Pusha T is in a black Uber car wearing a black Play Cloths hat backwards, a gray Play Cloths T-shirt, and faded, distressed jeans. He's on his way to a meet and greet in South L.A. to promote the new collection of Play Cloths, the brand he started in 2008 with his brother No Malice. On the way there, a friend and business partner points out local sites to Push, including the Angelus Funeral Home and it's drive-thru wakes. It's not the rapper's first time in the neighborhood—we drive by the same area where the video for the Kendrick Lamar-assisted song "Nosetalgia" was filmed—but he expresses the same curiosity and respect that surrounds any of his projects, be it music or Play Cloths.
Many of Pusha T's decisions have been influenced by a reverence for his surroundings, for fashion, and for those who came before him. He specifically mentions BAPE's Nigo, Pharrell, and Kanye West. He hasn't modeled his own clothing line for the brand's lookbooks because he says he'd rather focus on quality and good design than use his fame to push the brand. He also initially turned down a collaboration with adidas because, as he says, he didn't want to add anything to what are already classic silhouettes just for the sake of it.
But he's ready to take things to the next level—starting with Play Cloths. We talked to Pusha T about the brand's new collection and where he sees the line going. The rapper also shared his 10 favorite brands, more on his upcoming adidas collaboration, and how being around guys like Pharrell and Kanye West has helped him.
Interview by Cameron Wolf
What was your inspiration for the new Play Cloths collection, Curse Your Luxury?
It's about putting Play Cloths in a particular space. I feel like, as far as streetwear goes, man, Play Cloths sits at a top-tier of quality, and your idea of luxury should not stop where you feel like you’re at the obvious. You have to look at [Play Cloths] in a certain light, I believe. And I just think that the whole title and the term is about being looked at in a certain light. Like, yo, Play Clothes is one of those brands.
Can you explain the meaning behind that name?
Curse Your Luxury was Smurf [Play Cloths’ head designer]. Smurf presented the title to me and I feel like the line, being based loosely on my looks, and so on and so forth, is a play on that. I’m known for a lot of high-end shit, and I feel like Curse Your Luxury is a play off of what I’m about and my love for streetwear.
"Yeah, the adidas collab is definitely happening."
You’re friends with guys like Kanye and Pharrell. Have they influenced your style and design at all?
Pharrell has definitely influenced my style in regards to streetwear. Simply because we’re from that era that Nigo and A Bathing Ape started. That’s where it all started at for us. And I think we’ve all changed and we’ve all evolved and there’s just certain things I won’t do that he may do, you know what I'm saying? Just because of who I am, my persona, and just our tastes are different, but similar in the same.
And to Kanye, Kanye's introduced me to a lot of high-end things in the past five years. A few who have become my favorites, i.e. Phillip Lim. I wasn’t on it five years ago, it was something that I can say he specifically introduced me to that. And from there, you’re around guys like Don C, and you hear peoples' names, and for me it always becomes competitive.
In the summer, you teased a potential adidas collaboration on your Instagram. Is there anymore you can tell us about that?
Yeah, the adidas collab is definitely happening. It’s, man, when you see this shoe, like, we’re doing a proper rollout and I don’t want to give away the specifics and the details of the shoe, but it’s 100 percent Pusha T in regards to the nuances and some of the accents that are all over the shoe.
Yeah, we saw the snakeskin...
Fishscale, I would say. That adidas collab is my first shoe. And the thing about it is I’ve never wanted to do a shoe, I’ve never wanted to personally because I’m just particular about my shoes, number one. Number two: I have such a high respect for silhouettes that are just so long lasting. I always stepped away from that, but I think I’m going to do it, and it came out so good. I look at it every morning, I’ve been looking at it everyday, the sample I can’t even fit in.
"This isn’t run off of rapper fumes..."
You mention timeless sneaker silhouettes. Are there sneakers that you think of now that inspired your shoe?
Well, I think there are certain silhouettes for different brands that are just timeless, in my opinion. Of course, quite a few of the Jordan silhouettes—6s, 1s, 3s—timeless. If you wanna go Nike, I would say, Huaraches, Air Max. They just never go out of style. adidas: shell toes, Stans. I’ve been on a super Stan swag lately. It’s just super comfortable, you can downplay whatever you got on with a pair of Stans.
