Tel Aviv street artist makes his mark on T-shirts, in branding

Graphics designer Nir Peled never saw fashion in his future. Nonetheless, the Tel Aviv artist better known as Pilpeled is quietly attracting — and dressing — a global audience.

Pilpeled combines illustration, graffiti and graphics in his designs, which also usually boast a towering spoonful of dark humor. One look at something he drew, and you’ll know it’s his.

Pilpeled, who has collaborated with major brands, such as Puma, MTV, Coca-Cola and Absolut, has designs and art on walls and canvases around the world.

Pilpeled design for Puma photo/courtesy

Now they’re on billboards, posters, CD covers and clothing. His online store has propelled him to fashion fame as it attracts buyers from everywhere an Internet connection exists.

“I’m not sure about my feelings,” the unassuming, bearded 30-year-old says. “At the beginning, it was embarrassing to see my works being worn by other people, but now I feel proud.”

For Peled, drawing started out as a hobby. He first made a few shekels while in the army, designing posters for friends’ bands. He also left his mark with graffiti on urban spaces.

Bars and clubs started to turn to him for unique posters. He won the Street Print award for best urban art twice in a row.

“Like in other fields, Israelis are very developed in street art. They rank among the best of them from other cities around the world. There are really good graffiti crews here but not only graffiti, everything around it — fashion, artists, musicians. Even with limited resources, it’s still a high level and growing fast,” says the self-taught Peled.

The next thing he knew, people wanted to don his art on T-shirts. His clothing designs give new definition to the term “wearable art.”

In 2013, Pilpeled was the ultimate in underground cool in Lebanon.

However, Peled says, “It would be a sin to attach the art to diplomatic issues or to religion. The T-shirts are never about political ideas.”

Enthusiastic feedback on his shirts prompted him to expand his line to include socks, wallets, hoodies, leggings and tank tops.

Pilpeled T-shirt

It wasn’t long before major brands sought him out for his outstanding black-and-white images.

Puma turned to Pilpeled for a limited-edition version of its classic jacket, featuring a detailed drawing of a tribal woman on the back.

Peled was the first Israeli artist to design a bottle for Absolut vodka, joining the likes of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. The bottle, released in 2013 in limited edition, features the city’s famous ficus tree-lined boulevards at night.

“I designed a sort of a two-sided setting with a window offering a peek into a Tel Aviv boulevard at night. In general, this city has so much energy that you get your inspiration by just feeling what you’re surrounded by,” Peled said at the time.

Most recently, Pilpeled and Sketchy Tank collaborated on a new line of shirts that Peled hopes will gain him some American fans.

Coca-Cola came knocking on Peled’s door this year, commissioning him for a Zero advertising campaign currently running across Israel.

“Coca-Cola is one of the biggest companies in the world, and this is my greatest achievement till now,” he announces.

Among other projects in the works are accessories and fitted shirts for women. A book of paintings will be released this summer in conjunction with a new exhibition.

“My dream is to build my own studio here in Israel, in which we can create all the clothes and sell worldwide,” he says. “We’re already making all the T-shirts here, but we need to do a lot of producing through China and Turkey. I want to create an international fashion brand that sells women’s clothing, accessories for the home and jewelry. We want to have the ability to produce everything on our own.”

Peled repeatedly credits Tel Aviv and the local music scene as sources of inspiration for him.

“The people in Tel Aviv are the coolest,” he says. “The music scene, the streets, all the different cultures, and different kinds of architecture, different kinds of women, and different fashion — you can find that anywhere, I guess, but there’s something magical here in Israel, in Tel Aviv.”