In 2005, Futura collaborated with Levi’s Japan on a capsule collection. The line, limited to small quantities and only sold in Japan, included 501® jeans, a denim jacket, sweater, and diary bound in Levi’s vintage denim—all of which featured Futura artwork including his “39Meg” character. Earlier this month, nearly 15 years after their first collab, the legendary graffiti artist teamed up with Levi’s once again, this time for the brand’s new retail and customization experience during Art Basel in Miami.
Located in Wynwood Arts District, Levi’s built a 43,000-square-foot temporary space called the Levi’s Haus Miami. The pop-up consists of 12 shipping containers and features a two-level concept shop with a curated selection of Levi’s Premium Red Tab, Levi’s Authorized Vintage, and Levi’s Made & Crafted. In addition, Levi’s Haus Miami allows consumers to work with tailors and artists (César Pérez, Antoinne Thomas, Brick Owens, and Duey Catorze) to customize various pieces through the brand’s largest Tailor Shop and Design Studio With Future Finish, the latter offering its advanced laser technology to the public for the first time ever. During Art Basel, Futura’s artwork, alongside Shepard Fairey, Gianni Lee, and Omayhra Mota’s pieces, were available at the Tailor Shop and Design Studio With Future Finish—visitors could have these pieces lasered onto jeans. The space will be open through Feb. 29 and more artists collabs will be announced.
Complex had the chance to talk to Futura about his Levi’s collaboration. But, of course, we also asked him about the relaunch of his brand Futura Laboratories, those Off-White x Futura Nike Dunk Lows he and Virgil teased, and more.
You were just in Japan for your “Generation Z” exhibition.
It was a kind of a re-visitation of bringing all my friends together. So Jun Takahashi did the poster and I worked with Neighborhood and made an incense burner. There was a big thing on that because there was only about 50 available. We gifted a lot. Nigo san made Human Made coaches jacket that was the same jacket we made 20 years ago. That was very personal for me. And then my son, Timmy, was in that show. He went with me [to Japan] as a kid 20 years ago, so it’s full circle. His sister was with us as well. So, for me personally, it was awesome. Nobu [Kitamura] from Hysteric Glamour made a really nice jacket for women. Sk8thing did a T-shirt. There was just a lot of support and that was great. But then boom—right after all that I had to go to Shanghai for [Innersect]. It’s going to be a busy month.
Will you at least have time for the holidays?
Probably the holidays, which we'll need ‘cause next month is Paris Fashion Week and we have some things going on there.
There’s a special Gore-tex thing and then the Takashi [Murakami] connection and stuff happening with him. It touches all avenues as well. Even this project I did with Funko and Futura Laboratories and Star Wars. That is such a dream visual for me to see my brand with the [Star Wars] logo right there. That's a box that didn't even exist.
They make these little bobblehead figures and Funko has touched all types of brands but it’s an audience-based thing for me, too. It’s not just the people who are like, “Oh shit that’s Futura’s stuff. That’s dope.” It’s also the little kids who see it and say, "Hey, what's that? Oh, that's cool." That's what's appealing. It's like doing T-shirts with Uniqlo and we make kids sizes. That's pretty dope. Make kids sizes because everyone's got children. My stuff looks way cooler on your kid than it looks on you.
I mean we're just out there right now for sure. More than ever. There's no doubt.
You worked with Levi’s Japan years ago. What is it like to be working with the brand again?
It's amazing. I'm very honored because it's such an iconic brand. I've been really thinking about it. There's very few American companies that can be the GOAT. There's all these industries and stuff but as far as denim goes there's no question. So very grateful. I worked with them on a few projects now. They've all been wonderful. They're innovating now with this Future Finish, the laser technology. They’re developing new methods of working with product and it's also got a good, sustainable hit on the backend. That's very positive. Then you're also passing onto the consumer a kind of do-it-yourself approach with the product where you can determine the placement of things and then have it rendered immediately. It's amazing.
