amfAR + Shantell Martin Beach Towel

More than a summer accessory, this art and activist collaboration sends a message to act on


The Foundation for AIDS Research (aka amfAR) has joined forces with London-born, NYC-based artist Shantell Martin for a limited edition collaboration beach towel to raise awareness and funds for an HIV/AIDS cure. Born out of brainstorming sessions, the black and white towel encapsulates Martin’s trademark style and a strong message: “Be epic, cure AIDS.”

We spoke with Martin about the product and the process, and she said the team decided on a beach towel for a few simple reasons. Importantly, considering the message, they wanted an item that “people would be able to show off in public in an epic way.” Specifically, as for the final beach towel decision, Martin says, “I feel after such a long winter in New York, you could say we were all very much looking forward to the idea of sun and summer and all the positive energy that it brings with it.”


Martin has applied her signature black ink on white to all kinds of surfaces—from paper to walls, to chairs and bikes—but this is the first time she has designed a towel. Further, she was acutely aware of the significance and weight this towel had to carry, while remaining a fun accessory. “I approached this piece using my very spontaneous style, however, before I actually put pen to paper—so to say—I did a lot of thinking. I thought about the landscapes and people the beach towel might see on its future travels, I thought about the idea of us all working together to build a cure for AIDS by 2020, I thought about the history of amfAR so far and the courage that it took to get it started in the first place,” she says.

“In the final drawing you can see these thoughts reflected in the form of faces, birds, stick figures, mountains that we have already climbed, seas that we still need to sail and the words ‘BE EPIC CURE AIDS’—a message for us all to act on,” Martin explains.

Now available at the amfAR shop for $40 (with 100% of the proceeds going to amfAR), this is one towel you can be proud to show off this summer—and beach seasons to come.

Images by Cool Hunting