Paying tribute to the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee, New York label The Emperor’s New Clothes design a regal relic of a t-shirt.
It’s likely that Queen Elizabeth II would rather abdicate her imperial throne than be seen wearing a t-shirt. And yet, paying homage to the most modern queen in the world with the preferred garment of the youth seems rather appropriate. And so, i-D online called upon the suitably named New York-based t-shirt phenomenon, The Emperor’s New Clothes, to sum up royal respect in one epic t-shirt.
Richard Wheeler is the British founder of Emperors (as the label is known amongst its fan base of famed and – indeed – crowned heads), whose former job as a model agent in New York inspired him to design the now infamous slogan t-shirt, ‘Please Don’t Feed The Models’. A social commentary on the fashion industry, the t-shirt was soon picked up by paparazzi targets around the world, and Wheeler and his business partner Gavin Bond found themselves having a bit of a moment. T-shirts by Emperors have since graced the torsos of everyone from Nicole Kidman, Kim Kardashian and none other than the Duke of Cambridge. In celebration of all things tiara’d and T-shirt’d, i-D online spoke to Richard…
Designing a tribute t-shirt to The Queen is quite an undertaking. How did you go about it? I kept to my winning formula: a great image with clever wording. With the HM I knew it had to be a classic image with a modern twist. A celebratory message. I ran a thousand words through my head, but once I thought of ‘Diamonds are Forever’ I knew it was a done deal, an absolute win. Once I established this, I worked with Lolita Matsui, a fellow artist. We took a celebratory drink and painted the colours.
Being an expat and all, the Queen must hold a special place in your heart. What does Her Majesty mean to you? HM is in her 80s and she works tirelessly for the people of Britain and the Commonwealth. Hats off to her. She’s the epitome of our stalwart, stiff-upper-lip-shut-and-get-on-with-it mentality. God bless her.
Your website states that Prince William’s friends have been wearing your t-shirts. Please elaborate. My brand is called Emperors… it was definitely very fitting when that happened.
Your t-shirts are quite funny. Did you have to adapt your British sense of humour to the Americans? Or is it the other way around? We Brits have a strong sense of irony and sarcasm that, dare I say it, is lost on a lot of Americans. They will tell me it’s the lowest form of wit – I tell them, “Yes, but the highest form of intelligence”. So there has to be some humour tweaking. But without getting hugely philosophical, a sense of humour overcomes boundaries of language and culture… and I’m a little bit of a cheeky one – some say ‘different’ – which translates on to my work, and a lot of people find that funny.
What’s next for you and the label? Actually, I’m into my tailoring, and I have a good friend that will not shut up about me designing her a gown, so if for no other reason than peer pressure, I will. Ha. No, really, it’s in the pipeline.
If you could design a slogan t-shirt for the Queen to wear, what would it say? ‘I friggin’ rule.’
Felix wears t-shirt The Emperor’s New Clothes for i-D. Jacket vintage Helmut Lang customised by stylist. Jeans Ksubi.
Text: Anders Christian Madsen
Photography: Thomas Lohr
Styling: Anthony Stephinson
Hair: Charlie le Mindu using L’Oreal Professionnel
Make-up: Philippe Miletto using Chanel
Hair assistance: Shiori
Model: Felix Lalonde at Elite London
To win one of The Emperor’s New Clothes commemorative Jubilee t-shirts email your answer to the question “Which two designers were crowned ‘The King and Queen of Fashion’ in i-D’s The Royalty Issue for Spring 2012?” to email@example.com no later than 7 June 2012.