inside the shepard fairey x debbie harry collection

The Barrack Obama "hope" artist teams up with the NYC icon for a unique collaboration. We caught up with Shepard to find out more...

by Nadja Sayej
09 February 2017, 8:55am

Shepard Fairey has always been a Blondie fan—ever since he first heard Heart of Glass on the radio as a tween. Now, the Los Angeles artist, best known for his "Hope" posters of Barack Obama and more recently his Trump inauguration protest posters, has teamed up with Blondie singer Debbie Harry to make a line of women's wear in her image—bomber jackets, sweaters and shirts will all be emblazoned with Harry's image to be released on August 10.

The collection is filled with plaid, urban patterns and portraits of Harry emblazoned with the phrase "Obey Debbie." Working with a predominantly grey palette, there are coats with the artist's names written on the back in Gothic font (reminiscent Kanye West's The Life of Pablo merchandise designed by Cali Thornhill Dewitt), as well as waistcoats and photos of Harry with her trademark 1970s makeup. An iconic portrait of Harry by Fairey is now on the back of a jean jacket, for example, fitting for her reputation as "new wave's answer to Marilyn Monroe."

Fairey's portrait of Harry is based on a photo of the singer taken by Blondie co-founder Chris Stein where she stands before a zebra-print background, though Fairey says it's also influenced by an Andy Warhol's portrait of her.

"This collaboration between Obey Clothing and Debbie Harry was a natural fit," said Fairey. "I personally have worked on several projects with Debbie, also with Chris Stein and the rest of Blondie, and working with Debbie on the women's line for Obey Clothing was a seamless collaboration. Not only because Debbie has always been a reference point and style icon for meand the design team, but also because Debbie came to us with concrete ideas and a vision that we worked on together."

Harry, who releases Blondie's eleventh album Pollinator this spring, wanted to show street textures, or urban patterns, to play a key role in the collection. They're all based on photos she took on the streets of New York City, including a close up of a brick wall printed onto stretch knitwear, a city manhole grate pattern reimagined into a jacquard wool-woven bomber jacket and a chain-link fence print on a feminine crepe romper and jacket. There is also a pile of crumpled paper taken from a trash bin that has been printed on lustrous satin, which comes in a hooded parka and dress.

"Debbie had a fresh concept for a new visual language for urban camouflage," said Grace Lee, the women's design director at Obey Clothing. "She had taken photos of textures all around New York City that we turned into textile prints."

According to Lee, Harry wanted the clothing to "stress the same intentions that nature produces in the animal kingdom for camouflage, that being 'urban camouflage,'" she said. "Harry said 'Once we understand our own vulnerability, we can take care of what nature provides for us all.'"

Harry already had a concept when the project started last year, specifically the street textures and had already started working on the designs, marking the first time Harry has collaborated on a line like this.

"To say Debbie is an inspiration is an understatement," Fairey said. "For this collaboration, she really helped shape the line in ways we didn't anticipate; she helped influence the silhouettes, she used personal photographs of street textures which we worked into the collection through various techniques, and working with her, we re-imagined classic graphics to fit into the overall theme of this collection. We're all very proud and excited for this collection."

Fairey adores Blondie for their diversity—bridging rock, disco, hip hop, reggae and what he calls 'girl group soul.' "I was excited to work from Chris's picture of Debbie with the zebra background because I love her expression and the pop art sensibility of the zebra skin," said Fairey.

Shortly after he got into punk music back in the 1980s, he dug deeper into Blondie's evolution from the CBGB scene, where the band started out in the New York punk underground before opening for Iggy Pop in 1977 and signing a record deal, which led them to releasing multi-platinum award winning albums.

Harry's name stands for feminine empowerment and Fairey's team sees her as a symbol for young creatives. "The overall message of the collection instils a sense of empowerment and consciousness about our role to harmonize with our natural environment," said Lee.

"She's the indisputable queen of punk rock, and we are so lucky to work with her to spread OBEY's message of feminism, environmental activism and our rebellious: 'question everything' mentality all while doing it with style."

The collaboration between Debbie Harry and Shepard Fairey is available on on August 10, prices range from $35-$275.


Text Nadja Sayej

Debbie Harry
Shepard Fairey
fashion interviews