Erik Brunetti, FUCTâ€™s owner and designer, speaks with candor, not covering truths to shield feelings or build egos: â€œI could go on for hours about how trade shows are geared to make money only for the people who own the trade show,â€ says Brunetti, adding that building relationships with retailers at trade shows is impossible. Candor is a quality that is transparent in FUCTâ€™s designs. Sure, people may find offense to a T-shirt with a wilderness portrait depicting a healthy Saddam Hussein and reads â€œIn Our Hearts Forever,â€ but for every Nancy Grace-type’s reaction, Brunetti has a counter-reaction; â€œAmerica creates its own super villains, thus turning them into martyrs.â€
Brunettiâ€™s candor is not limited to trade shows or opinionated Nancy Grace-types. Countries that bootleg FUCT products are cut off from FUCT distribution. (In Australia, distribution of FUCT products was temporarily discontinued due to Australiaâ€™s relaxed trademark laws, directly effecting bootlegging and counterfeiting. â€œIt’s always the same story with the Aussies, they want the T-shirts extremely cheap,â€ says Brunetti.)
Recently, Brunetti returned from MAGIC Trade Show. His blog can be read at Slam-X-Hype.
â€œIt’s too easy to take pop-shots at dummies â€“ it’s like shooting a deer in a cage â€“ I enjoy a challengeâ€¦â€
Format: Recently, communist China has attracted a lot of negative press for its exports: poisonous pet food, tainted seafood and lead paint on children’s toys. If relations between America and China were to halt, how would your industry, the street fashion industry, recover from its severed connection to cost-effective manufacturing?
Erik Brunetti: I don’t think it would affect FUCT at all. We manufacture T-shirts, and they are all made and printed in California. It’s all-American made. We are not a China based company in terms of manufacturing product. I realize a lot of American streetwear companies manufacture in China, but we do not.
Format: Bootlegging is an increasing problem for street fashion companies. How does FUCT protect itself from bootlegging?
Brunetti: It’s tricky. Vector-based graphics are quite easy to bootleg â€“ spot color screen prints. I try to keep the line fresh, by doing new art every four to five weeks, also use index color printing; opposed to CMYK, four color process print. But, bootlegging still occurs. The best way is to constantly update the consumers with the latest and try to use the very best screen printing methods so the buyer can tell the difference. No one wants to buy a fake, so if you constantly update your image, graphics and etcetera; it makes it more difficult for counterfeiters to keep up.
Format: In a previous interview, you say, if you find “a country that is bootlegging, I cut the entire country off, completely.” What countries have you discontinued consumer relations with?
Brunetti: In the past, we have always had problems with Australia. They are notorious for bootlegging and counterfeiting brands, due to the sticky trademark laws over there. It’s always the same story with the Aussies, they want the T-shirts extremely cheap, as well as being the exclusive distributor for that country, then on top of those demands they print extras on the side and sell them alongside the authentic tees they bought from us, which, by the way, they got for a low price.
I stopped selling to that entire country, a few years ago, because I got fed up with dealing with that type of gypsy mentality. I guess I should have expected no less from a country based entirely on a colony of convicted felons.
Needless to say just recently, something great came from that move; we found one really cool guy in that country, Brendon, and he does all the distribution for FUCT, now, in Australia. We trust him and he does a great job with the brand.
I also would like to reiterate that my two of my best friends are Australian.
Format: America has embargoes on several countries, Cuba being the country America is best known for embargoing. What is your opinion on America pressing embargoes on nations that are economically weak, however, are proven nations that harbor terrorist activities?
Brunetti: As for embargoing on nations and countries that harbor terrorist activities, well, the USA is not embargoing on Israel, and they harbor and commit terrorist acts daily against the Palestinians! America, actually, supplies the Israelis with the means to do it. I feel America should cut off all U.S. aid to Israel, and give the Palestinians their homes and land back. I realize it’s not that easy, but it would be a start in the right direction to achieve world peace.
Format: FUCT’s selection of fabric for the Mossy Oak hoodie is interesting. What is attracted you to this fabric?
Brunetti: I have always admired hunting camo and hunting attire, in general. The visual of someone wearing Mossy Oak camo fleece in the middle of a metropolitan city is uncanny. It’s the equivalent of seeing a neon flashing sign in the middle of the forest. I like the dichotomy of the two.
Format: FUCT and Kato collaborated for a Saddam Hussein T-shirt. The T-shirt suggests empathy to Hussein, however, situational irony may play a role in the T-shirt. What message are FUCT and Kato sending by making this T-shirt?
Brunetti: America creates its own super villains, thus turning them into martyrs. The shirt is clearly depicting that.
Format: In election 2008, is your prediction for a female, an African-American or a Republican president?
Brunetti: An Italian-American
Format: The opportunity for FUCT to parody current events in its designs is as constant as the CNN Headline News. What current event topics will FUCT not parody in its designs?
