John Carpenter’s cult classic movie ‘They Live’ is released. The movie explores themes including media and government, population control and commercialism. Subliminal messaging featuring the word ‘Obey’ is used by aliens in the movie to control humans, which serves as early inspiration for the Obey brand.
Artist and designer Shepard Fairey creates a design for a sticker while studying at Rhode Island's School Of Design. The sticker features a stylised image of wrestler Andre the Giant, and results in a campaign named Andre The Giant Has A Posse, which sees the sticker placed around public spaces on the east coast.
Fairey writes a manifesto which links the sticker campaign to an experiment in Phenomenology. The term which was popularised by German philosopher Martin Heidegger, describes the study of experience and consciousness.
As the Andre The Giant Has A Posse campaign spreads further afield through Fairey and an international network of collaborators, the image is altered slightly due to a threat of a copyright lawsuit, which sees the logo changed into what we know as the Obey Giant logo today.
Obey Clothing is officially founded. As an extension of Fairey's art and design work, Obey clothing is rooted in subcultures associated with street art, skateboarding, punk rock and strong political messages. The brand provides a new platform for Fairey to spread his message of questioning the propaganda that is used to promote the agendas of those in power.
Fairey creates anti-war and anti-Bush posters that capture the attention of the brand's followers and further demonstrate the message that both he and Obey want to get across. The brand's questioning of political figures and the propaganda that comes with them is very much evident in this work.
Obey releases a book showcasing the artwork of Shepard Fairey called Supply and Demand. The book features pieces from Shepard's early school years and tells the story of how his artwork went on to inspire the creation of the Obey brand and the message behind it. Updates of the book are released in later years to include newer works from Shepard and Obey designs that became iconic in the world of streetwear.
Fairey addresses accusations that Obey’s clothing is made in Chinese “sweatshops” by stating that 95% of the brand’s products are made in the US. He also highlights that the wage often paid to US workers in the clothing manufacturing industry is similar to what is paid to workers in China, and states that while some of Obey’s manufacturing work is outsourced, the brand only works with companies that follow strict ethical practices. His main point is that Obey isn’t in the business of exploiting cheap labour to increase their profits, and that the focus of Obey clothing is to provide "affordable art" to its customers.
Obey Awareness is born to promote fundraising for causes and organisations supported by the brand. Each season’s releases from this point onwards include items from which profits are donated to various charitable organisations and good causes including Jail Guitar Doors, Life- Just Add Water, Children Incorporates and various LGBTQ charities.
As Obama enters The Whitehouse, one of Obey's most famous designs is worn by streetwear fans all over the globe. The Obama "Hope" poster created by Fairey was used in Obama's presidential campaign and brings significant attention to both Obey as a brand and Shepard Fairey. Subsequently, Fairey faces a legal battle with the Associated Press over copyright relating to a photograph that inspired the piece and eventually settles out of court. Although originally a supporter of Obama, Shepard later goes on to say that Obama didn't live up to his expectations.
Levi's team up with Obey to incorporate Shepard Fairey's work into their fall/winter range. Fairey is already a fan of Levi's and as such, the capsule collection features designs based around his own experiences of the brand. The collection is introduced in style, with a live art mural from Fairey installed in the Time Square store to mark the collaboration. Those lucky enough to get their hands on items from the limited collaboration were also given free autographed artwork by Shepard as a gift for their purchase.
The copyright lawsuit around Obey's Obama Hope design comes to an end. Don Juncal, president of the clothing brand states that Obey will still collaborate with photographers from the Associated Press. Fairey adapts the design to feature a Guy Fawkes mask in support of the Occupy movement and later in the year visits Copenhagen to work on an exhibition at the city’s V1 gallery. Obey clothing document release a short video series documenting the show.
Obey collaborates with the Keith Haring Foundation to release a limited edition range of designs for the brand’s fall collection. Haring was a huge inspiration for Fairey and influenced his works and ideologies, so it's understandable why Fairey wanted to create clothing that combined both of their artistic talents in its designs. The collection features an array of clothing and accessories including tank tops, hoodies, jackets, hats and even small items such as necklaces and pins.
Obey extends its product range and receives criticism that the original message of the brand has been lost, with Fairey accused of "selling out". However, he responds to this criticism by stating that he invests all profits back into his artwork and that his priorities are very much about creating street art over money.
Although Obey as a brand had faced criticism about digressing from the original message that was initiated by Fairey, it was clear in 2014 that this wasn't the case. Obey sponsor Day Of The Shred, an event focused around skateboarding, arts and music.
Following the backlash in earlier years about the ethical practices of the company, Obey becomes officially Fairtrade certified and releases a special collection to mark this. Fairey also unveils his largest piece of street art to date in downtown Detroit.
Shepard Fairey collaborates on a women's range with Blondie’s Debbie Harry and the band perform at the launch of the collection. Obey’s head designer Mike Ternosky is given the Spirit of Design award from Philadelphia University and in the same year, Obey collaborates with skateboard/streetwear brand Huf on the Huf x Obey Blood Brothers capsule collection.
Obey releases t-shirts to support victims of the Las Vegas shooting, while Obey Giant collaborates with Portuguese artists Vhils on a huge mural in Lisbon. Meanwhile, Shepard Fairey launches his largest solo art exhibition so far titled Damage. The exhibition is held at the artist’s Library Street Collective gallery in LA and aims to raise awareness of issues including politics, human rights and the environment.
Fairey creates special school walkout posters for students protesting gun violence in the US and also teams up with Adidas Skateboarding to design a limited edition Samba ADV skate shoe for Beyond The Streets. A portion of profits from the release are donated to Homeboy Industries, a non-profit organisation helping former gang-involved individuals. Obey also drops a capsule collection designed in collaboration with punk band Misfits.
Shepard Fairey collaborates with graffiti exhibition Beyond The Streets and iconic spray paint brand Montana to release three special edition cans that feature Fairey's artwork. The Obey Giant x Beyond The Streets x Montana Colours 30th Anniversary pack is released in the US only in limited numbers.
Obey's range very much reflects the original ethos of the brand. With classic streetwear garments featuring simplistic images inspired by the works of Shepard Fairey and political undertones in their marketing and media campaigns, 2020's Obey offers a blend of classic brand cues with a contemporary twist.
From what started out as a simple sticker campaign to one of the most recognised streetwear brands in the world, Obey has built its success on promoting messages that resonate with like minded people all around the world. Obey continues to be very much involved in the world of street art, and promotes and supports messages and causes that are consistent with its original ethos. The brand appeals to new generations of young people as well as established fans through a combination of artistic value, political commentary and charitable work, which elevate Obey to a level that’s far more than just another clothing company.Shop Obey