Taken from Issue 13 of Highsnobiety’s Print Magazine. Pick up a copy here.
The Lonely Boys
While the A$AP Mob is known primarily as a music collective, they’ve exemplified what the crew is capable of outside of the sonic realm with the introduction of clothing label, VLONE. Comprised of A$AP Rocky, A$AP Bari and CLOT’s Edison Chen, they’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what “always strive and prosper” truly means.
In recent months, upstart label VLONE has introduced itself to the world with key retail experiences around the world in notable places like colette in Paris, where they collaborated with OFF-WHITE, and in Los Angeles, where they took over a space in downtown once inhabited by Wes Lang — the man responsible for Kanye West’s tour merchandise — to create a memorable Stateside pop-up chock full of imagery indicative of skateboard culture during the Dogtown and Z-Boys era of Venice Beach.
Spearheaded by A$AP Bari, A$AP Rocky and CLOT’s Edison Chen, VLONE is unapologetically a representation of how all three view the world in the face of success, failure and scandal.
As famous American thespian, Orson Welles, once said, “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”
VLONE has prominently latched onto that ethos. We caught up with A$AP Bari and A$AP Rocky to get further clarification of what that represents to them.
How would you summarize what VLONE means?
Rocky: A broad statement for me to generalize everything would be just “you live alone, you die alone.” That’s it. I think it’s simple.
What do you think the main goal is for VLONE in the next year?
Bari: I can’t tell. I really don’t have any goals. If you set a goal, it will make you disappointed if you don’t achieve it. The goal is to live life.
How do you view Edison Chen’s role within the brand?
Bari: We’re all a team. Nobody really has too much of an [official] position. Edison does what he does. I do what I do. Rocky does what he does.
Rocky, how do you see your role with VLONE?
Rocky: I think VLONE isn’t too far-fetched from A$AP. It’s just a lifestyle. For lack of better words, I’d say VLONE is like A$AP. They’re parallel. You know how A$AP is just a collective of different talented people? VLONE is just a lifestyle: live alone, die alone. People these days are just adapting to that lifestyle, whether you feel ostracized from society for whatever reason; your own internal reasons. A lot of people adapt to the lifestyle and manifest that lifestyle into a clothing line. It’s just how we life everyday amongst each other.
But as far as the business aspect of it, I think strategic moves definitely come from me and different partners within the company. Everybody just plays an important role on the business side. But the lifestyle side — that’s really what it’s all about. It’s not just cool clothes. You might see homeless people sleeping on the streets in VLONE. You might see 400 kids in SoHo all ridin’ [who are] all wearing VLONE. You never know.
Bari, do you think you’re the consistent voice as the figurehead?
Bari: No. I try not to talk. My whole thing is “less talking, more working.”
What does the “Friends” motif on the clothing mean to you? Is it supposed to be tongue-and-cheek?
Bari: With the T-shirt, the reason why there is “Friends” on it is because it has a minus [sign] on it. If you minus anything it’s “zero.” Minus life. Minus style. Minus food. Anything you put a minus to, you end up with zero. So the whole meaning behind the T-shirt is that “minus friends” means “zero friends.” I’m just more alone. Live alone. Die alone — that’s the whole meaning.
Has the “live alone, die alone” mantra changed at all in the last six months with the success and reception of the brand?
Bari: It’s more of a lifestyle, you know. We want it to be something where you wake up and you wear that because that’s how you’re feeling. “I don’t want to take this T-shirt off for three months” type of shit. So, that’s always my vibe, and how I approach anything that I do.
Have you always considered yourself to be a private person?
Bari: No, I’m always out there. I have friends. I have brothers. But I am VLONE. I am alone. I do spend time alone, but I do spend time with people. But sometimes you have to spend some time alone and work on you.
Rocky, in the past you said “the only thing mainstream about you were your investors.” Do you still think you maintain that independent spirit of going out and getting it without relying on outside sources?
Rocky: One hundred thousand million percent. Yes.
How do you deal with the feeling of wanting to be creative, but not being able to? Does that happen to you?
