Interview With Digital Designer And T-shirt Virtuoso Wil Fry

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from the internet over the last couple of years it’s that people love seeing images photoshopped onto t-shirts. Australian-born/NY-based digital designer Wil Fry takes things a step further though, evolving his designs from reblog-ready digital designs and onto irk clothing hangers.

Inspired by logo aesthetics and label culture, from Givenchy basketball uniforms to ‘Expensive’ bomber jackets, he’s also created Yeezy-inspired tees that land on eBay for thousands of $$$. He’s about to launch an online store of his designs, which seemed like a good time for us to catch up with him about fashion satire, utilising corporate imagery, and what it feels like to have digital designs ripped off by retailers.

‘Expensive’ bomber jacket

The Creators Project: Obviously Photoshop clothing has really become a ‘thing’ over the last couple of years. So what do you think it is about your work that sets you apart and has drawn such a following?

Fry: I’d like to think it’s because people can appreciate the thought process behind the few garments I’ve made. It also helps to make the physical piece—not just Photoshopping a design/idea onto a blank tee and leaving it at that.

With a lot of aesthetics gaining momentum online, to what extent do you feel that the Internet has become a style in and of itself? Or do you see it more as a breeding ground, rather than a style?

It definitely functions as both a breeding ground and a style, respectively. Seapunk is a good (bad) example of this. To me, the entire seapunk aesthetic reeks of web 2.0.

‘Expensive’ tee

And you think that’s a good (bad) thing, in terms of that dual online functionality? How has your work been affected by that, where does it fit in?

With my stuff the web has definitely played a large role in terms of being the breeding ground, but as for attributing to the style, I would say it’s played a smaller role. The work I’ve been doing has mainly been driven by factors such as anti-fashion and satire.

A few of your designs have been made into real clothing, but generally with limited availability. Is bigger distribution part of the game plan for you, or do you wanna keep things rare and the stocks high?

Generally, things are limited because I’ve just been paying for this out of whatever spare $ I have. Also, I don’t really want too many people wearing the stuff I make.

‘Art by Art Jacobs’ T-shirt

Why’s that? Are you concerned that your aesthetic could be diluted/lose its significance if too many people caught on to wearing it?

That’s true, although I’m not really concerned about that at this point. Making things really accessible was never part of the plan—it wouldn’t be as entertaining for me, I’d get bored.

How you feeling about crafting things into a realised clothing collection? I’m sure a lot of stores would be down—does that interest you at all?

I’ve been approached by a few high-profile boutiques from various parts of the globe. It’s a nice feeling to have people chase you, instead of the opposite. I’ve thought about doing a line, perhaps in the future. If I have the resources and time to design a collection, I’d like to. I’m just fairly reluctant, because I know as soon as I start chasing $ it’s gonna take the fun and purity out of the work.


You incorporate the language of some other designers as deliberate reference points into your pieces. What are your thoughts on the open source nature of brands and logos? Obviously corporate imagery is used a lot, particularly online—is it possible for any brand to retain control of their identity in this climate?

Absolutely. Re-appropriating brand imagery from the likes of Chanel or Louis Vuitton, for instance, in most cases is only going to strengthen their identity in the long run. These are companies with legacies older than the people who are trying to re-use their logo on a sweater. It’s tongue-in-cheek. It’s funny for a minute, or if done well, maybe a week or two, but the joke soon gets old.

Does that “joke gets old quickly” sentiment relate to your designs too? Is this fashion that’s only meant to be consumed/enjoyed while the concept is still relevant, or are you ultimately looking to create pieces with more lasting appeal?

Yes, of course. However, there’s a story and or idea behind most of the garments I’ve made so far, which I think helps, but that’s the challenge—to create pieces with lasting appeal.

‘Raf Simons S/S 2013’ Oversized T-Shirt

If you had a chance to do a collaboration collection, which designer/brand would you holla at?

Kim Dotcom.

What would the designs look like?

I’ve no idea, but that’s why I would be more inclined to do something like that.

‘Portrait of Ian Connor’ T-shirt

When you create pieces with more transparent references (e.g. Givenchy), how do you balance the dynamic between deconstruction/parody and tribute? Is there a wider cultural or fashion comment being made, or is it more about just making dope prints?

Since moving to America in 2010, one thing I’m constantly seeing is this quick shift from when something goes from being relatively unknown to popular to hyper-saturated in the market place. The Birds of Paradise print quickly became the most recognisable T-shirt print last year within high fashion, menswear, and streetwear. Initially, I was poking fun at how popular it had become, by suggesting the Brooklyn Nets were about to use it on their (yet to be unveiled) uniforms. I’m Australian, Tall poppy syndrome is ingrained deep in my sense of humor. But what’s cool is that people look at the work, or in this case the jersey, as a work of art, because it means different things to different people—to some it’s a work of satire, and to others it’s a tribute.

Givenchy basketball jerseys

We clocked you got ripped off by RSVP Sweatshop—does that kind of stuff annoy you, or is it all part of the T-shirt hustle?

I mean, it’s all part of the game right? It does have its annoying moments, because there are kids spending $300 thinking they’re buying a Wil Fry collaboration jersey with Givenchy off some dodgy website that’s set in Comic Sans.

We heard you put an Air Yeezy II tee on eBay for $90,300—how did that work out? Any word from Kanye?

No, no word from Kanye. Again, that was just commentary from me. It went well, that project went a lot further than I thought it would.

You’re launching an online shop soon, right? What can we expect from that, and when you going online?

I’m selling a new product within the next two weeks. I’ll announce on social media when people will be able to expect to purchase.

Words: Charlotte McManus & William Edwin Wright


About Charlotte McManus

Editor for and Freelance writer - The Creator's Project, SUPERSUPER!, Don't Panic, FAULT, Flux, Who's Jack & more.

Posted on 10/06/2013, in Fashion, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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