Why luxury brands are turning to graffiti for cool points

As MICHAEL Michael Kors announces a graffiti-themed collection, we look into the history of the curious collaboration between fashion and fun
Why luxury brands are turning to graffiti for cool points

Modern graffiti states a message that doesn’t necessarily fit into the norms of society. So where exactly does this tie in with the mainstream? Or even with luxury; an arena that seems about as far removed from designer bags and shoes as you can get? We happen to think it’s because graffiti is actually pretty inspirational – and, naturally, big brands want in.

Graffiti has always been intertwined with human history, even dating back to the Roman Empire where it was plastered onto walls to make political statements and satirise current events.

Fast-forward to the '70s, where the iconoclasts of the punk movement incorporated it in their designs as the boldest kind of renegade statement there was. Marc Jacobs famously partnered up with artist Stephen Sprouse in the 2000s to create that iconic twist on the Louis Vuitton monogram. And more recently, Vandal Eyes - a work by graffiti artist Rime - was used by Jeremy Scott on a Moschino dress worn by Katy Perry at the 2015 Met Ball.

The Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones thinks the two are made for each other, explaining, "The beginnings of modern street art lie in a fusion of art, youth culture, pop and fashion in 1980s New York. Artists such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat moved very easily between ‘outsider’ and ‘insider’ culture."

It goes a long way to explaining why MICHAEL Michael Kors' new Grafitti capsule collection - featuring an original print inspired by the street art that dominated NYC in the early ‘80s - will no doubt be a success. And of course, like most great design, it's supremely personal for the creator behind it, “I started my company in 1981, at a time when uptown and downtown were really colliding," Michael tells Grazia.

"Uptown girls partied downtown at the Mudd Club and Club 57. Artists like Fab 5 Freddy and Jean-Michel Basquiat showed their work at PS 1, and yet you’d still be just as likely to find their signatures on the side of a building in the LES or your subway car. Today, that mix of high/low is everything.”

The designer has also teamed up with style arbiter Candy Pratts Price on a special window display and spray paint takeover in his flagship stores in New York, London, Milan, Singapore, Shanghai and Japan.

Featuring a floor-to-ceiling screen print of Michael in his aviators and rotating mannequins snapping selfies of themselves, it's seriously cool stuff. 

The Graffiti Collection is available in Michael Kors stores worldwide. 

Photos: Courtesy of Netflix and supplied