What is FTP?
What is FTP?
- Words Eddie King
- Date January 16, 2020
Formerly a counter culture in fashion that relished in existing as an outlier of the fashion spectrum, streetwear today is ironically mainstream and more “safe” than it ever was. Now, amidst an exponentially evolving landscape infiltrated by multi-million dollar investments, streetwear has decidedly lost most of its edge.
Taking up the mantle as the next iteration on streetwear’s “against the grain” roots, Los Angeles native Zac Clark’s Fuckthepopulation (FTP) is blazing a trail back to streetwear’s early heyday, unafraid and indifferent to who he pisses off along the way. “Just do whatever you want,” said Clark in his 2015 No Jumper interview. “I make whatever the fuck I want to make, I don’t care who’s feelings might get hurt tomorrow or the next day. I’ll make whatever or say whatever the fuck I want.”
It’s interesting to see how Clark’s FTP has managed to blend the controversial roots of brands like Fuct with the mainstream appeal of California streetwear labels like Huf and Undefeated, becoming a modern streetwear success story (without losing any of its edge).
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Established in 2010 by a highschool-aged Clark, FTP, then .KcufThepopulation, served as a template for the force it would become. .Kcuf’s early work featured inverted American flags with bold political statements, early cues into FTP’s essence. It was Clark’s ethos for the brand however, that drew the attention of classmates and became the backbone for the label’s now ravenous cult following. “Just all the negatives in the world,” explained Clark in one of his first interviews with blog, Lords of the Pyramids. “I just never went along with society so I decided I wanted to share that mentality by starting a clothing line that had a message.”
As a teen at the height of a unique transitional moment in music and streetwear in the early 2010s, Clark was sitting front row to the rebellious spirit transforming culture. While the Odd Future collective and Kid Cudi were breaking the mold of mainstream rap, labels like Fuct, Freshjive, 10.Deep, Huf, and Supreme were introducing (or in some cases, continuing a pattern of) subversion and anarchist attitudes in a streetwear context. Clark, and subsequently FTP, were a product of Clark’s influences that he made into his own. Like many other streetwear brands before and since, pushing the envelope was the motive, T-shirts and hoodies just happened to be the medium.
Controversy and Early Notoriety
Controversy plagued FTP early and often. As expected with a name like FTP, the brand was banned by school administrators in 2011 while Clark was still in High School, with students warned that wearing FTP to class would result in confiscated merch or suspension.
After gradually building the brand between 2012 and 2014 post-high school, Clark and FTP had its first of many mix ups with controversy when it was catapulted to the streetwear mainstream with the release of the first of three Columbine T-shirts. Released in conjunction with the Fall/Winter collection in August of 2014, the controversial tee featured the text “Columbine Physical Education” in a traditional school style print on the front with the back text “Do you believe in God”, a phrase allegedly said by one of the serial killers to a victim. It marked a pivotal moment for the brand, landing it on blogs like Hypebeast while simultaneously drawing the ire of the general public. While this was only the beginning of a controversial FTP history, this was also, arguably, the moment that a new era for the brand began to take shape.
The newfound notoriety brought FTP more attention than ever before but also set the stage for a new series of confrontations for Clark and his larger platform. Months after the release of the tee, Clark found himself in online tussles the equally controversial Ian Connor after a fan tagged Connor’s Pink Dolphin advertisements. In a move to vocalize his distate towards the corporatization of streetwear, Clark famously sold an entire collection in front of Pink Dolphin’s LA outlet from the back of a U-Haul truck. Most recently, someone tagged FTP on a downtown LA freeway sign which Clark quickly put onto a series of tees and skate decks (and the landing page of his brand’s website). These instances were imperative for FTP not only because of the attention it brought, but because it gave fans rallying points to resonate with. They are physical manifestations of FTP’s rugged image; translating a philosophy of disruption and freedom into tangible action.
Similar to FTP’s ethos, Clark draws inspiration for FTP’s graphics from the world around him and his predecessors. Most of the designs feature brash displays of violence, bold political statements, sex or subversive commentary on society as a whole. Draped on a range of cut-and-sew items ranging from trench coats, quilted work jackets and quarter zip pullovers—as well as the streetwear standard hoodies and tee shirts—FTP’s versatility is just as impressive as their graphics. From flips of the iconic Polo Bear, to clever logo rips, FTP’s extensive catalog is demonstrative of a sincere fondness of streetwear and its legacy. That sentiment extends to collaborators, whom Clark seemingly chooses very selectively.
Meeting Its Idols: Notable Collaborations
While FTP has now collaborated with a slew of different brands, it’s a collaboration with Huf that really brings FTP full circle. In January 2015, FTP tapped Keith Hufnagel—the founder and brains behind Huf—to appear in the brand’s Holiday lookbook. It’s not hyperbole to say that the brand had finally risen to enough prestige to work with one of its idols. A proper collaboration sneaker would drop with Huf in June 2016, and a collaboration collection of cross-branded apparel would land by the end of the same year. Given that Clark was interning with Hufnagel in 2012, and staying with the label until 2016
A collaboration with Fuct in 2017 and 2018 would serve as a proper passing of the torch, with FTP and Fuct meeting up through mutual friend Jordan Hartigan of Burma Mfg. Like Fuct, FTP strives to create streetwear that defies the status quo, and, like Huf, serves as a clear inspiration for Clark’s work. “I think that FTP is extremely relevant right now,” Brunetti explained to Highsnobiety. “Especially due to the political climate...I think that they’re relevant in a way that’s important. It’s still young, so we’ll see what happens in the future but I like what I see now. The elements are intact. There are no ulterior motives or big money behind them, it’s just them.”
More recently, the brand has worked with fellow LA label Undefeated and skate shoe icons DC Shoes. While these labels are more mainstream, it’s proof that Clark’s vision for FTP can and will find success among the broader streetwear market. If nothing else, FTP’s forays into these bigger projects allows the brand’s voice to help add a bit of edge to an increasingly stale streetwear space.
Celebrity Friends and Co-Signs
The camaraderie for his friends and reverence for his idols is markedly evident in his online demeanor and the models for FTP’s lookbooks. Clark regularly employs the use of friends, peers, and idols like the late Fredo Santana, Retch, Chief Keef and Project Pat. He has even gotten more eccentric figures like Ron Jeremy—which harkens back to the brand’s notorious, Spring 2015 lookbook, presented on Pornhub.
A major celebrity connection landed with DMX’s participation in FTP’s Fall/Winter 2017 lookbook. Modeling a myriad of different T-shirts, outerwear and accessories, the collection served as one of FTP’s most well-rounded apparel collections. A year later, Dennis Rodman was the centerpiece of FTP’s Fall/Winter 2018, modeling an equally robust collection. As of July 2019, FTP has used fellow LA-native Steve Lacy to model its wares.
FTP of the Future
As the prodigal son of a fleeting era of streetwear, there’s an immense amount of pressure to keep the spirit of defiance and challenge to society's accepted worldview that now lies with Clark and his contemporaries. FTP is moving into its 10th year on the scene, and the now 25 year old Clark must grapple with the labels success while keeping his trademark anonymous persona and the brand’s expectations in check. Unpredictable as the future of streetwear may be, there is one sure thing; Clark will always be about his vision, his brand and his people and nobody can get in his or FTP’s way. “That’s what I’m always going to be about,” Clark told The Fader. “Just making the shit that I want, and selling it to people who actually fuck with it.”