Bari: Not really socially, but more emotionally. I get into a family issue where I have to worry about my family and I can’t worry about anything else. That’s the only thing that gets me into a fashion block or a creative block.
Have you ever tried to spin that and use it as inspiration?
Bari: Yeah. My whole clothing experience is just based on my life, you feel me? I don’t wake up and go buy the newest high fashion. I try to do things by beating around things instead of just going straight to the facts. Not everybody can be me. Not everybody can be you. With that being said, you live alone and you die alone. It’s a lifestyle.
You said in the past that Harlem was a major influence and that “style is in our DNA.” With the Harlem Renaissance of the late teens and into the 1930s serving as a major movement in culture, do you think Harlem is still a prominent, creative hub?
Bari: Police taking away people’s freedom. You can’t do what you want to do in Harlem. You can’t chill on your stoop with your homeboys and cool all day and shit like that. Cookouts ain’t the same. Parades ain’t the same. I guess where I’m from — my ‘hood — is changing, and not for the good. The culture is just slowing fading away. I wish I had the time travel to go back and get that good Harlem feeling that I used to have. I live in California now, but every time I’m in New York, I stay in Harlem. I live in Harlem. I go back as much as I can. I appreciate what Harlem was.
And does that make it all back into the clothing?
Bari: My thing is, what I do — the whole theme of A$AP — is taking Harlem and bringing it elsewhere. Bringing it to London. Bringing it to Russia. Bringing it to Germany. It’s taking our culture and traveling with it and giving people the knowledge. So you look at A$AP and [you see] kids who made it from nothing to something.
Rocky, is Harlem still as much of a muse in fashion and music as it once was for you?
Rocky: I think Harlem will always be an inspiration. I do agree that it’s gentrified. There are so many buildings and developments and shit going on there. People I grew up with don’t even live in the neighborhood anymore.
Was it a conscious decision to avoid Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles for the VLONE pop-up shop?
Bari: Yes. Fairfax is not California to me. I know the person who built Fairfax who is Eddie Cruz. He started Undefeated, Supreme, Stussy. He’s from New York. What he saw was a new culture and brought it to California and started a whole streetwear culture and a whole block of streetwear brands. So that’s nothing new to me. Something new to me coming to California is going to Venice Beach and seeing amusement parks and lost boys. That’s what amazed me. I felt like Downtown was more of a New York feeling. It was crazy that Edison is close friends with Wes Lang and he was giving up his space and Edison bought the space from him and was like, “I’ve got this space downtown” and I called up my homie Paulie from Australia and was like, “We’ve got the chance, let’s whip it up.” The whole vibe of it was like Venice Beach/Dogtown. An ’80s/’90s California skate vibe.
You also didn’t want to get lumped in with the streetwear label on Fairfax?
Bari: I’m not streetwear. I’m not high fashion. I’m hood fashion. I do my shit for the hood niggas. I do my shit for the neighborhood drug dealer or anybody that is in the struggle.
Do you ever think the pop-up shop model is going to get overdone?
Bari: A pop-up is like the best thing. It can’t be played out. The only way it’s going to get played out is if you play it out. With me doing pop-ups, you’ve gotta understand that I’m not doing it because Kanye West is doing pop-ups. You understand? I’m doing it because at the end of the day, I have these special pieces and I only want to sell them to a limited amount of people. When I sell it to these people, it’s out of my hands. A reseller might sell it or abuse it, but it’s out of my hands. Me breaking bread with the stores like Barneys? Why do I need to do that?
Cut out the middleman?
Bari: Cut it out.
And you can also get the personal satisfaction of seeing someone purchase your items?
Bari: Yes. When you come and purchase VLONE from a VLONE pop-up I’m probably 85 percent at the store handing you your own piece.
- Photography:Kenneth Cappello
- Words:Alec Banks
- Photography Assistants:Scott Leon and Tucker Leary
- Producers:Jamie McPhee and Maria Rubin
- Special Thanks:Milk Studios LA & Jay Vasquez