It’s rude to stare, but find yourself around a Limitato t-shirt and you might find your eyes making contact for an inappropriate amount of time. After all, the intention is that the same attention should be paid as if you were observing in any art gallery or exhibition.
The brand specialises in wearable art pieces, but before you envision gimmicky pieces featuring ubiquitous cultural snaps, think again. This is the real deal. From unique visual art to iconic moments in music history, the prints are sourced from well-known artists, photographers, or historical archives.
Just like a mottled painted surface, the print is a velvet rectangle, textured like a canvas would be. And a thick, luxe embroidered border gives it the appearance of being “mounted” on the t-shirt.
From Gothenberg, it is the brainchild of university friends Gustav Peterson and Emrik Olausson who first started out making belts from Swedish copper. But it was only when they came across an archive of photos – including the famous faces of John Lennon to Mick Jagger – that Limitato slowly came to life.
We chatted to founders Gustav and Emrik below…
How hard is it getting rights to the archived imagery?
It’s really hard. When we first started, we thought we were just launching a website. We thought we’d just have a t-shirt with John Lennon or Mick Jagger on it, and it would just sell. Later on, we realised that you’ve got to find a publisher and a photographer that took that photo and get his permission together with getting the license and copyrights for the photo.
So when did you start creating your own prints?
All of a sudden, we were part of an exhibition in our hometown in Sweden. The exhibition was British photographer Terry O’Neill, who we work with now. So we started a conversation – we were only 21 back then – and we were using Google Translate to negotiate agreements. It took like 6 months until we launched the first collection, which went really well. We were travelling around in the car driving to all the retailers, going door to door. Then we joined Instagram and found new artists.
What were you looking for in contributors?
A big sprinkle of rock n’ roll. Also authenticity. Where no one else doing the same thing.
Your pieces are still very minimal though, and luxe…
Exactly, we’re selling an art piece. Even with the packaging, it has a certificate, the number, the artist’s name.
What was the turning point in your journey?
A couple of years ago, we had only 25 retailers in Scandinavia. Then we got invited to Pitti Uomo in Florence two summers ago, and after that it became very successful and went up to 150 stores.
What was Pitti Uomo like?
We had 3 weeks to get together a sample collection with all the artists. We were not ready! The collection arrived on the same day we arrived in Florence – we had driven for 25 hours from Gothenberg to Florence. Ten minutes after the fair started I was getting a coffee, and Emrik calls me and was like, “you’ve got to come here, it’s crazy!”.
Who would you say your target audience is?
I’d say the guys who appreciate art but can’t really afford it. We are the bridge between the art world. The modern day art gallery translated into a fashion context.
Are you just limited to t-shirts?
No. There are bomber jackets and shirts, and we’re looking to expand into accessories. Tote bags, wallets, computer cases…
What are you looking forward to next?
It would be pretty cool to find out how people would react if we had our own store, but like an art gallery. So have an area around the clothing where you can have the photographer and his work and then the collection around it.
What are your favourite pieces?
The bomber jackets. They are something new and fresh. We also have one with Faye Dunaway picture on the back that Terry took when she won the Oscar, but also the whole inner lining is the contact sheet of the picture.