Behind the Collab: Limited-Edition Tees by DEERDANA

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A graphic tee is something of a wearable billboard, an homage to the people or places that influence your style. So when we set out to create a limited-edition run of illustrated shirts (and when we say limited, we mean it—there are very few in existence), we knew exactly who to call: Dana Veraldi. She’s the New York-based artist behind DEERDANA™, and her irreverent portrait tees have a cult following amongst the artists, musicians and writers she draws and their loyal fans. Considering we don’t have an official office mascot of our own, we had to get creative…

We looked to three of our favorite cities and asked Dana to illustrate their most iconic cuisines. The result? Three tees guaranteed to spark conversation. Here, we asked Dana about her creative process and how DEERDANA got its start.

First things first: How did you get into putting portraits on tees?

It started when I was studying photography in college and began making prints of my portraits. For my friend Jackson’s birthday, I decided to try screen printing a photo of him onto a T-shirt. I ended up making a dozen, and everyone at his party wore them as a surprise.

And the rest is history?

Well, making T-shirts was never my business plan! I was printing them in my Brooklyn apartment for fun. I met [my partner] Kevin Tekinel in a nightclub, and after becoming friends, he and I made DEERDANA an actual business with a full-blown website.

How do you two split things up now?

Kevin and I choose the portraits together, and then I do all the drawings in pencil. He handles a lot of the art direction, from choosing fonts and layouts to producing collaborations and photo shoots.

What’s the vibe of your design space like?

It changes throughout the day. In the morning, it’s sunny and we listen to Howard Stern talk radio. In the afternoon it’s loud music, and as the sun sets we shift to soul and hip-hop. 

What makes someone DEERDANA-shirt-worthy?

We pick iconic personalities we admire and want to have dinner with. They come from all different creative worlds. Frida Kahlo and Picasso are my personal favorites.

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So how did you end up drawing food for our shirts?

We all really liked the idea of designs based on our favorite places: New York, Paris and Tokyo. Instead of faces for each place, we picked each city’s special foods. That way, we got to tell a whole city’s story instead of focusing on one person.

What are your favorite places to eat in all three cities?

In Tokyo, we love Yakumo Saryo. It might be the best dining experience ever. In Paris, we love Chez Janou, and in New York, we eat at classic spots like Sant Ambroeus and Baz Bagel or new places like Cafe Clover.

If you drew a Madewell piece instead of food on our shirts, what would it be?

A Transport Tote! It’s perfect for traveling.

Shop the Madewell x DEERDANA tees here.

Shop our entire Labels We Love collection here.