We speak to artist Joe Cruz about his latest collaboration for Whistles
26-year-old Joe Cruz is rewriting, or rather, repainting, our cultural history with his chalky scribbles and pastel mark-making, applying his playful, colourful touch to vintage fashion editorials, jazz records sleeves and archive photography. “Simple, bold and colourful,” he summarises. “I love exploring and giving myself a couple of hours to discover new artists or movements. This research is very much reflected in my practise.” His work is easily recognisable by his expressive marks in vibrant, tropical colours. Cruz himself is an exotic mix, with grandparents hailing from Spain, France and Austria. He grew up in North London before studying at Norwich School of Art, and has worked with brands including Stussy, Penguin Books and Reggie London.
“My work is simple, bold and colourful” — Joe Cruz
Cruz’s latest work is a collaboration with Whistles. He has designed a menswear sweatshirt and T-shirt which will drop in store just in time for Christmas, applying his signature style to photographs of London’s Barbican Centre, which was also the backdrop for the Whistles A/W14 menswear campaign, photographed by Jamie Hawkesworth. Cruz began working with Whistles in September, when he designed their womenswear show invitation – a graphic, printed T-shirt – before taking part in a live drawing event at the St Pancras shop.
“I have always been drawn to Brutalist architecture within my work,” explains Cruz on the inspiration behind the Barbican design. “In general I feel these buildings work better in warmer climates, contrasting with large foliage. With my pastels I wanted to give warmth back to the bold concrete. At the time I was also really into Hans Arp and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, so this may have subconsciously influenced the works.”
Whistles launched its debut menswear line in September, and has quickly become known for its streamline classic staples: bomber jackets, roll-neck knits, utility parkas and denims, which now feel so familiar it’s easy to forget that Whistles only placed its toe in the murky menswear waters three months ago. "The design team and I have been a fan of Joe’s work for a while, we like his use of strong colour and simple lines," explains design director Nick Passmore. "We thought he would be the perfect choice to adapt our Barbican imagery. We knew he would add depth to the photograph and give it a contemporary twist to fit with the Whistles aesthetic."
The Joe Cruz x Whistles two-piece collection is available to buy from December 22.
Words by Mhairi Graham