For the general public, October ushers in a long-awaited “spooky season” filled with ghouls, goblins, and B-rated horror flicks. For Nicholas Dinh, however, the macabre corners of pop culture provide inspiration that’s anything but seasonal. The California-bred designer launched Insomnia Visuals in 2018, and over two years of hard work, developed a cult following and a niche like no other. Even if you’ve managed to miss Dinh’s viral rhinestone-encrusted skull hoodie, you’ve almost certainly seen his horror-infused graphic tees or workwear—the likes of which have been snapped on Germ and Ski Mask the Slump God. Buzzed on pre-Halloween adrenaline, the 20-year old designer talked to TRILL about everything from his archivebeast taste to a freak encounter with Juice Wrld.
Where are you from, and where are you now?
I’m from Santa Ana, California. When my family moved to Florida, I moved to Stanton, California.
What is your first memory with streetwear?
It was in middle school for sure. Seeing the older kids wearing brands like Obey and Stüssy really introduced me to the streetwear industry. From then on, it was pretty much a deep rabbit hole—I ended up getting into all sorts of brands, and discovering many types of fashion.
If you had to compress your personal style into one outfit, what would it be?
Chrome Hearts/Hysteric Glamour trucker cap, Crimewave America T-shirt, Black & Red Needles track pants, Rick Owens Ramones.
When did you first feel inspired to create your own designs? When did you first start selling them?
I wanted to create a brand ever since I was in seventh grade. I scrapped numerous projects—even left a project I started with friends—to create some shit on my own. It was definitely a rollercoaster until I settled down with Insomnia in 2018, during my last year of high school. For the first almost two years of creating the brand, it honestly wasn’t much. I felt like giving up numerous times, but that’s all part of the process. It didn’t really start rolling until late 2019-early 2020.
Describe your design aesthetic in one sentence, if you can.
My design aesthetic mainly consists of my hobbies, interests, and the darker mindset I had growing up.
Where do you feel the most inspired?
Before COVID, it was honestly whenever I was in class. Now, it’s when I’m home watching something or just brainstorming with a piece of paper. Documentaries, movies, and childhood experiences do the trick for me.
Which living designer do you most admire?
Zac [Clark] from FTP and Adam [Ariagga] from Foul Play, for sure. I love their work and what they do for the culture. They’re definitely the main reason why I wanted to create Insomnia, on some idol shit for real.
What’s your biggest creative or career milestone so far?
It was definitely when DJ Scheme invited me over to his buddy’s house, to give him some gear and take some flicks for Insomnia. Turns out, that “buddy” was Juice Wrld. I ended up saying what’s up to him, and gave him some gear too because he fucked with it. A few weeks later, he unfortunately passed away. It was honestly the craziest moment in my life, and for Insomnia.
How do you want people to feel when wearing your designs?
I want people to feel special, cool, and like they’re a part of something. People have told me that they met someone else wearing Insomnia, and they ended up becoming friends. That shit is tight as fuck to me.
What would you most like to change about the current fashion industry?
Fast fashion, one hundred percent. These big companies create an image for the public that clothes are cheaper and more affordable than smaller companies. In reality, all they do is shit out bad designs with terrible quality, and mass-produce the living shit out of their products. The wages these companies pay their workers are seriously unlivable. Some people don’t realize that small brands go through hefty expenses—sampling, marketing, quality checking, even manufacturing. Labor and product costs justify the pricing of small brands. I feel like this separates big corporate companies and smaller brands: the love and dedication that we put into each and every piece is irreplaceable.