Tank Theory

Tank Theory

Tank Theory co-founder, Zach Johnsen, elaborates on politics, arts and culture, the main subject matter incorporated into Tank Theory’s collections. If there were any sort of underlying theme across the various collections it would be awareness. In fact, through art they glorify them.

The state of today’s world is in shambles. “Basically if you watch or keep your eye on the news, stuff is crazy at the moment. People are dying, things are happening in the world to the environment and it’s kind of a horrible disarray.”

While Tank Theory’s aspirations are not to change the world overnight by artistically preaching politics, the brand does seek to represent truth, “I just think that we don’t look like anything else and we can’t be compared to anything else. For sure we are in a lane of our own. We have a niche over here.”

“Other brands out there are art based but we work with artists that people don’t know who are equally as hot. We bring that underrated graphic mayhem.”

Format: Who are the founders of Tank Theory and what are their backgrounds in the industry?
Zach Johnsen: The founding members are Andrew Silverman and myself, Zach Johnsen. Industry-wise, Andrew came from a business standpoint – he wasn’t even in fashion. He was more marketing and business stuff. He’s always supported the arts and he comes from more of an art collecting background. I came from a similar art background. I was working with some other companies at the time, doing freelance work for Ecko and the skate and snowboard industry.

Format: There seems to be a political tone to the brand name Tank Theory. Was the political tone intentional and what’s the meaning behind the name?
Zach Johnsen: Originally, when we started it, we were thinking of kind of a political think tank. There are groups within the government and groups not even in the government that are covering up ideas and scheming on stuff. We wanted a name that kind of played off of that. It’s an overtly political overtone for sure.

Format: How has the meaning behind the name evolved since the start in 2001?
Zach Johnsen: The meaning evolves as the events unfold around the world. When we started it, there was basically less thought involved in graphics. We’ve always put a lot of thought behind what we do.

Tank Theory

Format: There are a lots artists and designers working on your brand how many are there?
Zach Johnsen: We have a 20 to 25 artist roster that we recycle work with and have relationships with.

Format: Would you say that it’s important for the artists to have similar or a variation of visions?
Zach Johnsen: If you see the Tank Theory clothing in the past couple seasons there’s definitely a lot more variety in the line and that’s what we’re striving for. We don’t want to become redundant. I produce a lot of the graphics myself so I like to keep it fresh with other works and people that have different takes on it and different visions.

Format: A popular item is the Armed hoodie and tee. What’s the story behind the lady with the gun? Is there a strong meaning behind that because it’s an item that’s for both men and women.
Zach Johnsen: Yeah that graphic blew up. My friend Rika Shamada did that graphic. At the time she had kind of a gangster graphical style. Guns and girls was kind of an iconic thing. It doesn’t really have a super deep meaning, not that I know of anyway.

Tank Theory

Format: What is something that served as inspiration for a stand alone piece that you wouldn’t really consider along the lines of normal?
Zach Johnsen: I could tell you about the last season we had called Sideshow. It’s really circus influenced. A lot of those graphics stem from my experiences when I was a young kid going to the circus and being frightened. That along with Steven King’s It. There’s this one graphic of a chainsaw wielding clown. That’s pretty bizarre. Another artist whose work was popular is Robert Longo. He did these life size figures of men and women business attire in contorted positions. We wanted to use that as an influence but kind of make it more demented.

Format: The most recent collection is titled Sideshow. Does the theme correlate with other street wear brands implying that Tank Theory is in a lane of its own?
Zach Johnsen: Tank Theory is in a lane of its own because you can’t pinpoint where it’s coming from. It’s not associated with any particular genre of music or style. We come from such a wide base and Tank Theory reflects that. I just think that we don’t look anything else and we can’t be compared to anything else. We have a niche over here.

Tank Theory

Format: What is the full concept behind Sideshow and what piece best interprets the theme?
Zach Johnsen: It was just a rendition of what we’re feeling. The world is a little bit of a circus, stuff is crazy at the moment. People are dying, things are happening to the environment and it’s kind of a horrible disarray. The media and TV is not real. Look at the newscasters. They have so much makeup on it’s unbelievable, they’re like the ring masters to me. I just wanted to put a sinister spin on everything. It was a real inspiration to me to make it as scary as I could. The greatest show on earth piece features this politician front and center with two thumbs up and it says the greatest show in earth above him. Then there’s a circus with a big atomic bomb hanging below it. It’s heavily political, but it’s still a hot design. To me, that one kind of summed up the idea of Sideshow.

Format: Do you have any up and coming themes like Sideshow that you could tell us about?
Zach Johnsen: Yeah, Conquest our newest season. It’s worldwide struggles and war through the ages. It’s a little less crazy, because the Sideshow season had a bit of dementia to it, so in this one I toned it down a little bit.

Format: The Sideshow collection was really advertised the same way as a concert or album would be in the streets of New York and you even posted commercial sized posters up around the city.
Zach Johnsen: Yeah, we did a little advertising like the circus. We posted them up in Brooklyn and Manhattan and a couple other cities announcing that the circus is coming to town.

Tank Theory

Format: Do you see any future collaborations with any other brands?
Zach Johnsen: There are no major brands yet that we’re going to collaborate with. Possibly with Decay, we might do a shirt with those guys or a sweatshirt in the near future.

Format: If Tank Theory had a soundtrack, what are three songs that would be on it?
Zach Johnsen: Oh shit, probably, Motorhead, “The King Took His Head”, I forgot the name of the track. Put some western on there. “Bounce To The Ounce” by O.G.C. Then there would probably be something by the Pixies or Frank Black. It would be an eclectic mix.

Format: Is there’s anything missing from the streetwear industry that Tank Theory provides for its consumers?
Zach Johnsen: We provide another look at the world, fashion industry, graphics, illustrations and art game. Other brands out there are art based but we work with a lot of artists that people don’t know who are still equally as hot. We really bring that underrated kind of graphic mayhem.

Photos by: Adam Amengual
More Info: http://www.tanktheory.com/

Tank Theory

Makula Dunbar
Hey Everyone!As my name displays I'm Makula Dunbar. I am a person who loves music, fashion, Hip-Hop culture and everything in between. I love to write, and I am very happy to be contributing to the Format movement.
Makula Dunbar

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  1. Tank Theory knows where it’s at. Art at its best. Unique too cause nobody does is quite like em.

  2. This stuff is fire. Always good to catch up on the unkown. Where in New York can i get these?


    August 4, 2007
    Tank Theory knows where it’s at. Art at its best. Unique too cause nobody does is quite like em.

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  3. Tank theory’s varied tees never fail to be compelling and interesting. I can’t say enough about the creativity of the brand. I will be buying their products so long as the level of artistry remains as good as it’s been.

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