Designer of many interests

Robert Abeyta Jr's Stussy's x Neighborhood Boneyards Terminator shoes (above). Father of two Robert Abeyta Jr (left) has worked with famous brands including Nike and Levi's. Among the designs of Robert Abeyta Jr is the Levi Trucker jacket (right).
Father of two Robert Abeyta Jr (above) has worked with famous brands including Nike and Levi’s. ST PHOTO: TAMARA CRAIU
Robert Abeyta Jr's Stussy's x Neighborhood Boneyards Terminator shoes (above). Father of two Robert Abeyta Jr (left) has worked with famous brands including Nike and Levi's. Among the designs of Robert Abeyta Jr is the Levi Trucker jacket (right).
Among the designs of Robert Abeyta Jr is the Levi Trucker jacket (above). PHOTO: ROBERT ABEYTA JR
Robert Abeyta Jr's Stussy's x Neighborhood Boneyards Terminator shoes (above). Father of two Robert Abeyta Jr (left) has worked with famous brands including Nike and Levi's. Among the designs of Robert Abeyta Jr is the Levi Trucker jacket (right).
Robert Abeyta Jr’s Stussy’s x Neighborhood Boneyards Terminator shoes (above). PHOTO: ROBERT ABEYTA JR

Robert Abeyta Jr conceptualised campaigns for brands such as Nike and Vans and is also an artist and jiujitsu practitioner

Robert Abeyta Jr may be one famous streetwear designer and artist you have never heard of.

He has worked on a commemorative G-Shock watch for American clothing brand Stussy's 30th anniversary in 2010, redesigned American brand Levi's iconic Trucker jacket with Japanese streetwear label Neighborhood and collaborated with acclaimed directors Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze on The Director's Series DVD in 2003, for which he did the motion graphics, video interfaces, typography, branding and packaging design.

But a quick search on the Internet shows little information about the 47-year-old American, apart from streetwear websites detailing the whereabouts of his latest art show and collaborations with brands such as Nike.

He was in town last month to promote his joint art exhibition with Chris Haueter, a Brazilian jiujitsu master, at The Gentle Art Academy in East Coast Road.

Tactics & Techniques MMXVI aims to highlight the latent creativity in the martial art and its techniques.

  • VIEW IT / TACTICS & TECHNIQUES MMXVI EXHIBITION

  • WHERE: The Gentle Art Academy, 183 East Coast Road

    WHEN: Till March 15, weekdays from 6 to 9pm

    ADMISSION: Free

Abeyta Jr says: "I am very much in support of building the jiujitsu community globally. I thought that this was very interesting because it is different from all the projects I've done in the past that have been somewhat successful."

The Chicago-born, Los Angeles- based designer, who has been practising jiujitsu for five years, is being modest about his success. Not only has he exhibited his artwork in solo and group art shows in cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo, but he was also the force behind the creative direction and advertising design for Apple's iPhone 4 in 2012.

His beginnings were humble: He taught himself to design while working in a graphic studio in the early 1990s.

"I basically started doing everything for free, like punk rock album covers," recalls Abeyta Jr, who is married to a professional ballet dancer and yoga teacher and has two daughters aged 18 and 16.

For about six years starting from 2000, he was the art director for men's streetwear label Fourstar Clothing, which comes under the skateboard company Girl Skateboards co-owned by Jonze, the Oscar-nominated director of Being John Malkovich (1999).

"And then I went into skateboarding, where you have to know how to do everything from shooting videos to designing T-shirts and making clothes."

He then joined Nike as product designer in 2008 for about two years - a move he identifies as the turning point in his career.

"I learnt a lot at Nike. It was during a period when streetwear was at its peak," he recalls.

A man of many interests, he also has his own line of bags called Special Operations Technology, Black (SOT-BLK), which are designed to be durable and functional, with military and tactical operations in mind.

In 2011, he founded independent creative agency DualForces, which has since conceptualised and executed numerous campaigns and marketing strategies for athletic and streetwear brands such as Nike, Vans, Undefeated and Burton.

Yet, strangely enough for a man who is so well connected to contemporary culture via the streets, he is not exactly plugged into social media.

Ms Pat Law of social influence marketing agency Goodstuph says of the designer: "Rob is a heavyweight in the creative industry and yet the hardest person to locate on social media."

But perhaps that is in keeping with his personality.

The media-shy designer is soft-spoken in person and prefers to be photographed wearing sunglasses. As he says: "I'm not marketing myself as an influencer. I don't like the cult personality of that. I just enjoy making products and telling stories."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'Designer of many interests'. Print Edition | Subscribe