Art Identified: Neighborhood Maniacs

The rules of fashion have changed. Better yet, they have been eliminated. An industry that has historically been stuck behind an insurmountable pay wall and classist system has been invaded by independent designers pushing the boundaries. 

Midwest fashion collective, ‘The Neighborhood Maniacs’ are a group of self described outsiders causing chaos in the fashion scene. Their designs are meticulously crafted with a blend of rural and street fashion, creating fresh and original designs that feel welcoming even if it makes you feel just a tad bit uneasy. Think Odd Future, but with a rural Midwest twist. Those are the Neighborhood Maniacs.

I welcomed Rich Schwarzkopf, Ben Pigott, Jake Grace & Carson Lucas to PATTERN HQ to discuss their origins in the fashion world, their respective roles in the collective and the importance of having a strong versatile team who all are working towards the same goal.

Without further ado, please welcome the Neighborhood Maniacs to Art Identified.

Jacob Moran: So dope to have you guys in. Let’s start this off with a formal introduction of the Neighborhood Maniacs and what it is exactly you guys do.

Rich Schwarzkopf: We are a collective of fashion designers and artists. We say collective because we all have our own independent artistic ventures that we are pursuing, but we love working together and it forces us to be as creative as we can be.

Ben Pigott: We also make music. 

Jake Grace: We really do everything.

Carson Lucas: Our collective is kind of like that meme about doing hood rat shit with your hood rat friends.

JM: I’d like each of you, in your own words to describe the style, vibe, feeling or emotion you’re trying to deliver with your clothing?

BP: The use of the word Maniac is very intentional. We’re manic, chaotic and all over the place. Whatever you’re feeling at any particular moment, we want to make you feel that tenfold. I don’t personally feel like it is one particular emotion but more so the most intense level of whatever emotion you’re feeling. Intensity is the best way to describe it.

RS: Friendly aggression is how I like to describe it. This feeling that we are very inviting and we want to welcome everyone but that there is this overarching feeling of caution. The neighborhood gimmick is a metaphor for the city and we want to include everyone here. But there is this background noise of chaos always here that we are trying to broadcast as well. We all feel crazy so we are founding our community around that. 

JG: Yea, it’s a hard thing to pin down. We always strive to not be just one thing. When we say ‘Welcome to the Neighborhood’ it’s meant as a genuinely inviting gesture but we want you to know shit can get crazy. We’ve all been pushed out of the art scene before or not accepted. I think that in of itself created the Neighborhood Maniacs.

CL: I think we’re a hybrid of a cult. But don’t want you to believe in anything other than yourself. That is our only collective belief. We foster and encourage safety through being able to be that maniac that you feel like you are sometimes. 

Jake Grace

JM: So do each of you have your own roles in the Collective or do you all equally have your hands in all aspects of the operation?

BP: We definitely all have a specific skill set, but we always try to do our best to come together and teach each other our respective skills. For instance I work at a screen printing shop so I’m teaching everyone how to do that. Rich is teaching us all how to sow. We don’t have specified roles. It’s more so of communicating with each other for what needs to be done and learning from each other.

RS: That’s a great way to put it. I do have a Bachelor’s in fashion design so that helps a lot. It’s definitely a conglomerate. I do a lot of digital art, Jake handles a lot of photography, Ben models and thinks of designs and Carson handles a lot of the details and manufacturing on the business side because he has done this before.

JM: Sounds like a dedicated team with a great skill sets across the board. You guys can handle most of your business in-house. How important is it to keep everything “in the family” so as not to have to outsource to an outside business?

BP: It’s paramount. Once you have this cohesive system and routine in place, you open the door to be able to collaborate with artists and designers without having to compromise who you are or how you do things. We would always rather bring a new person onto the team who has a skill we don’t have rather than outsource to a business.

