Dana Trippe (@TrippyDana)
For musician and artist Jesse Jo Stark, 2020 was supposed to be the year. She’d been touring like crazy to promote her music, which sounds—in truly the best way—like a Creamsicle doused in whiskey and set aflame with a Zippo in a dive bar. She’d created a tiny line of merch called Deadly Doll for her albums; she was planning to finally perform at the music festivals she’d grown up attending as a California teen. And then, of course, the universe said “nope.”
“I finally got where I wanted to be,” says the LA native. “I was performing my butt off. I was getting some streaming traction with the songs. I felt so good about the music I was making. And then it just…” she makes a poof sound. She readjusts her Zoom frame. But while global disruption works hard, the internet works a little bit harder—and for Stark, that proved to be just fine.
That’s because if your star sign is Instagram with a TikTok rising, you already know Jesse Jo Stark. The musician has the thoughtful eyes of a girl too wise for California, the voice of a Nashville crooner impatient to hit the road, and the good sense to come from a highly cool and lower-key Hollywood dynasty. (Parents = Chrome Hearts founders, Uncle = Sex Pistols member, Godmother = Cher, Family Friends = Hadids, etc.) “I was taught from a very young age that success is in the details,” Stark says. “Clothes can almost be like alter egos—and I have a lot of those.”
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Chief among them is a vampy signature style that’s made Stark famous in fashion circles, a blend of Miuccia Prada’s spooky-chic Frankenstein collection and the Mean Girls rule that on Halloween, you can wear lingerie IRL. (Can we call it Thot Goth? I’m calling it Thot Goth.) “I swear, I’m not obsessed with death!” Stark laughs. “I know the line is called Deadly Doll, but to me, it’s more joyful. I love the quirky, juvenile part of horror. Death is something we’re all so scared of, and it’s something that’s so in our faces right now… But I grew up on Frankenstein and the Invisible Man. I love this idea that we don’t really know anything about life and death… how for all we know, the afterlife is just a fantasy where I might get to party with my friends when we’re done living here… I don’t think it’s dark; I think it’s kind of wild! And I created Deadly Doll around that.”
The line is WFH friendly, with oversize sweats and snuggly tees boasting pulpy graphics (“Most are collaborations with female artists, because giving other women a platform to showcase their vision is a big priority for me.”) along with a Deadly Doll g-string first seen on Irina Shayk. But the hero piece is a branded baby tee that’s migrated from superstars like Bella Hadid and Kylie Jenner and Stella Maxwell to cool kids like Salem Mitchell and hundreds of other girls from Tokyo to Texas—if they can find it online, that is. “People think I’m doing hype beast drops,” Stark sighs, “but we put them out as soon as we can produce them! I wish I could give you a ‘cooler’ answer, but the way I was raised is that you put in time, you make quality things, and you release them when they’re ready. We take our time because we want it to be great… It took a year to get the cut and fabric of this t-shirt right—I’m not kidding you—because it needed to be amazing before I would ever ask people to buy it. It’s a sign of respect and love to always give your best work. That’s the way I learned it from growing up around [Chrome Hearts].”
But for those who are treating Deadly Doll like a street style acquisition—and let’s be fair, as soon as we can all see each other IRL again, it surely will be—good news: a new batch of Jesse Jo Stark’s latest creations just hit her website for Valentine’s Day, because love in all its forms should be celebrated this year… even if it’s just with a perfectly fitted t-shirt that makes every Extremely Online person you know incredibly jealous.
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