Cease & Desists, Brandalism & Black Lodges

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I received a Cease & Desist email from adidas last night - I’ll copy the email into this text shortly - and that means I am going to be removing this charity project in collaboration with my dear friend 3 Chord Politics from the Black Lodges online store shortly.

Truthfully, I am hugely surprised this hasn’t happened before, it is not as if I make a secret out of these charity projects. Also, I have zero problems with the decision by adidas to send me this C&D, they have a brand, trademark to protect and surely, if their legal team had not sent me this letter they would most likely get the boot. No hard feelings at all about this. Granted, I could talk about how silly it seems for this multi-national company to feel threatened in their brand integrity with someone as small as myself, and I could further argue that these brandalism projects actually offer more positive branding for the brand ( as well as others ) in comparison their own work, I could even argue that many of us feel that supporting politically correct, pro-humanistic projects such as this one should be ignored and quietly supported by the brands BUT these days, human decisions based on experience are irrelevant in the corporate cultural arena and legalism will always win.

Brandalism is one of the core pillars of streetwear. Whilst I don’t consider Black Lodges as part of the streetwear cosmos, my own involvement from the late 90s to the end of 2010, be it through the magazines I wrote for, the art shows I curated in Berlin and Barcelona, the brands I worked for, the books I wrote etc., does put me into that world. It’s a history I look back on with pride and humour these days and whilst I am no longer relevant nor involved in streetwear I do acknowledge my own progression within that cosmos. Brandalism has always played a massive role in those early days of streetwear and to me personally, aesthetically, and later politically. One could argue that a lot of the early pioneers approached this subversion with a long-term goal of becoming rich enough to play in the same league as those brands they were copying, this certainly applies to Supreme but be re-assured that this not what I am planning with Black Lodges. I am keeping BL at the level where I can handle this idea by myself, growth is not part of the plan, and be sure, a plan doesn’t even exist.

Going back to brandalism though - aside from the pop-cultural subversion that plays a role in it, and again, to be sure, I enjoy this aspect greatly, the political aspect of it has over the last ten years become much more interesting and motivating to me. Whilst the zero fucks given fun aspect of subverting a popular logo is hugely rewarding, twisting the multinationals branding to raise awareness of not only their wrong-doings, and trust that once having reached the size of 10 plus employees, any brand fucks someone over, there is no ethical consumption under capitalism as a reminder, utilizing an omnipresent visual to connect to an idea or movement that actively tries to either help or offer an alternative to a consumption-based existence is the great motivator here. Not only do I find this enjoyable I do find important on a broader meta level and I do have to give major kudos to Adbusters Magazine here that have been doing this for a lot longer than I have and were essentially my entry to this world.

As to the roots in streetwear though briefly, brandalism was, is and always will be a massive contributing factor to its existence. No matter how deep the major brands have moved into streetwear, morphing it into some horrible rich boy bullshit vibe in my humble opinion, subversion is alive and well amongst the ones still willing to push the envelope a little further. We all remember Fuct’s Ford take, SSUR’s countless takes on Chanel, Gerb/Futura/Stash’s Not From Concentrate / GFS Phillies Blunt and some even might remember Supreme’s Fuck Nike shirt from way back then. These and countless other cemented brandalism into streetwear, hell, I’ll go even further, almost makes it mandatory to work within that context because fuck the big guys, seriously. Fuck ‘Em. It’s one thing to be supporting your friends subversive independent brand, but who truly wants to be a walking billboard, to pay for a giant global corporation that truly doesn’t give a rats ass about the culture it sells to, acts a vulture to what ever niche you have invested decades into, let alone workers right, the environment or anything else you stand for. Truly, fuck them all.

Again, I have zero problem with this cease & desist letter, it carries no bearing on my ideas or products I will release in the future and I harbour no hard feelings whatsoever. Thank you to all of you that have and will continue to support this work, not just mine, but everyones effort to break the monopoly of consumption forced on to us by these brands, advertising and capitalism. Here’s to the resistance, the fun and joy of subversion and the camaraderie of awareness. Feel free to share this post by hitting the button below.