Shepard Fairey on punk rock, the ‘Street Meets Elite’ aesthetic, the new Hublot watch
We may know Shepard Fairey for his murals, his OBEY posters, his 2008 Obama Hope poster, the list really goes on. He’s found himself in the pop culture zeitgeist, and to think “Shep,” as he’s known, or simply Frank (his birth name) started out as a graffiti artist, is truly an achievement, rising up from skateboarding. scene, through the ranks of the art world to world fame.
He is also a fashion designer, as Fairey has owned and operated OBEY Clothing since 2011. It is a skate slash streetwear brand, featuring stylish knitwear, patterned sweaters, wide leg pants, hoodies, scarves and hoodies. hats that convey a sense of uplift. – as an extension of the artist’s own activism.
Last night he launched his new watch with Hublot in Los Angeles, a North American exclusive. The limited-edition, long-named timepiece (the Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph All Black Shepard Fairey) features its signature mandala star at the heart of the sleek watch face, and is adorned with an elegant tar-black design. The new watch retails for $25,200 and is limited to 50 pieces.
Fairey, who has an exhibit at the Dallas Contemporary in Dallas, Texas, tells Forbes about his new watch, inspired by Blondie’s Debbie Harry and black spray paint.
This is your fourth piece designed with Hublot, isn’t it?
Shepard Fairey: Yes, in the sense that this is the fourth color iteration of the second watch. I did two color variations on the first watch, this is the second color variation. I don’t know if it’s two or four watches, but there are subtle differences between this one and the previous version. The engraving on the case is more subtle. Everything is more subtle. He errs on the most discreet side. The way I dress, which is usually all black, goes well with it.
Is it also punk?
The funniest thing is that the mandala is a hippie, spiritual symbol but the way I like to execute everything is that it has to have a little punk edge to it, whether it’s the color combination, or a little bit patina, tears, that sort of thing. The matte black on this feels very punk rock. A spray-painted guitar, sort of thing.
You are also a fashion designer, in addition to your works of art. Did your stylistic inspiration come from Blondie singer Debbie Harry? You collaborated with she on a fashion line.
Yes, Blondie was one of the first bands I liked when I was 10 years old. The more I got to know them, the more I appreciated their approach, coming from the CGBG scenes, the Ramones, the Stooges, but also, loving the girl groups of the 1960s. They had this punk side of their music combined with this side melodic. Debbie is so sophisticated in her fashion sense, mixing high and low. I’ve always loved street meets elite sensibilities, how to make sophisticated things less intimidating, elevate gritty things and make them work in harmony. It takes a good understanding of things to achieve this. Blondie did it well.
Do you do that too with this watch?
The way I see it is that it is a work of art. What Hublot does in terms of design, some people would just throw graphics on something and otherwise everything under the hood would be stock. But Hublot makes every effort to bring an artist’s vision to life. We went over some concepts on what was technically possible. Then I refined it to what was intrinsically aligned with what I do well. We have found a solution. The mandala camouflages the watch mechanism itself. There is a real harmony between the two. Harmony is a big theme. For me, punk rock has always been about being disruptive and disharmonious when necessary. I like when something can seem, at a glance, special, but that’s how it should be.
Everything you do is DIY (do it yourself) in a way?
DIY techniques, like stenciling, collage, screen printing, are all in place, just more sophisticated. It’s not unprecedented, people like Andy Warhol or Robert Rauschenberg and Barbara Kruger have all worked like this. I like to make sure people understand the empowering lineage of my work. I want more people to be creative. Unlike some artists who use what I think is a very pretentious strategy of saying “if you don’t understand, you’re not sophisticated enough” or “I’m not telling you my secrets because I’m the only genius,” it’s largely bravado and not really warranted. I’m like, ‘Hey, these are tools anyone can use and I’m confident in how I use them, and I don’t feel threatened by sharing these tools with others.” I know how much it meant to me, whether it was skateboarding culture or early hip hop, or punk rock – like Joe Strummer saying “that “Are you waiting? Go ahead and use your voice”—that’s what I always try to promote.
The irony is that a watch like this is not accessible to many people, it’s too expensive. But that’s a facet of how I try to engage with as many people as possible. Even if someone is just watching this online, if it takes them to other facets of what I do, I think that has a lot of value.