I first became aware of the cheeky, fun-with-fashion-logos t-shirt line Conflict of Interest when CR Fashion Book's Shiona Turini wore its "Ballinciaga Harlem" tee during London Fashion Week last season. You can see her in it, at left. It got plenty of attention from street style photographers and Style.com noted that the label was on their "radar."
At the time, Conflict of Interest had just two other designs in addition to "Ballinciaga": "Giraunchy" and "Bodega Vendetta." Today, the label has released a new set of designs (we're particularly fond of "Ill Slander") and has been picked up by Brown's in London.
Momentum is building for this fledging t-shirt line, thanks, in part, to the line's creative (if somewhat confusing) backstory. See, whomever is behind Conflict of Interest works in the fashion industry (we've been told this by several sources), but prefers to remain anonymous. (Get it? So it would be a "conflict of interest" if the designers revealed themselves.) If you go to the "About Us" section on their website it says this:
Founded in Early 2012, Conflict Of Interest or C.O.I. is a fictitious, covert goverment agency charged with confiscating "unlicensed" designer goods. Its agents raid warehouses and shipping containers worldwide to obtain the few items that have appeal, the rest are destroyed. Despite their origins the selected items that remain are of the highest quality and redistributed through proper channels. Simply put they operate in secret so that you can stunt in public.
We began corresponding with one of the "agents" behind Conflict of Interest to learn more about the line and where it's headed...and if the designers will ever reveal their true identity.
Fashionista: So, what's with all the secrecy? The secrecy simply allows us to do our jobs as agents. Gives us an ability to observe what's out there and to know what to pick during our warehouse raids. The secrecy surrounding our brand only adds to the mystery and excitement. It also highlights the way we want our products to look, not like something designed but rather something that is found, seized, and repurposed.
What's the reaction been like to your tees? The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. There have been a couple of people who did not understand our point of view or motivation in the beginning but most people love what we are doing and just "get it". We are most proud that we have been embraced by the very fashion industry that our t-shirts reference. It has been exciting to see the range of people from A-list designers and editors to assistants and interns who wear our items. It's amazing to see how far one idea can travel in a short amount of time.
Where do you see the business going? We want to continue to create clever products that relate to fashion but are not totally connected to it. Each "Raid" we release is at the time our reaction to what is in our current thoughts or simply happening at the moment. For example, "Niu Niu York" or "New, New York" was created out of our observations of how radically New York City is changing at the moment.
We also will collaborate with other brands in the future as well to do our C.O.I. take on their branding.
Where are you sold? We have our own online shop at www.COI-NYC.com. We are carried at Vfiles in New York, Revive in Michigan, Next in Ohio, and starting next month Brown's in London. There have been quite a few stores who have expressed interest in carrying our line but we are very particular about the stores we sell to. We consider each store as more of a strategic partner for our brand over simply being a retailer.
Will you ever reveal yourselves? We will reveal ourselves when the time is right. Until then we have many other things to reveal to everyone.
Click through to see the new line. Tees are priced at $60, $70 for the limited edition "Benzo Bronx" one. Shop them here.