Heath Ledger's family have combined charity and fashion to officially commemorate the Academy Award winner's life, five years since his death from an accidental overdose.
While some celebrities are remembered thanks to their sprawling estates or monolithic graveside structures, the cool, understated style of Ledger will be officially remembered with a cotton T-shirt.
"His style was what his parents would consider to be 'sloppy'," Ledger's father Kim joked.
He was never out of T-shirt. He always seemed to be, wherever he went, a bit of a trendsetter and his favourite garment to wear was a T-shirt. You could always tell that it would be that particular article of clothing which best represented Heath, it's a kind of personal statement," Ledger told Fairfax Media.
Ledger's laidback look never discriminated. Whether it was on a red carpet or just popping out to the shops in Brooklyn, he had a knack for combining colourful accessories and loud T-shirts with tailored suits and combat boots.
The limited edition Heath Ledger Commemorative T-Shirt went on sale on Wednesday and is a joint venture between his fashion designer sister Elana Rosa and old friend, US-based photographer Ben Watts.
Watts and Ledger met through Watts' sister, Naomi, who dated Ledger for around two years.
The shapeless, wide neck T-shirt shirt is emblazoned with a large photo print of a smirking Ledger holding a skate board.
The image was captured by Watts by a dried up river in LA in 2004 - the same year Ledger split from Naomi and filmed Brokeback Mountain. It was also the same year he met his former girlfriend and mother to his daughter, Michelle Williams.
"We tried free boarding from a truck we took down in the dry river bed. Not a lot of people would be willing to give this a go. It can be dangerous and we reached some pretty high speeds; Heath ate it up, even gave us the signal to speed up," Watts said.
Rosa, a buyer for the upscale fashion boutique Dilettante who cut her designing teeth with women's wear label Empire Rose in Perth, said proceeds from the sale of T-shirts would be donated to Ledger's favourite Perth charity, Telethon, and the Australian's in Film scholarship.
The AiF Heath Ledger Scholarship was founded by the Ledger family in 2008 and financially assists aspiring actors who are working toward their big Hollywood break.
Past winners include model-turned-Tim Burton muse Bella Heathcote, Ryan Corr - star of the Sydney Theatre Company's recent production of Sex With Strangers - and House Husbands regular Anna McGahan. This year the scholarship will be awarded in October as a joint venture with the Australian Film Institute and the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts.
"During the last few years many people have approached our family to ask if they could produce something with Heath's image. The family then approached Ben and I to see if we could come up with a favourite image and garment, something which Heath may have worn. Obviously he would never have worn something with his own face on it, it's more of an homage to his style for his fans," Rosa said.
"Once it's worn and washed a lot, worn around the house and out and it gets a little bit more deteriorated it will definitely reflect on the way he used to wear things," Rosa said of finished product.
The project was a convalescent experience for the Ledgers according to Rosa.
"It was a really nice experience, especially since it's been a hard few years. We all had an input to the process, especially his other sisters Kate, Ashleigh, Olivia and Nadia who all got involved and collaborated. Ben and I just colluded on a style and cut for the garment," she said.
Rosa said that while Ledger's seven-year-old daughter, Matilda, probably would not wear the shirt, she was a living memory of her father's laid back nature and charm.
"I can't say that I'd feel comfortable putting her in one but I'm sure when she grows up she too will donate to charity, just like Heath did," she said.
Other than the "significantly small quantities of the limited edition T-shirt", she said there were no future plans to make any other official merchandise.
The Heath Ledger Commemorative T-Shirt is only available from the official online store. Prices start at NZ$132.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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