In part two of a three-part docuseries by Highsnobiety, we explore how DC cultivated a creative collective of
artists
that paved the way for collaboration culture as we know it today.

As the story of DC’s humble beginnings in the mid-‘90s began to take shape and eventually formed an early
blueprint for
modern skate culture, the way in which the brand’s senior management approached working with artists was
unprecedented
at the time.

DC co-founder Damon Way’s mantra to working with collaborators was always simple: let people who are good at
what
they’re doing take the reins. Because of the lack of readily available information, back then it all boiled
down to
pure creative alignment. “I think anything pre-Internet took a lot of work,” explained Way. “Music and fashion,
all of
it took digging and time. Skateboarding wasn’t corporate yet [and] streetwear was just starting to realize
itself.”

THE ARTIST PROJECTS

DC took its creative aspirations into reality in 2001 when they officially launched the Artist Projects
sneaker
initiative. Artist Projects’ mission was to capture the imagination embodied in the work of artists who’ve
risen out of
skate culture to critical acclaim. One of the creatives to emerge from this subculture is filmmaker and
curator Aaron
Rose, who’s credited by some for merging art and skateboarding together in a way where two worlds collided.
“I think
skateboarders and artists get along because they’re the same thing,” Rose explains. “Skateboarding is an
inherently
creative pursuit.”

ALLEGED GALLERY

For most of the ‘90s through the early aughts, Rose’s infamous Alleged Gallery in the Lower East Side of New
York went
on to exhibit works from many up-and-coming artists from the art, skateboarding, graffiti, and fashion worlds.
It was a
breeding ground for hungry artists to spread some of the most vibrant American art produced in a generation.
“At the
time [Alleged] was the only gallery in the entire world that was showing art done by skateboarders,” revealed
contemporary street artist Shepard Fairey. “I give Aaron [Rose] a lot of credit for doing something that blew
the doors
wide open for an entire culture.”

GENUINE COLLABORATION

During the design process for his shoe, Fairey made it clear that his perspective as an artist would not be
ignored and
that it would be a genuine collaboration. He was drawn to DC in the first place because of the founders’
philosophy of
building cool shit with likeminded people.

DC’s gamble paid off and his work in the Artist Project was critical to the program’s success. “When I did my
collab
with DC it did better than they had expected,” explained Fairey. “That made Damon [Way] really excited that
there was
possibility in the marketplace for more of this. I was kind of the guinea pig.”

Aaron Rose

HOMECOMING: A RETURN TO ROOTS

Perhaps another reason why the Artist Project was so successful was that it just didn’t seem like work at all.
As Rose
recalls, it felt more “like a project between friends” and even though there were contracts to be signed, it “never
felt like working for a brand.”

But there is more new work to be done with the brand. With co-founder Damon Way having made his way back to DC,
his
initial philosophies on collab culture still remain and usher in a new era for its Artist Project. They’ve
tapped DC
alum and luxury sneaker purveyor Jon Buscemi as part of this relaunch to get his take on the Lynx. “I’m gonna
take it
and make it the ‘Buscemi Lynx,’” he explains. “DC’s where I got my PhD in this whole business and it’s only
right for
us to work on something together.”

Watch part two of the DC Story above to see how they trailblazed collaboration culture between the art and
skateboarding worlds, and stay tuned for the final chapter to see what the new age of DC has in store for the
future.

Words by Daniel So
Branded Content Editor

Not always there when you call, but I'm always online.

What To Read Next