God, why, wire hangers?" Each piece is numbered and dated with a different theme painted directly on the hanger (paint drippings being an important value factor). For example, punk item "number 22" is a long-sleeved men's top that is held together with over 400 safety pins and painted clay, gold and black to resemble a tunic from Biblical times. Calin adds that Punk Empire was created so that they could remind themselves that "Fashion can still be unique art, which can be mirrored but never really stolen." Refreshing in a world of clones, knock-offs and adaptations - and at $50 to $200 per Punk item - not bad for a one-of-a-kind piece of clothing.

Upcoming punk news will feature single editions of pieced together wool and cashmere sweaters, sleeves, gowns, wraps, hats and a Punk Empire Web site. The shirts will debut at Barneys new midtown Co-Op store in New York on May 1st. Exclusive boutiques (such as the fabulous Zao on Orchard Street in New York) around the world will be carrying the line as well. So far the likes of Primal Scream and Gwen Stefani have been sporting the shirts. Funky mags PAPER, *surface, CMJ and It Magazine have already gotten "punk fever", featuring the shirts on their fashion pages.

Punk Empire is rebelliously produced out of Ron's mother's old barn in Virginia.