Few others can boast a level of influence like A$AP Rocky — he’s driven trends from Balenciaga life jackets to babushka-esque Gucci headscarves, and was instrumental in bringing designers like Raf Simons, Prada and Ann Demeulemeester to the forefront of every hypebeast’s mind. What he’s done for millennial fashion and the hype scene is akin to Kurt Cobain in the ‘90s, or Kanye West in the early 2000s: he is one of a few that’s helped curate the language of our wardrobes.
Now, he’s entering a new era. The musician is turning towards vintage, just as increasing numbers of younger consumers are doing the same. It’s a new field for Rocky, and one that he’s learning to nurture. But with over a decade to cultivate his taste, it’s easy for him to figure out what he does — and definitely does not — like.
And he has help, too: further aiding him in curating his next moment in fashion is Klarna, which announced last week the appointment of Rocky as shareholder and CEO for a day, and invited him to take part in a new vintage project.
By combining his love for vintage clothes with an eye on how to buy and his new role at Klarna, A$AP Rocky hopes to change the way we are shopping — he even curated a vintage capsule and starred in Klarna’s latest campaign to help us visualize his vision (which also hears a sample from an unreleased A$AP Rocky song, alongside a cameo from Skepta).
In an exclusive interview, HYPEBEAST spoke to Rocky about what he means by “shopping smarter,” how vintage clothes have a place in his heart, and his own approach to fashion curation.
HYPEBEAST: What got you into wearing vintage clothes?
A$AP Rocky: Nostalgia has a lot to borrow from. There’s prior trends, and you’ve gotta thrift older clothes, [and with that] there’s exclusivity which got me into older clothes. It’s like, if I find this piece nobody else is going to have it, that’s what the thrill is.
Is having something that someone else doesn’t have important or exciting to you?
It is. It feels exclusive.
I heard that you’re heavily influenced by women’s fashion. Does this come into mind when you’re shopping vintage or curating vintage looks?
Overall that’s an understatement. Women’s fashion started fashion, then they made menswear. Because fashion is derived exclusively from women’s fashion, it’s only right that you take… Like, when it comes to style, innovation, design, it’s usually women’s fashion that’s at the forefront of doing something new.
With that in mind, do you prefer men’s or women’s vintage clothing? What do you enjoy finding more?
Definitely men’s, but I really appreciate women’s fashion.
When you’re looking for vintage clothing, what’s going through your mind when you’re on that hunt?
Usually, I’m looking for the corona mask and gloves so I don’t sneeze, because you know how vintage clothes smell, so I’m usually more worried about the dust mites and sh*t. But I go scavenger hunting when I go vintage shopping.
You scavenge? Are you the kind of person looking through every rack?
Yeah, basically. Sometimes you can spot that section that has terrible pieces or is full of random T-shirts. I wouldn’t go to that, but certain racks that have different brands… Sometimes these things are either organized or all over the place, so it depends on how things are in order in the store really.
If you had a vintage shop, how would you curate it?
Oh, man! I would have it mixed. February, futuristic, retrograde mixed with vintage stuff, everything everybody needed. I’d have a mixture of new things — pretend my brand was heavily based on Vivienne Westwood vintage pieces and some Issey Miyake and stuff like that, I’d then have vintage pieces and modern pieces from those brands in the store. You have options for both, and then mix them up together. I’d have that [concept] for a variety of brands that I hold at the store.
I’m glad you mentioned Vivienne and Issey. I think people get into vintage through old skate T-shirts and the likes, but then there’s a transition into what’s considered ‘archival.’ Have you experienced the vintage to archive transition?
Clothes are clothes. Vintage, archival pieces, are pieces. There’s a difference. You’ve gotta distinguish the two.
What is the difference?
Alright, let me give you an example. If Raf Simons today does a runway show, he puts out a line of pieces, pants, jackets, and these things sell like hotcakes. But there’s that one runway piece that he’s not going to make a lot of, or might not even sell this piece because a lot of buyers think it’s too expensive, you know, sh*t like that?
“Fashion trends come and go, but pieces stay with you forever.”
