Building a Weird Empire: The Pin Movement to Live Freak or Die

Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Rebecca Henderson founded Weird Empire in 2015: an online boutique specializing in “weird wears” for the “uncommon customer”. In this exclusive Q&A, we asked Rebecca about the growing lapel pin trend and her self-described mission to “represent subversive weirdness” through pin culture.

Love Myself Pin       Live Freak Or Die Pin

Q:  What is “pin-culture”?

A: Much of pin culture is born from fan art: tons of pin makers I know make a living by creating new artwork and narratives from cultural touchstones and cult classics that they have a real deep abiding love for. It’s a way of being able to say “Hey I like this! Do you like this?”, and helped create a kind of social aspect behind wearing pins. That’s not really our mission at Weird Empire, but I respect the groundwork of collecting + sharing that those makers helped to form.

Q:  How did Weird Empire start and why?

A: Weird Empire started because I saw the opportunity to to infiltrate the world of wearables to help represent the subversive weirdness that I live for. There is no shortage of what I call “bland brands” floating around in the world : a lot of things that say nothing. I came up with the the Weird Empire motto “Live Freak Or Die” because it’s truly the foundation of why I am driven to create. It was also important to me to build a platform to help support artists working outside of popular aesthetics: to find my fellow freaks and bring their vision to life as well.

Q: Why do people collect pins? How do they differ from other accessories?

A: Personally, I collect pins because there are so many creatives who I want to support: I love Tuesday Bassen, Big Bud Press, Weekender Supply, and Frolick Studio. Being able to essentially collage together a number of pins allows people to tell a story about themselves without speaking. It’s basic self expression, but because of the scale becomes a little more hilariously passive aggressive: you have to let people get close enough to be able to discern exactly what is going on, and by that time some kind of interaction is bound to happen.

Unapologetic Pin
Q: What does “pin-culture” mean to you?

To me it means makers + collectors + enthusiasts who are directly supporting, celebrating, and connecting over the things that they love.

Q: Where do you get your (p)inspiration?

I am a recovering stand up comic, so some of my pins are based off of concepts I had explored unsuccessfully in that phase of life. Just a reminder: if at first you don’t succeed, hide it from your parents and try again. I also am really inspired by the friends I am lucky enough to have as contributing members of the Weird Empire: Taylor Williams, Dustin Harbin, Griffin Glaze, and Hnin Nie are just a few of the talented folks that are a delight to drink a beer and brainstorm with.

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