Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply and Emerging Artists Collaboration (featuring Hellbent) 2013

Ralph Lauren, a company with many brands, used to sell products under the label Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply. The division of Ralph Lauren no longer exists but before being discontinued in 2016, they did a marketing promotion that was right up our alley. They let emerging artists have the spotlight at their Greenwich Village, New York City store location.

Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply’s old Greenwich Village, NYC store location

The outside of the store was termed The Art Wall and artists got to use it as their canvas. Vinyl was placed over the building’s stone in order to protect it and New York City based street artist Hellbent was first to make the facade his own. He is known for “his vibrant use of color and pattern in abstract paintings,” said best on his website. Bright colors and eye-catching patterns were just what he used to decorate two sides of the store.

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Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply’s old Greenwich Village, NYC store location

Hellbent said he had free rein to do whatever he chose with the storefront and while the art was being done, lucky passersby got to watch.

Hellbent’s art going up at Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply’s store

Once the walls were finished, those walking past also got a bonus. While using a smartphone application, they could learn more about the artist (whether it was Hellbent or another artist whose work was featured after him), share content and access other perks.

“The Art Wall Project is a large scale, collaborative project which combines public artwork, Denim & Supply branding, social media, product development and philanthropy, all part of what we like to call ‘merchantainment,’” said David Lauren, who works for Ralph Lauren Corporation.

With each artist that transformed the outside of the store a limited edition product, or products depending on the artist, was created and sold. Here’s where the philanthropy part came in. 100% of the proceeds went to the School of Visual Arts also located in New York City. The money benefited students who may just follow in the footsteps of artists Keith Haring, KAWS, and Kenny Scharf. All of which attended the same college of art and design.

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Limited edition Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply Hellbent t-shirt

A Hellbent t-shirt was the first of the limited edition products to be released. It was sold at the store and displayed amongst other pieces of clothing, which unfortunately were not for sale but had Hellbent designs on them as well. Paintings of his were also put up around the store and showed the abstract style that Hellbent has become known for.

Shirt with a Hellbent design on it (L) Hellbent paintings in Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply (R)

The jawbone on the t-shirt may be recognizable to some. For Hellbent, it represents psychoanalysis and basic human functions such as speaking and eating. He first started using the symbol after reading a story about Sigmund Freud’s battle with jaw cancer, which had him in the hospital. Freud could not speak and one day when he began hemorrhaging his roommate got help and saved his life. This story stuck with Hellbent and a jawbone is now frequently seen in his work. Skulls are also seen and signify his punk background.

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Mural for Fountain Art Fair, 2010 By Hellbent

Much of his work is named after music he listens to while creating and this ties into where the name Hellbent came from. It was inspired by his favorite musician Richard Hell (innovator of punk music and fashion) and shows his great love for music. Another personal note that some may not know is that his real name is J. Mikal Davis.

Before getting to where he is today, Davis used to do a lot of text based street posters, he then started to draw characters in the street and his art just continued to evolve as it still is. He says the jawbone will always be around though. Hellbent has also said, having studied art history and photography at the University of Georgia, that “My strong background in art history is definitely an asset.” It has helped him become a prominent artist, which one could say he was hell-bent on doing. He clearly achieved this, having work in galleries, doing commissioned street art and collaborating with one of the very best, Mr. Ralph Lauren.

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Close up pictures of Hellbent’s design for Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply’s store

The other artists who decorated the Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply store are worth looking at as well. We just decided to spotlight the first artist to do so. Not an easy task when thinking about making a mural and taking into account doorways, windows and other design features of the building. Well done to those that accomplished it!

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Jonathan Bartlett’s design for Ralph Lauren Denim & Supply’s store