Aminé on His New Balance Collab, Bananas, Hip-Hop’s Best Dressed, and More

Ahead of the release of his New Balance collaboration, Aminé sat down with Complex to talk sneakers, fashion, and more.

Via New Balance

Aminé’s fashion journey is similar to a lot of people his age. The 29-year-old grew up abiding by the mantra “Would Kanye West wear this?” to pick out his outfits, even sporting a pink polo and fake Louis Vuitton backpack to mimic him in middle school. He sifted through Tumblr looking for new brands and inspirations. He would comb through pages on Karmaloop to track down pieces from LRG. 

As he’s grown older, his path has begun to differ. He sits front row at Jacquemus runway shows, has his own clothing brand, and is considered by some to be the best-dressed rapper today, so much so that there are Instagram pages dedicated to ID’ing his gear. This week, he adds another huge milestone to the list. He is releasing his first sneaker collaboration, a banana-themed New Balance 610 dubbed the “Mooz” that boasts fun elements not usually seen on the trail runner like brown patent leather overlays and a mini snow globe. 

“One of my favorite elements is, of course, the snow globe where the banana moves around,” Aminé tells Complex. “When I got my first shoe, I always wanted a wow factor to it, just something that was goofy and playful and not so serious.”

Despite all of the reasons he could be cocky, Aminé isn’t as interested in bragging rights or “best dressed” titles. He just likes cool clothes. Sometimes that’s a brown football jersey from UK-based label Clints (not to be confused with Corteiz, another bubbling UK brand founded by Clint419). Other times it’s an orange hoodie with a giant bunch of bananas painted on the chest from his brand Club Banana. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, well, that’s fine too.

“I've never been a guy that shouts at a camera like, ‘I'm the best at this and this.’ That shit is tiring, man, because you just gotta live up to that statement,” says Aminé. “If people fuck with me, they fuck me. And if they don't, they don't. I don't really care for that title. I just like to put on clothes.”

Ahead of the release of the “Mooz” 610, we sat down with Aminé in our New York City studio to discuss his favorite elements of his first sneaker, the importance of bananas to the Aminé brand, the best-dressed rappers of all time, and more. Check out our full conversation with Aminé below. 

Take me back to growing up in Portland. What is that moment for you when you first cared about how you got dressed every day? 
There's not really a specific moment or event that comes to mind immediately. I used to do this thing when I was a kid, and I feel like I kind of still do it now. The way I would judge an outfit before I tried it on, because I hated trying on clothes, is I would just picture Kanye West wearing it. I would close my eyes and imagine my favorite person at the time wearing that same outfit. If it looked good in my head, then I would wear it. That's my earliest memory of outfits.

Were your parents getting you fresh as a kid?
Not really. My parents did not give a damn about swag at all. My love for it came from being an internet kid, just being on Tumblr and Twitter a lot. 

We’re around the same age. Were you scrolling through Karmaloop back in the day?
Yeah, I was on Karmaloop. That's crazy. [Laughs.] I didn't think about Karmaloop. I used to try and get LRG. 

Your outfits today are usually very colorful. Were you always dressing in super colorful clothes, or were you more reserved at first?
I used to always wear a lot of colors. When I was in middle school, I feel like every Ye fan had this moment, but I wore a pink polo to school and everybody was making fun of me because of it. I remember just thinking, like, “I don't care. I love this.” That was one of my earliest memories as far as taking a risk—which a pink polo is not a risk at all, but yeah. 

No backpack?
I could not afford the Louis backpack, but I did buy a fake Louis backpack in SoHo. When I was a kid I visited Canal Street. I bought a fake Louis backpack. I think I was like 14 and I went to high school with it flexing. I did not care. I would just tell them it's fake. I wasn't trying to flex like it was real. [Laughs.] 

Part of your campaign for the sneakers included a note, and you alluded to design being your first love before music. Is that true?
Yeah, before I found out I could do music and, like, rap, around 17, 18 years old, I really wanted to design shoes. That was always my thing. They weren't great. I wasn't trained. I didn't go to school for it. But that's always what I wanted to do.

What’s the significance of Louis Gee?
He was part of a program that I was a part of with SEI, which was a design program for inner-city youth to design sneakers. He worked for a company that I cannot name because New Balance is the only thing that matters, but he was part of my upbringing and someone that really encouraged me and believed in me. So when I did my first billboard, it was important that we mentioned him and shouted him out just because he was the first one that thought I could do a shoe before anybody else. 