Do you have a favorite piece from the new Play Cloths collection?
Yeah, the black quilted sweater, but damn there were other things better than that…
The hockey jersey that I saw was really cool.
The hockey jersey was fresh, the Kingpins jersey. Definitely the soccer jersey, as well, but the hockey one’s better.
How do you think Play Cloths has evolved since it was founded?
More than anything, Play Cloths has taken risks in regards to the pieces of clothing that we’re even creating. We started out as straight T-shirts. It was just T-shirts and a couple cool things. Now, it’s leisure pants, it’s all types of clothing. We’re evolving even with fashion trends on a super high level. We had no idea that Play Cloths was even going to be here six years later. And it is, and I feel like it is because we are keeping our hand on the pulse of at least what’s hot and what’s going on. This isn’t run off of rapper fumes, it’s really not. It’s just the people that like it and support it have kept it around. It’s never based around me.
What’s the design process behind creating each collection?
It happens in Virginia with the head designer, Smurf. Basically it’s gotten to the point where Smurf and some of the guys at Foundation will collaborate on ideas, and then I come and give my check off—if I’m with it, if I’m not with it. It’s a tug of war sometimes, but I be wrong about the tug of war because there’s just pieces that are made and that are sampled that I’m not really with. And I'm like, man, it’s really not in my taste or whatever and they’re like, "It’s gonna be good." And then it comes out and it’s the best-seller, the best designed, best tee, sold the most units, whatever the case may be, and I’m like, "Fuck."
But not everything I’m going to be on, and that’s just personal preference, but that’s just how it goes. I’ll take a look at the line sheet every time before it goes out, and we pick and choose the ones that are going to be sampled and from there that’s how you guys get it.
You mentioned it’s still designed in Virginia. Does your hometown of Virginia Beach still influence the collection?
Virginia Beach is just such a melting pot for so many different things, and they just have so many influences. I would always say that the area definitely influences Play Cloths. The area itself just has so many influences, whether it be fashion, music, everything. We get so many people from so many other places, if you’re of a creative mind, you can really just sit back and absorb so many different influences and cultures. I think that comes out in the clothes.
"I never fell in love with the idea of an artist dressing good and making bad music—I didn’t know how to do that."
There’s been a huge crossover between fashion and rap music the past several years. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know, man. It’s weird to me because people have made light of it so much as of late. But to me, rap and fashion have always been so synonymous. It’s always been about how good the record was and how fresh the artist looked while he was rapping that record. Now, it’s about how fresh the artists look and people don’t give a damn about how good the record is. I never fell in love with the idea of an artist dressing good and making bad music—I didn’t know how to do that. Now, it’s, like, all right, why is this person here? I don’t want to hear this. Oh, he has on a nice jacket. But it’s always been synonymous to me. It was synonymous in a sense of fresh clothes and fresh music. And I feel like that is being lost, totally being lost.
Is there anyone specifically you think of?
What do you mean?
In terms of dressing well without the music to back it up?
Oh no, I’m not going to give them no stats. Yeah, it’s quite a few of them, though.
How do you balance making music and working on the collections, and do the two bleed over and influence each other?
They will eventually. As I try to balance the roll out of my album, I will always try to infuse Play Cloths into bigger platforms, and definitely anything that I have going on that I’m passionate about musically. It’s not a hard task, all the guys work well together and they’re all hip to what I’m doing. The music thing be such a secretive situation that as soon as it drops out the sky and all my designer guys are like, “Whoa, I’m on it, I’m hip.” So, I just try and keep everybody hip as much as I can and infuse Play Cloths into the rollout of anything I got going on.
I feel like it’s time to expand Play Cloths. Like I said, man, we been here six years, so I’m expanding. That’s why I’m out [in Los Angeles] now. Things I’ve never done before, I’ll be doing from this point forward. I’ve never been in an ad campaign, that’s how I know this isn’t run off of rapper fumes. I’m literally doing in-stores for Play Cloths, and I’ve never done an in-store in California, but in trying to open up the market, I’m out here now.
We’ve cemented a fan base for Play Cloths and now it’s time to propel and perpetuate it. Now I feel comfortable helping with that now that it’s established. I never wanted it to feel like “he’s just doing this because.” Because a lot of people have brands that they just do because, and they’re not here any longer, but you could always tell it. I never would have wore it, never, ever, ever.
