It's a dismally chilly November evening on the rooftop of Dune Studios, where the photography crew surrounding A$AP Rocky is struggling to find the perfect lighting in which to shoot the rapper for an editorial to be featured in a promotional publication for adidas. Titled "three stripes," the limited-edition, highly editorialized shopping catalog features guys like Rocky, Pharrell Williams, and Joakim Noah.
If the cold is getting to Rocky, he doesn't let it show. His "PMF" sangfroid remains intact. The particular editorial he's modeling for mixes up all manner of adidas Stan Smith sneakers—including a recently dropped iteration with a gum sole—styled with designer clothes fresh from Parisian runways and beyond. It's the kind of fashion mash-up that's commonplace now, but was revolutionary when Rocky began blowing up in 2011. The perennially chill rap star is a longtime fan of adidas Originals. He once said that the Jeremy Scott Wings 2.0 sneakers were his favorites, and regularly rocked Scott's outlandish adidas designs in his music videos. Rocky also associated himself with acclaimed fashion designers like Rick Owens and Raf Simons early on, most notably in his November 2011 single "Peso," where he says he usually dresses in clothes by the both of them. In 2013, Rocky came full circle when he collaborated on his own version of Jeremy Scott's "Wings" sneaker.
After three looks on the rooftop, Rocky and crew gladly retreat within the considerably warmer confines of Dune Studios, where he only has a few more looks to shoot before he's officially done. During the downtime, we interviewed the style-savvy Harlemite about how his style has evolved, adidas' place in modern sneaker culture, and how he found himself through fashion.
What makes the Stan Smith such a stylish sneaker to you?
It just looks classic. It’s the finishing touch, especially if you compare it to the shell-toe. When it comes to the Stan Smith, it’s way more smooth and way more classic to me.
How has your sense of style evolved since your first mixtape?
Things that I could never afford, people see me in more often now, ’cause I got the financials to go purchase them. [My style] definitely matured. There’s a lot of things that I used to wear that I don’t wear anymore, and there’s a lot of things that I wore before that I’m in love with now, or things that I wore a long time ago that I brought back out.
You're no stranger to Raf Simons and Rick Owens. What do their collaborations with adidas say about the intersection between fashion, sneakers, and street culture?
It’s dope as fuck, you know. It’s making adidas look strong. There aren’t too many highly respected designers in the high-end world that other athletic name brands can do a collaboration with. This is amazing: All of my favorite designers are doing an adidas sneaker. Who would’ve ever thought that Rick Owens would do an adidas sneaker, or Raf? It’s crazy.
A lot of the silhouettes are true to the designer and aesthetically aggressive. It's for people who are like, “If it you get it, you get it”—
And the people who don’t get it, don’t.
For the casual sneakerhead trying to cross over to the higher fashion side, is it possible to work something like a Rick Owens runner into his or her rotation?
Don’t get it if it’s not you, you know? And if it’s your thing it’ll be natural. It’s like…. You ever saw Harry Potter?
Your wand has to choose you, as opposed to you choosing your wand. That’s what fashion is like, man. You gotta let it take control of you. You don’t know, sometimes it is stepping out of your own comfort zone, but it is what it is.
You've said there are downsides to being a trendsetter. You’ll see somebody rocking something that looks good on you and they may not be able to pull it off. How do you know if a trend works for you?
That’s an individual thing. Everybody has their individuality, so you just gotta make it work for you. I no longer concern myself with what everybody's doing and how they do it. I don’t even care anymore.
Where do you think New York City style is right now?
It’s diverse. I went around the world and I see influences from Copenhagen, France, London, all inspired by stuff that New York does, and vice versa. I like the way fashion is going. It’s just like music—it doesn’t matter what region you’re from, you can adapt to any region for music or fashion. It doesn’t matter like it used to.
Is there still such a thing as a "regional look"?
You can’t tell where anybody’s from anymore. From the way that they rap, look, dress, sound, everything is just one melting pot. I love it.
When people think of who in New York City is absolutely killing it, they obviously think of you. Is there anyone else who embodies NY in the way they carry themselves and dress?
No. [Laughs.] Hell no.
Your friend Alexander Wang interviewed you and you said it’s a trip that the youth are the new arbiters of culture, dictating what’s hot and moving the conversation. Do you still think that’s true?
What should those kids do if they aspire to be as jiggy as you are?
They’re gonna be way jiggier than me because they’re younger, they’re more advanced. At the end of the day, this is a blessing, but I’m not going to be who I am forever for New York. There’s gonna be another guy to come along and do it even better than I did it, and I just hope that me and that kid get along, so I can be happy for him.
The best thing to do is stick to your guns. I remember being poor and thinking, “Man, I wish I could afford those clothes that Pharrell is wearing, or Kanye’s wearing.” I couldn’t afford it, so I would get a girlfriend to do it, or I would hustle. All I cared about was my clothes. When I was still broke, I felt like I had more style. I still feel that way—well, maybe not for real. I just feel like there’s going to be another kid that comes along—maybe he’s not even going to be from New York—and he’s just going to represent fashion the way that I did, but better, or in a different form, and that’s all that matters.
What has gotten you in more with models—being fly or looking fly?
Not giving a fuck that they're models is what got me pussy. Like, I’ve fucked so many models because I don’t give a fuck about them being models. Fuck ’em, fuck ’em, fuck ’em, you know? That’s it.