Graphic tees are like tattoo designs. They can be as ordinary as tramp-stamped bugs, butterflies and metal bands, or as unique as a signature print. The latter aesthetic is what Contraband Clothing adhere to, with their individualistic and richly characteristic graphic tees flooding the online retail market. The just-released graphic tees are pumped with original designs. The brainchild of graphic designer, illustrator and former copywriter Ravi Rana (whom Indian indie fans might know from his album artwork of records by Pentagram and Shaa’ir + Func) and 3D animation artist Valmik Babbar. The artists turned collaborators to combine their distinctive creative ethos inspired by “sci fi, vintage art, comic book, dragons, monsters and pop art,” described by Rana. Creating wearable art is what Contraband Clothing clothing is about, which in Rana’s words was the answer to the question: “Why not start a line of art based t-shirts by channeling our passions.”
Un-massy and distinctive, none of the designs are run-off-the-mill or dim-witted. Each print is a character with a story and in some cases a story board unto itself. What makes the tees even more brilliant is the attention to detail every design has, causing more glares and stares, often from really close.
One of the USPs of the Contraband Clothing is the way in which design is taken into consideration- this is probably the first company in the country, if not in the world that is designing characters exclusively for shirts, with the aim being to developing the lives of the characters through the passage of time. Both Rana and Babbar have worked with ace graphic artists and pored over every sourced print to give it a distinct personality. Take the Buddy Finn design, for example. The character is being developed as a series of t-shirt prints. While the first print very brilliantly introduces our protagonist (with oodles of colour, cuteness and an ode to his native French culture), the future designs, according to Rana, shall chronicle his watery adventures as he goes across the world exploring marine realms. The upcoming design and first adventure being his trip to the lost city of Atlantis.
Then there is the Beelzebub print, where our principal character takes us on a journey of drunken stupor with Namibian beer in tow. The story picks up on how Namibian beer, although not that favourable here, found its origins in German beer itself. Besides the story-format designs, there are also general designs that commemorate instances in history, like In Transit, a design depicting the American and Russian spaceships, Apollo and Soyuz meeting for the first time in space. And then, of course there are the fairly abstract pieces of art that the team has designed exclusively for the shirts, like Baba, Grumbles and Fangtooth. In the world of comic cons and superhero action figures, Contraband Clothing character prints could start a cosplay of their own.
The prints that make it to Contraband Clothing tees are not limited in their scope of design. Rana states, “Drawing inspiration from the occult, comic books and the earlier stated interests, Contraband Clothing prides itself in the accuracy of details, when deriving references from history and popular culture. We love our monsters, and believe that the devil is truly in the details.” New designs are worked on all the time, concepts being formed through the day or night means that the company’s tees are only going to remain as interesting if not more, with new designs every two months or so
At the moment, the tees are reasonably priced at Rs 699 and for the art that you sport, it’s a steal. The shirts are presently available online exclsively on the website, but the proprietors of the company do hint that they might begin retail at select stores soon.