- Why did you decide to form the Deadly Nightshades? How did you come up with the name?
On Mount Olympus, on a beautiful summer morning Venus was riding her bike and scraped her calf on her chain ring. Out of the blood that fell on the earth emerged The Deadly Nightshades.
- How is membership decided?
The seven members were brought together through fate. We evolved out of a sacred bond of hating your fashion school, the hopeless romanticism of bicycles, forties of malt liquor and Karl Lagerfeld. There are a few secret rituals that involve feathers, drag queens, Kevin Bacon, shaving cream and dark alleyways when new members are “jumped-in” but everytime it’s a bit different. Membership is unfortunately closed at the moment, although there are many honorary Nightshades and always room for more.
- How do you keep the group together? How are decisions made?
For serious, in a collaboration you need people taking ownership of initiatives and steps in a collaboration. Being aware of your own work, offering help to your friend when they need it, and supporting each other in difficult times to get the job done are the tactics we have learned best work for a successful collaboration. Also, no talking business after a few drinks.
- What projects have you done in the past?
This is too numerous to count… What don’t we do together? We are writing this together right now.
At the moment we are recovering from “DNS Occupy Bushwick”, our short film “Fabric Bike” (http://vimeo.com/21904716) is touring the world with the Bicycle Film festival and we were featured on a BBC documentary about Toronto Vintage fashion http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/fast_track/9646907.stm. Cat will be teaching a men’s wear sewing class at Irene’s sewing school, “The Make Den”. (http://themakeden.blogspot.com/). Niamh and Meg just collaborated on a big sustainable bike fashion project. Patricia and Laura are working with YNOT (http://www.ynotcycle.com/) to help take the company to the next level.
In the past, participating in Toronto Alternative Fashion Week has a big one, DNS has had some involvement in each year since the beginning. In 2008 “A Night out with the Deadly Nightshades”, a documentary by George Brown premiered (http://www.torontostreetfashion.com/04/a-night-out-with-the-deadly-nightshades/). In 2009 we celebrated it’s anniversary by showcasing a collaborative sustainable bike fashion collection. We’ve been helping with the Toronto BFF for three years, and this year helped produce it. (http://vimeo.com/32059632). There are probably a million more collaborations. Go back in our blog to see the past five years of all our versions of sustainable bike fashion, the parties we have thrown, the cities we have been to, the friends we have made, the art and projects produced, and all the love we have gotten from various press since this bike gang thing got totally out of hand.
We are sure 2012 will bring new exciting, creative events and projects too. We are always looking for companies to collaborate with!
- What projects are you looking forward to?
Step 3, which is taking over the world.
- Can you introduce each member and what they bring to the gang?
Meaghan Orlinski/ Meg O is the M.I.L.F (communication and marketing)
Cat Essiambre/Big Red is Big Poppa (production and design)
Laura Mensinga/Mzungu is the older, responsible child (illustration and editing)
Patricia Youn/Cannibal Vixen is the rebellious middle child (illustration and design)
Kirsten White/Snow White is the youngest, attention grabbing one (photography)
Niamh McManus/ Namtron is the crazy, lovable uncle (fashion design)
Irene Stickney/Fierce Bambie is the quirky, smart aunt (fashion instructor)
- What makes you a bicycle gang and not (for example) an art collective – or is it both?
It’s both. We do what we want! We live sustainably on two wheels while enjoying life being creative. We all have different passions; some more bike, some more art, some more fashion. However, at the end of the day we all roll up on bikes, and we’d kick your ass in a fight or a dance off. That makes us a bike gang. Don’t forget the matching seafoam jackets.
- What is your philosophy on bicycling?
RIDE OR DIE. DMX totally took that from us in the bike scene. Serious.
- What kind of cycling do members of the group participate in?
It’s mainly general babeness on bikes, which is a very important job… but there is also bike polo, fixed gear hill bombing, bike raves, alleycats, magazine hawking, bike tours, admiring bike boys, bike films, bike bags and accessories. We kinda pass through it all. But no recumbents or unicycles, period.
- Do you do any advocacy work?
We all participate in some sort of action, be it daily activities or helping big campaigns. We all have a few charities and causes we champion. Irene’s work with PACT is really major ( http://www.pactprogram.ca/pact_urban_peace_program/Home.html). Meg works for Eco Fashion World (http://www.ecofashionworld.com/) promoting non-harmful fashion to both the producers and end users of fashion. We LOVE our friends at the About Face Collective (http://www.aboutfacecollective.com/) as they combine all the things and people we love. We all tend to participate in smaller things, and we all support each other’s events and causes.
This question made us realize we should get together on something. Stay tuned!
- How are things different in Canada?
We wear touques under our helmets, not hats.
It’s not so different. There are more differences between the East Coast and the West coast, and we have gang members on both sides. Currently we are just finished a stint in New York, which seems to have a more integrated bike infrastructure with the bike lanes, but it still has the same controversies, just more road and more people. NYC is maybe nicer to bike is as the roads have more lanes and one ways, while Toronto has narrow two lanned streets that are currently being curated by morons (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bB3i8rvaFQw). Toronto is a biker paradise in the summer, but our winters thin out the crowd. Vancouver has lots of hills and rains more, so it makes you a more fit and dedicated cyclist. Biking to third beach in the summer makes up for all the rain sometimes.
- What changes would you most like to see in cycling & everyday life?
More bikes. More love.
- What are you doing to positively affect those changes?
We feel that being hot on a bike is an important job. You can never hate something that involves pretty women. We love informing the people that bike are the thing to be doing. Showing them you have safety in numbers and bring ‘em out for a gang ride.
- What do you think are the obstacles to achieving them?
Rob Ford is our obstacle. But he is only one man, a large man of that, he’s a bit of a detour but it’s good for character and your butt to take a longer ride.
- Do you have any advice for other girls who want to form their own bike gang?
DO IT! All you need are a few rad chicks that you love and two wheels! Matching outfits is always a plus. Have a goal in mind. Ours is to take over the world. After you do… come visit us for a party in Toronto!