“So often, art finds itself in cached-away places, hanging on the walls of museums, galleries, artist studios and collectors’ homes, sometimes on display for a select visitor or audience where all the circumstances align for the viewer and the artwork to be right there in the same place at the same time,” says McKenzie Thompson. “Sometimes art might be tucked away in the vault, or living amongst the pages of coffee-table reads, textbooks, or otherwise hidden from plain sight. Whatever the case, art is not always the easiest to find, especially in a happenstance way. It often has to be sought out with a deliberate effort made.”
“There is nothing wrong with that,” she says. “In fact, there are many things great! All of these traditional milieus are important to the big picture of how art finds its home in society, how discussions arise within the apartment gallery, how expression is elicited from the artist’s mind and brought into the physical world, how fun is had at the art fairs.” And then the pandemic hit. “We could not go to museums or to art parties or fairs. We could not travel like we’re used to, or get together and share. However, we could not bear to simply check out and sit on the sidelines,” she says. “A small group of artists came together virtually to originate a conceptual brand called Outsider Supply. Together, we make art-focused apparel for your everyday life.”
Thompson, a MFA graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a passion for art history, knows firsthand that artists approach the world with a natural inclination to do their own thing. “It’s their brave curiosity that has contributed so much, and it is our goal to help spread their ideas, while playfully contributing ideas of our own, in an accessible way, through art-infused clothes,” she says. Celebrating the fact that artists have always been outsiders, diverging from the established path to make a way of their own, the Outsider Supply apparel features the works and ideas of artists throughout history who changed the world through their point of view, with how they saw expression and meaning through their own eyes. Simply put: “The mission statement of Outsider Supply truly reflects our motive and ethos, and that is to ‘Keep The Art Alive’!”
Their debut collection is a nod to art-historical movements, as well as to Swedish avant-garde artist and mystic Hilma af Klint, whose paintings were considered among the first abstract works in Western art history, and includes “an element of spontaneous play, too, where, in our own right, we combined elements of celebrated works to create imaginary collaborations between Andy Warhol and John Baldessari, as well as a game of exquisite corpse played with works by Donald Judd and Joan Míro,” Thompson says. The collection features Japanese-inspired boxy cut tees made with mindfully farmed organic cotton, oversized crewnecks and “sculptural dad hats—with a West Coast vibe that is laid back and artful for effortless style.” All are made to order in the United States and have one unexpected thing in common: “The garments themselves act as a wearable form of art, implicating the wearer as part of the artwork in a conceptual way. One might also call it Relational Aesthetics—meaning the artwork is complete when human beings are present, becoming a part of the work, and activating the piece as they bring it to life,” says Thompson.
There has never been a solid boundary between fashion and art for her, but more of a gradient line. “I truly came into apparel making through a fine art way. First growing up painting and taking photos, then later at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago becoming multidisciplinary, making text art, then sculptures, experiential installations, and from there, garments felt like a natural progression, like a sculpture you could live in.”
Outsider Supply is inspired by the concept of art de vivre, or the art of life. It has been created to celebrate the world’s great body of art, have a positive and inspiring impact, spread notable artistic ideas, and become something that lasts much longer than us, as Thompson puts it. But this doesn’t mean that you have to be an artist or even remotely close to one to wear and appreciate it. Thompson thinks of their customers as “people who enjoy the exterior level of things—what something looks like or how it presents itself—with an appreciation for thoughtful materiality, and who also like to search and find things that carry a deeper meaning. They could love Complex Mag, be culture aficionados, or just people who like what they see, and when they wear our garment, feel good. And of course, we are there for the lovers of design, architecture, fine art, philosophy and people like us, i.e., real art nerds.”
As for Thompson’s personal favorite? “I really enjoy the entire collection, as each piece is its own story of creative play, but I must admit, I do just love wearing our ‘Keep The Art Alive New Wave Crewneck,’” she says. “Maybe it’s the angle of the type or the exclamation point, but whenever I wear it, I really feel good! I feel like I’m plastered with a banner that is chic and carries such a lively mood, full of enthusiasm and happiness that inspires a meaning! It’s like, come on everybody, it will be so fun! Let’s keep the art alive! Come on, let’s do it! Plus the garment is so thick and nice and super soft on the inside, I could really live in that thing most of the time.”
When asked about what’s coming up, Thompson becomes giddy: “Well, I would have to say that I am most excited about what we get to explore and to see what shape that takes. Right now we are designing a new collection about Bauhaus, and it has just been so inspiring. First of all, I love a good artist manifesto, and what they were doing was incredible—so experimental and preeminently influential to the rest of modern life. We also will expand into full silhouettes at the right time, and the other day I found myself drawing a suit and some very cool plaid pants. I mean, wouldn’t it be fun to make the whole entire outfit?”
Outsider Supply online: outsidersupply.com
Greek-born Vasia Rigou is a Chicago-based art critic and pop culture journalist, largely on the subjects of contemporary art, design, and fashion. She moved to Chicago in 2013 to study Arts Journalism at the School of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC,) where she was awarded the New Artist Society Merit Scholarship. She grew up to appreciate art after years of carefully planned, culture-filled travel itineraries and museum-hopping around Europe with her family. During this time, she received a bachelor’s in English Literature, in her native Athens; a master’s in Media, in Nottingham, UK; and studied foreign languages—English, German, and Spanish at the University of Salamanca, Spain. Her writing—reviewing museum exhibitions, gallery shows, art fairs, fashion shows, and music festivals among others—has been published nationally and internationally both in print and online. In 2017, she founded and now serves as editor-in-chief of Rainbowed.—an independently published website focused on the visual and performing arts, digital media, and popular culture. When she’s not writing about art or looking at art—wine in hand, she keeps up with Chicago’s creative entrepreneurial and startup community, makes lists for pretty much everything, drinks immense amounts of coffee and takes cross-country road trips every chance she gets.
Contact: email@example.com Website: www.rigouvasia.com