By now, it’s pointless to explain the phenomenon Fairey started with Obey Giant, which began with a handful of paper and vinyl stickers promptly distributed and posted around the world by the skater community. The stickers, with a visage of pro wrestler Andre the Giant that read “Andre the Giant Has a Posse, 7’4”, 520 lb.,” alluded to both the hip-hop and skate communities, fan bases Obey has managed to hang onto. The images appeared everywhere, from Greece and the Caribbean to Manhattan. It was an experiment in “phenomenology,” as Fairey puts it, a notion conceived by German philosopher Martin Heidegger.
Soon, the glowering face of Andre became a global marvel, gaining countless fans willing to risk arrest by putting up their own Andres—an indirect-but-direct lampooning of the very concept of propaganda. Fairey has since spread his graphics and illustrations to the music world (working with Interpol, the Black Eyed Peas, Smashing Pumpkins and others), and of course, his art has turned highly political, with anti-war pieces and the now-iconic Barack Obama posters that have graced every electric box and brick wall in every urban neighborhood (and every T-shirt in Urban Outfitters).
But it’s really Obey Clothing that showcases Fairey’s diversity. Sure, there are hoodies and tees emblazoned with Fairey’s highly recognizable, bold images, but Obey has also extended itself to producing actual, uh, fashion. That looks good. We’re talking faux-leather jackets that don’t look like the plastic wonders hanging on the racks of H&M and Target, lush pea coats with brassy buttons, highly sought-after motorcycle jackets, chunky knits, and more.
It’s just one way the label has broadened its appeal to a wider audience, from the backpack hip-hop sect and skaters to your normal, unsuspecting consumer—there’s something for everyone, and it’s all priced extremely reasonably, even at retail. And, as evidenced by the lines that snake in Disneyland-ish queues during the label’s bi-annual warehouse/sample sales at its Santa Ana HQ, it’s high in demand. (I was there a few weeks ago, and let me tell you, people were making out like bandits, with impressively stuffed Hefty bags full of clothing, jewelry and accessories snatched at bargain prices.)
Obey just launched a new website, ObeyClothing.com, its first official site dedicated entirely to its clothing line, finally providing the masses access to basic T-shirts, work wear, essentials and accessories, including the impressive 2008 holiday collection.
The Up Beat dress, pictured here, goes for $70 and comes in a striking, graphic print in a cobalt blue with a scoop neck and fitted empire waist. The long sleeves offset the short length, making it a great layering piece for winter that you can wear all through spring.