Kidult is a polarizing figure in the world of fashion. Although he has positioned himself as a thorn in the sides of major retailers around the world by infusing a bit of anarchy and chaos into the luxury sector, his work and “additions” to the facades of stores that are steeped in tradition seem to have little lasting impact beyond the time and energy it takes to erase his fire extinguisher-foray from public view.
While he had been dormant for several months, Kanye West’s Life of Pablo pop-up shop in his own Parisian backyard seemed to be the perfect opportunity for him to once again break out his tool of criminal mischief. Adding “Real Slaves” to the shop’s exterior as an homage to West’s song “New Slaves” – which spoke to themes of consumerism and overabundance – West took to Twitter to actually applaud Kidult’s recognition of his vestiary presence in Paris.
This type of response is not a new phenomenon. Whether people are masking their anger by laughing with Kidult, or there is a genuine appreciation of the artist’s critiques, the Parisian artist certainly has an extensive track record when it comes to confrontation with major brands.
Kidult’s vandalism/graffiti career in a pop culture context spans five years and ranges from brands favored by royalty, to teenage kids who make the sidewalks their temporary bedrooms to score a bag full of goodies. One has to wonder; is Kidult’s recognition of Kanye West’s pop-up actually a cosign that the multihyphenate is a force to be reckoned with in the fashion space?
Consider the cases of Kidult’s other major pieces of sabotage as possible proof that West’s tour merchandise is as relevant a fashion trend as any in the world right now.
JC/DC, the namesake store/brand of Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, was Kidult’s first retail target after he took offense to the designer’s usage of graffiti for capitalist purposes.
“JC/DC quickly posted on Facebook that he preferred tags done in chalk,” Kidult told us in 2011. “He (Jean-Charles) figured out afterward how to profit from tagging on riding the graffiti wave one more time, making people believe it was orchestrated. He found the extinguisher in a trashcan two blocks away, took a picture of it and posted in on the internet.”
This wouldn’t be the first instance when brands looked to curtail any damage that had been done and spin it into a beneficial aspect for their company.
Kidult continued his reworking of the Parisian retail scape when he hit colette with a bold, red tag in February 2011.
This also marked the first instance when he blended his own anti-establishment sentiments with retail when he showed up outside of the store months later while donning a gorilla mask and began giving out free T-shirts which depicted him executing the brazen art attack and solidified his point that, “Graffiti is free. Graffiti is life!”
Boasting seven stores in Paris and retail locations in China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Netherlands, Singapore, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States, Agnés b found itself joining the likes of JC/DC and colette when Kidult struck not once but twice in January and February 2011.
“Agnès b. appreciated the first intervention and posted a photo and a thank you note on Twitter,” Kildult said. “I didn’t expect that reaction (it’s why I then did it a second time).”
Much like his defacement of colette, Kidult’s work on the facade of YSL also resulted in a sartorial element to the destruction. While the colette T-shirt was merely a representation of the evening of mayhem, the YSL T-shirt proved to be an original design.
“With YSL it was chaos,” Kidult remembers. “Complaints, security in front of the stores every night, etc.”
In 2011, luxury brand, Céline, was receiving added attention after Kanye West wore a blue silk Emerald Foulard long-sleeve shirt from their Spring 2011 collection which he paired with Balmain jeans and Lanvin high-top sneakers during his performance at Coachella.
However, Kidult’s umbrage with the brand had little to do with West’s style preferences.
By adding “SK8” to the exterior in sweeping, pink strokes, he was referencing the brand’s reappropriation of skate culture – from the the same spring campaign – which was shot by Juergen Teller and depicted models Daria Werbowy and Stella Tennant with skateboards.
Although he had earned a reputation as a fashion outsider and nuisance to couture houses and boutiques in Paris, Kidult made a splash in streetwear circles when he defaced the exterior of the Supreme store in New York City to see if the brand which had established unparalleled street credibility would see the irony in his sentiments.
“This is America, you can do whatever you want,” the clip starts, before Kidult ultimately shows up on Lafayette Street in SoHo under the cover of darkness.
“In the States you do what you want, you just have to be conscious of the risks and there, yes, the risks are huge,” he said. “Supreme likes the streets and graffiti? I put them the test. Graffiti, street culture, is taken out of its context. Today, these brands make it luxurious and superficial, pointless. They try to intellectualize the practice by eliminating its crude essence, and that’s too bad.”
Unlike other statements which seemed to speak to larger themes about reappropriation of street culture, Kidult’s anger with Kenzo stemmed from a specific product that he thought perfectly depicted the point that he was trying to make: Flower Tag perfume.
