Cut and sew is an innovative design technique that allows the designer to tell a unique story with each individual piece. Creative artist Tyler Luke blends his background of art and fashion to provide each customer with an exclusive piece of fine art through his original cut and sewn contemporary designs.
Jonathan Mckinnon: Tell us about your inspiration behind crafting unique 1 of 1 fashion pieces instead of whole collections.
Tyler Luke: My inspiration, in essence, is the feeling of ownership that comes with having a 1 of 1 piece. You’ll never see someone walking down the street with the same piece. It all really boils down to the skate and punk rock culture that I grew up within. One of the most demeaning things to happen was to have the same style as someone else at the park or at a show. That resulted in an surge of drawing on denim jackets or ripping then stitching new patches on some Levis. My mom got me some new chucks each school year while growing up, and by the following summer they’d be covered in BIC ballpoint pen sketches that I’d do while bored in class. I was never really too good on the deck, but I could always draw. So, I’d make shirts for skaters or bands at local underground shows to wear or sell as merchandise.
Looking at the evolution of your fashion pieces, are there any preferred fabrics and paints that best express your creativity?
I prefer to use any blank color for fabrics. I started sewing around July 2017 and exclusively made pieces with patterned fabrics. I really just wanted to mimic Gucci or LV by doing so, which was completely against the DIY concepts that got me interested in fashion in the first place. I’d much rather create my own patterns with the composition itself through building up a texture by layering different fabrics on top of each other.
When it comes to paints, I prefer acrylics because of the quick drying time. I’m a very impatient person and if I spend half the time on a piece just waiting for paint to dry, then I’ll just eventually lose interest all together. If I sit down to create something, it will get created within that session - whether it be 45 minutes to 12 hours. I find that my impatience actually adds to the individuality of the craft because it represents the specific moment and mindset that the piece was made within. Each piece is pretty much a sketch of that day’s inspiration/mood and the next one could relate, or not. I never got that effect with dyes and silk screening because of the tedious and lengthy processing time.
Describe your thought process when designing.
I try to let the process become the creation. I have a very strict personal definition of art and design that drives each piece of work I do. The design aspect is handled by the consumer; making sure the piece fits properly, is the correct color scheme, etc. Meanwhile, I handle the art side of things such as the actual expression of the piece itself. My art is my voice. I’ve sold some pieces to Israel, New Zealand, London, and Russia to people I’ve never met before. So, the piece is their only encounter with me. When it comes down to actually drawing or painting on the work, I want to reserve myself the right to have full creative control. If someone asks for a specific graphic on their piece, I’ll refuse the order because, at that point, it’s purely design and no artistic expression will be there. That client can go to any skilled painter and say, “I want Scarlett Johansson on a shirt,” and they’ll be able to do it. Meanwhile, when the client gives me creative control of the piece, then the end product will be much more authentic because it’ll be purely my own voice. I’m really stingy about that and I’m sure I’ve lost many orders because of it, but, I’d rather have artistic integrity than revenue.
Outline your experience working with the non-profit organization 'Don't Shoot Me'.
I remember sitting on my couch in my dorm room with a few close friends after the Parkland, Florida shooting. One of us got a CNN alert about the tragedy and then we kinda just sat in silence for awhile. I went for a drive the next day and a local high school near my campus had the words “STOP THE SHOOTINGS” in those interchangeable signs that typically say “Have a nice summer” or “Fundraiser drive starting today!” That sign was inspiring to me. So, ‘Don’t Shoot Me’ began with just writing that saying on some blank t-shirts in bright red and giving them to my friends to wear around campus as a peaceful protest. We’d wear it to class, wear it to the dining hall, wear it to parties, wear it everywhere. Of course, with a saying like that, people would ask about it and the saying began to get around. I ended up selling a bunch of the shirts and all of the proceeds were donated to the families of the victims involved in the Parkland Shooting. That’s when I discovered that my art can actually begin to make a change in other’s lives.
How were you able to merge social activism with fashion to create your 'Don't Shoot Me' capsule collection?
Shirts are billboards. People don’t typically think of it like that, but it’s true. Billboards are most effective when they’re simple and cutting edge. That’s how Supreme blew up. That’s how the Gucci monogram blew up. That’s how Nike blew up. The list goes on. It’s a formula that brands use in order to actually make an impact and grow an image. However, the impact cannot be limited to fashion. For example, the Supreme logo can be portrayed through graffiti, stickers, skate decks, towels, pocket knifes, etc. Again, the list goes on. That’s what ‘Don’t Shoot Me’ is. It’s basically a mantra that found itself onto t-shirts because people like wearing stuff that they can identify with. No one wants to be shot. We have a few ‘Don’t Shoot Me’ stencils that led to branding on concrete walls, skate decks, speakers, and other random things.
The activist message behind it, however, isn’t limited to school shootings, but all forms of gun violence. I found that social activism is most effective when it leaves room for interpretation to fit into various facets of everyday life. That’s how I discovered social activism and fashion can live harmoniously because the activism is using fashion to portray a larger message to a general audience and the fashion is using social activism to create identity within the groups of people that wear it.
Define your ideal clientele.
Tough question. I guess, pretty much anyone that genuinely likes the stuff I make and wants to support my creative process. I only recently started selling pieces for ‘Don’t Shoot Me’ and some personal runs of hand painted thrifted t-shirts. Before that, I was giving stuff away to fellow creatives that I respected or trading pieces for frivolous things like bento boxes and 40 oz malties. In hindsight, I probably gave away a full-line of pieces because I was hungry and didn’t want to pay for food, haha. With that being said, I never want to be something that hypebeasts wear to be trendy or to just get clout on Instagram. At that point, I’ll just stop releasing pieces to the public.
What types of fashion pieces can we expect to see this upcoming fall/winter seasons?
I’m just going to keep running with repurposing thrifted pieces through painting compositions on them. I really like the outcome, particularly how my graphic begins to relate to the existing graphic on the shirt. I have 10 shirts and some cut and sew pieces that I made in collaboration with music artist, Alex Wiley, that are being released sometime soon. I’m also currently working on 30 or so repurposed thrifted t-shirts that people purchased via my online site. Then, I’m planning on doing a series on thrifted repurposed long sleeve t-shirts in October and then a series of repurposed thrifted jumpers in December. Maybe, a few cut and sew pieces here and there.
My cut and sew pieces are exclusively made from scrap fabric grab bags (trash bags filled with misc. scraps) that I buy for $3 a pop at a fabric shop in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Since my entire cut and sew game relies on that, I’m not too sure when and what the pieces end up being. I guess that’s the trouble with doing 1 of 1 pieces; it’s really inconsistent. Other than that, I’m apart of a creative collective called TOUREGUIDE that consists of creatives from around the USA that are musicians, designers, artists, all all around creative people trying to express themselves. We are planning on some pop-up art shows that merge design, art and music. I typically bring 10 or so pieces to each event that are up for sale.
Other than that, I’m doing a personal pop-up gallery tour with my musician friends, Zebvlon and Zach Cholewa, around New England and Canada in August. Other than that, I’m not planning on doing any major collections or collaborations aside from my work with TOUREGUIDE. All releases will probably be announced via Reddit and my Instagram until I figure out how to set up an actual mailing list.
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An explorer of men's fashion with inquisitive eyes, born and raised in Lakeview, Long Island. My inspiration comes from nature, city streets and the world wide web.
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