Factory of Talent

(Photo by Michael Lavine)Shepard Fairey. You knew him before you knew him. If you lived in a major city, or just one where he had friends, he silently infiltrated your existence with a sticker slapped on the back of a no-parking sign, or a 10-foot, wheat-pasted face on the side of a building. (How did he get up there?)

Even almost a decade ago, when Paul Frank first licensed his work for a series of vinyl messenger bags, people would stop me on my Vespa and ask of the face on my tote, “Who is that guy? I see him everywhere.” Without having time to school them with a proper explanation (the light was always about to turn green), I would just say, “Shepard Fairey.”

Now while the artist looks nothing like his muse, Andre the Giant — the real guy on the satchel — Fairey is responsible for making the wrestler a legend in street-art pervasiveness while establishing his own enviable marketing savvy. Obviously taking cues from Warhol, who projected, “Making money is art, and working is art, and good business is the best art,” Fairey attracts talent to his design empire much like Andy did, sans the silver Factory walls and the New York feyness.

Unabashedly named Studio Number One, and located atop the Wiltern Building, Fairey and his wife, Amanda, cultivate a hotbed of creative potential via their employees and interns, many of whom have gone on to become It names in their own right. Art shows, ad campaigns, a magazine, parties, books and movies all provide creative and networking opportunities not available in your typical office environment.

“Working with Shepard is very refreshing and rewarding. It’s a creative process where ideas are flipped and morphed into something fresh, new and original,” says art director and author Roger Gastman, who co-founded Swindle magazine with Fairey, has produced several films and consulted on too many commercials to name. “We push each other to continually reinvent ourselves over and over, yet still stay true to our identity.”


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