For families of a certain stature, as in those who laid the groundwork for thousands of jobs across this country, a surname can be a boon or a bane to their existence.
As a descendant of oil baron billionaire John Paul Getty and an heir to the Getty fortune, Nats Getty knows that her family crest can signal preconceptions with some. But the artist, designer and LGBQT activist wants her Strike Oil apparel company to stand on its own. “In my eyes, my family is my family. I’m incredibly proud of them. They make me who I am today. I love them with my whole heart. People are always going to have opinions, whether it be positive, negative or somewhere in the middle. I’ve chosen to not let that phase me. What’s the point?” she said. “I’m my own person. I developed Strike Oil on my own with my allowance. My mom didn’t even know. I was just going downtown buying leather and finding patternmakers. I don’t let the rest of it phase me.”
Even the Strike Oil brand name is meant to be a bit of a wind-up. “My great-grandfather was once asked in an interview, ‘What’s the key to success?’ He had a simple remark, ‘Rise early, work hard and strike oil.’ That’s how he lived his life and it’s always been how I’ve lived mine,” she said. “Now the name of the brand has turned into a verb. When I’m painting on a jacket or designing, my friends, family and anyone who works in the studio will refer to it as striking or strike oiling.”
Four years after she started her art-infused clothing company, Getty has expanded the offerings and plans to start selling wholesale. During a two-day stay in New York, Getty discussed that, as well as her summer wedding plans with new author Gigi Gorgeous in Santa Barbara. Her brother August, a designer of his own ilk, will create her “suit/tux” and Gorgeous’ wedding dress. The couple caught sight of each other in the fall of 2015, when her brother collaborated with David LaChapelle for a show at Universal Studios. The photographer pulled Getty’s model shot from a pile, not knowing she was related to the designer. “Gigi and I were the main focus models, but it was more of a live art piece. We didn’t actually meet and shake hands,” Nats Getty said. “The first time my brother showed in Paris for fashion week [in 2017] is when we met and fell in love.”
Her fondness for fashion dates further back. “It really started with me buying Saint Laurent jackets and realizing that I was spending a ridiculous amount of money on clothes that everybody else had. So I took Whiteout and paint pens and added illustrations to them, and then luggage, shoes and went from there,” she said. “I went in reverse order. I started with luxury and high-end, then started making streetwear downtown kind of clothing.”
While Dover Street Market and Barneys New York are on her wish list for distribution, Getty said she expects to start selling her label wholesale to Maxfield later this year. Emblazoned with messages such as “Make Peace Not War,” the leather bomber jackets, hoodies, hats and other items are meant to be thought-provoking. Inspired as she is by her mother’s style, a mash-up of labels like Supreme, Louis Vuitton and vintage, Getty presents an all-are-welcome approach. The $20 to $3,000 retail price range offers a certain accessibility. “Regardless of demographic, age, gender or whatever styles, there’s something for everyone. Obviously, streetwear right now is huge and thriving, but I look to my mom as my main customer. My main thing from the beginning has been that Strike Oil has to be unisex. It’s not for one type of person. It’s for everyone.”
Unfortunately for her, one of the darker chapters of her family’s history, the kidnapping of John Paul Getty 3rd in 1973 and his grandfather’s refusal to fold for extortionists, was up for public consumption in last year’s Ridley Scott film “All The Money in the World.” Getty said she saw the original version of the film, before sexual misconduct allegations against the lead Kevin Spacey led to reshooting his parts with Christopher Plummer. Getty said “the only reason” she had done so was to support her mother, whom director Ridley Scott had invited to a private screening. “When we finished watching it in his personal studio, he pulled me aside and said, ‘Wasn’t that a great film? What did you think?’” Getty recalled. “If I’m being honest, I answered by walking out the door.”
Her own artistic preferences start with “Mr. Brainwash,” who mentored her in his studio. “He was the one who encouraged me to move from simply painting on leather jackets with pens and stuff to actually spray painting with stencils. He really helped to develop my artistic style,” she said.
Another key connection was made during a not-to-be-believed visit with Raymond Pettibon. (She first bought a 20-piece installation from him at the age of 10 for her mother.) “I had the honor of meeting him and I went to his studio a few years ago. We played baseball inside of his apartment. It was crazy. I had a broken arm and he made me take off my cast. He was pitching me balls to try to have me aim at pieces of art that he had hanging. He said that whenever I hit, it gave them more character. So a lot of the Strike Oil mentality comes from that one single encounter,” Getty said.
Keith Haring-painted Converse All-Stars, which are securely protected in a Lucite case in her homes, are other prized possessions, along with an Andy Warhol illuminati-printed scarf, a series of skateboard decks adorned with Jean-Michel Basquiat designs and six Massimo Vitali photos of Italian beach scenes. No longer affiliated with Next Models, Getty said she prefers to work directly with designers and “random brands.” She and her fiancée did a guerrilla street-style pop-up show at Macy’s for Nicopanda. Once back in Los Angeles, Getty and Gorgeous will be doing a photo shoot Monday with the artist Punk Me Tender that will be a cross between “Atomic Blonde” and Saint Laurent, she said.
While Yves Saint Laurent, “a good friend of her grandfather’s” is her “all-time hero,” Raf Simons, Dior and Vivenne Westwood are other favorite labels. Supreme, Bape and Off-White would also qualify, as would her brother’s work. Haring is another source of inspiration, especially for how he helped others at the end of his life, she said. The Haring and Basquiat period resonates with Getty, since their kind of self-expression was frowned upon in the Eighties. “Rebels are something that I am completely drawn to — just being the person who does things that come naturally to you, regardless of what other people think,” she said.
A few days ago she spoke of how fashion can deliver important messages during a panel at the Global Summit on Mental Health Culture Change in London. “Like Keith Haring, the most important part for me is that I use my creativity and what I’ve been given to not just create things, but to send out a message, and a very positive one to actually help create change,” she said.
Designing clothes in her studio remains her 9-to-5 job, but afterward Getty, Gorgeous and her best friend, muse and housemate Huxch, spend their free time at home, putting to use the canvases, spray paint, stencils and cutting machines while soaking in the sun outdoors. “It’s my little version of Andy Warhol’s Factory, but probably less crazy and with a more positive environment,” Getty said.