NEW YORK — Tuleh’s got a brand new tag — and it’s not the kind on the back of a floral-print dress. Late last week, designer Bryan Bradley and his creative director-muse, Amanda Brooks, unleashed a team of graffiti artists to tag the streets in the name of Tuleh.
Armed with stickers, chalk stencils and flyers sporting the various smarty-pants Tuleh-isms Bradley printed on T-shirts for fall — “We is Family” and “Creation of Desire” among them — the taggers cut a swathe through SoHo. They plastered Broadway, Houston, Wooster, Mott, Prince and Spring Streets. Even the sidewalks outside such high-traffic fashion pit stops as the Marc Jacobs store, Balthazar and Pastis were fair game. “I wanted people we know to see them, as well as people who don’t know the line,” Brooks says.
Bradley isn’t too worried that his core customer might shake her well-coiffed head in disdainful wonder at this seemingly anarchic behavior. In fact, he’s challenging the classic Tuleh girl to think outside her usual ladylike box. “To loosely quote a gentleman who knows a lot about these kinds of things, ‘In fashion, bite the hand that feeds you and it will always come back for more,’” he muses.
Indeed, the cheeky campaign fits right in with the newfound sexier edge of the brand. A friend of Bradley’s suggested he bring more of his outsized personality to the table. “The aim being more complexity and subterfuge, a higher unexpected quotient and a raucous good time,” Bradley says. “The most tangible result is the graffiti tagging project.”
The guerrilla tactics are also a wallet-conscious way for an insider fashion label to get its name out to a wider audience without breaking the bank or submitting to a flush backer. “This is a fraction of the cost of taking out an ad in Vogue,” Brooks says. “And if it were so easy to buy that ad, we wouldn’t need to be this creative.”
The idea to take to the streets was a natural evolution in terms of Tuleh’s actual geographical location — the studio is on Chrystie Street, nestled between a wholesaler of boiler room parts and a ceiling tinsmith. “We’re a child of where we live,” says Brooks, noting neighboring downtown streets are covered in all sorts of interesting, artistic graffiti, which kick-started the project. Brooks herself went out on a midnight sticker raid, saying, “I felt very young and cool.”
While plastering the city with any sort of advertisement is strictly a legal no-no, the Tuleh team is not too concerned about getting into trouble. Bradley scoffs, “The law and I often don’t see eye to eye.” However, any cop, fashion-conscious or not, can figure out just who the gang is. On various flyers designed to look like lost cat posters, names of Tuleh friends, past and present, circle the “We is Family” logo. There’s even a shout-out to “Josh,” as in Patner, Bradley’s former design partner who helped launch the line in 1998. “He’s still family,” says Bradley.
The posters also offer a rip-off fringe at the bottom listing the New York stores that carry the brand: Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Jeffrey. So implicate one and you implicate all. The fallout has been minimal, however: A cop nabbed one tagger, but only confiscated his paraphernalia and slapped him with a $15 fine — which will come out of Tuleh’s coffers, naturally.
Thanks to endless thunderstorms, some of the chalkings have washed away, while most of the stickers and flyers have been torn down in the West Village. But the tags are up everywhere in the East Village and Lower East Side. The project masterpiece is still intact, too — a huge mural on the side of Brooks’ own apartment building a few doors down from the studio, spray-painted by Johnny Vance and Anders Olson, both illustrators.
But how financially successful the project turns out to be ultimately might not be the point. “It’s all in good fun,” says Bradley, “which is sometimes missing in fashion.”
— Nandini D’Souza