Blogger Tees New At Forever 21, Controversy At Zara

Illustrated T-shirts by California-based artist Danny Roberts featuring likenesses of fashion bloggers got loaded onto racks at Forever 21 today. “The portraits on the shirts of the bloggers behind Pandora, Fashion Squad, Because I’m Addicted, Style Bytes and Alice Point were culled from an existing series of blogger images, many of which he made to thank bloggers he reads and appreciates,” says Women’s Wear Daily. Up next for the 24-year-old artist is “a third collaboration with Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Lovers and a first with men’s footwear brand Heutchy.”

Meanwhile, a controversy is heating up among fashion bloggers over a similar style of tee, currently on sale at Zara.

The Spanish retailer reportedly started stocking tees with illustrations of both Betty from fashion blog Le Blog de Betty and Tavi of Style Rookie— without their permission. “Maybe you were one of the 700+ people who left comments saying how ashamed they are of Zara, how they would support her in a boycott, how she deserves money and should sue them,” commented blogger Ganymede Kids in a post on Betty’s blog entitled “Zara, we have a problem.”

It’s nothing new that fast-fashion retailers, like high-fashion brands, are looking to cash in on all the fashion blogger fuss. H&M is partnering with Bryanboy, while Jane Aldridge of Sea of Shoes got a shoe design contract from Urban Outfitters thanks to her virtual presence. Zara’s misguided example shows how getting on a blogger’s good side can lead an enormous amount of exposure, while getting on their bad side can lead to a boycott that’s spreading like wildfire.

Photo via Fashionista

Geek Chic Is Back

When we think about the evolution of hip hop, we’re guessing one of the last things that comes to mind is a blinking cursor. This new collaboration from Microsoft and hip-hopper Common has us trying them both on for size — literally. This spring sees the debut of Softwear by Microsoft, a vivid line of T-shirts emblazoned with the typical iconography of early operating systems and other visual nods to the origin of the computer age, including, of course, an actual picture of the Don himself, Bill Gates as a squeeky, geeky, trouble-making adolescent.

Other designs feature the classic green screen and DOS logo. In an age where people seem to learn more from messages broadcast on t-shirts than textbooks, we can’t think of a better time to see such a collaboration, and looping the uncommon talents of such a hip-hop revolutionary into the mix makes as much sense as ctrl+alt+delete on a bad day.

Fashion’s Finest Full Frontals, Courtesy Henry Holland

Henry Holland — the London-based fashion designer who fears neither neon nor tongue-in-cheek humor — is embarking on new territory. Nude territory, that is. It seems that while the muse (a.k.a. fashion industry alum) is the same, the designer has traded his sexually charged slogan tees (i.e. “Do Me Daily Christopher Bailey”, circa 2006) for a series of fleshy graphic tees.

The lot features simple pen-drawn nudes of everyone from John Galliano and Donatella Versace to Agyness Deyn and Karl Lagerfeld. While I highly doubt such fashion heavyweights actually posed in their birthday suits for Holland (save for Deyn, perhaps, a best friend of the designer’s), that doesn’t make these T-shirts any less covetable. Even though they’re not in stores until next year (and will retail for upwards of £75), rest assured they’ll sell like hotcakes. And, don’t worry, they’re all technically SFW thanks to a few perfectly placed flower petals.

Ivan Kane Teams With Nobody for Charity

Sometimes a good way to justify purchasing an item of clothing is by inventing a mathematical formula involving the number of times said item is worn. The formula tends to go something like this: Every wear equals $10, so if it’s worn 20 times, then it was well worth that (completely unnecessary) $200. If that sounds vaguely familiar, do the math behind this one: Australian cult label Nobody has teamed up with charity:water and Ivan Kane’s Café Wa s to create a new signature “Nobody Wa S Thirsty” tee.

