Hellcat Studios was birthed in 2020 by Sam Pellegrino. Products on sale include baby tees, hoodies, and more! The NYC brand has an online storefront, items are often on sale at Washington Square Park, and Hellcat was most recently featured at Rouge, a curated vintage clothing store in NYC. I recently had the great pleasure of speaking with Pellegrino, keep reading to get a sneak peek into the Hellcat empire.
I found out about Hellcat Studios on Instagram or TikTok, I can’t really remember. It grabbed my attention.
Clothes are a proxy for attention. At least when we actively consume them. When we are drawn to things, I wonder if it is not merely about aesthetics (whatever that word means), but instead hyperfixations. Take me for example, the past year I’ve been wearing my father’s clothes and clothes that are two sizes too big. There lies an intersection between comfort and my want to conceal myself. And so clothes become the proxy for the attention I pay to my body, my comfort level, and more. With regard to my discussion/interview of Pellegrino and Hellcat Studios, the art that manifests from Hellcat, to me, proves the ways in which we cling to certain fixations. Real or perceived, popular or underground, immersed in the artists we love or in the genres we digest.
The first piece I saw by Hellcat was one of Britney Spears, the lower half of the shirt read: “Free Britney.” I agree. Why did I like it? It affirmed a stance I held, it met my love for pop culture, and it made a statement—there remains a certain allure in arguing without spoken word.
Hellcat Studios produces pieces that capture our attention, sometimes in a nuanced way, and sometimes in a way that claws at our love for pop culture. For me, that is the fun of it all.
WHO ARE YOU?
O: What is the vision behind HellCat Studios? I think the rise and manipulation of different social media platforms and quarantine have given people the opportunity to give birth to new endeavors. How does HellCat Studios stand out?
S:Hellcat has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the people around me and the people that represent the brand. That’s the inspiration, that’s the meaning, I’m simply a vessel into bringing it to life. I’ve spent years of my life admiring the inspiration that my friends and idols give to the world, and I’d like to show the world what they make me feel.
O:From your Instagram, both personal and business, it seems as though a lot of the production is done in-house. What does your production process look like?
S:My production looks like my apartment: a mess of paint, clothes, screens, and fabric. Everything is done 5 feet away from where I sleep, which is great because I work 10 hours a day. Helps with commute time.
That is something that many of us adore. The messiness, the attention to detail, the craft of it all. Buried in this is a connection. And again we see how clothes become a proxy. For what this time? Harmony.
O:How would you categorize HellCat, with regard to the realm of fashion?
S:Hellcat is not for me to categorize. Also, I hate the term “fashion,” I don’t know what it means. Sustainable fashion to me makes as much sense as Jumbo Shrimp, with that being said, my clothes are made to last, socially and physically. I used to call it Neo-nihilist anti-fashion, and while that’s still the most appropriate title to give the brand, being “anti” anything is still giving that “thing” credibility.
O:A lot of consumers have a difficult time backing brands, for some, it seems like designers are slapping designs on pieces and putting a price on them. How do you navigate the relationship between art and quality?
S:Hellcat represents a collage of hyper-awareness of pop culture. Each piece gets hours of love and attention. Since I do everything myself, sometimes my orders are late, but that’s because I will literally make something 4 different times until it’s perfect.
And that is something that I believe his customers love. That “hyper-awareness of pop culture.” It locks in our attention and elicits nostalgia, joy, anger, and at times yearning.
O:As a business owner, what is the most important thing that you have learned?
I hate to use the word “aspirations,” because it often falls on deaf ears and fails to consider the difference between action and inaction. What are your plans for the future and how are you going to get there?
S:The most important thing I learned as a business owner is that there are actually 5 Paramore albums. I spent my entire life thinking that Riot! was her debut album until a few months back. She wrote the first album when she was 15. I cry to it about once a week. My favorite pizza topping is mushrooms. I want to meet Hayley Williams before I die.
I too thought Riot! was Paramore’s first album. Williams was signed to a division of Atlantic Records when she was fourteen years old. At fifteen she began writing Paramore’s debut album, All We Know Is Falling, and a year later it was released.
O:This is your space to say anything to our audience:
S:Free Britney. Also, I recently got a cease and desist for using her images. Britney Spears doesn’t even own Britney Spears. I don’t own Hellcat.
Spears recently addressed a court directly concerning her conservatorship, detailing just a fraction of the hurt and pain she has endured. Spears is in our thoughts and we can only hope that efforts are mobilized in a way that goes to the benefit of Ms.Spears.
Pellegrino did in fact receive a cease and desist, though I hope his beloved Britney products don’t go anywhere.