RS: It really comes down to turnaround time too. We don’t have to wait for proofing from manufacturers. There are times too where we don’t necessarily know how to do something but we take the time to figure it out. Sometime we don’t have the equipment…

JG: ….but, then we figure out how we can build the equipment so that we can do the thing in-house. It also helps us get our hands on everything and know how that process works.

CL We never want to leave ourselves in the dark. So if we do business with someone and we already know what goes into that, it protects us from getting worked over. One thing I really love about our group is that everything we do is directly done by our hand. I think that’s pretty special.

JM: The name Neighborhood Maniacs is so perfect. It’s original and when you hear it you think about what the clothing could look like. Once you see the clothing it really all comes together. What was the process like for coming up with this name?

JG: That is so great to hear. As designers, you go through so many names trying to find that one that really sticks. So we’ve gone through the ringer in terms of names. Eventually Ben and I met Rich and he asked if we wanted to be involved in a fashion venture. We just started planning the fashion show together. Rich had already had all of the maniac designs so I think maybe he should touch on that.

RS: Yeah! I’ve used the word “maniac” in my designs for quite some time. When we came together to do the show we thought of the neighborhood gimmick and just having people from around the city be involved. After we decompressed from the show was when we all decided to really make it a living thing.

JM: The Neighborhood Maniacs have a very Midwest Odd Future feeling to them. You guys aren’t putting on airs to fit into the fashion industry as much as kicking the door down and broadening what fashion is. What do you guys think about that?

JG: We’re ‘anti-art’ artists. I have always despised the rules of the art world because by definition it shouldn’t have any rules.

BP: We’re aware that we don’t really fit in, and we thrive on that. We’re doing fashion, we’re doing video and music. We want to keep all doors open because we don’t know what we’re going to want to do next.

RS: Definitely, and I think that the Midwest aesthetic is something we really lean into. I know the midwest gets a lot of shit but I think it is an interesting in-between space. Indy as a city is pretty relevant but surrounding it is a bunch of small, country towns and I grew up in between both of these spaces. You can see that in our designs as well. Jake is wearing real tree camo right now. We blend that into city elements as well to have this futuristic look blended with a rustic flare. That all happened naturally.

CL: We are a big melting pot. We all have shared interests and individual interests. We take all of our interests and throw it into our own little group. I think the midwest Odd Future is a great definition of our style.

JM: I feel like clothing and fashion is just the introduction to the Neighborhood Maniacs. Can we expect you guys to venture down other avenues of artistry?

CL: Maniac shit.

RS: Yeah some maniac shit, that’s what we always say. But we are definitely getting more invested in filmography. We want to make it cohesive and give a more visual representation of us. Clothing can’t really do that because you have to put the clothes in an atmosphere to sell it. Filmography is more forgiving in that respect. So expect more integration of music and visual arts. We want to immerse people in our reality.

BP: I think a museum would be sick. Like a little pop up museum of maniacs!

JG: We’ll definitely be more communal in the future. Having annual fashion shows of local designers and showing galleries of our work. I love doing gallery shows so I definitely think that is in the future. We’re going to lean heavily into events in the coming months. 

CL: I’d love to open up a Maniac skatepark. Like get a big warehouse and just make it that maniacal neighborhood skatepark.

JM: Lastly, I’d like to hear what art means from each of you.

JG: Art is therapy. I have gotten to the point in my life where I am not giving myself any other options. I will be an artist for the rest of my life. No matter what medium I am working in, it is going to be art.

CL: Art is an adventure. Anything with an idea with execution behind it. As soon as that thought is applied to something, that’s art. Anything with intention behind it that you attempt to execute. 

RS: It’s my way of answering questions that don’t have answers. I have all these unanswered feelings and questions in my mind and I desperately want answers to them. You create those  answers by expressing your view of an answer through art. Once you do that you feel more at peace with that question. Even if it isn’t an answer that can translate from person to person. If it is an answer that satisfies you then you achieved your goal.

BP: A vehicle for emotion. Why and how you want to get your point across. I’m sure I stole that line from somewhere, but that’s how I can best describe it.