In 2017, YouTube star Hank Green tracked down a Turkish graffiti artist. Now he's shared his story on TikTok, leading to a huge surge in demand for his work.
- In 2017 YouTuber
Hank Greendiscovered a Turkish graffiti artist, and they launched a T-shirt line.
- It didn't really take off, but thanks to recent TikToks, the artist has gained a whole new audience.
On January 21, legendary YouTuber Hank Green posted a TikTok to his 6 million followers explaining the story of how he came to track down a Turkish graffiti artist called Hasan Pehlevan. The video received over 700,000 views, and Green announced that he and Pehlevan were working together to sell
The T-shirts featuring Pehlevan became the two top-selling items on DFTBA.com — a site that sells products by many large creators — for a month with demand at an all-time high, Green told Insider. The shirts are now completely sold out.
@hankgreen1 Reply to @shazampony IT’S ALL COMING TOGETHER #kedicizdim ♬ original sound - Hank Green
Pehlevan was already making a living as an artist, but his graffiti, which can be found in the streets of Istanbul, had largely gone unrecognized until Green intervened.
"It turns out, a lot of his work was in places not frequented by tourists," Green told Insider. "And so it was much less likely to get onto Instagram."
Now, Pehlevan told Insider, "I am constantly seeing the posts on social media of the graffiti and getting good messages."
The pair's partnership actually dates back half a decade, but thanks to
Green first came across Pehlevan's art in 2017
In Green's TikTok video, he explains the backstory of his and Pehlevan's collaboration.
Back in 2017, he and his brother John — with whom he makes YouTube videos for their two channels which have a combined following of 14.5 million subscribers — posted a two-minute documentary about stray cats in Istanbul created by YouTube to their channel. Shortly after, Hank found himself "obsessed" with a piece of Turkish street art briefly shown in one three-second shot.
The image is of a large, blue, graffitied cat head, with the artist tag "Kedicizdim" scrawled underneath.
"It was an image that captured my attention very effectively," Green told Insider. "It wasn't like anything I've ever seen."
Green said part of the fascination was that the cat wasn't "cute," making it a unique portrayal. "There's a way in which cats are cute, but there's a sort of greater way in which they are just authoritative and beautiful. And it captured that authoritativeness of a cat very well," he said.
Green made it his mission to track down Pehlevan, whose graffiti tag, Kedicizdim, literally translates to "I drew a cat." He posted on social media, looking for anyone who might know the identity of the artist. Months later, someone who knew Pehlevan reached out and connected Green to the artist via Instagram.
The merch was first launched five years ago, but it only took off after Green posted about it on TikTok
Pehlevan told Insider he hadn't heard of Green before they spoke, but after doing a bit of online research, agreed to work with him, printing his art on T-shirts and stickers that they sold online.
Pehlevan was able to show Green some of his less seen work, and they began selling the T-shirts online in 2017. But sales didn't really take off and the line wasn't re-stocked.
In July 2021, Green posted an unrelated TikTok that was viewed 1.6 million times in which he was wearing one of the Kedicizdim shirts. Green said he received a number of comments asking where he got the shirt, as followers said they wanted one too. Suddenly, there was enough demand for Green and Pehlevan to go back into business.
Works every time.♬ original sound - _ritikaaaa
After the relaunch of the merch in January 2022 and Green's TikTok about the partnership, sales more than doubled from their 2017 numbers, Green told Insider.
The pair hope to collaborate again in future
Pehlevan said he's not focused on the money, but is glad his art is reaching a wider audience. "It's enough for me when people see something they love on the street, and it makes me happy to have it on a T-shirt," he told Insider.
Although they've still never met in person, Pehlevan said he's happy with the success of the merch. He still paints graffiti whenever he has time, often under different aliases, he told Insider, because in Turkey graffiti is considered illegal vandalism and can be punishable with a prison sentence of up to four years.
Green's role, he told Insider, is to get the right materials together to print Pehlevan's art, while also telling his story, doing the marketing, finding an audience, and handling the logistics of shipping and selling.
Pehlevan added that he and Green work well together, and he hopes their collaboration will continue. Green agreed, telling Insider, "People were really into it and excited about it. So I hope that we can continue to make more stuff."
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