In a climate that makes going it alone a near impossible task for young fashion designers, artists and musicians alike, without some form of alternative backing, landing a quick cash gig has more to do with survival than ego. From Twix hats to branded bricks, here are five ways that creatives have taken the money without ruining their name.
1. Maintain your creative integrity
If you’re going to sell out, do it without compromising your artistic talents. For an example of this, look no further than milliner Stephen Jones in his production of a series of hats for advertising campaigns in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. His designs are original and ingenious; who’d have thought a Twix could be that much more tempting after seeing it repurposed as headwear? And yet, it definitely is. His fantastical creations made high culture out of the everyday to the point that selling out never looked so good.
2. Bring your friends and fellow creatives in on the action
Hidden away in the depths of YouTube’s vast archive is a little known treasure, courtesy of Katy England. In 2013, the former right-hand women to Lee McQueen directed and cast “Made in England” for the 110-year anniversary of Vauxhall cars. Its aim was to celebrate British design and style with the help of England’s husband, Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie, and notable club kids like DJ Josh Quinton, artist Angel Rose and writer Reba Maybury. While this unlikely mashup of British youth culture and the automobile industry might not be the stylist’s most DIY move to date, she managed to get her husband and some talented young creatives on the payroll.
3. Push merchandising into bold new realms
Here to facilitate the sale of almost anything they can stick their name on is omnipotent streetwear label, Supreme. From calculators and sleeping bags to hammers and floodlights, Supreme have caused mass hysteria with their diverse range of branded utility objects. But the most memorable, and puzzling, of these has to be their Box Logo-branded brick for AW16. The theories surrounding the intended function of this peculiar offering vary from the practical to the conceptual. One idea bandied about on the internet centred on brick’s double meaning as hipster slang for terrible clothing, posing the question: how meta can a brand be about its own customers? Whatever the reasoning, profiting from logo-ed construction materials is a pretty radical merchandising move, and one guaranteed to whip up a PR storm.
4. Quit while you’re ahead
Noted YBA artist and photographer Sam Taylor-Johnson turned to directing in 2008, finding success with films like “Nowhere Boy” and “Love You More”. Then, in an unpredictable turn of events, Taylor-Johnson took on the first feature film version of E.L James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey.” While the series’ devoted fan base rejoiced across the world, the rest of us couldn’t help but roll our eyes. But all props to the artist-turned-auteur: the movie made over $571 million at the box office and was a global hit. It turned out to be the only film in the trilogy that Taylor-Johnson directed, following a clash with the book’s author over creative differences, proving that every cheque-grab should have its limits.
5. When in doubt look to Andy Warhol
The original and the best, Andy Warhol made his living from selling out — and everyone could only love him for it. “I was always a commercial artist,” the prolific creator said in a late interview. Perhaps the best example of this was the classified ad he placed in the Village Voice in 1966 which read, “I will endorse with my name any of the following”, followed by a list of everything he was willing to sponsor — including “anything”. By the time he died in 1987, Warhol had accumulated a vast fortune of over $220 million from his exploits, and posthumously his work has proved even more lucrative. In 2013, a grizzly painting from his “Death and Disaster” series, titled “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)”, sold for over $110 million. The master of self-promotion famously said, “Art is what you can get away with,” and in the case of Warhol himself, that turned out to be an awful lot.