In issue #52 we check back in with Ruslan “Russ” Karablin, the man behind resurgent streetwear brand SSUR. It’s not the first time Karablin has graced the pages of Mass Appeal and so, in the spirit of Throwback Thursday we present to you an interview with a young SSUR circa 2004 from issue #27 conducted by none other than Ricky Powell.
Sim Solabim . . . no. Ruslan Karablin . . . yes. I hear my neighbor’s known all over the world as SSUR. That’s funny, he don’t act like he’s famous. I guess that speaks volumes for his character. I asked him to meet me over a Danish so I could find out a little somethin’, somthin’ about what he does. My treat. . .aiight!?!. . .
Ricky Powell: What are you?
Russ Karablin: Take your time. How do you mean this?
Ricky Powell: Are you an artist? a store merchant? A swinger-maximus? Like, what are you?
Russ Karablin: Multimedia, I would say.
RP: Multimedia. Okay. So it’s all equal?
RK: I’m an artist, I create.
RP: And how did you start the store, SSURplus?
RK: Well, first it was a space where I exhibited my paintings and things that I make.
RP: All right, what are some of your early influences? Generally speaking?
RK: Sex, politics and resistance.
RP: Interesting. Elevator music. Are there any artists today that you would like to collaborate with, whose work you feel?
RK: Um, Martin Scorsese.
RP: Good answer. Russian pride, what does that mean to you?
RK: You know, my people and their achievements.
RP: Where did you grow up?
RK: Coney Island, Brooklyn.
RP: You must have felt like the black guy in Sha Na Na. Was it a black neighborhood?
RK: Yeah, it was predominantly black and Hispanic.
RP: You kinda look Spanish. Did that get you over?
RK: Sometimes. [Laughs] Actually, a lot of times. Even when I was in a Russian neighborhood, not knowing I was Russian, they’d say, “Watch out for the spic.”
RP: Growing up, coming to the Village, was it, like, a thing for you?
RK: It was a special event. On the weekend, you know, do mescaline or ‘shrooms and roam the streets.
RP: Cool. Got some for after the interview? Let’s see. What’s your thing with dolls?
RK: [Laughs] I don’t know. I like undressing them.
RP: Anything for baggy women’s bathing suits from the 1920’s?
RK: I like fat girls.
RP: [Laughs] Can I quote you on that?
RP: Cool. So, like, what about your store?
RK: It’s less boutique, more visual candy. A bit of the pop culture, a bit of the neighborhood culture. Some stuff from Coney Island, artifacts from Little Italy, a coffee machine from the Ravenite Social Club [on Mulberry Street] for those of you who are familiar.
RP: I know camp, upstate in Harriman State Park, was a big, special part of your life. Any special memories?
RK: Many special memories, including losing my virginity.
RP: Whoa-ho! What summer was that?
RK: I was 14, days before turning 15, so like ‘83. It was an older chick, the camp bicycle.
Be on the look out for issue 52 on stands and in stores next week. Subscribe to Mass Appeal and get four issues a year for $25.