The sale of a single T-shirt will supply two people with hygienic drinking water for almost 20 years. Mathematically speaking, that roughly translates into a “must buy.” The signature shirt, part of the Nobody Wa s Thirsty Project, will be sold in Café Wa s and outlets that carry the Nobody line worldwide. Celebrities like Alan Cummings, Nas, and May Anderson have already shown their support and have been snapped in the fashionable, charitable tee by rock photographer Mick Rock.

Save Detroit: T-Shirts as Political Discourse

imageScrew government bailouts for automakers. Know what can save Detroit? T-shirts. Since Robert Dempster started printing T-shirts reading “Save Detroit Save America,” thousands have been clamoring for his threads. Sounds like the guy can’t even leave his house without getting hounded for a shirt, which is a good thing for sales, and great thing for his home town. (Shades of the classic and wildly successful post-Katrina “Defend New Orleans” T-shirt craze.) “Robert has been at a gas station filling his truck when people asked where they can get the shirt … the bank, retail stores, UAW workers and everywhere,” says a press release. “Then they follow him to his store or car to purchase them.”

Now there’s talk about Dempster entering the political fray with a planned trip to Washington DC to visit policymakers and politicians — along with the UAW — to support an “A Wearness” campaign (clever!) spotlighting the importance of Detroit’s auto industry is to the world economy and people’s livelihoods. Not sure how this bodes for T-shirt magnates with political aspirations. But perhaps one day, if we’re really lucky, we’ll be able to ask Sen. Dov Charney.

Furia Turns Nature into Machines into Art for Levi’s

I love T-shirts. And these days, rather than serving merely as a method to hide my back hair from the “civilized” world, they can also be worn as a fashion statement — or, worse yet, a geopolitical commentary. Furia, a Latin American communications firm, teamed with Levi’s to create a line of five limited-edition T-shirts with some nifty designs that stand for something, you know, important. Their prints of a barb-wired bear or a screwed-up storm cloud aren’t simply the product of some Pratt grad who got lucky. According to the press release, these designs “reflect over industrialization and the development in large cities.” These are the first in a line of future hookups between Levi’s and other design firms. Click to see more, including a bird with Eiffel Towers as feet!

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Industry Insiders: Brandy Flower, Art Artillerist

Los Angeles underground artist Brandy Flower of Hit+Run Crew, on touring the world’s parties to bring art to the people, the death of the Xanax-munching, skinny jean-clad hipster, keeping up with the latest conspiracies and why his grandma thinks he’s boring.

What exactly do you do? I never learned any silkscreen technique, so for my 30th birthday, I bought a small starter kit and set it up in my kitchen. As a hobby, I started printing in my apartment and throwing small parties silk-screening on old clothes people would bring over. After I printed at a friend’s backyard party in summer 2005, my college friend Mike Crivello realized that people loved checking out the screen-printing process, and he wanted to start a clothing line that used live printing as promotion. In November 2005, two months before Sony decided to move all creative services to New York, Mike and I started HIT+RUN with an event at the Blue Nile Cafe in Long Beach. Close to 200 events later, we have traveled all over the United States, to Europe and Japan, and have never had to solicit anyone to have HIT+RUN at their party.

HIT+RUN usually seems to be the center of the action at most parties. Why do you think that is? It’s a phenomenon. Not only does HIT+RUN provide a service of printing T-shirts, but we also double as entertainment that people can watch for hours. Most people are unaware of the actual silkscreen process and find the public display informative and insightful. A lot of times, participants will have to wait in line for over an hour for their chance to get an original HIT+RUN shirt. For someone to have the individual opportunity of creating a shirt design exact to their vision is both rewarding and empowering. You know, people ask: “Hey nice shirt, where’d you get it?” And the answer? “I made it!”

