While Cactus Plant Flea Market, also referred to as CPFM, has become one of the biggest streetwear brands, behind spotted on some of the most famous rappers, from Frank Ocean to Tyler, The Creator, its founder, Cynthia Lu remains as elusive as it gets. Having never given an interview despite CPFM’s massive success over the past 8 years, Lu’s mystique only adds hype to the brand, whose drops are known to sell out within a matter of minutes.
BORN INTO THE HANDS OF STREETWEAR’S BIGGEST INFLUENCES
Before starting her own brand, Lu worked for Pharrell’s Billionaire Boys Club, with a network spanning from Pharrell, obviously, to his own friends and fellow designers such as NIGO and Kanye West. When it came to starting CPFM in 2015, Lu had already built a support system within these public figures to propel her brand into the limelight. Rumour has it, the “Cactus” name was given to Lu by previous co-workers after noticing she had a cactus on her desk, and encouraged by Pharrell who saw similarities between the plant and the designer both being sharp, short and hard to touch. When it came to starting the brand, it only seemed natural to use the Cactus moniker.
AND THEN CAME THE COLLABORATIONS
Streetwear and collaborations have become synonymous with one another. Considering Lu’s previous work before CPFM and her close relationship with industry trendsetters like Pharrell, it only felt natural that collaborations would become a huge aspect of CPFM’s identity. In fact, the first ever piece of clothing put out by the brand was a yellow t-shirt with an embroidered cactus on its front, in collaboration with Anti Social Social Club. Ever since, the brand has continued to collaborate with similar streetwear brands, such as Stüssy and Human Made. 2019 marked the year of one its biggest collaborations to date with Nike, creating the collaborative Air Vapormax recognized for its 3D curved Swoosh. Last year saw the brand venture away from fashion collaborations, teaming up with McDonald’s to create a meal box and a range of merch, cementing the brand’s wider cultural impact.
MUSIC WANTS A BITE OF THE CACTUS
While Pharrell naturally became one of the first musicians to rep the brand, CPFM quickly seeped into hip hop’s biggest names’ wardrobes. From Offset and Lil Uzi Vert to LeBron James and Justin Bieber, the brand who started off as a hip hop favourite quickly caught the eye of all sorts of major spotlighted figures, proving that celebrity cosigning is one of the best ways to launch your brand into major success. But CPFM wasn’t just being worn by stars, it was created for them. One of the most recognizable pieces from CPFM is its merch for Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s “Kids See Ghosts” album and tour. The “Lucky Me! I See Ghosts” hoodie became a cultural phenomenon, now being sold on StockX for over $6,000. CPFM also had its hands on creating merch for Kid Cudi’s “Man On The Moon III: The Chosen”, A$AP Mob as well as tour merch for one of the biggest rock bands in the world, The Rolling Stones.
THE MELTING YELLOW SMILEY FACE
While the brand’s name points to a cactus, its most recognizable emblem is probably the melting smiley face. Often seen with two pairs of eyes, the yellow graphic has made its way onto most of its iconic products, such as on the heel of the Nike Air Vapormax or the front of the Kids See Ghosts crewneck redesigned with ghosts for eyes. The smiley face has become synonymous with the brand, having reinterpreted it away from its classic clean-clut predecessor that dates back to the 60s. A fan favourite has become the smiley rug made in collaboration with Better™ Gift Shop that sold out, again, in a matter of minutes.
DIY MEETS LUXURY TASTE
A key aesthetic to Lu’s brand is its DIY approach to design. From the smiley face logo to graphic text elements, CPFM intentionally avoids precision and strives for a rugged, almost child-like art project look. This, though, doesn’t cheapen the brand. If anything, it sets it apart as a playful take on streetwear, which is often categorised with sharp-lined logos and graphics that resemble or imitate real life characters. From its own products to its collaborations, CPFM has continued to create with its hallmark DIY aesthetic bringing a fun energy to otherwise simple or established designs.
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