Writer, fashion designer and feminist living in Salem, US, Melissa Woods is basically everything I want to be when I grow up. She’s just launched her new fashion brand, Trued Apparel, and her aim is to create designs turns heads, that can be worn at work and play, in easy-care sustainable fabrics . I think this might be my favourite Goth Life Interview yet!

What does “Goth” mean to you?

Goth is almost this term a lot of people play with rather than identify with these days, in the post-label millennial era. The original goth bands that spawned the sound and the look began in the late 70s, so we’re several waves after that now. We had ’90s mall goth, and now we have the nugoth aesthetic, and a lot of features of goth fashion have ended up in the mainstream, for better or worse. But what does goth mean to me? It’s a home for people who appreciate the darker side of things, in whatever form they choose to manifest that. As long as it’s sincere, I’m very inclusive about the whole thing, and I love genre-bending bands (or people) that surprise you with their interests and bring more diversity into the scene. I love hearing industrial beats in hip-hop as much as I love seeing goth or fetish influence in high fashion.

Goth cuts across all mediums from fashion to literature to art. In my opinion, if you have a real attraction to dark beauty and the “shadow-side” of things, you’re some amount of goth at heart whether you choose to participate in the scene and the label of “goth,” or not. And my attitude towards life in general is that we can respect and make reference to the past while actively making our own present and future.

What made you want to start your own fashion business?

I love the idea of creating something that becomes part of someone’s everyday life, especially if they experience it in this direct, bodily way — I actually wanted to be a piercer and tattoo artist for a while for the same reason. That’s why I’m going for versatile, everyday looks instead of couture, as awe-inspiring as I find couture to be. Fashion is this transformative thing that lets you play with your self-presentation and shape-shift, in a way. I wanted to give people the foundational pieces that they can express their own creativity and aesthetic with.

Business in general is really attractive to me too because you get to create this machinery of moving parts that you cultivate and grow over time. Something between clockmaking and gardening, maybe? And it’s a way of testing your ideas out in the world.

Shameless plug: If you like dark, tunic-y layers and minimalist pieces, subscribe to our mailing list at www.shoptrued.com for a 15% discount on your first order! We’re also eco-friendly, women-owned, and made in the USA.

Tell me about working in Salem, is it as creepy and cool as I imagine it to be?

I actually grew up in Honolulu, and living there was a great primer for these last few years in Salem, in terms of being a local in a place with a lot of tourists passing through. With tourists come the businesses that make a living off of the tourists, which cover quite a range from refined to cartoonish (as Halloween can be by nature), and though the crowds can get crazy, Halloween is still my favorite holiday after 3 years here.

I work at the Peabody Essex Museum, an art and culture museum in Salem’s downtown. In the month of October, I’ll typically pass a Nosferatu, a Michael Myers, a couple witches, a zombie in a suit, and this big Frankenstein’s monster setup with an electric chair and everything…. All in the few blocks I walk on my lunch break. We actually did a photoshoot with the local guy who dresses up as Jason Voorhees (his real name is also Jason!) a couple years ago when the museum had an exhibition of horror movie posters on view, from the personal collection of Kirk Hammett, the guitarist of Metallica. (Boy that’s a mouthful!)

There’s a mini-museum of horror movie paraphernalia on the next block called Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery. Haunted tours run all the time, and the Witch Trial Memorial is right around back from where I work. I could pop out anytime and come back with a bag of peacock feathers or a coyote skull, or a sage bundle, a tarot deck, a vial of fake blood and colored contacts, you name it. There’s also a great selection of goth apparel available all in the downtown area.

The perennial side of the Salem “spooky scene” is even more interesting though — ironically the notoriety of the witch trials has branded Salem in this light that’s created a mecca for real Wiccans/ pagans, and a general community of not just tolerance but acceptance and understanding of these traditions. People know what Samhain (Pagan New Year) is here, and some businesses even close in observance. I think that’s pretty great.

