Shepard Fairey might be globally known for his President Obama-inspired “Hope” poster, his “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” stickers, his “Star Gear” logo or any one of the political and cultural messages in his colorful artwork that often depicts the visual stories of people of color.
However, the Los Angeles-based artist, graphic designer and activist, who has found inspiration in punk rock, hip-hop and street art, also has a noticeable fashion side. After all, Fairey, 48, started making “Andre” T-shirts for friends decades ago. In 2001, he created his Irvine-based Obey Clothing label, which makes men’s and women’s pieces and is an extension of his brand and work.
“I have to juggle a lot because I’m doing street art,” he said during an interview earlier this month. “I’m doing a clothing line. I’m doing a lot of social-cause projects.”
Fairey, who’s the creative director of Obey Clothing, is also no stranger to style collaborations. He worked with timepiece brand Hublot on the limited-edition Big Bang Meca-10 Shepard Fairey watch ($28,300), which will be available in July. And he teamed with Portland, Ore.-based Adidas for a fruitful collaboration that yielded the Shepard Fairey Samba ADV sneaker, which was released this month by Adidas Skateboarding.
“I’ve been a fan [of Adidas] for 25-plus years and been wearing nothing but Adidas, more or less, for that period of time,” Fairey said as guests began arriving at a private gathering and vegan dinner party in his honor earlier this month at the “Beyond the Streets” art exhibition in L.A. The show’s organizer, Roger Gastman, created a comprehensive showcase of graffiti and street art, featuring work by Fairey and more than 100 international artists, staged in a 40,000-plus-square-foot space in Chinatown. (Additional information is available at www.beyondthestreets.com.)
The gathering at “Beyond the Streets” also served as a footwear preview for guests including rapper and TV star LL Cool J, No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal, musician and TV personality Randy Jackson, Linkin Park co-founder Mike Shinoda and actors Jack Black and Anders Holm. (Also, the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Youth Chorale and Live Wire band performed during the event.)
For the collaboration, the classic Adidas shoe style was tricked out with an all-white upper of leather and synthetic material; suede cream detailing around the toe (the detailing is a design element from the Samba silhouette); and subtle riffs on Fairey’s signature motifs. On one style of the sneakers, Fairey’s first name appears in gold foil on the right shoe close to a red-printed X-Acto knife blade on the heel. (That touch is a nod to his “The Cut It Up — Do It Yourself” print and his longtime use of X-Acto knives in making his designs.) And on the left shoe, his last name is in gold foil with a red-printed broken bottle — a symbol of rebellion, he says — on the heel.
The sneakers, which have white laces and “Star Gear” logo sockliners, are sold in a black bucket featuring a label with a version of the aforementioned print as part of a $300 collectible bundle. Contents include Obey and “Andre” stickers, a custom skateboard deck with logos and an all-over red-and-black print of the X-Acto blade graphic, a can of Montana spray paint and a jar of spray paint nozzles. A portion of the proceeds from the bundle will benefit the L.A.-based nonprofit organization Homeboy Industries, which provides services to high-risk, formerly gang-involved women and men.
Instead of a traditional online or in-store drop, Adidas has been releasing the limited-edition sneakers on a weekly basis. The final 100 of 300 pairs of the shoe will be exclusively available starting Saturday at the gift shop at “Beyond the Streets” until they sell out. The exhibition will extend its run through August instead of closing July 8.
“I was able to do a shoe design for a Muhammad Ali collaboration but never gotten to do anything that was a little more personal,” Fairey said. “This was an exciting opportunity. I think that this is probably the most ambitious graffiti/street art show ever put together. This is my world. To get to do something in association with this and Adidas Skateboarding is amazing because skateboarding was the path for me to this world — not traditional graffiti like a lot of people. Skateboarding is what got me into punk rock, which got me into all these do-it-yourself forms of art and promotion.”