Take your pick of any of the shocking moves L.A. brand FTP, short for FuckThePopulation, has made this year: premiering an X-rated, NSFW lookbook video on PornHub, throwing no-holds-barred shots at institutions like The Hundreds and Diamond Suppy Co., selling tees inspired by the Columbine High School massacre. But beyond the bile lies razor-sharp logo hits, striking yet poignant parodies, and the overall subversive ethos that was once fundamental to the exclusionary streetwear culture 20-year-old designer Zac grew up admiring. "When I was in sixth, seventh grade," he tells me from the office he's just moved operations to from his bedroom, "FreshJive, Rogue Status, FUCT—I felt like all that was cool, and core."
That same contemptuous spirit carries across FTP's Summer 2015 collection of tees, rugbies, hoodies, and caps, debuting today on The FADER and available now at fuckthepopulation.com. We talked to Zac, the brand's founder and one-man operator, to press him on the cause of all this chaos. "I’m trying to bring back core streetwear, not the 'swag' part of streetwear," is as close as he comes to a mission statement. "It’s hard to explain, but I think I got the point across."
A lot of your designs evoke the military, serial killers—really dark, violent references. What drew you to that imagery? I was into really fucked-up shit to be honest. Watching documentaries on serial killers as a kid and shit. Just a lot of weird shit. I ended up putting that shit into clothing and making whatever the fuck I wanted. Nobody was really making really gnarly shit. I started designing in 2010, in high school. It didn’t really take off until maybe like 2013? People started to pay attention. Some people were fucking with it just because the name is pretty fucked-up. In high school, they banned my shit. If you wore that shit, you got suspended. That shit was pretty tight.
It's almost a streetwear tradition to put titties on t-shirts. Anything you don't want your mom to see you wearing is the coolest. But FTP takes it to such an extreme. The thing is, people think I’m trying hard, which is the exact opposite. It comes natural. I’m not trying to make some gross shit, I’m just making what I like.
What's the story behind the Death Tour tee? I was trying to make a Metallica tour tee, but because that shit is played out, I was trying to think of a non-lame way to do that, in a FTP vibe. So I just started googling killers, and ended up putting them on the fucking sides with the dates and shit. And then the shit came out sick. I didn’t think it was going to come out that cool, but I like that shit. I tried not to put the main popular killers on there, so you really have to do your research and shit. I tried to put the low-key people on there.
There’s a lot of people who are going find your work really offensive. I don’t really take hate too well. They post my shit on Hypebeast, and people hate, and I sometimes comment back and shit, but I just have to learn to deal with it. Because of the nature of my shit, people are going to naturally just hate it. I have to chill, though. I don’t really reply to hate anymore, because that shit is goofy.
But do you have a justification for it in your eyes? It’s really just random, man—I don’t care what people think, honestly. If they think I’m celebrating the whole situation and the kids that died at Columbine, that’s on them to think that. I’m just making shit that I feel is cool. I got a lot of shit for the Columbine: letters from the people of the fucking city, a bunch of mad parents. I get a lot of real hate for a lot of the shit I make. Gnarly shit, like, government type shit.
Like the Terrorist Organization tee? I was selling the tee, and the tee was doing mad numbers—a hundred units and shit. I think some kid got his tee taken at the airport. I got a letter in the mail saying I can’t sell that tee or I’ll get some consequences. It was National Defense, some shit. And then my PayPal got deleted. There's a piece in this collection that has the Terrorist Organization design on it. But I talked to some legal people and they said that’s freedom of speech. I’m not doing anything wrong, because I’m not an actual terrorist organization. I’m not killing people or doing fucked up shit myself. I want to release that shirt because people like it, and I like that shit too. That shit is tight.
You posted a piece that said "The Hundreds Killed Streetwear." On one side of FTP, there’s obvious shock and awe, but then there’s also some commentary on what’s going on in streetwear right now. What made you make that statement that way? Originally, it was a response to their “God Hates Streetwear" campaign, with the same multicolor backdrop. That shit pissed me off. Because it’s like, “Nah, God doesn’t hate streetwear, God hates The Hundreds.” The Hundreds killed streetwear. Their campaign was totally not accurate. Everything that surrounds The Hundreds is not, in my eyes, streetwear. To me, FUCT is streetwear. Fucking Awesome is streetwear. The Hundreds and Diamond and all that is not streetwear. They oversaturated the whole industry with nonsense. Like, they made a shirt that says, “Lil B has swag,” or some shit? It’s childish and influencing the wrong shit. I have friends that work at The Hundreds and at Diamond, but I don’t agree with that shit. A lot of people were telling me dudes at The Hundreds were upset, but I don’t really care. People liked it, kids and shit—they understood what I was talking about.
How did you and Fredo Santana end up connecting for the lookbook? We have a lot of mutual homies. I wanted to shoot it in a cemetery, because that would’ve been way better, but they weren’t letting me shoot in there. Obviously not. It’s a lot of cut-and-sewns. I put a lot of work into it. Hoodies and shit. I put a lot of work into the dimensions and measurements of the actual polos and shit. I have retailers that hit me up, I have five that I sell to in different parts of the world, but I think I’m gonna take FTP out of all retailers. I don’t really like that shit anymore.
What are your larger goals for FTP? I want it to be more than clothing. I want kids to feel like they’re a part of something. Not like they can just go buy a fucking tee and feel cool. I want these kids to feel like FTP has their back and shit.