Street art — otherwise known as graffiti — is having a moment in the fashion industry. For an artistic form that is sometimes illegal, often provocative and always unexpected, it’s understandable why. Designers are always seeking the new and more often than not, that means causing a reaction. From Moschino’s graffiti-tagged gowns to Gucci’s recent collaboration with GucciGhost, the people that once riled up fashion’s finest through mocking their money-orientated ways are now being welcomed with open arms.
Of course, this relationship isn’t new. Ever since artist Stephen Sprouse defaced Louis Vuitton bags in a 2001 Marc Jacobs-approved collaboration that led to a $300 million profit, designers have understood that mixing high and low culture will tap into the youth market and bring in a tidy sum.
The bond hasn’t always been smooth sailing, however. Brands including Roberto Cavalli and the aforementioned Moschino have been hit with lawsuits claiming their street art designs were taken without permission, leaving no financial gain for the artists behind the original works. The labels that do it well do it right, collaborating with graffitists on everything from entire collections to store windows. As these friendships continue to blossom, here’s everything you need to know about the artists that have successfully gone from the street to the studio.
A teenage obsession with the Gucci logo led to the birth of GucciGhost, an artistic alter ego stemming from a Gucci-fied Halloween costume. But having a hand in the making of an actual Gucci collection should never have been in the cards for the artist also known as Trevor “Trouble” Andrew. Luckily for him and his cartoon Gucci-eyed ghost insignia, new Creative Director Alessandro Michele embraced the appropriation and invited Andrew into Gucci HQ to leave his mark on the Fall 2016 collection. Branding plain leather bags with a dripping gold “REAL” and marking metallic bomber jackets with a spray-painted double G, GucciGhost’s collaborative effort was recently released and has ended up on many a style wishlist. Michele described it as “quite genius”. We’d have to agree.
Michael De Feo
Defacing fashion ads for over two decades is no mean feat. For artist Michael De Feo, this is normal practice. His dainty floral graffiti has covered famous faces ranging from Rihanna to Cara Delevingne in a prettier version of the somewhat masculine art form. Known as the “Flower Guy” (for obvious reasons), De Feo went on a New York City graffiti spree after being given a key to New York’s bus shelter ads by a radical art collective. Rather than go after De Feo with a pitchfork and torch, fashion has embraced his feminine rebellion with Neiman Marcus commissioning him for an artwork and Christian Louboutin asking him to appear in a social media campaign. The Flower Guy’s unique brand of vandalism was also given its own exhibition earlier this year with the entire fashion industry clamoring for an interview.
Knowing the identity of the infamous Banksy puts you a step above the rest in the world of street art. Perhaps this is why Parisian artist Thierry Guetta, otherwise known as Mr. Brainwash, managed to sell his very first artwork for a five-figure sum. Starting off as a keen videographer with a street artist for a cousin, Guetta took art into his own hands after an encounter with Banksy. Fusing old icons with the new (think Kate Moss meets Charlie Chaplin), his style is so similar to Banksy’s that some have suggested “Mr. Brainwash” is nothing more than a hoax — or maybe even Banksy himself.
His fascination with the best of pop culture led to ongoing collaborations (and lifelong friendships) with Madonna and Michael Jackson. In 2014, his first fashion partnership occurred with Guetta designing the outside of Hublot’s Miami boutique as well as a one-of-a-kind watch. The next year, he upped his game by splattering 250 pairs of Ray-Bans with colorful prints.
KIDULT is slightly different from the other artists. Very different, in fact. The anonymous troublemaker rejects everything the fashion industry stands for, criticizing the way designers take from the streets to sell to the rich. He upholds the true principles of graffiti: that it’s free, in your face and most importantly, illegal. Since 2011, the artist has vandalized storefronts belonging to the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and Hermes, while transforming Dior Addict fragrance ads into drug-riddled images. His 2012 “ART” tag on a Marc Jacobs window prompted a somewhat interesting (and unwanted) collaboration with Jacobs turning an image of the graffitied shop into a $686 T-shirt.
A year later KIDULT struck again, painting 686 and dollar signs in bright green across the brand’s Paris store. Just as before, Jacobs produced another line of tees, tweeting, “Come by Paris Collection for the opening night installation of the new @therealkidult. We proudly support the arts.” Refusing to be put off, KIDULT recently went all out and targeted one of Kanye West’s many pop-up stores, tarnishing it with a blood red “REAL SLAVES.” West endorsed the artwork, though. Seems like no matter how hard KIDULT tries, fashion will attempt to fight back.
“I don’t consider myself a ‘street artist’ — I am just an artist,” Harif Guzman told the Observer last year. Starting his creative journey in 2000, Guzman’s move to New York prompted a turn to the streets. This wasn’t an act of rebellion, however, it was simply because he could find no other place to paint. He has since started two fashion lines of his very own along with collaborations with the likes of Diesel and department stores Lane Crawford and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Guzman’s Haculla range features street art’s typical palette of red, black and white with a recognizable character appearing across the designs. His Delanci line — named after Delancey Street, one of the last remaining New York areas to showcase true street style — is more graphic with slogans galore. Guzman’s signature style has also caught the attention of revolutionary celebrities, such as Lady Gaga who recently requested a custom hand-painted leather jacket for a video shoot.