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Future Primitive

Fashion Street Cred

Equipped with a swaggering sensibility that's patently San Franciscan, Future Primitive Sound Headquarters offers much more than just a trendy cadre of customized clothing. While its stylin' boutique (nestled away on the corner of Haight and Steiner Streets) is the most complete and definitive peddler of urban wares in the city, it isn't Future Primitive's primary claim to fame. This artists' collective, comprising an independent record label, a visual production crew, graphic designers, and MCs/spoken word artists, has been pushing the boundaries of hip hop culture for years with its seminal Soundsessions, a series of multimedia events that redefined the live hip hop concert experience and indicated the dawn of west coast turntablism. Now, Mark Herlihy- the founder and manager of Future Primitive Sound- hopes to bring the same home-grown aesthetic to the world of boutique shopping.

Just as their genre-defying live shows display the versatility of hip hop culture, Future Primitive's boutique is a hybrid of sorts: part gallery, part graffiti supply store, part record store, and part clothing boutique, it thoroughly runs the gamut of urban culture. The clothing especially bears the mark of urban savoir-faire and is punctuated by the same exclamation point that has tagged Future Primitive's solid rep as a hip hop tour de force for years. While the majority of the merchandise is made up of urban wear (hoodies, tees, sneakers, etc.), Future Primitive has commissioned some of the nation's most intriguing urban artists to apply their diverse aesthetics to the clothing line, making for a fashionably progressive and highly individualized flair.

Designers include world-renowned graffiti artist Doze Green, whose credits range from tagging the hallways of South Bronx projects to designing for Kikwear and Ecko. His work has also been featured in dozens of exhibitions in art galleries from both coasts, including a well-received winter showcase of new works at Future Primitive Sound.

Embroidered sweatshirts (in both men's and women's sizes) are priced at $50 and often have candidly hip designs emblazoned across the front. Doze's idiosyncratic superhero/alter ego, the Ghetto Defender, is just one of the motifs that drips generously off the garb. Other designs include graffiti-rendered cityscapes in bold yet abstract sweeps by local graffiti artist Buder, who's responsible for the tribute to Van Boode (the famous 1970s illustrator whose organic, straight lines were a precursor to graffiti) on the BCA Building at 6th and Folsom.

While their sweatshirts have been best-sellers throughout the winter, Future Primitive also has an excellent selection of lighter spring wear, including various men's and women's tee-shirts that range from $20-$26. For this shopper, the most compelling goods are the lady camis that feature designs by Mark Wasserman (of the famed Plinko Design) and by local old-school graffiti legend Rize. The camisole selections include urban mantras like "Dream but Don't Sleep" and "Party and Bullshit" in loud lettering. They are packaged with panty sets, adding a sexy flourish to the line of women's attire. Colorful boy briefs with martini glass graphics and slogans like "Short but Funky" provide a vital dose of irreverence and sass overall.

Aside from already selling trendy vintage footwear from Nike, Adidas, and Puma, this year Future Primitive is further delving into the coveted world of sneakers. Since the birth of hip hop, the sneaker has been the undisputed cornerstone of modern urban fashion, and later this year Future Primitive will be offering clientele a stable of customized shoes catering to customers' specific requests. Sneakers are altered through a number of methods, including industrial decomposition and sewing, airbrushing, painting, dyeing, and accessorizing. In addition to individually customized shoes, Future Primitive is also offering a very limited run of hand-altered artist edition shoes.

Future Primitive also has a reserve of books that are graphic-intensive documents of graffiti and hip hop culture. The books are handpicked by staff and include the vibrantly rendered Gangsta Rap Coloring Book and startlingly original pop culture compendiums like Where'd You Get Those? New York City's Sneaker Culture 1960-1987, which was written by famed NYC DJ and Source columnist Bobbitto.

High quality prints from previous exhibits, ranging from $100 up, are available to customers as well, including Doze Green's scattered empire of futuristic forms and backdrops, and selections from currently exhibited artist Mode 2's pencil-drawn Tokyo Girls collection. Mode 2's drawings are persuasively executed pieces that evoke the festive demonstration of urban dance and the nuances of city culture.

Over the years Future Primitive has managed to establish itself as one of the Bay Area's most lauded music authorities. Their Headquarters reinforces this status and allows customers to sample the culture surrounding the music. Whether or not you're a die-hard hip hop fan, or just a dilettante trying to garner some "street cred," you'll find their universe vivacious and engaging.