by Janine Stankus
For branding expert Derek Galkin and longtime TV presenter Sal Masekela, passion and creativity have been keys to successful entrepreneurial careers. In October 2013, the Southern California-based duo launched Art of Craft to celebrate the artisans who have inspired them along the way. "The digital age—as remarkable as it’s been—has been fast and overwhelming," explains Galkin. "We wanted to stop, take a look at these individuals and collaborate with them on something that makes a lasting impression."
Art of Craft teams with talented craftspeople to produce limited edition tees that support the artist’s chosen cause. Creative Director and fellow co-founder Tu Pham (who Galkin calls the "backbone of the project") works with the artist and design team to create graphics that capture the artists’ work. The custom-body T-shirts are made in a Los Angeles factory, reportedly owned by the great grandson of the inventor of garment dye. For every shirt sold, $6 is funneled straight to actionable initiatives (not salaries or administrative costs) of the chosen organization.
From musicians to artists to custom car designers, the brand has worked with diverse creatives. The common thread that connects all collaborators, says Galkin, is a true passion for what they do. Recent partnerships include photographer Timothy Hogan’s theFINProject, a documentary film and multimedia artistic study of the surfboard fin. Maseleka pegged Hogan as a perfect fit for Art of Craft, having worked with the artist while launching his own surf and lifestyle sports-related non-profit, Stoked Mentoring. “It’s been humbling to have that kind of enthusiastic support from such a vocal and respected member of the community,” Hogan says. Funds from theFINProject T-shirts support the Surfrider Foundation’s efforts to protect and reopen public beaches, as well as engaging in environmental issues that affect the oceans and coastlines.
Though Art of Craft’s charitable bent creates incentive for both collaborating artists and buyers, the founders stress that their brand is first and foremost about the craft. “The philanthropy aspect is value added,” says Maseleka. “People get really fired up about the fact that they’re giving. But this is not meant to be a guilt-based brand—this is celebratory.”
The mission seems to be striking a chord with buyers, who aren’t simply honing in on one artist or cause, but have shown enthusiasm for Art of Craft as a brand. The latest launch has enjoyed tremendous response, according to Galkin. The tees are inspired by Jonathan Ward’s ICON, a collection of custom-built cars and auto-inspired artwork. For both Galkin and Maseleka, who have spent their careers continuously immersed in new projects, Art of Craft is special. “This brand’s different,” says Galkin. “It’s fun, it’s rewarding, it allows other people to shine—which feels great.”
Art of Craft launches a new collaboration every two to three weeks. T-shirts are available in men’s, women’s and kid's sizes online for approximately 30 days; men's and women's tees retail for $39. Visit the Art of Craft website to read more about current, past and upcoming projects and to purchase available tees.
T-shirt images and portraits courtesy of Art of Craft, all others courtesy of LLR Consulting taken at the Fred Segal Conveyor store