We had the good fortune of connecting with Brian “Mildew” Knoebel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brian “Mildew”, how does your business help the community?
As a drag performer, a business owner and even as an actor/writer living here in Los Angeles, I have been working very hard to ensure that everything I create leaves a positive impact on the world. Whether it’s a pilot I wrote, a drag performance on a small stage in WeHo, or a new upcycled garment posted on my site, everything is thought out and curated to engage others and empower them to be confident and proud of who they are and the journey they are on. I also want everyone to pull the lens back and acknowledge the issues in our lives on a global level.
As a drag performer and writer, I like to create pieces that make the audience ask questions and stir up new and engaging conversations. As the owner of a curated Queer thrift shop, I want people to understand how critical the crisis of global warming is and acknowledge that sustainability is something we must start to accept and lean in to. My items in the shop focus on sustainability and creating something new out of aged or slightly damaged garments. Some items are accessible; not too extravagant, but many are fun, quirky, and fabulous; perfect for drag performers! (Even drag needs to focus on sustainability!) Not only is sustainability important to me, but I hope that these items can encourage people to defy gender norms and dress the way that feels right to them; what makes them feel confident and proud!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I started drag under the name Mildred Fierce in 2019 and very shortly after, I realized the name just didn’t sit right. I wanted to go by a name that was a bit more genderless and quirky, and after being called ‘Mildew’ as a joke to abbreviate ‘Mildred’, I realized I actually loved it! Thus Mildew was born! My work as a drag artist is always asking questions and tackling serious subjects (although I also love a quirky/campy moment). I’m not afraid to do a performance that brings up themes of domestic abuse, violence, politics, and addiction; art imitates life after all.
All of my ‘lewks’ were brought to you by thrift shops and costumes I had in my closet from past projects I’ve worked on. I also preferred this anyways since climate change is a hot topic for me personally. The more specific my performances got the more I had to go search for thrifted items that would work for each show, therefore I spent many hours in thrift shops and at my sewing table. Eventually people saw some of my things, asked to buy them from me, and I realized that I absolutely adore doing this; upcycling and thrifting! Shortly after, I launched The Mildew, a curated Queer thrift shop that focuses on sustainable fashion.
Many years ago I had an up cycled bowtie shop that I thoroughly enjoyed working on, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to do dresses, jackets and even head pieces but I was afraid that I wasn’t up to par with other designers. I stopped what I was doing even though things started getting pretty lucrative with the bowties because I really felt like such a phony. Who am I to create items to sell when there are so many other designers out there who have done this their whole lives?
It wasn’t until a few months into Covid, unemployed and desperate, that I started sewing again and creating new looks for virtual drag performances when I realized that we really have to treat every day like our last, and if something makes us happy, we have to go do it. My fear of failure can’t and won’t freeze me in my tracks any longer. Create, make mistakes, learn, then grow. That’s the easiest way to look at it.
If anything, I want people to see my work and feel inspired to achieve great things, wear bold and fierce clothing unapologetically, and help change the world to be a better place for all. With this shop, I also have a chance to give back to socially conscious organizations by donating a portion of all proceeds to groups such as The Trevor Project, Black Visions Collective, and Forge to name a few. I now get to create, inspire, and give back…what could be better?
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ll say that once Covid is contained and behind us, I cannot wait to take a few folks around LA to show them what it has to offer! My favorite thing to do is to appreciate the landscape! We have beautiful beaches, Will Rogers being an obviously fun spot for queers to frolic to, as well as lighthouse beach, which is more quiet and subdued. I love hiking on trails like Wisdom Tree trail, and even a quick jog through the West Trail at Runyon, or up at griffith. (Or if you’re feeling up for it, you can sneak out of LA for a few hours and go to one of the many trails surrounding the city!) I can’t wait for my favorite gay bars to open such as Faultline, Revolver, and The Eagle. For picnics in the park, a favorite with some of my friends, I love going to Poinsettia Park in WeHo, or walking around the griffith park, admiring the Merry Go Round, and finding a cute spot to put up a hammock and relax for ta few hours.
For shopping, I obviously don’t do a lot of shopping at major fast fashion chains, but sneaking downtown to Santee Alley is always a joy, or just walking around the shops in Santa Monica by the beach, or just take in the Grove with its shops and markets!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
In the world of sustainable fashion, I’m constantly inspired by those who have fought for climate change; we have Greta Thunberg, Bernie Sanders, AOC among the most popular here in the states. Even Emma Watson and her love of ethical fashion has been a joy to research and learn from. However, there are political leaders, scientists, activists all over the globe that I admire and thank for their hard work.
I also have to shout out to the many drag performers and queer icons that have personally inspired me, from Marsha P. Johnson to Sahsa Velour, from Keith Haring to Lavern Cox, from my friends to my family! The list is never ending and constantly growing.
Instagram: @itsMildew @ItsBrianKnoebel
Rashida Zagon Salvador Ceja Garcia