After making DIY Pablo t-shirts and flogging them outside the official pop-up, Austin Butts – aka Asspizza’s – fake tees got the West seal of approval
When Kanye West stepped out into Madison Square Garden in February for his Yeezy Season 3 show, the t-shirt on his back came close to generating as much hype as the collection itself. For the album-listening-slash-fashion-presentation, the ever-modest West donned one of his own The Life of Pablo merch t-shirts, a burgundy longsleeve with the words “I FEEL LIKE PABLO” on the chest and the lyrics from album-opener “Ultralight Beam” on the back.
The shirts – which have been repped by a cast of youth super-influencers from Ian Connor to Kylie Jenner – were created in collaboration with the polymathic artist, gallery and record label owner Cali Thornhill DeWitt, and were released in limited amounts on West’s site in password-controlled batches. This left eBay fakes the only fix for desperate ‘Ye lovers, until last week the news broke that the musician was opening a NYC pop up for three days only, where fans could flock to buy the real deal.
And flock they did, with Highsnobiety estimating that 3,000 people showed up to get a piece of the action, with the line snaking down the street. In other words: there was money to be made. Enter Austin Butts, aka Asspizza – the 17-year-old high school dropout and designer who’s garnered enough internet notoriety to earn himself a Rolling Stone mini doc. Spotting a prank/profit opportunity in the Yeezy-induced fervour, Butts and partner in crime Jonah Levine decided to DIY their own Pablo merch, getting a stencil made overnight and putting the graphic onto “a bunch of shirts and shit." “The first day of the pop up we just thought it would be funny to make a bunch of fake shit to like sell through the line and fuck with people,” Butts recalled. Shirts were $20 a pop, though he noted that they gave a load of them away for free.
Butts has always been something of an entrepreneur – back in 2014, he told us about how he used to steal My Little Ponies from Toys R Us “on the daily” and sell them on eBay, spending the cash on Rick Owens and Supreme. But the most remarkable thing about his latest venture was what happened after he showed up to sell the shirts. Kanye’s team, including Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston, spotted the bootleg merch and liked it so much that some of it was put in the actual store alongside the legit Yeezy t-shirts, hoodies, hats and jackets. “All Kanye’s people said Kanye loved it and shit,” said Butts. “All Kanye’s people have a shirt.” Even DeWitt, who was in attendance, was reportedly a fan. “He came to where we were putting them and he loved it and I so I gave him and shirt and everything.”
However, not everyone was as impressed. “No-one was mad except some of the fucking kids that don't get it,” said Butts. “A lot of people just don’t get it because like they’re like, ‘Why the fuck would you buy a fake shirt?’ But it’s more real than the real ones, you know? A lot of people don’t get it.” In fact, don’t be surprised if the bootleg Pablo shirts become collectors’ items. “These are more rare than the ones in the store ‘cause like 10,000 kids waited in line for those and only a hundred people have the fakes, you know?” he explained. “And this is actually printed by kids.”
“A lot of people just don’t get it because like they’re like, ‘Why the fuck would you buy a fake shirt?’ But it’s more real than the real ones, you know?” – Asspizza
Although more of a joke than a serious fashion venture, this isn’t Butts’ first foray into design. He’s currently making clothes for eponymous label Asspizza (which have been worn by people including Wiz Khalifa), has collaborated with Spaghetti Boys, is working on his main label Blanket, and has a Nike collab coming out next month. However, he did get into hot water last year after selling $60 plain white t-shirts with a simple logo on, that fooled people into thinking they were the work of a super rare designer named Marcel Zago.
As for his po-mo assertion that his Pablo shirts are “more real than the real ones”, he might actually have a point. As @solestreetsneakerco – a known fashion reseller who went to the Yeezy pop up with the intention to buy and sell as much product as he could afford – told Fashionista, “This stuff is printed on Gildan t-shirts. There are no tags... It is a bum-ass $4 t-shirt with screen-printing on it. You can go online on eBay and buy replicas that look exactly the same for $13. But again, anything (West) touches, the demand is so real.” That’s certainly true – by West’s own estimation, the merch made $1m in two days. Asspizza might not have pocketed that much cash yet, but watch this space.