Coco Capitán: Working with Gucci, Finding a Fan in Rihanna & Being a Female in the Art World

Gucci murals have popped up in New York City and in Milan bearing the distinctive scribble of Spanish artist Coco Capitán. The text – which reads “Common Sense is Not that Common” and “What Are We Going to do With All This Future" – mirrors the writing that appeared on tops in the Italian design house’s Fall/Winter 2017 collection. You may have seen the scrawl-adorned Gucci tee-turned-tank top that Rihanna wore to Coachella this spring, for instance. Capitán did, and it was a “strange” experience, says the 25-year old, who rose to fame last year.

While Capitán is far from an unknown name in the fashion industry – she has already collaborated with fashion houses like Maison Margiela, Miu Miu, Paco Rabanne, and Mulberry, and her photography has been featured in Dazed, Garage, VICE, Teen Vogue, i-D, Self Service, and various Vogues – her affiliation with Gucci has put her and her work in a whole new light, and with that has come gains and even a downside or two.

On the up and up, she has been working regularly with Gucci, a partnership that started even before now-creative director Alessandro Michele officially took the helm in early 2016. Unsure exactly how Gucci came upon her work in the first place, Capitán – who was raised in Seville, Spain and now resides in London – says the brand first approached her when she was still a student at the Royal College of Art in London, pursuing her Master’s degree in photography.

“We started the collaboration with photographic projects,” Capitán told TFL. “In the summer of 2015, we incorporated the writings as part of Gucci’s New York Cruise Collection. At the beginning of this year, [Gucci] proposed taking the collaboration to the next level incorporating the writings into the clothes themselves, and I enthusiastically accepted.”

Working with Michele, is “always a pleasure,” says Capitán. “He is very supportive and his decision to include my work as part of the collection has made a very significant change on my career.”

What exactly has that change looked like? Well, in addition to a jump in her social media following and mounting interest from others in the industry, Capitán says working with Gucci has made her work “visible to an audience I never thought about before. It's very different to talk to such a diverse public than a small collective of galleries and alternative publications.”

The level of exposure afforded by a collaboration with Gucci has not come without some potential drawbacks for Capitán, though. From the get go, her work has been likened – by this site and others, but mostly on social media – as similar to the work of New York-based artist Jim Joe, who was responsible for the artwork for Drake’s 2015 album, “If You're Reading This It's Too Late,” which has been distressing for Capitán.

Gucci’s recent billboards have reignited the discussion about the potential alikeness of the two artists’ scribbled fonts, with someone even tagging the mural in New York’s Soho neighborhood with Jim Joe’s twitter handle.

Capitán has been taken aback by the comparisons, she says. “The first time I heard Jim Joe’s name was when a friend asked me if I had designed Drake’s album cover. At the time I thought, perhaps it looks similar on the surface (as any kind of written art could look similar to one another) but the content and context are completely different.”

Unlike Jim Joe – who first made his name by tagging New York’s Lower East Side and East Village neighborhoods and has since gone on to show in select galleries in Paris, Toronto, and New York, and work with some of the biggest names in music, including Drake and Kanye West – Capitán claims, “I have never intended to be a street artist.” In that way, Capitán – who says her “practice straddles the fine art and commercial art worlds, and includes photography, painting, and prose” – believes her inspirations and goals differ from Joe’s.

When someone suggested that maybe it was Jim Joe who was copying her, Capitán – who says that her journals, which date back to when she was a teenager, contain her trademark scribbles – recalls, “I explained that I didn’t think anyone was copying me as much as I wasn’t copying anyone.”

And to be frank, Capitán says she does not see the merit in such “who did it first” inquiries, which have taken the web – and countless Instagram accounts (think: @Diet_Prada and co.) – by storm as part of a larger discussion related to copying in fashion. They are “overly simplistic and ultimately pointless in our postmodern world,” she says.

“My work, like my contemporaries and forebears, is a response to Viking and Roman Graffiti, Basquiat and Twombly’s championing of the text as an artistic centerpiece and the work of many others. It draws undeniable influence from their ideas whilst bringing something new to the table.” As a result, suggesting that her work is “a mere ripoff of another artist, living or dead, is engaging in an act of simultaneous libel and misinformation.”

“The use of words and scrabbles in art exits since way earlier than Jim Joe and myself were born,” she notes.

In terms of operating in the art world, as both a woman and a young figure, Capitán says that “the art world is challenging for everyone as any industry,” and as a woman, “you need to justify everything you do to exhaustion.”

While she thinks that “perhaps [women artists] have more pressure, since the presence of female artists through history is minuscule compare to that of male artists and in some contexts, I think women are judged more harshly than men are,” Gucci has been a pioneer for her.

Her ongoing collab with the brand joins those of fellow female artists/illustrators Jayde Fish and Angelica Hicks, who also recently teamed up with Gucci. A slew of publications have recently noted that these collaborations serve as demonstrations of the Italian brand’s interest in furthering the creations of female creatives, and it seems about right given the springboard that such collabs stand to provide for these women. 

As for Capitán, she hopes her work – and the platform that she has been given by Gucci – “inspires a new and diverse generation of people from all backgrounds to create something they believe in.”