Sullen State of Mind

By Jacob Hanks

Reblogged from :


Last August the owners of Sullen Clothing Company, Ryan Smith and Jeremy Hannah, brought their brand to Hawaii, along with an array of Sullen related artists for the first ever tattoo convention in the state. The Sullen booth was out of stock by the 2nd day of the very popular three-day event. Carlos Torres, Norm, and Big Sleeps killed it as well bringing to the islands their unique styles of tattooing that has everyone paying attention.

Sullen TV was also present and covering the show with interviews of tattoo legends being conducted by Big Gus, star of Spike TV’s Tattoo Nightmares. All of these elements helped contribute to an excellent tattoo convention and Sullen has definitely left their mark on the Hawaii tattoo scene, leaving an opening for a variety of opportunity.

In a couple of weeks, Sullen will return once again to Hawaii for the 2nd Pacific Ink and Art Expo to do it all over again. I’m excited to see what Ryan and Jeremy have in store for fans and collectors alike.


808 Ink Tattoo Magazine had recently met with Sullen to discuss their ideas and plans for the future. Co-Owner Ryan Smith was kind enough to give us his thoughts.

JH:  A question that I often hear is “How can I design a Sullen shirt?  ”What would you say to these artists who want to be a part of Sullen Clothing?

RS: I’d say first be realistic with your abilities and if your art fits with the brand. We have a style guide that we give to artists that highlights about 15 concepts that our customers seem to respond to. We tell artists not to think too much into it and those themes that worked before most likely will work in the future. Case in point our best selling design has been the fallen angel, so we always try to have at least one angel piece in the line. Also a thing to consider is we only have about 2-3 spots a season for new artists as we always allow the artists who have done shirts with us in the past to have the first crack at submitting for future seasons.

JH:  The people of Hawaii showed Sullen a lot of love at the last Pacific Ink and Art Expo and have really accepted the brand. Do you have any plans to develop designs geared towards Islanders with some Polynesian style elements incorporated?

RS: We love all forms of tattoo culture, if we had a really dope Polynesian design submitted we would run it.  We are just now in the infant stages of discussions with a couple artists.  But please do, send us your art.


JH: With Sullen being the most legitimate brand utilizing the art and tattoo culture in their products, how is it that your company has so much credibility among tattoo artists, collectors, and consumers worldwide? 

RS: I think the most important reason we were accepted was the fact that I am a tattooer. I apprenticed in 1996 and tattooed professionally for years, I left tattooing to study art but I would guest spot at my old shop for years, but at some point the demands of the brand made tattooing professionally impossible, one day I again see myself tattooing full time but I don’t know when that day will come. The second reason I think we have been accepted is because we live and love tattoo lifestyle. We attend conventions we collect tattoos, and do everything we can to promote quality tattooers. We really consider ourselves lucky to be in this industry and don’t take it for granted, having apprenticed in the mid-nineties respect was grilled into my head so I use that knowledge to navigate our business.

JH: I know that Sullen clothing has started a new “Red Label” product line. Can you touch on what that entails? What sets it apart from the other lines?

RS: My thoughts for that red label were to think outside the box and create a capsule of unbranded tees; using artwork different then you would expect to see from sullen. As creative director I’m constantly looking at new directions to take the brand.


JH: It seems like Hawaii has had quite an effect on many of the artists and vendors who came to last year’s show. From your experience, what do you like most about our island paradise?

RS: For me Hawaii was truly the best place I’ve come to visit. The people are so warm and welcoming, the weather is amazing, and you just feel more relaxed, we came with a big group last year and all we could say was how much fun we had and how we were looking to come back next year. I’m hoping to make the Hawaii tattoo convention an annual trip because I’d love a reason to come back every year.

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