You know this or you don't, but I love creative and entrepreneurial people. So when I met Philippe Pelsmaekers and heard his Walldog story I was immediately fascinated! Here's why: Walldog is a brand new (Belgian!) clothing label, that goes on a quest for everyday stories from authentic shops and streets from around the world. Then it prints the coolest signs and the funniest slogans on its tops, tees and sweats. Real shops, with real people in real places, somewhere on this planet. Local, authentic and unique: I like!
When a great story is found by Philippe or one of his curators, he shoots a video ans posts it on the web, so you can always check out the secret behind the sign on your new t-shirt or top. You get to meet the owner of the shop, who takes you along in ‘his kingdom of authenticity and craftsmanship’.
Watch for example this video (my favorite) of Baburao Lad: an Indian producer, actor, dancer, teacher and painter with more than 40 years of movie experience. In the slums of Mumbai, he runs an acting studio where he inspires and teaches hundreds of slum kids to become a big Bollywood star.
I met with founder Philippe a couple of weeks ago and asked him some questions.
Where does the name ‘Walldog’ come from?
A ‘Walldog’ is the nickname for the lesser-known American artists who were only ‘good enough’ to paint commercial signs on windows and walls in the early 1900’s in the United States. For sign painters around the world, small businesses serve as an inspiration for their beautiful typographic art. These artists defend true craftsmanship by painting their art on windows and walls. Now Walldog continues their work on your clothes.
Why did you create Walldog?
Isn’t it fantastic how a local small business owner, like from a teashop in Bombay, an old bicycle shop in Rome or a vintage barbershop in New York gets up every morning to deliver his craftsmanship to his community? Their passion and dedication are the landmarks of local daily life and together with millions of their ‘colleagues' from around the world they make a difference in world economy. Their personality and typical couleur locale add flavor to our life. They make you want to go on a journey to visit them and discover their story. And you feel good if you can take some of it home. And that is exactly what we want to do with Walldog. These little stories are treasures that are just worth sharing. So with Walldog we share a l little of these local stories with the rest of the world and pay tribute to heritage and tradition. I believe this cultural curiosity will bring us a little bit more together. And, as some of our profits o back to social causes, we can do good by returning some of this added value to the origin of the stories and the signs, we close the circle and even make a difference.
You’ve been collecting stories for a while now, what’s your favorite?
Every story has personality and a history, so every story is special in its own way. Some have a fantastic sign, while other have a story that makes you happy. It’s the combination of these two elements that makes a good piece for a shirt. Personally, I like the fish sign from Keshari Fish Shop in Varanasi in India, just because the wall painting is so beautifully ‘fragile’. Then again the ‘Riparazioni’ sign from a small laundry repair shop in Rome excels in beauty because of its simplicity and because it reminds me to Fede and Fabio, the lovely owners of the shop. The alchemy between the beauty of a sign that is authentic and the authenticity of the story behind the sign is what it takes to make a beautiful shirt.
You work with what you call ‘curators’ to find the perfect designs and stories. Does that mean everybody can be a Walldog designer?
Let’s be clear; we are no designers. The designers are the people who painted these fantastic signs on walls, shop fronts, windows or doors. They are the Walldogs from today. We are the storytellers and the seekers. We are on the lookout of stories behind these signs. However one needs a ‘designers’ eye that can anticipate on what sign could make a nice match for a clothing product. You also need an open mind and tons of curiosity. And if you use a smartphone to shoot an interview, please hold it horizontally! :-)
Start with opening your eyes on the street and look around. There’s a story everywhere. Maybe your bakery or butcher from around the corner, that has been there for ages has a great sign.
And of course, for each story we use we need the written permission of the business owner.
I look forward to being one of your curators and look for stories on my next big trip (Laos/Cambodia)! Why do you think there’s a match?
I guess the answer is in the name of your blog? Everybody travels, everybody has a story. People who travel are culturally open minded, are curious and have an eye for authenticity. I call them 'world citizens'. If we could collaborate with such ‘world citizens’ to pay tribute to heritage, then we offer the community a fantastic product that is the result of cultural curiosity and collaboration.
And from a personal note; the first minute we talked, I knew you were a kind of restless, curious soul, just like me. And what is right must happen, isn’t it?
Totally agreed! Good luck with the launch!
Walldog’s first Spring/Summer collection, entirely made in a small workshop in Portugal, is available online and in stores across Belgium and the Netherlands.