Philly t-shirt and graphics guy Dennis McHugh and his Italian Market pop-up shop for his ITL MKT PHL line of apparel.
Once upon a time, The Tubes (you don’t know them) had a flaming metal song, “I Was a Punk Before You Were a Punk,” that, though not great, was a pretty apt title when it came to those cool attitude-y hoodlums, moody malefactors and outlaw ignitors of the rock and roll type. I’m pretty confident that t-shirt and knapsack manufacturer, designer, graphics guy and gallery curator Dennis McHugh of Vive 1977 was one of those early Philly punks. Mostly because I saw him there.
McHugh, on his Vive 1977 site calls himself “a go-to punk from the early days of the Philadelphia underground music scene, born in a red brick row home in North Philadelphia in the year of who knows when… (who) went on to start managing and designing for Philly bands in the late 70s… (and) moved into the heart of the scene after barely escaping high school.” The very fact that he worked as a printer with The Stickmen’s late great Pete Baker, curated a gallery exhibition of DJ/photographer/artist Bobby Startup’s Hot Club gig posters, and managed Philly’s gorgeous Buddhist hardcore ensemble, Ruin, and helped them release 1984’s He-Ho and 1986’s Fiat Lux, is enough to put McHugh in punk’s local pantheon.
Moving from North Philadelphia, and into the heart of South Philly’s Ninth Street area not only inspired his latest designs – his “ITL MKT” line, complete with neighborhood-inspired fire-filled metal cans – but also put him onto the street for a weekend pop up every Saturday. Now there throughout Saturday mornings and afternoons, along with McHugh selling his men’s and women’s tees, the V-77 designer is also hawking hoodies, map bags and messenger bags with his stark, incendiary design brightly emblazoned across each top and accessory.
“The ITL MKT PHL” line represents the spirit of Ninth Street, from its beginnings until the present,’ said McHugh on a sunny Saturday at the top of December. “The future too.”
ITL MKT PHL, then, in McHugh’s hands, is pretty damn punk.