KAWS definitely wasn’t created in the past; we’ve all seen variations of the skull with a cross-eyed look that is many of our most beloved icons, like Snoopy, Mickey Mouse and The Simpsons. In addition, its references to pop culture brought to life all the essences and zeitgeists of the past and present, but its connections to fashion houses and entertainment labels have transformed this KAWS brand into an iconic brand.
The most recent time the firm KAWS x Uniqlo relationship launched the new collection that includes UT graphic t-shirts in partnership with Sesame Street.
The event took place a few days after KAWS was prominently mentioned on the Dior Homme spring/summer 2019 runway show, a well-thought-out decision due to the fact that it was the creative director Kim Jones’ debut collection for the house.
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The widespread use of KAWS could pose an issue for consumers, who may therefore be enticed to buy the brand name with no idea of what it means. That raises the question what is the reason everyone is competing to purchase a piece of merchandise that has a connection to KAWS? And, if so then, are KAWS really democratic (i.e. easily accessible to anyone to purchase) or simply another group of limited edition-ness that jacks up prices for clothing and other products?
A professional illustrator, Brian Donnelly is the person behind the mask with the cross-eyed eyes. In the 90s, New York City was covered in advertising and took up a lot of the city’s physical space, which could have been used to street performers as canvas to paint. Instead of turning to back alleys and under bridges Donnelly was known to “deface” bus stop and billboards by using his characters such as The Companion, Bendy and The Accomplice, aswell with the nickname KAWS.
In case you’re not sure about the meaning behind the name “KAWS” doesn’t really mean anything else than the letters that Donnelly thought, when put together, which he thought was appropriate visually. Similar sentiments also seem to apply to the characters he has animated. The artist has stated on numerous occasions that he wishes for that his character be universal that they’re easily understood to the people who watch his work regardless of their culture.
It is possible that KAWS may not be so literal as it appears; The Companion, for example, tends to have its image covered up with its face, which shows the same cross-shaped detail on its back hands. A skull-like figure placing its hands on the face, revealing its “death” isn’t exactly a good idea for a start.
This recognition gave Donnelly the chance to develop a tiny range of toys for Japanese clothing brand Bounty Hunter, which became famous collectibles. The price range was between $50 and 100 dollars each at the time it was first went on sale, these toys are now likely to be sold at 10 to 20 times the price they were originally sold for.
KAWS, the name Donnelly might had assumed, has moved on to sign deals with some of the most well-known names in the world of entertainment. The projects like his collection of toys tested his abilities since he could not work only in two dimensions Thinking about form and shape prompted him to imagine bigger things and bigger, like thinking the possibility of building the fifteen-foot (about 4.6m) taller replica that resembled The Companion.
Since 2004 KAWS has been sought out to collaborate with various hip hop artists, the most particularly Kanye West for the album cover for Heartbreaks and 808s and designed shoes designed for Nike as well as Marc Jacobs, collaborated with fashion labels A Bathing Ape, Comme Des Garcons, Undercover, and Vans and mash-ups of characters from the TV show The Smurfs, Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, Spongebob Squarepants, Family Guy, the Michelin Man and The MTV Moonman Video Awards… just to mention just a few.
Beyond the home run he hit in numerous places of fun, KAWS was a sensation with the 14-foot inflatable in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2012 in New York. It is the very first time he’d stepped into mainstream media and many people who been watching the parade didn’t recognize him at the time.
One common thread that appears to have recurred throughout KAWS in his career is the conflict between establishment and social commentary. Are there any possibilities or appropriate for someone whose work is all focused on subverting popular culture to also gain privileges that come with it? Is it possible to argue that it’s essential to be part of the establishment in order to influence it?
Perhaps KAWS could be the Vetements (it’s simply the clothes) from the world of art. It’s interesting to observe that the same critique which has targeted KAWS is also a part of the lives of his predecessors. Think of Jeff Koons or Keith Haring who’s designs are so well-known, it’s not a good idea to question their influence.
In an interview in a recent interview with Complex, KAWS explains his purpose to Uniqlo, “I felt like I needed to take action to live my life on a more open and honest level.” In the absence of anything else, the goal of democracy is a beautiful thing that we all can admire. The recent work he has done in Dior Homme and Uniqlo UT is a testimony to his commercial and artistic reach However, in the overall scope of things, they are just the beginning of his legendary career.