Created by perfumer, Olivier Cresp, who in the past had designed signature scents for Giorgio Armani, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, Ralph Lauren and Roberto Cavalli, Kidult obviously felt that the connection between perfume and aerosol was one only fueled by capitalizing off a culture he felt protective of.
Kidult solidified the convergence of commerce and graffiti with his continuation of his “BRANDalizing” initiative by both defacing the exterior of the Hermés store in Paris with “Love,” and also releasing a T-shirt that coincided with the event which saw sly references inserted in the Hermés logo like a fire extinguisher and a skull.
Located in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, the Louis Vuitton store’s façade became the next target for Kidult who strayed from leaving his own moniker behind in favor of the simple word, “yes.”
While there was no logical tie-in to the attack, one could speculate that it had to do with the brand’s collaboration with Stephen Sprouse on the Monogram Graffiti Pochette which released that year and retailed for well over a $1,000 USD.
When: 2012 & 2013
The feud between Kidult and Marc Jacobs is by far the biggest and most newsworthy because it found the two engaging in a game of oneupmanship.
The graffiti/fashion world’s version of the Hatfield and the McCoys, the trouble started when Kidult vandalized Jacobs’ SoHo store in New York City with the word “ART.”
The same footage of the defacement also appears at the end of A$AP Rocky’s “Fashion Killa” video featuring Rihanna.
Rocky told BET, “It’s about art, the whole video—we wanted to base it off art. It’s this famous/infamous tagger, KIDULT. We use his art, and we use her art for being a fashion killer, and made this conceptual video. Fashion is art.”
In response, Jacobs retaliated by photographing the damage, printing the image on a line of T-shirts, and selling them for $686 USD with the phrase, “Art By Art Jacob$.”
Kidult took the bait and started selling a similar T-shirt with the image and new text that said “Not Art By Kidult” for $10 USD, before returning to his home turf and adding the “686” – a reference to the price tag – to Jacobs’s Paris store front.
Once again, Jacobs and his team responded by tweeting out a photo of he and president, Robert Duffy, wearing white hats printed with the tag and the caption: “Celebrating @therealkidult in #Paris tonight. Our hats off to you.”
In one of the more meta moments in fashion in recent memory, FRY then released a T-shirt of their own which depicted both of the aforementioned instances of back-and-forth between Kidult and Marc Jacobs.
Maison Martin Margiela
Trading his normal Parisian playground for a change of scenery in Belgium, Kidult honed in on the Maison Martin Margiela store in Brussels, Belgium by adding a red heart and the word “Love” scribbled atop – in addition to the phrase, “OUR MISERY, NOT YOURS!”
Most speculated that it was in response to the luxury retailers collaboration with H&M which included a range of jackets, sweaters and shirts.
Smack dab in the middle of Paris Fashion Week, Kidult emerged from his feud with Marc Jacobs to engage in a tussle with Chanel over their Spring ’14 show which featured graffiti-laden attributes.
Eschewing his normal fire extinguisher strokes for something more indicative of traditional sign-painting, the aesthetics properly fit the message which announced a “50% off ‘Crisis Day Sale.'”
One of Kidult’s most recent acts involved spraying the word “n*ggas” on A.P.C. following the planned, racially-insensitive Timberland collection from Jean Touitou who announced the collaboration at Paris Fashion Week, saying, “I call this one look Last N****s in Paris. Why? Because it’s the sweet spot when the hood—the ‘hood—meets Bertolucci’s movie Last Tango in Paris. So that’s ‘N****s in Paris’ and Last N****s in Paris. Oh, I am glad some people laughed with me. Yes, I mean, it’s nice to play with the strong signifiers. The Timberland here is a very strong ghetto signifier. In the ghetto, it is all the Timberlands, all the big chain. Not at the same time—never; it’s bad taste. So we designed Timberlands with Timberland…”
After the outrage, Touitou tried to smooth things over by pointing out that he was trying to make a reference to Kanye West and Jay Z’s song, “N*ggas in Paris” – a relationship with the former that had proved to be a strong one following a 2014 capsule collection.
In addition to the polarizing word that Kidult included at the Rue Vieille du Temple location, he also added a stencil of the words “COLORED ENTRANCE Only,” which referenced a time in American history when entrances and public services were divided by race.
Five months after the controversy – and after Timberland had nixed the collaboration with A.P.C. – Kidult released his “Double Standards” T-shirt which reignited the controversy by alluding to what Touitou had intended to call his collection, and what he had done in response.
- Featured/Main Image: Kidult One