How did you first start making these shirts? Well... okay: I was kind-of obsessed with this guy, and he happened to be my roommate. It was a bad situation, really awkward. I even stopped smoking to make him like me. And so I had so much manic energy I didn't even know what to do with myself. I was walking through Times Square and I saw those "I Love NY" T-shirts... so I decided on a whim to go buy some dye, and I had some crappy stencils lying around to keep busy, and I just put the two together. It sort of evolved into itself: the first shirt I did was the human palm, because I can read palms and I had all these old palmistry books lying around. I took an image from one of those and turned it into a shirt. Then I took the finished results to The Starting Line, a clothing store in Chelsea, and the owner bought them outright. They sold out in a week, and he ended up selling about 100 more in three months. I knew it would be wise to take the ball and run with it.
Why did you first go to The Starting Line? Well, my shirts are directed towards gay men. I grew up in retail, my parents worked in retail, and I worked in wholesale for many years. So I know what markets buy what, and I know that, for gay men, it's all about fit and fabric. It's really the gay men I'm trying to reach out to.
Why us? I'm basically saying that all faggots are shamans. I think gay people are born completely whole. Many of them are not, you know, searching for "their other half." In modern society, people are conditioned to feel like they're only half of the whole, as in, "You complete me." One of the advantages to being an outsider in society is that we already understand the man's point of view and the woman's point of view. It's really hard to put into words, which is why I gravitate towards these symbols, and hopefully it comes across on the shirts that I make.
How did you first become interested in this? Maybe I'm going off the deep end, at the end of the day, spirit is what moves me and spirit is what I'm honoring. This is spirit at work.
"Spirit" is a pretty open-ended term. I know. That's why I'm using it.
Label New York's shirts are available at labelnewyork.com as well as select retailers in New York, Massachusetts and California.
-- DEREK DE KOFF
Previously > The September Issue trailer finally leaks!