SBG: Thank you for doing this interview with us! For starters, we just wanted to know – where did it all begin? How did Armstreet as a business come to be?
The pleasure is all mine! It’s a long story, actually, but I’ll try to expand on most significant moments. We celebrate company’s birthday on June 6th, the day we sold our first piece of craft on eBay back in 2003. We had no money at that time, and the internet was very different compared to what we have now. eBay was a young, fast-growing company so we jumped on that train. Three people, actually, on Ukrainian side - me, my brother Ivan, who was our first tech guy, and Tolik Davidovich (died of pancreatic cancer in 2005). There was also Igor Solunskiy, who was and still is our American guy, running our operations in the US.
From the very beginning, ArmStreet was a private company, so people who joined at the start are still those who run the company today.
Finally, most of us had a serious LARP and reenactment background. Igor was actually the one who set up the first live steel tournament in Ukraine in 1993, and Nastya, my wife and our art-director and clothing designer, organized the first role-play game in Ukraine in 1992.
SBG: Where do your customers wear your products?
I don’t know (laughing). It depends on market: we have a serious presence in the US, Canada, UK, Australia and Europe, Germany and France mostly. In the US it is the SCA, LARP communities, medieval folks of all kinds, and the entertainment and movie industry.
SBG: Your products seem very original – who designs them?
ArmStreet is a full cycle company, and that’s a fundamental difference for us. This means that we design, produce, create content and sell our products. All in-house. ArmStreet is very much about making something unique, we don’t copy anyone, and even when we make history-related products, it works in a different way to others. We start by defining a period and style, then do our research, and then we design new things which could’ve been made by Vikings, or XIV century armorers, or Elves of Middle Earth.
SBG: Many of your outfits and costumes seem to have a fantasy background (like the exquisite “Alchemist’s Daughter” outfit). Where does the inspiration come from for these designs? Where does the inspiration come from for these designs?
When we talk about costumes, it’s very much in Nastya and her design team heads. We talk through everything together - the style, the history, the story and the impression we want to achieve. Then we talk about how we can make it, and about how photography should work. Talik Mirgorodskiy has been our irreplaceable photographer from the beginning. As I said, we are a full cycle company, so part of the design process is thinking about how we will market our end product.
SBG: Where are your articles of clothing and armour made?
Ukraine. Actually, we have two shops on both ends of the country, the second one was our back-up plan when the war with Russia began, but it’s turned out that we can have both and we decided to keep it this way.
SBG: What are your most popular costumes?
New generation women’s clothing collections like “Alchemist’s Daughter” and “Archeress”. And definitely our Viking stuff - and here we probably have the “Vikings” television series to thank for that.
SBG: What is your personal favourite product that you produce, and what makes it your favourite?
actually not an easy question, because it’s always something we are
currently working on. For armour it’s our helmets with laser-cut grills.
The idea was to design something to replace ugly hockey style face
masks on a battlefield. Talking about costumes, I’d say it’s fantasy
costumes, “Alchemist’s Daughter” and “Wanderer” maybe…
SBG: Unlike a lot
of websites that sell medieval clothing, you offer custom sizing and
alterations on your products. What led you to start down the
customization route? How has it affected your business, to have what
must be a very time consuming aspect to your production process.?
true story is actually totally opposite. We had only custom sizing
option on the website for ten years and then we figured out that it
makes sense to provide regular sizes for most popular products just
because not everyone needs custom, plus it helps us to cut delivery time
and balance manufacture flow. But custom is still our first option and
we acquired huge expertise on how to make custom pieces remotely. It’s a
lot of work and makes our life harder, but it also what makes us
SBG: What is a “typical day” at Armstreet like?
Oh, it depends on your position. Truth be told, 90 percent of our time we just work to keep up with orders. Three years ago it was 110%, we were actually snowed under. Office work pretty much looks like the office work; it’s just funny when several people are gathering around some new shield or armor. But we have some one all the time - from top management to our skilled craftsmen - it’s a great business in terms of creativity and fun.
SBG: Can you tell us a bit about Renaissance Faires – what they are like, what kinds of people attend, and why people go to them in the first place?
Oh, not my question. I definitely know that a lot of our customers attend Ren Faires, but I actually just visited my first one the other year. So, I’d love to get an answer to the question as well. But from what I see they’re beautiful place to be – imagine an amusement park, but in say XVII century. It’s a really nice thing, I’ve never seen anything like that anywhere in the world, and you have a lot in the US. We were mostly focused on SCA community, and now we are expanding our product line to LARP and Renaissance Fair folks as well.
SBG: Do you have any especially interesting stories from Renaissance Faires or other events you’ve been to that you would be able to share?
Our favorite event is definitely Pennsic War. It’s a huge SCA gathering, pretty much like Comic Con for SCAdians and it’s an amazing, place full of people from all over the world. It’s two weeks event, no tourists, so it’s just two weeks of music, parties and battlefield activity.
SBG: Have the popularity of shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings impacted your business at all?
In some way it has, but there is always some show! Let me recall - from Brave Heart and the Lord of the Rings, to Vikings and Game of Thrones, there is always something. You can see some influence in what people choose and a lot of vendors play this game -making replicas of garbs from shows -but it’s definitely not our way. To be honest, we are just waiting for some great offer from an A-List movie so that we can make the best movie costumes and armor the world has ever seen. No rush, but I’m sure one day we’ll make it.
SBG: Where do you see Armstreet in ten years – are there any new directions you would like to take?
Yeah - we want to support certain formats of Historical Martial Arts, those that have the spirit of chivalry and professionalism - we love sword fighting. And we also have a new clothing brand idea: something to bring ancient beauty and style to everyday life.
And yes, new sword project is coming, it is called dangerousknives.com, and we will mostly provide sparring tournament swords and sabers. There’s actually a funny story behind the name. Google prohibits selling anything which might be considered to be a weapon, so when we started to sell tournament swords from the site, they froze all our ad accounts! After three rounds of negotiations with their law department, we figured out that even when we sell tournament weapons, we can’t advertise swords as swords. That paragraph in their policy agreement is called “Dangerous knives”, so we decided it’s a good name for the sword.