King of Kings: Timeless Iconography
In years past, I produced a t-shirt design that then became a highly profitable commodity, as though I’d struck gold. My retail store and its brand label were known at that time as HOUSE, which was East Village–based in New York City. The store was pressed to sustain customer demands for this particular t-shirt. Flashing back, I recall residing in a great apartment on Pitt Street on the Lower East Side. It was here that I conceived the idea of restructuring the classic “batwing” logo of Levi Strauss & Company, doing so to not only give homage to the timeless logo itself, but to reincarnate the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley.
Within a few weeks of launching the first production run of t-shirts with the revamp of, or play on, the Levi’s batwing logo, there was a TexMex restaurant in the West Village selling an exact copy of my newly born design. Realistically, I wasn’t in a position to have the restaurant cease and desist production of this design emblazoned on their t-shirts. I perhaps should have taken this as a sign to simply forget ever conceiving of the idea. But alas, HOUSE clothing reps were zealous, and retail store owners were equally enthused to provide a revamped, iconic motif to their clientele. Everyone and everything appeared satisfactory.
Then, without going into too much detail, we were struck by the almighty wrath of Levi’s: legally served to cease and desist production and to be rid of any inventory evoking any play on or similarity to the Levi’s logo on products. Although we eventually settled out of court, I learnt a harsh lesson that has helped to guide and educate me to this day:
Veer away from tampering with any Goliath corporation!
I’ve always been fascinated with company logos (from infancy), especially those that have exemplified the test of time …
Ever since its conception, former HOUSE clothing reps and friends have informed me of sightings of my design produced by others onto bumper stickers and coffee mugs. Even sightings on t-shirts sold at marketplaces within the UK.
As before, I have no authority to make any legal demands of those still arbitrarily capitalizing on producing this design. For, naturally, there could never be claims to pursue ownership of the intellectual property of a design logo that is no doubt a clash of marketing interest, regardless of the demands bestowed upon me in aborting production of this particular pop-iconic motif. But for the record: it is and always will be a baby I gave artistic birth to. Confirmation of this, I’m sure, is tucked away on record and stored somewhere within the filing systems of Levi’s. And furthermore, HOUSE v. Levi’s did play out in terms of legal ramifications; both parties agreed to settle out of court.
Whether this typographic version of the classic batwing logo continues to present itself as a non-licensed entity of Levi’s, I do want to firmly put out to the universe: I am the original creator of this somewhat controversial design motif. And also providing credit where it’s due, to acknowledge my gratitude to the services and dedication provided by my former business partner, Kristen Alvanson, recognizing that HOUSE was undoubtedly built by us jointly.