In part two of a three-part docuseries by Highsnobiety, we explore how DC cultivated a creative collective of
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
modern skate culture, the way in which the brand’s senior management approached working with artists was
at the time.
DC co-founder Damon Way’s mantra to working with collaborators was always simple: let people who are good at
they’re doing take the reins. Because of the lack of readily available information, back then it all boiled
pure creative alignment. “I think anything pre-Internet took a lot of work,” explained Way. “Music and fashion,
it took digging and time. Skateboarding wasn’t corporate yet [and] streetwear was just starting to realize
THE ARTIST PROJECTS
DC took its creative aspirations into reality in 2001 when they officially launched the Artist Projects
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
Rose, who’s credited by some for merging art and skateboarding together in a way where two worlds collided.
skateboarders and artists get along because they’re the same thing,” Rose explains. “Skateboarding is an
DC x KAWS
Rising artist KAWS debuted his first ever sneaker collaboration in 2002 with DC
featuring his Running Chum figure
etched on the shoes’ side panels. Considered one of the artist’s rarest collabs,
only 300 pairs were said to be made.
DC x SSUR
SSUR’s Russian roots and New York attitude brought his 2007 DC collaboration to
life. The blue graphics strewn
the white upper come from a centuries old manufacturer of ceramics in SSUR’s
homeland while the insoles features
artwork inspired by his past.
DC x SUPREME
Orchestrated by DC footwear designer Sung Choi in 1999, DC’s collaboration with
Supreme marked the first time the
infamous box logo ever set foot on a sneaker. It made perfect sense seeing that
Supreme, at its core, derived from
DC x OBEY (SHEPARD FAIREY)
DC’s artist series first debuted in the fall of 2001 with Shepard Fairey’s Andre
the Giant-inspired shoe called
Swift. The success of Fairey’s collab emboldened DC to invest even further into the
company’s artist initiatives.
DC x AARON ROSE
The multitalented artist and filmmaker brought a unique sensibility to his artist
collaboration opting for lush suede
uppers on a derby-like silhouette, inspired by Rose’s first experiences with mod
culture during his teens.
DC x DAVE KINSEY
Known for his energetic portrayal of urban figures, Kinsey’s artist collaboration with
DC released in the early 2000s
featuring a grey silhouette along with a unique print on both side panels.
DC x PHIL FROST
Hailing from New York, Frost’s work combines the raw, gritty edge of the street with an
elegant, painterly aesthetic.
Both colorways of his rubber cap-toed DC signature shoe display the exquisite detail of
his work in full view.
DC x ANDY HOWELL
A pioneer of technical street skating, Howell’s innate ability to package hip-hop,
graffiti, and street culture with
skateboarding made him one of the most important figures of the sport.
For most of the ‘90s through the early aughts, Rose’s infamous Alleged Gallery in the Lower East Side of New
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.
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
wide open for an entire culture.”
During the design process for his shoe, Fairey made it clear that his perspective as an artist would not be
that it would be a genuine collaboration. He was drawn to DC in the first place because of the founders’
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
with DC it did better than they had expected,” explained Fairey. “That made Damon [Way] really excited that
possibility in the marketplace for more of this. I was kind of the guinea pig.”
“This whole wave, this whole movement, everything that’s happening in streetwear, all that started in
the DC office.”
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.
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,
initial philosophies on collab culture still remain and usher in a new era for its Artist Project. They’ve
alum and luxury sneaker purveyor Jon Buscemi as part of this relaunch to get his take on the Lynx. “I’m gonna
and make it the ‘Buscemi Lynx,’” he explains. “DC’s where I got my PhD in this whole business and it’s only
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