Nella is the sole owner, manufacturer, promoter and punk goddess extraordinaire of Pogo designs which she started officially in 1992. She creates all sorts of art ranging from album art to clothing to patches to hand bags to jewellery. She has outfitted some of the most famous punks in the scene, from Charlie Harper of the U.K. Subs to Wayne Barrett of Slaughter and the Dogs. She is a colourful character that has been involved in the punk scene for many years with so many amazing stories to tell! She was kind enough let me pick her brain about her craft and art and why she still does it after all these years.
You can find Nella’s clothing at the following official pages:
Erin: Nella, can you tell me the story behind your label on all your products and how you created your own brand?
Nella: I didn’t have the logo on my art for many years. I started making my own clothes at a young age since I wasn’t able to buy anything new. In 1969 someone gave me an old skirt and I cut it to make it a mini skirt and altered it to be more exciting. I started making clothing for my friends and then when I was 15, I was working in a factory in Italy that made lingerie on sewing machines, very, very fast. So I had to teach myself how to use the machine and I discovered I was good at manipulating the machine to suit what I wanted to create. So yeah, it all started with lingerie haha! My logo I created in 1992. I wanted people to be able to recognize who made what they were wearing, so it became sort of a “brand”. I hand painted it on fabric with a caricature of my face and “POGO” underneath it. The POGO label morphed and changed over the years, in 1998 it became a cartoon like me in one of my fishnet shirt creations with a bottle of beer and POGO in a banner, still hand painted on material. Then it morphed into an embroidered coloured picture of me with POGO on my shirt. It became POGO in the 90’s and has always been the brand name.
Erin: I think it fits perfectly and depicts you and your energy and love of the scene! And it is now well recognized! Why do you knit and make clothes? I know you said you learned to sew from working in the lingerie factory in Italy, but was there anything or anyone along the road that taught you to crochet or do alterations or that type of thing?
Nella: I make clothes because when I was young in Italy I had no money to buy clothes. I would be lucky to get a hand me down from somewhere that was out of fashion so I had to update it somehow. It started out as more of a necessity. But then I began to find I was actually good at it! Here’s a story-there was a woman that had all these muslin-like curtains that were just laying around unused so I asked her if I could have them. She gave them to me and I cut them up and designed and made shirts and skirts out of them and sold them in a street market. People started asking if I could make clothing for them and word got around-just from some muslin curtains! I started making the mohair jumpers in 1975. I went and lived in Paris for a few years and started doing the mohair jumpers then, before punk really broke and the punks started wearing them. I honestly taught myself how to do all of it. No one took the time or interest to teach me crocheting or sewing or anything. I was so excited by it and determined and loved making creations for my friends and me to wear that the learning was easy.
Erin: What are your craft essentials?
Nella: Pretty much anything I can get my hands on! Yarn for the jumpers, D-rings, zips, patches, scrap material to put into the skirts and bags, mohair, but that has gotten expensive in recent years, I even use vegan yarn for the jumpers if my clients request that. I know what colours attract the girls and what colours they will wear so I always choose bright, sexy colours for the yarn and material.
Erin: What about your skirts? I absolutely LOVE your band skirts you make, especially the Slaughter and the Dogs one, haha and your band dresses! What made you want to branch out into that category?
Nella: Why not have a sexy skirt with a band logo on it? I take an old t-shirt and cut it out and then find a good material with maybe a leopard print or some fun, bright print that will look good and use colourful thread and sew it together to fit the body. You can take the XXL shirts and cut them down to slice up the sides and make designer loops and knots so you can see the skin and it looks really sexy while representing the band you like!
Erin: The skirts go perfectly with your fishnet tops! And it is all so quality made. Your attention to detail is impeccable. How do you describe your style? Are there any artists or designers that you look up to?
Nella: It is just old skool punk with my style. They call me a punk, I think I am just a rebel and I make things I think will look beautiful on people and make them happy.
Erin: Do you do anything special to make your work space enriching and inspiring?
Nella: Unfortunately, right now I am renting a room and I do not have the space to create and make new items. It is honestly making me very sad. I am trying to get a studio flat in Blackpool where I can have some room and be able to make new clothing. Here I am confined. I wish I could afford a space to make the clothes but I can’t right now. I am just selling old stock I have here boxed up. Like I said, it makes me very sad that I am unable to make new clothing right now.
Erin: That hurts my heart Nella, because your creations to me are like a little piece of sunshine and happiness you give to the wearer. That is how your jumper I bought from you makes me feel. It’s the ray of sunshine in my closet! Maybe there is a reader out there that might know of a place or a non-profit that might be able to help you so that you can continue creating!
Nella: I hope so. It is my happiness to make art.
Erin: Do you think it is important in this digital age to continue making things by hand?
Nella: Oh yes, very much so! It makes happiness. Something good comes out of making things by hand whether it is jewellery, clothing, whatever. When I create a piece of art, I create it with happiness for the customer. It comes from my hands and my heart to satisfy that person. It is something you cannot get from the internet. I am not so good with technology. I am not good at computers and email and all that. It is just not for me. That has been a problem with trying to sell more of my clothing. I do not have the knowledge or patience to set up an online store with all the shipping and what not. If I could get someone to help me then I could do it, but I do not have anyone.
Erin: Well here is another opportunity to ask readers if they know of anyone that might take the time to help set something like that up for you! We know there is a huge demand for your designs and your custom clothing sells well all over the world. And you make handbags as well, don’t you?
Nella: Yes, handbags, jumpers, fishnet jumpers, punkette skirts, dresses, punk rock shirts, postcards, calendars. I have existing stock and I also can make stock to order.
Erin: You were telling me that you were the first vendor at Holidays in the Sun in 1996. Can you tell me about then versus now?
Nella: Oh yes! I was the only vendor selling clothes and I had hand numbered everything from 1-77-if you have one of those pieces they are worth some money now! I sold the jumpers for £5 each! Can you believe it? Back then since I was the only vendor selling clothes it was easier. Now you have a lot of vendors selling all sorts of clothes and bags and its good for the scene but it has made it harder for me to make as much money selling my creations as a vendor. There are so many vendors! But I will be back at Rebellion this August so hopefully I sell my stuff!
Erin: How easy or hard has it been to establish your business/brand?
Nella: It has been really hard. I have lived and created and sold my clothing all over. In Italy and England, then Paris for 10 years and then Belgium. Then I lived in Rotterdam in 1991 for a bit, but I have ended back in England where I live now. I have sold in so many markets and have had so many models photographed in my clothing, like Black Rose in Kensington Market, Camden, Paris. My problem is I have had a lot of designers steal my designs. They would buy a few of my clothes then have someone recreate it and sell it cheaper in stores and not give me any credit artistically or financially and that has really hurt me over the years. I did not have the means or the knowledge to pursue some type of copyrights on my designs. So I feel I have lost a lot of opportunities to be selling exclusively in bigger markets because of this. I wish I had someone to help me navigate the system, but I don’t. But I still create because it brings me joy and I need to do it to survive. It is like sunshine and air for me. I need it to be happy and healthy. It has been hard and not so nice at times but I have met and become friends with some of the best people and bands ever so that makes it worth it. I just hope to keep going and to not be forgotten.
Erin: Oh Nella, with the magic you have made through your timeless designs and your larger than life personality and love for all people, you definitely can NEVER be forgotten. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with myself and the readers. It was truly a special event for me.
Nella: You’re welcome! Thank you for thinking of me!
Nella can be found in her usual stall at this year’s Rebellion Festival in Blackpool at Winter Gardens August 2,3,4,5 2018!