The last male northern white rhino, Sudan, died last week at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. He is survived by his daughter and granddaughter. Currently, “The Last Three” statue of Sudan and his daughter, Najin, and granddaughter, Fatu, stands at Astor Place in New York as part of an awareness effort by fine artists Gillie and Marc. When I think of what irrevocable damage humans have done to nearly distinct species like the northern white rhino through hunting and poaching, I think of the efforts of Marc Ecko.
Born Marc Louis Milecofsky, he was a Jewish boy from New Jersey who liked graffiti art, hip hop and streetwear at a young age. He wrote a business plan for his parents for permission to invest his bar mitzvah money into equipment to produce an airbrushed t-shirt line. In 1993, he dropped out of college to work on Ecko Unltd. full-time, with a name derived from a childhood nickname. He also legally changed his last name to Ecko to match his company name.
As for the rhino logo, it was another nod to his childhood. It was based on a wooden figure that he played with in his dad’s den. Retail buyers hated the logo. One thought it was a dinosaur. But when a shirt with a rhino on it outperformed others, the buyers stopped complaining. It then evolved into a company initiative to partner with the International Rhino Foundation, which spurred benefit concerts, limited edition collections and rescue missions. At the Marc Ecko Save the Rhino’s benefit concert at Central Park SummerStage in 2005, Ecko told the audience “there are less white Rhinos in the world than the number of people in the front row.”
At the time, Ecko’s goal was to secure the futures of the Indian, Black and Sumatran rhinos. But industry challenges forced him to change his direction. He went on to sell Ecko Unltd. to Iconix Brand Group. He launched and sold Complex Media to Verizon and Hearst. He also started a venture capital firm called Artists and Instigators, which rebranded as SeventySix Capital. Plus, he founded an education innovation organization called Sweat Equity Education.
Now that we are close to losing the white rhino, I yearn for someone in the industry to take up the cause again.