"...now it’s just me being a businessman."
Is that what the future holds for Play Cloths, with you being more involved?
More visibly involved. Because I feel like people play their cards with their lines and I’ve never played that card. Play Cloths is a part of my lifestyle, it really is. It’s like my music, I’ve stayed consistent and have a template for quality in the music, and I feel like I’ve done the same thing with Play Cloths. I haven’t used any cheat codes, there’s no cheat codes, man. Now, it can’t be looked at as a cheat code six years later, now it’s just me being a businessman.
What are your 10 favorite brands out right now and why?
My 10 favorite brands are Balmain, Saint Laurent, Dries Van Noten, Phillip Lim, [Alexander] Wang. That’s five. Supreme, visvim… I’m just going through my closet. Play Cloths, BBC. The last one, I’m going to say Balenciaga. That’s just my whole closet.
So, it’s a lot of really high-end mixed in with Supreme, BBC, and Play Cloths.
Totally, and the funny part about that is, I wear all of them mixed-in. Play Cloths, Saint Laurent, Saucony. I wear it all mixed in like that.
Is there a common thread that pulls you to those brands?
All those brands have a very understated aesthetic. And when you put it together well, and how I judge if you put it together well, is people will see you all put together and won’t know what you have on. People will be like, “What’s that? Oh, that’s nice,” versus “Oh, you got on the...” and being able to point it out. I feel like those brands are very understated, and, the pieces that I’m going to take from them, anyway, usually are. You may know the shoe silhouette but other than that you may not know.
The throw off is when you mix the high and street. That really throws people off because they really can’t tell what it is. Once they see it put together well they say, “Oh, what’s that?” Hey, man, it’s Play Cloths!
Is there anything I didn’t ask that you want Complex readers to know?
Nigo’s the GOAT, Pharell and Ye have a taste level that is A-1. All those guys influenced me, and I bring all of those aspects to the streets. That’s how I feel like it works.
All three of those guys have adidas collaborations. Is that how you got involved with the brand?
The thing is, I’ve been working with adidas promotionally for years in regards to them having events where I’d be the guest, or I host, or perform.
What happened was they asked me to do a shoe and I said no. I didn’t want to do a shoe. But two years ago, I was like, "Listen, I don’t want to do a shoe. What I want to do is a line of soccer jerseys." I don’t know if you recall, but there was a time when I was just wearing soccer jerseys, like everyday. I was on the cover of an Italian newspaper because I would take the soccer jerseys and put crime families on the back of them. So, I have a closet full of soccer jerseys with crime families all on the back of each one of them, just different crime families. If it’s a Mexican soccer jersey I find one for that. I’m sitting at home and all I do is watch A&E all fucking day, anyway.
I’m like, this is what I want to do, and they were like, “Well, listen, we don’t know about all that. But we’ll give you all the jerseys you ever wanted.” So, they gave me everything. I was doing it and a good friend of mine—Upscale Vandal—helped me out a bit in finding particular ones, long sleeve ones, but that was the inspiration for it. My connection with adidas really came from me doing the soccer thing and just the creative criminal element of international crime. Just on my Scorsese mentally with fashion and the music. Then, I ran through that and found that there’s like a society of guys, like [Complex’s] Joe La Puma, and a couple guys that are super soccered-out.
From that came the opportunity again. They were like, “Look, man, we should do sneakers” and they recognized the influence and we did it. And I’m telling you, I’m going to have the freshest sneaker. My sneakers are going to be so fresh, like, my take on the silhouette is going to be so fresh, man. I can’t wait to drop it, I hope everyone loves it. I want people to know it’s a real task to make something fresh when you care about it. It’s a super task to make it fresh, make it a unique spin on something so that it’s come out really, really, really original. And it’s really original if you just stay true to yourself and really put yourself into the shoe, because can’t nobody be you.
I think people are going to see that, I think people are literally going to look at this shoe and be like, “You couldn’t have done it no other way, man, damn! I couldn’t have done that one.” It’s super exclusive, I don’t know if it will be more than 1,500 shoes.
Is that coming out soon?
Yeah, it’s coming out on this side of the year. We’re starting the rollout of it now.