If you are familiar with the sartorial choices of rappers, stay up on menswear news or read TFL somewhat regularly, chances are, you have come across the name and/or the work of Wil Fry. If that is his name at all. Kanye West's crew wears his jerseys. Rihanna follows him on Instagram. Random people on Twitter pay upwards (sometimes far far upwards) of $100 for the very few styles Fry releases for sale - only about four variations of his works have hawked in limited quantities. One of those was placed on eBay, with bidding beginning at $90,300. His name and his work are simultaneously becoming quite relevant in the world of fashion, art and law, and so, it is about time we clued you in on a bit about Mr. Fry. [Since this article was originally published, Fry has launched his own line of luxe loungewear, which is produced in small quantities in Los Angeles out of American and Japanese fabrics. Of his movement away from potentially trademark infringing and/or diluting wares, he told GQ: "I feel that I've run out of things to say, for the time being, with parody and loud print stuff, but still have a lot to contribute in the streetwear/sportswear world."].
Australian-born, Brooklyn-based graphic designer-turned-"artist," Wil Fry came to our attention in mid-2012, after he released his Givenchy birds of paradise t-shirt on a t-shirt and then subsequently created (and offered for sale) his take on the Marc Jacobs-Kidult tagging drama at Jacobs' Soho store that occurred right after the 2012 Met Gala. Since then, he has steadily risen to some sort of modern-day fame (for lack of a better word), driven by several factors. Namely, the prime placement of his work (his ‘Birds of Paradise’ Brooklyn Nets jersey on the backs of musicians and on top menswear websites); a carefully calculated social media presence; the seriously limited availability of his work; and an elusive persona, likely driven by his desire to avoid the legal ramifications of his more-likely-than-not illegal artistic tactics.
When asked about his work, which most legal enthusiasts label as infringing, Fry (who moved to the U.S. about two years ago) doesn't say much, especially as of late. What he is willing to offer up is that his work is meant "to spark conversation." Further, Fry has said that he is "not trying to make a profit, not trying to mass produce the shirts. It’s a response to high fashion and I’m just trying to have a bit of fun." The fun may be at the expense of French design house, Givenchy (although creative director Riccardo Tisci is one of a camp of designers who are not terribly bothered by such "parody" wares), but as of now, Fry has yet to be confronted with a single cease and desist letter, which is a pretty amazing feat.
So, what does the future hold for this underground art superstar, whose identity was officially outed by the New York Times in an article entitled, The Return of Logo Culture? Your guess is as good as mine. He rarely sheds light on such things. However, he told me he has plans to continue. While we can expect is not quite clear, he did say that it will probably be "just more of the same." As for right now, his “Expensive” t-shirt, which features a pattern made out of Yves Saint Laurent, Margiela, Chanel, Raf Simons, Balenciaga, Lanvin and other tags, is available for pre-sale on his site. This is one of the rare designs he has offered for sale in the past and "due to the demand," he has re-introduced.
Whether you love him or hate him, whether you think he is a genius or an unimaginative "artist" riding the coat-tails of Givenchy, it is not up for debate whether he is making an impact. Case in point: the sheer number is tweets he receives every day basically praising him and his work, or the increasing number of fake Wil Fry jerseys that have been hitting the web.
* This article was originally posted in April 2013.