Jay LaCouture moves among the machinery in his studio, a Dr. Frankenstein-esque laboratory of intimidating swiveling contraptions with color screens, prints and racks situated throughout. When LaCouture explains what he does every day for his company, AntiDesigns, it is with the same casual confidence that an expert surgeon would use to describe a triple bypass—all he needs is a bit of practice, a good eye and two steady hands.
Designing and screen printing hundreds of original t-shirts, hoodies, cards, and record covers?
But these aren’t the Dollar Tree Ed Hardy iron-ons you used as a statement in middle school. Each color print involves separate stencils, one for each color used in the image. The color stencils are layered on top of each other, and in the case of t-shirts, are heated until “burned” onto the material. LaCouture creates hundreds of these prints an hour, from colorful graffiti style block designs to black and white Boston cityscapes to more abstract geometric designs. “I’m a born and bred worker. I have a tough work ethic,” LaCouture says simply.
AntiDesigns began as many successful companies do: in the cramped apartments of a couple broke college students. “When I was in school, myself and two others were all in engineering, left-brain oriented stuff”
“We didn’t have an outlet to do art, and we were from very different backgrounds, but the thing that put us together was art.”
LaCouture and his friends started AntiDesigns in 2004, right at the height of the graffiti-centric art scene. They taught themselves the art of screen printing amidst the stunningly bro-tastic “Jesus is my Homeboy” era (aka The Trend Which Shall Not Be Named). For years, LaCouture invested money into the company to not much avail. Eventually LaCouture’s partner dropped out, leaving him to take over on his own. Still, AntiDesigns started to grow with the help of the local artist community.
“We started working with artists who had names and artists whose aesthetic was more developed than ours were personally at that time, and that really pushed us to look at the quality of our prints, even though we didn’t have anyone teaching us how to print. It forced us to take our prints to the next step.”
AntiDesigns started to expand its design base with works ranging from Josh Falk’s (pictured above) vibrant popping designs to Evoker’s bold cartoonish styles. Then a year ago, LaCouture decided to commit to AntiDesigns full time.
While AntiDesigns features a visual hodgepodge of uniquely designed clothing, LaCouture makes it clear that AntiDesigns does not aspire to the all-about-the-Benjamins runway strut of Marc Jacobs or Christian Dior.
“Art prints allow us to be artists without shame. There’s this whole fashion universe that makes these rules that everybody hates and nobody understands.”
AntiDesigns continues to grow and collaborate with different mediums such as the artist collective Project SF, Get On Down records, and the Get Together this April, part of Boston’s Together Festival. [More on that later! -Ed] LaCouture says that for the future, he hopes to do more live printing gigs to bring AntiDesigns outside of his South Boston studio to gallery showings and store openings.
“I’d like to do more of that ¾ integrating artwork that is at a distance between the viewer and the artist. Acting as this go-between between something you can see in a gallery and something you can take home and wear.”
PHOTOS BY JOSH FALK