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.