At parties, you typically print up to six one-of-a-kind designs of the customers’ choosing by some of the city’s most radical artists. Who have you been most stoked to collaborate with in your work? I love to collaborate and encourage group participation at all times. I’ve been fortunate to meet a group of amazingly talented people in LA, and we’ve printed past the boundaries of its cliques and scenes. Building community and inspiring like-minded individuals to get involved is something Crew encourages. There are just as many talented unknown personalities in this town, than the overexposed cliché egomaniacs and sycophants that tend to get all of the attention — true visionaries like B+ who took photos of every West Coast hip hopper there was, and now he makes movies. Visual artists like Restitution Press, The Seventh Letter, and Mear who unapologetically transformed this town into their own public gallery. Frohawk Two-Feathers always seemed like the new Basquiat … I think we were underestimating him. Madlib and Saul Williams are icons of our time. MFG is rad, so is frosty.

ArtDontSleep continues to bring L.A. the most amazing events ever witnessed — don’t sleep! Let’s see … Kofie, RetnaChaz Bojorquez, Augor, and Kime Buzzelli have been quietly laying down their craft and will be heralded as purveyors of the West Coast street art movement of the early 21st century.

What are some of the best parties you’ve been involved with in LA? It’s really hard to choose a favorite event because each HIT+RUN is a totally different. We always have new exclusive screens/art, so no two parties or T-shirts are ever the same. Often we are hired by companies to help hype their products, but events outside our usual zone of influence are most rewarding. Charity and youth groups are fun to collaborate with, but it’s probably April 2008’s LA VS. WAR that was one of the most socially impactful events we’ve been a part of. For four days, we printed shirts for free in downtown LA at one of the largest political & peace exhibitions I’ve ever witnessed. Distributing truthful information and conscious anti-establishment messages to a repressed public is the most commendable act that any contemporary artist can do.

Who would you say is your crowd? Have you seen your fans change at all through two years as you get bigger and better known? When we first started HIT+RUN, no one knew what we were doing at a club with all that screen-printing equipment. Nowadays screen-printing is a common fixture at events all over the world. It’s great to see people come to a HIT+RUN wearing a shirt from a previous party. Crew has grown drastically, and in just under three years we’ve made over 30,000 one-of-a-kind T-shirts. Supporters of the arts and people that wear T-shirts are our crowd. I could not describe them as one demographic; Crew is male, female, adults, kids, artists, celebrities, fashionistas, conservatives, corporate clients, conspiracists, art lovers, and party animals. Crew is hard, you know who you are.

You throw so many great ragers in LA. What do you think makes a truly great party different from just a good party? Everyone forgets how important a great DJ is to a party. It’s invaluable to have great music — not just a superstar big-name that everyone just wants to see, but not hear. Free drinks are cool. If Polite In Public or HIT+RUN is at your party, it’s looking really good. If Kutmah is DJing, you are golden.

Any other local DJs you work with or love? We really love to champion all Crew as often as possible, like DJs Gaslamp Killer, Flying Lotus, J-Rocc, and the dublab collective, who all supply inspiration. Their mutual respect and camaraderie is proof of a healthy and expanding Los Angeles artist community. I saw The Gaslamp Killer DJ a small club a few years ago and instantly knew he was different than other DJs. He has the charisma and energy of a rock performer and his fans fucking love him. I gots no rhythm, but Kutmah is the best dance-floor DJ I have ever witnessed. I’ve seen a zillion DJs, but no one with as much soul or ability to read a crowd better.

What do you do with time off from HIT+RUN? One of my side projects is Mark of the Beast. A few years ago, I began designing culture-jammed corporate logo spoofs and started having art shows around the collection. After the initial show was illegally shut down by the police, I self-published a book in 2006 documenting the work and show up to that point. Since then, I’ve had six additional site-specific showings of MOTB that included murals, stickers, photos, live screen-printing, and most recently a spin-off called Bank of the Beast that comments on the convoluted banking history of the U.S. and the Federal Reserve. Attempting to spread truth in a world of disinformation is the most important task of all people today. Social satire is a necessary component in our world and a good way to bridge gaps of opposing beliefs.

