Up there in my top 20 of life long admired brands, hailing out of Brooklyn is Air Wear NYC.
Air Wear NYC was known for being the top producer of airbrushed, portrait fashions based clothing within the Hip Hop community. One of its most popular tribute works, a portrait of the R&B princess, Aaliyah, was one of the first shirts to be released and was later seen at various award ceremonies and music videos
These pieces are a rare and must have for any hip hop collector out there, and you should definitely cop one if ever you should see one.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Al Fliction, the man behind the genius that is Air Wear NYC
How did you first come up wanting to do Airwear when you first launched
I grew up as a graffiti artist, tagging up trains, and airbrushing throw ups onto tees, which lead me to tattooing, opening my own store in 2001
Throughout running the store, I was always experimenting new ways to draw artists I admired, at which point I later tried airbrushing them onto basic black or white tees, and was very impressed with the result. My partner at the time, also ran Uncle Ralphs, once the be all and end all of urban wear, I got him to continually bring in fresh basic tees for me to Airbrush, and they went on to retailing them at USD75
The moment they were put on the mannequin, the lot was sold in 2 hours.
It was clear we needed to grow this further, so when Uncle Raplh’s closed its doors in 2001, we took over the space, and setup Al’s Tattoo City, and continued selling the tees there, setting up Air Wear officially a few years later.
What were some of the memorable moments during Airwear’s reign
Mr C (Notorious BIG’s DJ), saw the tees one day and got in touch to create a bunch for the XXL Biggie Anniversary shoot, and I then went on to attend the event itself held in Brooklyn around 2001, was then asked to present a canvas piece I did of Biggie to the Wallace Foundation, that was greatly admired by Mrs.Wallace herself, and received a lot of coverage. Being from Brooklyn myself, it made the whole experience that more emotional.
Other moments include the time when 50 cent brought on his tee to the morning show, where he presented it as a gift, as well as wearing one himself.
Tell us the creative process to make each individual print
As we were growing Air Wear, we found that the majority of people buying the product were either women or kids, as most men didn’t want to have a picture of an artist covering the whole tee, unless it was someone of note, like a Biggie, Jay Z or 2 Pac.
In light of this wanted to give the range more structure preserve its authenticity, so focused my references on deceased and multi platinum artists.
Stores like Hip Hop Closet then buying into it, and we had a lot more opportunities stem from that, in working directly with other artists such as Camron and of course 50 Cent
Are there customers that still hit you up for custom pieces
Yeah all the time. Artists, Stylists, and also relatives of deceased artists who want to have a piece they can themselves forever cherish.
We particulate at a few select Tattoo Shows, Car Shows, and events, were we still do live airbrushing, which is something we were made famous at tradeshows like Magic and Bread & Butter in Europe, whilst we were showcasing Air Wear
Future plans and aspirations
Air Wear is making a comeback this year, with a new look and color scheme, therefore make sure to stay tuned
We will be carrying an exclusive offering of original airbrushed Air Wear tees on 1800 next month. Watch out for the drop.