It might be a jacket or a sweater that you’d wear twice a year because it’s so bullshit like that. I think that’s the difference between clothes and a piece — a piece is rare, it’s archival, it means very limited or probably not even produced.
That’s a very literal point of view.
While you’re very literal about this, I know you’re passionate about this too. How does someone transition from vintage to archive status?
Man, that’s just very dependent on like, your preference and style and individual style. For anyone getting into it, I’d say pick the decade, the collection, the designer, and go from there. Whatever connects to you the most.
I think, what usually happens in fashion, look at it now, everyone does the same thing. For instance, years ago it was all about collaborating streetwear brands with high-end brands — before you knew it you had LV and Supreme, I don’t have to go down the list. You get it. We’re on the same page. [Laughs].
A ton of brands did collaborations. Look at how, now, it’s all about green. Bottega did it, LV has done it, Dior is on it, everyone’s on green. That’s the color and the palette right now. Green collections. Everybody’s doing green. It’s all the same.
In 1993, I feel like those designers were competing, but subsequently, they’re influenced by each other and I feel like that era shows, and it’s prevalent, how it shows a certain time in a decade. What’s your style, what do you like? Do those analogies make any sense?
What are you into at the moment? What vintage pieces are on your mind?
Every f*cking thing. Dude, I’m looking at bell bottoms! For real.
Do you approach vintage as “I want to wear just vintage today,” or are you happy to mix it up, like you would in your hypothetical boutique?
Yes, I’d do the same and mix it up a little. I’m not against anybody who goes full vintage, but they start to look like… a thrift store motherf*cker. There’s one thing shopping vintage and then there’s all thrifted. If you wear too much vintage — and I think you can agree with me — you start to look a little thrifty.
So looking like you walked out of the ‘90s isn’t always a good thing?
I think it’s subjective, it’s all about stylistic preference. For me, I’m not going full street ‘80s — vintage is about individual style and whatever works for you. Some people do really look good looking like they just came out of a time capsule, but that’s not for everybody. It varies on who the subject is.
I think it says more about you if you can mix in new with old.
Don’t get me wrong — somebody shopping vintage head-to-toe is like someone shopping modern head-to-toe, like a bunch of brands: it doesn’t look right when it’s overkill. A splash of vintage, a splash of archival, a splash of modern, a splash of streetwear doesn’t hurt. But when it’s like, “Ah I just came from the Fendi store and I got Fendi, Fendi, Fendi, Fendi monogram everywhere, it looks a little tacky.
We got there. Wrapping that up, I heard you said something about shopping smarter. What do you mean by this?
Oh hell yeah, I’m one of the most frugal shoppers ever! Man, there are so many reasons — I shop with Klarna number one, [laughs] plug! Literally, I’m always down for a fucking bargain.
“It’s only good to keep things that you think are pieces.”
I love the sale. The worst feeling is when you buy the Margiela or some expensive brand now, and sixth months later it goes on sale for half of what you paid, you feel like a f*cking idiot.
Frugality is one thing, but are you into the concept of “price per wear?”
Absolutely, ab-so-lute-ly. Before you know it, you don’t want to keep having to do spring cleans. You just become a hoarder. It’s only good to keep things that you think are pieces. Keep the pieces.
Fashion trends come and go, but pieces stay with you forever.
Where does Klarna come into this?
For kids, the hypebeast shoppers, or the kids that don’t necessarily have the means, it gives them the opportunity to not miss out on the drops. There’s so much hustle, people just purchase things for the resale purpose only, and there are people who are actually into it and wear it. For those people, it’s going to change the shopping experience drastically.
You did a campaign for Klarna and you’ve curated a capsule of over 100 upcycled and vintage pieces for the app and Klarna users. What was your creative process behind this?
It wasn’t brand-orientated, it was more about overall pieces. Bell bottoms, boot cuts, dungarees — but I wouldn’t shop vintage for selvedge denim. I would get some jeans or dungarees, so that’s the kind of stuff I listed and mentioned. Trying to tell people what brands to go for is confusing, there are so many brands that came and went from the ‘70s.
When it comes to vintage, a lot of stuff wasn’t mass-produced, it was only a few pieces and that’s what feels more exclusive than anything today.