Maggie Fox and Mike Sportes are from another dimension, one that sits somewhere between the year 1968 and outer space. They’ve created their own little alien world here on earth, Filth Mart, and it is a dreamland full of the rarest, coolest rock and roll shirts from yesteryear and a bunch of their own equally legendary designs. They also design shirts for a whole league of awesome musicians. In any situation, they are the coolest people in the room. And what’s more, they are nerdy and fun and down to earth.
We’ve been working with Filth Mart for years on shirts for El Cosmico and the Trans-Pecos Festival and during that time they’ve become family. All of El Cosmico’s shirts are either designed by Filth Mart or printed on Filth Mart blanks or both.
We’re thrilled that they’ve recently become neighbors as well, packing up their LA life and moving to Austin with a stop along the way to open a little jewel-box of a shop in Marfa (named FilthMarfa, obviously).
After all these years of collaboration and beers around the campfire, it was wild to sit down with them for an interview and find out there was so much we didn’t know about them.
Here are a few things we learned about our favorite filthy weirdos.
When Filth Mart opened in 1997 on 13th Street, the East Village in New York was, well, more punk rock than it is today. Mike was charmed by all the crusty characters of the neighborhood, and would refer to them endearingly in grumbly grandpa terms. Let’s make a store for the riff raff. Let’s make a place for all these filthy kids. It was their way to fathom the idea of starting a company as riff raff themselves. “We thought it would be really funny to have business checks that said Filth Mart on them.”
Your Marfa/Liz origin story.
In the late 90’s, Maggie’s friend, photographer Katy Grannan, was assigned to do a story on Marfa, one of the early Donald Judd/art community/what’s up with this wild place in the middle nowhere type of pieces that have become familiar since then. Katy finagled a stylist gig for Maggie as part of the shoot, and the two set off for El Paso. The person waiting at the airport to escort them on the 3-hour trek to Marfa was none other than Boyd Elder. There’s no way us mere mortals can represent the bigness of Boyd adequately with words here, that’s a story for another day. Suffice it to say he was a west Texas legend of the highest order.
“When we landed in El Paso, Boyd Elder was sitting there waiting for us in his old dusty black Mercedes. We stayed with him in Valentine. Yeah, it was nuts. And of course, he's pulling Joni Mitchell paintings out from under his bed and shit. We were like, what is going on? We went to the Presidio Rodeo. It was amazing.”
A few years after Maggie and Mike moved the store and their life to LA (circa 2004), their friend Nina Garduno brought Liz Lambert into the shop, knowing she’d dig it. As Maggie recalls, “It was crazy. Liz was like, have you ever heard of Marfa, Texas? And I was like, oh my God. I've had this affinity with Marfa forever. “ They hit it off as expected, and before Liz left, Filth Mart was signed on to make t-shirts for Trans-Pecos and be vintage vendors at the festival.
“The first time we went out to her bunkhouse (in Ft. Davis), she was telling everyone to get naked and jump in the pool. If there’s water and Liz, there’s nudity. That’s how it goes with Liz. It was meant to be.”
Um, the Jay-Z song.
What do you say, me, you, and your Chloe glasses
Go somewhere private where we can discuss fashion?
Like, Prada blouse, Gucci bra
Filth Mart jeans, take that off
- Jay-Z, I Just Wanna Love You (Give It To Me)
Pharrell produced that song and he was into the jeans that we made in New York. He would come in and say, I need a pair for Janet Jackson. I need a pair for Kelis. And he would send 'em to all these different girlfriends. And he produced that song and it was in the studio and Jay-Z was mentioning all those other things and what do I say there? And Pharrell told him say Filth Mart. Filth Mart jeans. And he did.
Strangest Filth Mart memory.
Maggie: When Mike opened the store, almost immediately he started getting postcards in the mail, like postmarked and they all said the same thing. It said, get off our block now. And now was underlined three times and it had three exclamation points.
Mike: Every day for about five years. For five years. I had stacks of them. I was saving them. There were those pre-made postcards from the post office with a little pastoral looking stamp printed on it and they all had a stamp of where they were sent from. They all said New York City, I showed it to this cop that used to pop into the store. And he's like, yeah, that's from around the corner, A box right around the corner. And then one day, one comes and it's got a San Francisco stamp. This fucking guy went on vacation with this postcard. So he’s like “I got my toothbrush, got my postcard so I can keep sending them to that asshole.” Didn't miss a day. We lost them in a move somewhere. There were stacks and stacks, rubber banded.
(Editor’s note: don’t tell Maggie and Mike but once they open their store in Austin, we’re going to send them postcards every day that say WE’RE SO HAPPY YOU’RE ON THE BLOCK!!!)