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Los Angeles Fashion Week's airbrush with '80s style

On Saturday, the New York-based group TC5 will put on a fashion show unlike any other you're likely to see during Los Angeles Fashion Week.

That's because the members of TC5 (which stands for The Cool Five) aren't fashion designers -- they're graffiti artists who helped revolutionize the urban youth look that came into fashion in the '80s and spawned a multibillion dollar industry that includes lines such as Ecko and Akademiks, streetwear that embellishes basic silhouettes -- T-shirts, jackets and hoodies-- with  PHADE.PUMA graffiti-style images and text.

In fact, TC5 lays claim to kicking off the craze.

"We started that whole thing," said Doc, one of the longest-standing members of TC5 (he's been part of the group, which began in the late '70s, since 1983).  "Once upon a time, if you wanted something customized, you had to come to us."

For this show, TC5 is bringing vintage pieces from New York and has also been decorating some new pieces on-site at the Crewest Gallery. Doc says the new pieces will bridge the fashion gap between then and now, making Saturday's event part fashion show and part history lesson.

“Kids today take it for granted,” Doc said. “[When we started customizing clothes] there was only one kind of baseball cap, there weren’t a million colors. Sneaker companies made three kinds of sneakers.”

As you might recall, airbrushing was a mainstay of '80s street fashion. “In NY, you weren't cool if you didn't have airbrushed clothing with some sort of street art on it,” Doc said.

Street artists have transitioned along with the industry – TC5 now has members who have gone on to design for Rocawear and Sean John, as well as many other familiar labels.

The fashion show will feature clothing from local lines Apliiq and Local Tourist, customized by TC5, as well as live painting on T-shirts and music by the Milky Way and a special set by DJ Computer Jay. Open to the public, no invitation or RSVP required, 6 p.m. to 9 pm. Crewest Gallery, 110 Winston St., Los Angeles.

Crewest's TC5 art exhibit, “Revolutions,” runs through March 27.

-- Samantha Page

Photo: Phade* customizes a Puma T-shirt at the Crewest Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. He and other members of TC5 are staging a fashion show on Saturday as part of a month-long art exhibit. Credit: Ken Scarboro.

*[UPDATED March 18: An earlier version of this post misidentified the TC5 graffiti artist in the photo as Doc. It's actually Phade.]

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This article was very entertaining, but not very accurate... The actual painter in the photo, Phade, was also the original member of a group called The Shirt Kings, who had a store out in Queens, NY. HE was the one who started "that whole thing." Anybody and EVERYBODY in the New York Hip-Hop scene had something to do with The Shirt Kings, whether it was LL Cool J getting custom sweaters for his tour, or "a young kid named Shawn," who would later come to be known as Jay-Z, tagged along with rapper Jaz-O to just hang out at the shop. It would be interesting to see where The Shirt Kings (who are TC5 member Phade, Nike & Kashiem) are today... They are to clothing what "The Cool 5" are to graffiti... Both crews are legendary, but The Shirt Kings are one of the reasons why Hip-Hop fashion exists today.


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