Brunetti: For myself, that’s a no-brainer. Anything to do with all the Paris, Lindsay and Brittney media hoopla is fucking stupid and remedial. It’s too easy to take pop-shots at dummies â€“ it’s like shooting a deer in a cage â€“ I enjoy a challenge, and a certain amount of brain stimulation.
The most comical T-shirts, of this year, were all the â€˜Free Parisâ€™ T-shirts that came outâ€¦ after she was released.
Format: You are an artist with several projects that extend past FUCT. What are the challenges of balancing a business with your personal ambitions?
Brunetti: It’s extremely tiresome. FUCT is merely applying graphics to T-shirts, which, for me, comes easy. The only requirement is having good taste and if you have that you are already light years ahead in this industry.
When I make art, it’s more on a personal level than a commercial level. Art is my life. I was born with the talent and skill to create â€“ I never went to art schools, nor had any formal training â€“ and I have been blessed to excel extremely fast in any creative category: painting, drawing, music, writing and so on. I am very thankful for this.
I think the problem with art or the artist in the world of streetwear is that a large per cent of them pigeonhole themselves into one novelty scam; due to how readily available vector tracing tools and computers are, in general. I use the term novelty, because that’s exactly what it is. Meaning, 20 years from now, it will not hold any sort of social value in any context whatsoever, it’s not pure. It’s all ego driven.
Format: Your Canadian relations extend to Top Shelf Motherfucker (TSMF), a Toronto based company in its early stages of operation. What is your attraction to TSMF’s products and its staff?
Brunetti: I like TSMF products because 80 per cent of the line relies on hand drawn graphics, which is rare these days. A lot of companies that pop-up, as of lately, use computer generated graphics, TSMF doesn’t. The art reminds me of the late 1980s-style skateboard era, when we were all drawing everything.
Also, the guys that are behind the brand are cool, as well, they are genuine people. They also drink whiskey like men. That is of key importance to succeed: never quit drinking, drink and destroy.
Format: The brew-ha-ha of street fashion companies that have emerged within the last 18 months, instinctively heard themselves to MAGIC Trade Show. Recently, FUCT traveled to Las Vegas for MAGIC. In your opinion, is MAGIC too congested to objectively establish relations with retailers?
Brunetti: It’s a fucking joke. I could go on for hours about how trade shows are geared to make money only for the people who own the trade show. It’s such an embarrassment to the human race, to actually witness it all â€“ people behaving like packs of gypsies. But to answer your question, yes, it’s over booked, too congested to establish any relationship with anyone, except for, maybe, the beer vendor by the front door.
Format: In a recent Format interview, Freshjive’s Rick Klotz’s response to Holocaust chic is Japanese designers who use historic aesthetics are naive to the reactions of the non Japanese. What are your opinions on Holocaust chic and Klotz’s response to apathetic designers from Japan?
Brunetti: I wrote that post.
Format: In a previous interview, the interviewer mentions your history as a graffiti writer. Several street fashion brands are founded or operated by graffiti writers or former writers. In your opinion, what characteristics does street fashion and graffiti writers have in parallel?
Brunetti: I can only comment on myself and my brand and we have absolutely zero parallel.
I starting bombing in 1984. I have never really classified myself as a â€˜graffiti artistâ€™ within the streetwear industry, because my belief has always been that graff belongs on the street. My opinion is simple: putting graff in galleries or on clothing only dilutes the powerful message graffiti carries of being an outlaw in society.
Once graff appears in galleries, on clothing and other products, to me, it’s similar to seeing a once proud, wild panther taken from its natural habitat and put in a zoo. It becomes safe and loses its purpose.
Bombing and writing graff is in your blood. If you have the disease, you can never stop. I still find myself tagging while I’m out walking the dog or sitting and talking on the phone, and so on. It’s as natural as tapping my fingers on a table. My taxes pay for public property, I will do with it as I please, thus write on it.
Wheat pasters are not graff writers! I am tired of graffiti getting labeled in the same category as wheat pasters and street art, because it’s not!
The difference between a graff bomber and a wheat paster is the wheat paster wants to be adored and accepted by the public and society. A graff bomber is hated by the public and society. A wheat paster wants to decorate the city; a graff writer wants to destroy the city.
It’s extremely bothersome and irresponsible to let well known wheat pasters give their commentary on graffiti writers, simply because they know nothing about it. Ninety per cent of them are wannabe graff writers, but never had the skill or guts to do it. So they stick Xeroxes on walls and clothing and proclaim themselves as rebels.
It’s offensive to graffiti writers.
Format: Specifically, the “Golden Era” T-shirt collaboration with Krudmart is highly suggestive. Who is the naked woman on that T-shirt and where would you wear that T-shirt?
Brunetti: The woman on the shirt is the beautiful Puerto Rican porn star, Vanessa Del Rio. You could wear it wherever you like, I, personally, wouldn’t wear anything with a large print, regardless of the subject matter.
Format: Do you feel a moral responsibility for the messages your T-shirts send to the public?
More Info: http://www.fuct.com/