It Ain’t Ralph Though: The Dirt Label Brings a Familiar Bear into 2015 Hip-Hop Culture

The teddy bear has been a never-ending insignia in streetwear and hip-hop culture—birthed by Ralph Lauren in the ‘80s, the preppy mascot has been donned by rap royalty since the beginning of the genre’s time. We’ve seen the bear undergo a number of makeovers and transformations, but this go-around, streetwear brand The Dirt Label is remixing the bear with a oh-so-2015 twist.

The Dirt Label is bringing forth sweaters and tees in two iterations using the teddy charm as its inspiration: one finds the bear draped in Yeezy Season One apparel, Boosts and all, while the other emulates one of Drake’s outfits from his infamous “Hotline Bling” video.

If you’re trying to get your hands on one of these, don’t sleep—The Dirt Label is offering an extremely limited edition supply of the pieces. We spoke to the label’s founder, Chris Morris, about the genesis of the brand and the inspiration behind their new Ralph-prompted gear.

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“We started the brand five years ago, when we wanted something that would not only stand out, but that would also tie into the rebellious look I had at the time. Our goal was to leave a mark on the fashion industry, so we came up with the whole concept of dirt, because we figured if we saw dirt on a t-shirt, it would stand out.

We started online, where we gained a strong following. We sold on Karmaloop and became one of the top sellers. We had a bunch of celebrities ordering from us, and we eventually opened our own flagship store in a suburb of Detroit.

I use my background in industrial design to come up with a lot of these illustrations that make it onto our clothing. We’ve also done collaborations with other designers and artists, including the Yeezy Bear and the Drizzy Bear. For those, we partnered with Diana Vuong, an illustrator out of New York.

That bear is an icon in streetwear, so we wanted to pay homage to that while mixing it up. We wanted to highlight the current culture and bring in a little bit of The Dirt Label while fusing it with the iconic Bear. The response so far has been dope.

We’ve also collaborated with Madonna and her son, too. Her son falls well within our demographic—a young, rebellious teenager. She came by our office and was telling us that her son liked the brand, and she liked everything we were doing. We ended up doing a collaboration shirt with her last year, and we’re launching another collaboration with her son later this year.

Start small. A lot of people see brands and they don’t understand how long they’ve been in business, what kind of work went into it, etc. I made that mistake in the beginning as I was looking at competitive brands, it’s easy to look over all the details that made that company what it is.

With The Dirt Label, it’s not a sense of arrogance, but rather a sense of confidence. We try to breathe that into everything we do.”

Images: Akhil Sesh

Styling: Nojo Kicks

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