A$AP Bari (real name Jabari Shelton) doesn’t make music, but he’s one of the co-founders of the A$AP Mob. As the story goes, he met A$AP Rocky and introduced him to the group’s musical architect Yams, and the A$AP collective was formed. Bari has always had an eye for talent, but it’s his taste in clothing that has people talking about him. Including Complex, who put him at #15 on the highly-talked about list of The 50 Most Stylish New Yorkers Right Now. Bari’s the go-to when it comes to the A$AP Mob’s forward-thinking fashion sense, and his ability to pair hard-to-find vintage pieces with one-of-one jeans, hoodies, and other items is quickly establishing him as a NYC trendsetter. The 20-year-old who says he’s never bought an item of clothing online also plans to launch three clothing lines this summer, and a jewelry line. Yup, he’s working. In this exclusive interview he talks about his early days of style, his thoughts on fashion, and the celebrities he thinks dress well. Trust us, you’re going to want to keep an eye on the kid.
Interview by Joe La Puma (@jlapuma).
You don’t rap, was your role in the crew to be the one with the eye for fashion?
That was always my dream. A$AP just became its own self. We were mostly just doing us in our own hood. Wearing high-fashion shit that niggas weren’t wearing. Niggas was looking at us in a different type of term, but we saw that shit in our own vision. It was mostly just about us doing us.
What brands back then were you up on in Harlem that people weren’t really wearing yet?
Raf Simons. Same shit I wear today. I still wear the same shit I’ve been wearing since I was younger. I went to school down here in SoHo at Chelsea High School. Since I was little, like in 6th grade I was skipping school just to go to the BAPE store. It was about me coming down to SoHo and just embracing all of that shit and bringing it back uptown.
Most of these n*ggas be spending all this money on clothes and at the end of the day, them n*ggas don’t have no swag. I’m the type of person that makes something wack look good.
Did you learn about fashion from the Internet or did you just hit up a bunch of shops?
I was straight in the stores seeing shit I like and not even knowing the names of it, just liking the pieces.I still don’t know the names of some of the shit I wear. I just like it because of the cool style of it. I won’t go off the name brands and stuff like that. I still wear $5 T-shirts and still make that shit look crack. Most of the shit I wear, I never spend over $300, or $400. I’ve never had $1000 in my pocket at one time. Most of the shit that I get is from vintage stores.
You’re more about making shit look good, no matter the price.
I’m the type of person that I’d rather go for the cheap shit that looks good rather than go for the expensive shit that looks good. Most of these niggas be spending all this money on clothes and at the end of the day, them niggas don’t have no swag. I’m the type of person that makes something wack look good.
You say you’re not into pricey shit, but what about when you’re wearing labels like Balmain?
It’s vintage. I just come-up. I find Givenchy. White people that only wear shit for certain seasons throw that shit right in the vintage stores, like they’re past that. My outfits might look expensive but I probably only spend $150 on the whole shit. I can get a Balmain tee for $70. You just have to know how to shop.
How intertwined are you and A$AP Rocky when it comes to fashion?
I’ll show Rocky some pieces like, "Yo, you saw this?" he’ll be like, "Yeah," but Rocky tries to be spontaneous with shit, so he'll have some shit and he’ll be like, "Don’t tell me it’s hot, I know this is." It’s no competition. Rocky, he’s in his own little world right now with his fashion. Back in the days, Rocky was just like always like a fly dude, always high-fashion but he wasn’t into the dark fashion and shit. He was mostly wearing Louis Vuitton loafers and he was a pretty type of hood nigga wearing skinny Seven Jeans, polos, and shit like that. None of that tacky shit.
What other rappers do you feel dress well?
Cudi shocked the shit out of me. I used to look at Cudi as a cornball when it comes to dressing because at a point, I stopped fucking with BAPE because all the corny niggas started wearing it. So I used to look at Cudi like, "Oh I fuck with Cudi’s music but I don’t like the way Cudi dress." I think Cudi is one of the flyest niggas now. He throws shit on and it looks right on him, it’s not on some, "I’m trying to do this." Certain shit fits niggas and certain shit don’t. Some niggas be jumping out of character with their clothes.
Since you guys have been getting money, has that changed the way you cop clothes?
Not at all, I still shop at the same spots. Now niggas just get to buy what they really want instead of not being able to get it right away. There’s still shit when niggas shop and can’t get what they want. At the end of the day, I could just say this: if we had the money that we wanted to have — which is what we’re striving to get — we’d be way more fly than anybody in this fucking game. Shit is already natural, the price is just like, "Damn, I can’t cop this shit." That’s why I feel like I just gotta come out with my own clothing, so I could just design shit I like.
