“Fashion is an expression of a life-style – your clothes and what you wear should reflect your everyday activities and interests – for us it’s painting – that’s what we love to do – if you are a chef maybe you should have food stains…”
If you have been to an art opening in Soho lately, chances are you have encountered Marcus and Sidi, the creative forces behind the new fashion label CLR THERAPY. Very charismatic guys who not only get a lot of attention for their good looks but the fact that their clothes are covered head to toe in paint like walking canvases. The two ‘Blipsters’ have an aura that evokes an era before the ‘SoHo Effect’ took place, where South of Houston was still a gritty playground for young artists who could actually afford to live in huge lofts with natural light, thanks to low rents. Those times are long gone, but Marcus and Sidi, strike one more as contemporaries of Basquiat than Jay-Z.! Somehow they appear to have time traveled unscathed to the galaxy of gentrified now. S2S talked to Marcus and Sidi about the history and future of CLR THERAPY.
CLR THERAPY emerged out of the art collective Street Savvy NY, founded by Marcus Jahmal/The Nephilim, Sidi/Leghead, and TheLovechild, a little more than a year ago. CLR Therapy stands for Color Therapy, referring to Chromotherapy, a holistic healing practice used to balance energy. When asked, if their work is therapeutic, Marcus responded that the goal of CLR Therapy is to bring awareness to how colors influence our moods and to facilitate pleasant interactions between people by supplying them with colorful items. But he points out that the choice of colors is very much a personal preference. While he wears black often with splashes of color, Sidi goes for the complete spectrum of the rainbow.
So how did they get started?
They all grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, infamous for the Riots in 1991. But they met for the first time at the Brooklyn Museum at the Keith Haring retrospective in 2012. Marcus started out in the music business as an audio engineer and later worked for a video game company near the Chelsea gallery scene. Inspired by the art he encountered there and supported by a network of artist friends, he turned his musical talent into visual art by first creating works on paper in his studio. Sidi had wanted to be an artist since childhood and started out with house paint, and writing as a graffiti artist. TheLovechild also comes out of the New York graffiti scene. Together they merged studio practice with street art, on and off the canvas.
The idea to paint on clothes or knapsacks emerged naturally from the fact that while working on a canvas, splatters of paint would inevitably end up on their clothes. On top of it, they would clean a brush on their jeans or shirts and then go out wearing their unconsciously created masterpieces. Even on the streets of New York those outfits caused a stir. For the last Fashion Week they were scouted to be in a show for the New York high-end-streetwear label Sir New York, by Brooklyn based designer Auston Bjorkman, a graduate from the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. They would wear their own outfits to the fittings and rehearsals, getting many compliments and encouraging words from the other models. They decided to create their own collection of clothing and accessories.
But Marcus and Sidi see themselves foremost as artists rather than fashion designers. They are well aware that this is not the 80s where some artists became art world superstars overnight, with money to burn. Rather than waiting to be discovered, they pragmatically turned works on canvas into functional and wearable art. A strategic move – making the work available to young people who can’t afford collecting fine art, and reaching a bigger market at the same time.
When asked whether the reference to Basquiat is intentional, they admit that Basquiat’s visual language or aesthetics speak to them in more direct ways than most other art. However, they create their own interpretations, inspired mostly by everyday life, the hustle and bustle of the city, growing up in Brooklyn, and their surroundings, always looking to re-interpret the world in their own way.
Although they are frequently seen in Lower Manhattan, they are still very connected to Brooklyn, particularly to creative groups in Bushwick, Williamsburg, Prospect Heights, and Mill Basin where Sidi lives.
When asked what clothes they would never be caught dead in, they were hesitant and didn’t want to commit to anything too rash, responding “one newer knows.” For people on a limited budget, SSNY recommends ‘thrifting’ – hitting up second hand stores that always carry some original vintage items for a few bucks, ala Macklemore: “I’m gonna pop some tags. Only got twenty dollars in my pocket. I’m hunting, looking for a come-up. This is fucking awesome!”
For inspiring artists and designers they have two tips: “Make your vision happen and have patience.”
In May, CLR Therapy was part of Pop Souk sponsored by OAK NYC and VFiles at the Standard Hotel. In July they will be at Liberty Trade Show in NYC and in Las Vegas in August.
They also have an on-line shop on their website: http://clrtherapy.com/
The knapsacks are $350 – $500 retail, caps $150, CLR caps $50, artist aprons/tool pouches in canvas $80, leather $130.
To see their work in a gallery setting, check out ROCK $ THEM, an exhibition curated by Laura O’Reilly, at Rox Gallery, 86 Delancy Street, NYC. Or should you find yourself in Rotterdam, check out their work at New York Creations.