Joshua Vides checks off some of the cliches that street artists tend to get saddled with. He grew up in the working-class city of Rialto, California, where – in his words – “there is not a lot to look up to”; his Guatemala-born parents had immigrated to the US in the ’80s. He skateboards and dresses like he’s part of the entourage of some hip-hop star (beanie, sweatshirt, cargo pants, minimal jewellery – any flash is concentrated in his sneakers that are most likely limited edition). That, however, is just about where the stereotypes end.
While many of his counterparts work with spray paints to come up with airbrush-perfect, colour- saturated graffiti, his masterpieces are mostly monochromatic, distinguished by hand-drawn, marker-like squiggles that have the uncanny ability to imbue said drawing with a cartoon-like quality. “Reality to idea” is how the 30-year-old describes his aesthetic. “Basically I bring every surrounding back to its origins, which is a sketch,” he explains.
“When I started, graffiti here in the city was often about having the cleanest lines where it would almost look digital and I wanted the complete opposite. My work stood out from everything on the walls because all that art would be so clean and crystalline while mine was kind of wobbly; my lines inconsistent and squiggly.”
In just about three years, his unexpected, unrestrained approach to street-influenced art has landed him collaborations with big-boy brands ranging from Nike to Mercedes-Benz to Google. Not bad for someone who had turned to doodling as a second act after “hitting a wall” following seven years of building the fairly successful streetwear brand CLSC (oh yeah, that’s another street artist stereotype that he checks off).
And then came Fendi. Starting with one DM from a brand representative over Instagram, he went on to design the Italian luxury maison’s Peekaboo Bar – a pop-up customisation booth for its signature tote – at Harrod’s in London last year, alongside his own limited-edition version of the bag and streetwear accessories like skate decks.
It was such a hit that the partnership extended into the temporary cafe Fendi set up within the department store; his trademark strokes transforming the space into a surreal, whimsical scene right out of a 2D cartoon, complete with cakes and coffee bearing his interpretation of the FF logo.
This month, the label releases as part of its Pre-Fall collection women’s, men’s and children’s wear as well as accessories all bearing Vides’ distinct black-and-white scribbles along the seams and edges, creating a delightfully mind-boggling trompe l’oeil effect. Arguably his most extensive and daring tie-up, he’s also injected colour – powdery hues inspired by the California sky, a term that lends to the name of the collection – into his work for the first time.
Says Fendi’s creative director Silvia Venturini Fendi: “I wanted to have a really summery vibe with this collection, but make it not so predictable… The idea was to have a glamorous collection with a touch of cartoonish silhouettes.” The women’s pieces include an oversized cardigan, denim separates, swimwear and a floaty maxi dress for evenings (pair with slides, she recommends). Vides’ distinct hand also turns up (once again) on the Peekaboo, in addition to the Baguette pochette, round-framed Fendirama sunnies, Colibri slingback pumps and even socks.
“Collaborations are something that I like to do more of because it’s very much in our DNA – if you think about it, I had been working with Karl (Lagerfeld) for so many years and before that, he was working with my mother and sisters,” says the Fendi scion who remains the only family member still in the business. “I also think that it’s very much a today thing to have a dialogue between art and fashion, or music and fashion and see how everything leads to visual art.”
That Vides’ background and aesthetic run contrary to that of the 95-year-old Roman luxury house only excites her even more. “What I have learnt is to be open to new things and to never look back,” says Fendi. “It is a way of exploring new things and there is nothing more interesting than exploring minds. It brings another point of view and is enriching… I’m amazed by the emotion that Joshua is able to give using just a black marker. You find yourself immediately immersed in a surreal world – his work is essential yet rich at the same time.”
Calling California Sky one of the biggest moments in his career (“even 20 years from now”), Vides lets on that the learning process ran both ways. Besides creating prints that would go onto the clothes and accessories, he drew the silhouette of items and had those transformed into actual pieces, all thanks to how organic the collaboration was. “It was insane to see how the Fendi design team did that,” he says. Guess this is what some might call “idea to reality?”
This article first appeared in the June 2020 Collaboration Issue of FEMALE.