At the end of the day, I could just say this, if we had the money that we wanted to have which is what we’re striving to get, we’d be way more fly than anybody in this game.
What’s your clothing line called?
I have three lines. I have Toast To The God, which is male high-fashion/hood-fashion. I don’t even call it high-fashion, I call it hood-fashion. I got a female clothing line that I’m working on too which is called Toast To The Goddess. It’s the same shit as the male line, same vision, but it’s from a female’s perspective. I also have a jewelry line, which we’re deciding on the name right now. I have another clothing line called V.LONE which is affordable clothing-type shit — crewnecks and shit. I also just helped in the design of the R$VPA$AP coach's jacket.
What line can we expect to see first?
In a few weeks we should be dropping the crewnecks off the V.LONE line. I’m also doing jeans. The first clothing line is based around bandanas. I have ripped up bandanna jeans, which are like my signature jeans. I have bandanna hoodies, and bandanna T-shirts. It’s crazy. I’m doing everything in New York, this collection is going to be amazing, because I’m starting fresh.
Where will you sell them?
I don’t fuck with stores, I’m not fucking with no type of stores. All my shit is just personal. You e-mail me, straight underground with this shit first. I’m trying to build my own type of shit.
What brands do you mess with besides yourself?
I fuck with the same brands I’ve been fucking with. Raf, which is my idol, one of the best clothing lines. Margiela. Big fan of Margiela. I love the way he started off with his shit, that’s the way I’m trying to take it back with the essence of one-of-one pieces. Shit that you can only cop one time and throw that shit out for crazy ridiculous prices. When I become a big designer type, niggas can have that one-of-one piece that nobody has. My favorite piece that I wear a lot, is a prison jacket my homie Pat gave me from upstate.
My favorite brand of all time is “Hood By Air.” Shayne, one of the people behind it is like my big brother, he’s someone I look up to. Shayne took a break from it, and now Rocky is wearing it. “Hood By Air” is very rare, that’s how I want my line to be. You can only get it from knowing that person. Shayne stopped fucking with the stores, because they fuck up your money, and they can never pay you back if they don’t want to.
You have to understand, we’ve been doing this before like, Wiz Khalifa and all these motherf***ers. This is natural to us.
Have you had a chance to meet these people that you look up to?
Nah. There’s always a time and a place for things. Like when I met Kanye, I always wanted to meet him, but I never wanted to meet him in the street, because if I came over to him and he said some disrespectful shit to me, you know, "you lost a fan" type shit. I just feel like there’s a time and a place for things. I feel like if you work to your success, you can meet the people that you want to meet. Niggas worked hard enough and now we’re meeting the people we want to meet.
As far as the crew, do people in the crew look for your co-sign of what they’re wearing?
Yeah, I mostly wear some dope shit and niggas be like, "Oh, damn, Bari!" We don’t give compliments, we mostly joke on each other about our shit. Rocky will have a fresh outfit on, I’ll say, "You look corny right now," but it really means the opposite.
Another thing I want to talk to you about is Pigalle. You guys kind of blew their logo tees up.
I know about Pigalle through the “Hood By Air” dudes. Those two brands did a collabo probably like three years ago. I always fucked with the logo so I followed somebody from Paris, they got a blog and they used to just post on that Pigalle shit. Finally, I got in contact with the guy that owns it. The owner is one of my big homies and shit. He just showed me love and shit and I put Rocky on to the whole Pigalle shit like, "Yo fuck with this Paris shit." And Rocky has just been fucking with him ever since.
I feel like other rappers are trying to get on that. Do you think that's because of you guys?
You have to understand, we’ve been doing this shit before like Wiz Khalifa and all these motherfuckers. This is like the downtown shit, we’ve been doing this type shit. This shit is natural to us and these niggas are coming out here for the first time and shit like that. They gotta understand that we just started rapping and all this shit... people can feel the swag, feel the aura and shit like that. That’s why all the rappers really fuck with us. Kanye and all of them fuck with us because this ain’t no shit that we’re faking. Rocky doesn’t have a stylist, we don’t have stylists. All this shit is just straight off the head, shit that we fuck with.
What was your reaction to making our list of The 50 Most Stylish New Yorkers Right Now?
This shit happens everyday. It’s crazy though, I thought that list was fake. I didn’t really take this shit seriously, I just thought it was a little blog. I don’t even have a laptop, I read it all through my phone.
What’s different about you is a lot of people who are up on style are very Internet-heavy. You’re not really like that.
