Last weekend, I attended the Imaginary Foundation Art Show at Suru in Los Angeles, CA. I really enjoyed seeing some of the company's original paintings on display.
The paintings are created by artist Nick Philip who is regarded as pioneering the surreal Photoshop aesthetic. In an era of logo dominance, Philip is relying upon his art to speak as the main marketing element for the Imaginary Foundation.
In addition to his paintings, Phillips had the Cosmic Drummer preform a drum solo outside the exhibit. It provided a comical sidebar to the abstract imagery of Phillip's designs.
I first discovered the Imaginary Foundation line at a small clothing boutique near the end of 2006. I was really impressed by the company's strong use and range of color. While most competitors offer silk-screened t-shirts that typically offer one to four colors, Imaginary Foundation's t-shirts offer 8 to 20 shades of color. The company is really utilizing new technology to offer customers unprecedented shades of color.
It's really impressive how Philip has taken his passion for art and developed it into a successful clothing company. He has carved his own niche along Chris Anderson's The Long Tail and is starting to enjoy mainstream success. From having Nordstroms carry his fashion line to partnering with Element and reproducing his images on skateboard decks, Philips's clothing company is moving beyond boutiques to mainstream retail brands.
It's encouraging when a company founded by one artist can enjoy so much success. In the 1980s, Sean Stussy launched his clothing company and offered cutting edge graphics to the surfing audience. Stussy went on to establish lucrative clothing contracts with major retailers. In the 1990s, Shepard Fairey (yes, the creator of the iconic Obama portrait) inspired a group of followers to post the Andre the Giant image as graffiti art in suburban communities. The movement helped to create underground interest in Fairey's designs and Obey, his clothing line. Obey continues to offer cutting edge designs and is sold by independent and national retailers, including Nordstroms.
Today, Phillips is starting to enjoy the same commercial success as Stussy and Fairey. It will be interesting to see how these companies grow in the months and years ahead.