He’s the man behind 2007’s notorious $100 million diamond and platinum skull sculpture, but in 2008, Damien Hirst, the world’s highest-paid artist, found more affordable mediums to work with. Pairing up with denim legend Levi’s, Hirst culled his extensive catalogue for iconic images to translate into a 2008 fall apparel collection. Full of contrasts, like skulls and tropical butterflies, it was as bold and diverse as Hirst’s 15-plus-year career.

Since 1965, when Yves Saint Laurent used contemporary art as a muse, highbrow collabos (see Takashi Murakami for Louis Vuitton) run in the luxury-goods sector. Instead of producing a line that would immediately be pumped out by bootleggers, Hirst went with Levi’s to be attainable. “I love the idea of art you can wear,” says Hirst. “This way, a lot of people get to own my stuff, and in a not too precious way.”

The limited-edition line has offerings for both ladies and men and will be available across the U.S., at retailers like Barneys New York, Union (NYC), Fred Segal (Los Angeles), American Rag (Los Angeles, Newport Beach, San Francisco) and Rolo (San Francisco). While it’ll have streetwearlike exclusivity, Levi’s x Damien Hirst stuck to the principle of affordability. Tees start at $53, denim runs around $216, and the collection tops out at $264, for denim jackets.

The project got moving when, in a true baller move, Hirst saw the Warhol Factory x Levi’s line and contacted the creative director, Adrian Nyman, to purchase one of everything. Nyman asked if he’d get down on the next round. Warhol Factory x Levi’s x Damien Hirst premiered in select retailers for spring/summer ’08. Riding its success, the fall ’08 line relied strictly on Hirst’s themes and images.

Owning an original Hirst, which sells for multimillions, is out of the question not just for you, but for the everyday wealthy. It takes a serious net worth, like Jay-Z’s, to purchase. Fresh off his $150 million Live Nation deal, the rapper turned tycoon made the plunge, copping Hirst’s Beat Life and Cheat Death. The painting was reportedly inspired by Jay’s American Gangster album.

Like Mr. Carter, Hirst wasn’t always so flush. His blue-collar roots go back to Leeds, in the U.K., where he grew up in the punk-fueled 1970s. The artistic bad boy had scrapes with the law but found major success in the 1990s. His early art was dominated by a theme of death; the morbid theme runs through Levi’s x Damien Hirst in the form of skulls, as well as his other major themes of spots and spin art.

“Hirst’s work is smart, thought provoking, witty, original, beautiful, bold,” says Robert Cameron, VP of marketing for Levi’s Brand USA. “[Artists] from Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat to Jackson Pollock and Damien Hirst wore the Original 501 jean as the ultimate ‘blank canvas’ for self-expression and individuality. We’re thrilled to continue in this tradition by collaborating with Damien Hirst.” Here’s to art hangin’ off you, and not just your wall. —Meaghan Dorman

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