Who’s your favourite horror fashion icon?

The Cenobites, HOT! And Tiffany from Bride of Chucky. Katherine Isabelle in American Mary. But really I have a ton of others: Eiko Ishioka’s designs (it seems I can’t stop talking about her) for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, especially the frilled white lace collar for the Lucy character, are totally stunning. Then there’s Samantha Robinson in The Love Witch as this campy, maximalist dream… Jennifer Lopez in The Cell (also Ishioka’s design) in that red posture collar and sheer dress. I also love Mads Mikkelsen’s style in the Hannibal series. Whoever ran costume on that show needs a raise.

If we’re talking “horror fashion” like fashion that looks like horror, everything Alexander McQueen ever did is absolutely that.

Which fashion brands are you enjoying at the moment? 

AllSaints and Noctex are staples, but to be honest I mostly scour thrift shops, and second-hand e-commerce from ThredUp to Depop for a good deal. Some niche brands that I really drool over (and save up for) are mostly for accessories or jewelry that can make a whole outfit, like Bloodmilk, Wildhorn, Anu Tera, and a variety of harness-makers like Zana Bayne.

In terms of couture I just drool over from afar, Ashley Rose Couture, Hogan McLaughlin and Agnieszka Osipa just keep getting better and better. Established designers I love would be Rick Owens, Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, Vivienne Westwood and Iris Van Herpen.

How does goth and feminism intersect for you?

I’ve found there are a lot fewer expectations of what a woman “should” be in the goth scene. You’re already surrounded by a bunch of people that have decided for their own reasons to deviate from the mainstream, so along with that comes less protocol around how men and women treat each other. Also, it’s a much more queer-friendly environment. So that all amounts to less pressure to be one particular way, as a woman.

I can also wear things at a goth club that would absolutely get me harassed in any other setting. So in that way I get to look and feel sexy without having my night ruined by men that think that because I look a certain way they’re entitled to my time, or my body. Of course there are bad seeds and some bad behavior wherever you go, but by and large it’s a space where I feel free to do things I can’t do elsewhere.

On Friday, November 29th at 3pm EST US via our little digital space on the 🕸, we’re releasing a collection of limited edition Mourning & Ritual bead necklaces in variant gemstones, including 💜amethyst 💜, Gray & Black Moonstone, Gunmetal Baroque Pearls, tourmaline quartz, & cloudy quartz. We’ll also be restocking a few sold out designs. • This shadowy color palette is meant as a love letter to Persephone’s descent into the Underworld and are meant to be companions alongside the many complexities of grief, as well as for use during meditation or divination. I often find myself holding my personal strands in my palm as I read or twirling the larger round beads against my throat for comfort. • Beaded jewelry is seemingly as old as recorded human history. Beads, throughout time and around the world have been used as currency, as grave goods, as protection, as gifts between lovers as well as many other potent and special usages. I like the feeling of having a tether to this ancient past, & working in this old way….time travel forever. #bloodmilk Photos & styling : @jason.w.blake & @jenvonhaunt

A post shared by Blood Milk Jewels (@bloodmilk) on

What do you do when you feel like you’re stuck in a style rut?

I scroll alt-fashion hashtags on Instagram to see what other people are doing. I’m not much of a Pinterest user or I might do that too. I have a solid makeup routine so I don’t mess with that, but clothes-wise sometimes you can layer things differently and that’s all it takes. Lately I’ve been power-clashing patterns. I’ve never done that before but I feel secure enough in my taste now that I can throw together different bold patterns that you wouldn’t normally think would match. If you follow your gut you can end up in some great outfits. I think the biggest damper on my fashion sense, living in Boston, is having to dress practically for the cold, so getting creative with layers is a way of being able to be warm and look good at the same time. If all else fails, there’s always getting a new haircut or color!

Thank you so much Melissa for your time! Please go check out her site here: https://shoptrued.com/ and don’t forget you can get a 15% discount on your first order when you sign up to the mailing list.

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