Why did you decide to relaunch Futura Laboratories after a hiatus? Why did it feel like the right time to do it now?
I've always liked making clothing, having gear, and really FL for me is just another promotional vehicle to myself. It's like an offshoot of my artwork, a creative way that I can become more like, design, T-shirt, tchotchke. But then this year, the approach was maybe FL could be a design company but it could also co-brand with other artists and labels. FL is wondering what it is right now actually. But it's certainly done a good job of creeping into the marketplace, whether it's with Levi's or Star Wars and Funko. FL is appearing. This new thing coming out with Gore-tex, it's FL.
A lot of things I've been doing have been FL in the sense of yeah, Futura I guess is the umbrella behind that but it's all about branding and identity. It's kind of like the essence of what graffiti is, which is creating this identity and taking it to the public. In this sense, it's not illegal. It's not like writing my name on a wall. But in a way, the kick of it, the joy of it, it's not economic. It's emotion. I just enjoy it. I like passing out lanyards and keychains and all these things that I've been making. Just getting it in the hands of people. I'm still trying to find a way to take things legitimately to a marketplace that's not corrupted in a sense of the fire walls don't exist to really stop bots and all these attackers that are on the e-commerce networks.
What do you think about reselling?
I don't besmirch or deny reselling. I mean, I get it. It's like, if you only sold 12 of that item of course someone's going to see a profit in that. How I can stop the madness, to some degree, is when I do my own fulfillment and I ship these things to people. When I was doing my own Shopify shop and mailing out skate decks, lanyards, tees, whatever I was selling, I was signing bags and boxes and shit. I needed to not be doing that because the receipt of a Futura skateboard box with my signature on it immediately found its way to the secondary market. So maybe I've got to cut down on that. In a sense, I'm the enabler, too. I have to take credit. The inflation of the marketplace that's not on me, but providing the product in that marketplace, I'm responsible. I did ship it out to you. So I can't stand by as an innocent bystander and cry wolf.
It’s different times. But for me, the times of my brand, hearkening back to 2002, my inception into streetwear... Like, “Oh shit. You make tees?” That's the period that I enjoyed and now I'm back to that kind of thing again. But it's about doing it the way I want to do it. It's going to grow into a marketplace but right now it's just about having fun with the idea of even having an audience that's interested in the stuff and being grateful for the support.
You were talking about Futura Laboratories now being able to work with other people and work on several different projects. Obviously, you've worked with Virgil a ton in the last year. How did you guys first meet?
We've been boys for a while, I think even before he started Off-White. Five, six years ago we met, and I knew about what he was doing not just with Kanye but I heard about his talent. Then we started talking. Four years ago, we were doing something in Shanghai and we got him to work on a shirt for us. He might have just started doing some Off-White stuff initially. Along the way, he had been talking about doing something together. It really kind of came together this year at the Louis V show and then that sparked some Off-White stuff, which wound up happening in June of this year.
You guys also teased some Off-White x Futura Nike Dunk Lows.
That kind of broke the Internet that day. That was crazy.
What more can you tell us about that? Are we getting an official release date?
I don't even really know, to be honest with you. I don't know what's happening with those but I know the two pairs that we had, which were obviously maybe the sample pairs for the whole event, I have them so I'm good.
It's funny because today, on my Instagram, I put up the “For Love or Money” shoe, which was like 15 years ago. Shout out to Sandy Bodecker from Nike SB, who passed away recently. I know that's a hype image because the sneaker culture is still quite lit and the response on that is amazing. People are actually giving me credit for… I would almost call that shoe a metaphor for my feeling of the whole thing really, which is like, why are you doing what you do? For me, it’s always going to be love because money’s quite fleeting and love is enduring.
I never chased money. It looks like some is arriving right now—thank you— it's better late than never. I mean, I just turned 64. It's about time the check came in. But at the same time, I can still be gracious and feel like it's not all for profit. It can't be.