Every now and then I stumble across an image or something in the studio that starts me off down memory lane.

Yesterday, something fell out of my book shelf. Quite unexpected I stumbled across this little Gem:

Selfridges Cult of Denim Invite

A screen printed back pocket from classic Levis 501’s that we made to announce my exhibition / collaboration with Selfridges way back in 2008.

I’ve spent this afternoon have a proper rummage through all the photos and things from the project and thought it might be nice to get them all in one place on my blog and share them with you.

It was a truly fabulous project, that bought fashion, music, product and art together. It was one of those that just seemed to make itself, the energy around it was amazing.

I worked with Selfridges to come up with an exhibition detailing the place denim has not just in fashion but in popular culture as a whole.

The idea was relatively simple, Selfridges arranged for me to collaborate with 4 of the biggest denim brands of the time. Levis, Diesel, Evisu and 7 For All Mankind.

They would give me access to their imagery and give me actual denim to paint on and I would create pieces to be shown throughout the Oxford Street store to co-incide with he frieze art fair.

What actually resulted was not just the paintings but a series of customised clothes, some photo shoots (with my friend Ellis for City magazine) and a really really cool event thanks to my dear dear friend Ori. I wish I could tell you the amazing experience she ‘fixed’ for me in the store but I don’t want to get her in trouble. Lets just say she made one of my childhood dreams come true! If you ask me quietly I might tell you.

Anyway, back to the project. Levis surprised me not just with books full of historic legacy imagery but an incredible piece of vintage indigo denim from way back in the day. Really they bought a revolution, true unisex clothing for the first time and a period where wartime work wear merged with day to day get-up. So they are important, and I chose a few images to hone in on but in particular I loved their whole cowboy heritage and a shot of a double denim Bob Dylan. The result was a large painting ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’ after the Dylan song, which ultimately found it’s resting place at One Hyde Park in London.

Stuart Semple - It's all over now baby blue

Oil, acrylic, paint marker, charcoal, household gloss and glitter on Levi’s (vintage red salvage) denim
270 x 150 x 7cm
Stuart Semple, 2008

Diesel gave me their latest campaign images to work with, a whole shoot around a minotaur with almost occult overtones. Really amazing images. I made a triptych out of them. Then 7 for all mankind gave me their latest campaign to remix and rather interestingly I also found myself with a whole heap of Japanese inspiration from Evisu. Evisu also sent me what I can only describe as the most beautiful pair of jeans I’ve ever seen, they were from their super limited, hand finished deluxe range, and they were just beautiful. I just didn’t want to paint on them. They came in a beautiful lacquered box.

I was trying to turn the Jeans themselves into works of art, we were in the studio it was late. We were bleaching bits out and heat pressing vinyl onto them. Then all of a sudden there was really awful bleach cloud in the studio. I totally freaked out because we’d all be inhaling bleach and I was convinced (here’s my anxiety kicking in) that we’d all die. We were fine, felt a bit ill for a while but after a trip in an ambulance down to Whitechapel we had the clean bill of health we needed to finish up.

Big department stores are amazing places when they are empty. There’s an eerie beauty to them. Everything is frozen and sort of preserved in a way. The light feels different. They feel like they become back-stage of a movie or something. The second everyone is out all the work that has to begin starts. So we had a very late night install, which was a bit tricky because it involved suspending a gigantic metallic, electronic heart piece I’d made right above one of the main walk ways. It all came together and I remember as I got out the cab at the end of the night tipping a whole tub of bright green acrylic paint all over the street by mistake. So if you are ever walking past Victoria miro on Wharf Road, keep an eye out for it, it’s still there!

The opening party was incredible, a wonderful atmosphere made even more wonderful by my friends Subliminal Girls playing a blinder of an in-store gig. Where they also launched their single. (More on that in another blog another day!)


It feels totally right to leave you with ‘the girls’ version of Don’t Stop believing

If you want to find out more about the project, here’s some cool articles from back in the day:

Does my art look big in this? Independent on Sunday

 City Magazine – Art Issue – Mean Jeans

Complex Magazine – 50 best art collaborations in fashion

The project was also featured in the book Pop Psychadelic