Is there a big streetwear community in Portland? You mentioned being heavy on Tumblr.
The community of sneaker culture in Portland is strong, but there's this “he who must not be named” brand out there that creates a lot of the corniest culture of people. People who are sneakerheads, half of them just only care about sneakers, and that's never been my thing. I love sneakers to death, but I really love clothes. I love the history of clothes; why things are made—I love that as well. A lot of people in Portland just didn't really have swag. It was just North Face, backpack, jeans, crazy sneakers. That wasn't really what I was into. So I kind of felt disconnected from the community of that in Portland, and I was just in my room on the internet nonstop just looking at stuff.

I know you are super involved in your merch.
Club Banana? Yeah, that’s my brand. 

Are you offended by calling it merch?
Yeah, I am offended by the name merch because it doesn't say my name on it. People just see these banana logos on hoodies and be rocking them. Best put respect on it. That’s a brand.

Why bananas?
When I was coming up, I always knew that I wanted yellow to be a representation of me. Whenever someone saw the color yellow, I wanted them to think about Aminé, like Prince and purple. So when I was doing my first music video, “Caroline,” I knew that I could not afford anything to produce this music video. The only thing I could afford that I thought of that was yellow was bananas. I just put a bunch of bananas in the backseat of a car. When that video went viral, people were always like, “Why bananas?” and for me it was just because I could afford it. The reason I've used that as my brand’s icon is just because it reminds me of my come up and not being able to afford videos. Now I can. So it's nice to just see them on my first shoe because it just reminds me of where I came from.

I feel like your visuals have been strong throughout your career. You put a lot of thought into that. Not all artists do though. Why are the visuals so important to you?
The reason I care so much about videos is just because I was that Tumblr kid and the only thing that would go viral on Tumblr was good shit. Tons of Tyler's videos. Tons of Ye videos. I would always see rappers doing skits that were actually good. It made me realize when I started music that no matter if I have money or not, whatever we can do to make this video as good as it possibly can be is what I always wanted to do. Like, there's Kahuna burgers in the “Caroline” video that were just a play on the Tarantino film. I printed the wrappers at my dad's house, got some fake burgers from Wendy's, and wrapped them myself. Rappers don't want to put in that work most of the time because it's just below them. They don’t want to do that much. They just want to make the music, which I completely get, but for me I always cared about every aspect. The merch. The tour flyer. I'm still heavily involved in everything that comes out that says my name on it.

Your videos remind me a bit of old Missy and Busta Rhymes videos.
That's definitely an inspiration. Missy and Busta are like the people who had creativity like that back then.

[Tosses over pair of Aminé x New Balance 610s] You're familiar with it?
I'm very familiar with it.

What are your favorite elements on the shoe? 
One of my favorite elements is, of course, the snow globe where the banana moves around. That was just a play on an early nostalgic moment for me growing up with the Dada Sprewells. That shoe was so ugly, but I remember hearing everybody talk about how there was a spinning rim in this shoe. When I got my first shoe, I always wanted a wow factor to it, just something that was goofy and playful and not so serious. I always thought adding the snow globe to it would be really cool. It was actually the first thing I posted before I even showed the shoe, just the snow globe. 

One more thing for me would be the iridescent jewels that are in the shoe. All these little sections and panels are my favorite because whenever you're wearing the shoe out and it’s super sunny, the shoe never looks the same. It'll always look different in every photo you take in it. 

I want to reference some lyrics. In “meant2b,” you mentioned how you get one-on-ones from Salehe [Bembury]. I know he’s a very good friend of yours, but I'm curious how you guys initially connected.
I first saw his New Balances, the orange ones. From a design perspective, I always thought it was sick. I was just a fan of that shoe. That's how me and him just started talking. I don't even have a pair of those shoes. I just was a fan of the design and I was like, “Who is this guy?” We just became friends. I guess because we are very like-minded. I actually consider him one of my good friends. 

Did you bounce ideas off of him when you were designing your collab?
No, I didn't really want his help like that to be honest with you. I wanted to be able to say I did this on my own with the New Balance team. That meant a lot to me. This is like a big moment in my career. He's a shoe designer who has his own style of things, but I don't really want to be seen in the same exact light. He has his own path. I want my own path as well. So I definitely would get advice and show him samples for sure. He'd be like, “Yo, I love this back snap, but you could do this a little bit better.” But yeah.

