How Kerwin Frost Gets Brands, Including 7-Eleven, to Trust His Zany Vision

Kerwin Frost explains the idea behind his 7-11 collaboration, the importance of showcasing references, and how he gets brands to trust his ideas.

kerwin frost 711 snack attack uniform
Complex Original

Vijat Mohindra

kerwin frost 711 snack attack uniform

Over the past few years, Kerwin Frost, the creative from Harlem who wears many hats (DJ, talk show host, designer, and more), has collaborated with major brands in very specific, unconventional ways. 

For Adidas, he’s produced a superstuffed version of its classic shell toe sneaker along with a Yeti suit. At ComplexCon this year, he worked with multiple brands to produce Kerwin’s Kingdom, a cardboard castle that featured special pieces from his personal wardrobe up for sale, a mini exhibit dedicated to iconic outfits—including Lil Nas X’s pink Versace ensemble he wore to the Grammys—and a performance area where important acts like Onyx, Mac DeMarco, and Tommy Wright III took the stage.

“I think a lot of people try to gatekeep references,” says Frost over the phone. “It’s like gatekeeping the answers, those vessels of inspiration. But me and you know. We know why Run-DMC makes sense with the Adidas superstuffed shoe. So it’s like saying it out loud. I’m really just a messenger.”

Kerwin’s Kingdom also included a snack room sponsored by 7-Eleven that featured free snacks from the retailer, along with a concoction Frost created with them: Kerwin’s Snack Party Mix Popcorn that consisted of white chocolate popcorn, candied chocolate pieces, cinnamon toasted cereal and chocolate cake mix. The collab could have ended there, but they continued to work together on a snack uniform designed by Frost with 18 pockets to hold snacks. The uniforms come in a pink and green colorway and consist of a jacket, long-sleeve top and wide leg pants. Frost could have easily produced merch, but he wanted to create something special that people could also wear.

“I like to make art with companies and show that it is possible to get these creative ideas across with a collaboration,” says Frost.

We spoke with Frost about his strategy for working with larger companies, what he wants to see more of in 2022, why he loves Robert Townsend’s Carmen: A Hip Hopera, and how Virgil Abloh’s death impacted him. 

kerwin frost 711 snack attack uniform
kerwin frost 711 snack attack uniform

Speaking of Virgil, you had a really beautiful caption after his passing. How do you think his death will change you, or things in general? 

I think his death has changed everything. I don’t think I’ve, like, fully even taken it in, and I’ve just been trying to focus as much as possible. It’s heavy. It’s really crazy. But just like I said in the caption, when he was alive, I would hit him up randomly and tell him these things. And try to match my version of his work ethic. He was a huge catalyst in showing us how to work with companies and getting weird ideas out. And taking a lot of stones and still doing it. It’s like a superhero. He was able to make everyone feel so close to him. But a lot of people came together for the show in Miami, and I think everyone is like, you have one life to live. You have to impact as much as possible. But I’ve always tried to show that and he’s always been an inspiration for that.  

It’s clear that you are a student of the fashion industry. You observe it very intently. So I am curious from your perspective what you think is missing. What do you want to see in 2022?

Before there was a lot missing from the game on the corporate side, and with corporate acceptance and getting the infrastructure and being able to produce your ideas. But honestly, I think in 2022 and the access that we have right now, there’s so much, and I don’t think it’s been fully utilized. People are making fake Jordans on Alibaba. When we were growing up, it was just like sweatshirt, sweatpants, and T-shirt, and that’s your brand. But now you can make rugs, you make knit sweaters. The access is insane. I think the gates are opening more and more for creatives. But when you ask what is the point of it all, you can spend hours trying to get that answer. But the point is to inspire as many people as possible and pass along that blessing. I know there’s some kids who definitely look like me that are like me. And I think there’s a bigger responsibility with creatives to come together more and take ownership of what was built. You know a lot of people went on these independent side quests. But we forgot about the community. So if there’s anything to take away, that’s definitely it. Just bringing more people together and it not depending on like, clout or status. Just like the art and genuine connection. It’s possible now. There are lots of opportunities for it. 

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