I’m in the streets. I do the blogging so people can see my vision and what I do everyday or where I’m at. But I don’t shop on the Internet. I do go on the Internet and look at clothes but I don’t buy them. I’ll be like, "Yo that shit is fire." There’s shit that I like but I won’t wear, and there’s shit that I like, but I won’t buy. I don’t respect Internet shopping, that’s fucking up the game. Because you just have some little rich ass kid that’s like, "I just wanna buy this, I just wanna buy that." At the end of the day, he doesn’t know what he’s buying and he doesn’t know what to put on with that shit. He’ll look at a Big Sean, he’ll look at a fucking Wiz Khalifa, but other than that, I mean, I don’t even want nobody to dress like me.
People don’t have a sense of style no more. The people I chill with, they have their own sense of style. That’s why I’ve been chillin', that’s why me and Rocky have been friends for seven years.
I want people to find their own style. So when people are buying my clothing, I want you to buy my clothing — but if you’re going to buy it, I want you to love that shit, wear it everyday. I could wear this outfit for a week straight and I don’t give a fuck. I didn’t give a fuck about that list. You know why? Because I don’t give a fuck about fashion. I’m in the hood. I call this shit hood-fashion. I’ve been into this shit since I was 12.
I was in the hood, you know you go through your phases, baggy jeans and all that shit. When I was younger, when they was wearing baggy clothes, my cousins and shit used to live on Long Island and he had his friends next door, skaters or some shit like that and they had American Eagle on and I was like, "Oh the ripped jeans, I want them." I was in the hood, I would wear Polo, Jordans, and shit like that. American Eagle. Gap. I’ll wear the hood clothes but that’s when I wanted to get fly. If I was on some regular shit, I’d wear some American Eagle and shit like that.
I started wearing skinnies and niggas was looking at me OD. I had people that I was friends with stop fucking with me like, "What the fuck is you on?" Not one time I denied switching my style up. I didn’t chill with so many people and they style was the same style as mine and then once they stopped fucking with me, their whole style would change. I’d be like, "Yo this shit wasn’t real. You was really dressing like me."
How many times a week do you shop?
I shop when I feel like it. I shop when I feel like I need something. Otherwise I don’t shop, man. I try to stay away from the clothes nowadays because at the end of the day you’re putting money in their pocket and I feel like I need to design and worry about my shit. That’s what I’m worried about: my shit, my dreams, all of that. I look at clothing for inspiration. My friend was like, "You gotta go to these stores, you gotta see what the competition is like. You gotta see what’s in." I don’t run with the style.
I did the all black thing and shit like that just on some point, I was in a dark stage, I was in a stage like I feel like niggas was buying all these fashion clothes for no reason. I don’t even wear high-fashion sneakers no more because I feel like that shit done got played out. I feel like niggas will buy stuff just for the name nowadays. You bought that [Nirvana faux-vintage shirt] ‘cause you liked it.
I got this shirt at Target and put bleach on it.
You’re killing it right now. You’re making me want to go cop that shit from Target. That shit is fire. The waxed denim. Everybody trying to do the waxed denim but are you going to do the waxed denim, right? Niggas will look at Complex and jack their whole swag. Complex just shows you what’s trendy. Niggas wanna be trendy. I’m not a trendy person. I feel like I made it on this list because of a certain point of style. My friends be like, "Nigga you not fly." I’m like, "Yeah I’m not fly but I do have style."
Another streetwear thing you guys basically started was the SSUR “Comme des Fuckdown” slogan gear, now everyone seems to be on that. How do you feel when you see other rappers wearing stuff you guys started?
With the kids, I show them love. Kids look up to us now. I'm not like, "you swagger jacking" and all that. I don’t do that, I stopped that. You just got to embrace people and people embrace you. People are going to take your style, people are going to dress like you. I had to tell Rocky that the other day and he was like, "Oh niggas is taking my style of rapping." I was like, "Bro, niggas is going to do that though. By people doing that, it makes you a bigger person and that’s it."
That’s a good outlook to have.
I show love for people; I’m no hater. I’m not going to sit there and grind you up. There’s people I dislike, but I don’t hate them. I’m not a person that's just like: "Oh if they’re not fly, don’t be nice to me." People dress the same, we all dress alike. At the end of the day, it’s clothes. You can take these shits off; you’re going to lose a piece; you’re going to find a piece. The people I chill with, they have their own sense of style, that’s why I fuck with them. That’s why I’ve been chillin', that’s why me and Rocky have been friends for fucking seven years. I’ve met these people at the simple point of their style and their originality. I just feel like people take clothes to a step, like some people will be your friend just because of the way you dress. I feel like we shouldn’t do that.