We have Kaytraminé. Will we be getting Saleminé? 
[Laughs.] No. We talked about doing stuff together from a design perspective, but we'll see if it works. It’s way too early to tell right now. But I love him. So making something with him would be super easy.

Are there any other people in the space right now that you would love to get in a room with and design something with?
There's this girl named Kitty Shukman. Kitty is one of the coolest designers out there for sneakers. She just makes silhouettes from scratch. If I was to make a silhouette from scratch, I would really, really want her help just because she's super cool. She just made these 3D slippers. They're just concepts, but they're just so crazy. They're so amazing. She’s a low-key sniper. I fuck with her work. 

On “Westside” you rap, “Your man's rockin' Fashion Nova, man, that's rude to you/Look what a Uniqlo shirt could do for you.” 
Uniqlo is cool. Uniqlo is like the better H&M. That whole bar is just about niggas who do too much with their style, and just spend it on just, like, Fashion Nova and Balenciaga head to toe. Like, you could just wear a white tee from Uniqlo and that would look just as good. It was just a joke. 

Can you give a quick PSA to all the dudes out there trying to get fly? What should they be doing? Or not doing? 
Don't rock too much shit that’s uncomfortable. My main goal is always to be comfortable. Unless you're going to some ball where you have to wear that uncomfortable suit or whatever it might be, just wear a shirt that makes you happy and that you like so you don't have to try to make people think it looks good. 

What brands are you into right now?
I love Jacquemus. I love this Japanese brand called Ten C. That's what these shorts are. [Points at cargo shorts he is wearing.] I love Clints. That's what this jersey is. [Points to jersey he is wearing.] I'm not even trying to be purposeful with this. These are just brands I love. I love Corteiz, great clothing. 194 Local is an ill vintage shop in L.A. and London, and I think they're opening one in New York. They just did a collab with Levi's and did a silver tab. They're sick. 

It’s hip-hop’s 50th anniversary this year. Who are your top three best-dressed rappers of all time?
Best-dressed rappers of all time? Kanye West. That's obvious. I think [ASAP] Rocky's one of the best. And I think Tyler [the Creator] is one of the best as well.

Interesting. Two recent guys.
All time? Fuck. I mean, that's hard. I think Dipset is, if that counts as one. Dipset just because as soon as I think of Cam’ron or any of those guys, I just think of their fits immediately. So just because of the effect they had on hip-hop, Dipset is one of them. 

You’ve said before that André 3000 inspired you too.
I feel like Outkast in general inspired me, clothing wise and musically. They pushed the envelope. I remember being able to buy Speakerboxx and The Love Below myself. This has nothing to do with the question, but there's this photo of titties and André 3000. I cut it out and just put it on my wall as a kid. [Laughs.] But Andre’s style is one of the best I think. That was just somebody I forgot to say. 

Do you feel like you're the best-dressed rapper currently?
I've never been a guy that shouts at a camera like, “I'm the best at this and this.” That shit is tiring, man, because you just gotta live up to that statement. I'd rather just make no statement. If people fuck with me, they fuck me. And if they don't, they don't. I don't really care for that title. I just like to put on clothes. I think it's corny, almost touching 30 arguing about who got the best style. I just like to wear what I wear. And if you like it, you like it.

I came across an Instagram page that ID’s all your outfits. 
Yeah, shoutout to @amineswardrobe. That's like the coolest account. 

So you keep tabs on it?
I know the fan who runs it. She's the sweetest. 

I wanted to end on this. I've heard you say previously how you are super nostalgic for the Def Jam fighting games. If they ever brought it back and you were in the game, what would you want your avatar to be wearing?
The fit? That's a tough decision to make. Oh my god, it'll probably be only my shit. I'm not wearing nobody’s shit but mine. I’ll have on a big banana hoodie, some chunky pants, and then this sneaker right here, and I'm just kicking niggas in the face with it. That's fire. Blood on my “Mooz” 610s. That's pretty cool. [Laughs.

That game is so fire. I always say that the guy that you have to fight at the very end needs to be Drake, and it needs to be like the OVO Slayer or something. That would be funny as hell. [Laughs.]

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