As a lifelong seamstress, designer and studier of witchcraft, Arielle Salsa turned what was once a passion project into a full-time operation with The Pretty Cult. Since its inception, Salsa has designed and screen-printed the majority of all of her seamstress work to craft a compelling fashion and lifestyle brand for the “Rock & Roll Witch” at heart.
Select pieces range from witchcraft-inspired T-shirts and custom one-of-one flannels and jackets to her own line of tarot cards, prints and jewelry items. Now with a small but dedicated crew behind her, appearances at major music festivals and a growing online presence, Salsa and her team of “misfits and dark hearts” are set to become a household name within the rock community. Which raises the question: Will you join the cult?
What is the mission statement of The Pretty Cult?
I like to say that we are for the “Rock & Roll Witch,” which is my tagline. We are a cult, but we’re also a cult for anyone. We’re here for the misfits, the dark hearts and anyone who doesn’t fit in with a focus on everything black and rock ’n’ roll. Everything that I sell and create is something that I believe in and practice personally. If I’m selling a tarot card deck, it’s because I actually read tarot. If I sell things with Lilith, it’s because Lilith is a deity that I study and know a lot about. Everything with The Pretty Cult is authentic with no BS.
How did your journey with The Pretty Cult begin?
I worked in music touring and was always doing The Pretty Cult on the side, but just as a passion project. I’ve been sewing since I was 10 but never went to school for fashion design — and it was strictly just for fun. The Pretty Cult technically started when I was in college, and I was obsessed with [the Pretty Reckless frontwoman] Taylor Momsen and the stuff she would wear. As a broke college student, I tried to make things like that myself, and it just grew from there. Eventually, I wasn’t fulfilled in my job and working for the man — especially being a woman in a man’s world — so I decided to leave.
The Pretty Cult seems like it started from a lot of sleepless nights and DIY fundamentals to get where it is now.
I still do a ton, but I have more of a team now. In the beginning, this was all done out of my one-bedroom apartment. My partner was willing to let me move our bed to the living room and sacrifice having a bedroom for a year-and-a-half so I could have a place to work. It was mayhem. I did a collaboration with Sargent House and their artists Chelsea Wolfe, Emma Ruth Rundle and Lingua Ignota where I had 500 jackets that I was making crammed into the apartment. I was shipping and sewing everything from there to the point where it looked like we lived in a factory. I look back on it fondly, but I also can’t believe I lived like that. [Laughs.] Though I have a seamstress and printer now, I still rent out studios, screen-print things myself and sew all of the back patches for our flannels. I’m a “DIY till you die” kind of girl.
Speaking of the team you have brought on, how do they help carry out your vision?
Most of my team is female. My assistant is awesome. Her name is Jesse, and she helps me run everything from fulfillment and events to just about everything else. Maya Holt is the in-house photographer as well as Ash Loth, and they are both part of the media touring team who go to all of the music festivals with me to do video, photo and social media management. My seamstress has her own company called Karla Ortega Fashion Studio and handles everything from pattern making and samples to production. I’m really thankful that I found people who believe in this as much as I do. It’s been just me for so long, and to now be employing a team is mind-blowing.
This summer, the brand is going to be on several tours and festivals, including Sad Summer and a portion of the Danny Wimmer Presents festivals such as Inkcarceration. How did these opportunities come about?
Someone who used to work for Danny Wimmer Presents reached out to me asking if I would be interested in working with the Aftershock Festival in Sacramento. I signed up to be a sponsor, and in 2021, I did the festival. Not only did it feel good to be at festivals and shows again after the pandemic, but [it] also gave me a taste of what it’s like to be on the road with your brand. I love music, and besides witchcraft, it is such a heavy influence on everything I make. I feel like this is a space for me where it’s important to be a women-owned brand in the rock community. With Sad Summer Festival, it reminds me of that Warped Tour crowd. It’s going to be crazy, as myself and the team has never been on the road for this long.
With music being such an important part of your life, which artists inspired you growing up?
I’m a huge Anberlin fan, and I will go see them live no matter what; that was my high school band. As far as rock, I’m more of an old-school girl. I grew up on everything from Metallica to Black Sabbath, and my parents had great music taste as well. From there, I evolved into liking a lot of doom metal and heavy metal. I am actually working on witchcraft-themed, doom-metal poster designs, which should be coming really soon.
What are your dreams for where you want to take the brand next?
I would love to work on sponsoring a tour where I can be a presenter up to having my own stage at a festival. I would also love to open a brick-and-mortar store in Portland, Oregon. I have dreams of having a store with a coffee shop, bar and stage so we can put on our own shows. I want to conquer the rock festival scene and be known as the female witch rock brand.