So when you’re not working the crowds yourself, where do you like to hang out in the city? HIT+RUN appears at four to eight events per month, so that schedule keeps me pretty busy dealing with clients, coordinating art, and producing events. In my downtime, I try to keep up on new music, art, world events, and enjoy watching documentaries on politics, philosophy, and various conspiracies. I live on the sleepy west side, and recently stopped drinking alcohol, but my grandma thinks that is boring.

Ha ha. No comment. Any LA secret spots you wanna reveal? We just moved into our first studio space in downtown LA near the offices of Little Radio. The owners of Little Radio plan on developing the area and expanding its space into a culture zone complete with music venue, bar, restaurant, and art gallery. Low End Theory, a weekly club in nearby Boyle Heights, hosts the most eclectic mix of underground DJs & musicians you can witness. Oh yeah, big ups to Will, Kev, and Elvin on their recent trips for LET New York and Japan.

And we can never help but want a little gossip…fuck or fight anyone interesting lately? All summer long we printed at these “uber-cool” pool parties at the Standard Hotel Downtown. We’d jokingly refer to them as our monthly “Hipster Toss” where we throw the “casualties of cool” off the rooftop. I don’t understand hipsters, not their oddball fashion or mindless dance music and retro-isms. We made silk-screens that unapologetically blasted the biggest douche bags of the scene, and I’m proud to report their era as officially over. Time to put the day-glo sunglasses, skinny jeans, small hat, American Apparel deep V-neck tee, shiny tights, Xanax, and cocaine away, k? You look fucking retarded.

And what comes next? We are currently talking with investors about expanding HIT+RUN to the East Coast and are setting up a Crew in New York City. We appeared at over 100 events in 2008 and hope to double that in 2009. We are taking our first trip to London this month and hope to continue our global presence and enlarge the Crew.

And what are you doing tonight? We did an event last night and have five events planned in the next two weeks, so tonight I’m chilling at home doing laundry, watching conspiracy videos, and trying to figure out my Halloween costume…

Photo: Hugo Toland

Barack Obama + The Joker = T-Shirt Classic

imageI did it! I found the quintessential image of 2008! In a search that’s taken me through the eternal galleries of Flickr to the back back ends of Google images, it took a visit to the movie blog /Film for me to come across a perfect mashup of the two most iconic figureheads of the year — and who are opposite sides of the same coin. T-shirt designer James Lillis took Shepard Fairey‘s iconic Obama image (see his post-election version here) and defaced it with the equally iconic visage of Heath Ledger’s Joker to make “The Audacity of Joke.” Another addition to the gaggle of Joker threads, and the perfect symbol for a year where everything seemed to go horribly wrong, and yet somehow ended up, well, decent. Click through for larger version of the design.

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Pity the Plight of the Political T-Shirt Vendor

imageImagine you’re a street merchant selling election paraphernalia, and you’ve been making bank. Well, come tomorrow, the party’s over. All that clever sloganeering that pops up along the street-vendor corridor on 17th Street between Broadway and Fourth Avenue and Union Square may or may not dramatically scale back after the election. According to the New York Observer, the small army of street vendors have flooded Union Square’s plaza over the past months are unsure about employment after the election. You know, because the T-shit sales business is so stable otherwise.

Jeremy Marquez moved to Gotham in October and has found success with his Obama tanks and tees. He’ll stay after the election. Alex Mahgoub has been unloading about 5 T-shirts a day, but will likely wrap up business tomorrow. “If we sell 15 today, that will be pretty amazing,” Mr. Mahgoub said. “Even though it’s Monday before the election the question is are people buying T-shirts or are they getting excited and motivated to vote tomorrow?” Vendor Karim Pertew’s most popular T-shirts — the “Buddha Obama” and “OmBama” designs — have been strong sellers. He’ll still carry them post-election, but plans to return to non-political designs, like his ever popular “Vagina is for Lovers.”