In May 2015, A$AP Rocky relaunched his Instagram with a series of seamless, curated collages. When viewed on any smartphone, Rocky’s feed could be scrolled through as a continuous visual experience, transcending the conventionally squared format of Instagram at the time.
Though the day of the relaunch saw Rocky’s Instagram lose over 100,000 followers, this unique reimagining of his social media presence through bold, new visual aesthetics inspired many of the artist’s young followers to rethink their own Instagram profiles and ushered in a new era of iPhone curators.
While, in and of itself, this undertaking was an important moment for the artist’s aesthetic identity, it is perhaps most noteworthy as the inaugural project of the AWGE collective, A$AP Rocky’s secret cabal of artists, stylists, and creators.
Rocky would come to describe the relaunch of his Instagram as a ‘digital installation’, and it was through this lens that the world was introduced to two of AWGE’s core members: Robert Gallardo and Tan Camera. Gallardo and Camera (real name Kimi Selfridge), were credited as the masterminds behind the project, with Gallardo taking the lead on creative direction and Selfridge as responsible for much of the installation’s photography and design work.
In describing her involvement to Complex, Selfridge says: “I made each collage by hand with various materials, including photographs shot on 35mm film and Polaroid film.”
The photographer’s work is instantly recognizable for its mixed media collage style, pop-culture references, and off-the-cuff references to iconic brands such as Palace and Goyard. Since the relaunch, Camera’s DIY aesthetic has become a staple throughout the A$AP Mob’s social media platforms.
Fast forward two years and AWGE has remained, by-and-large, a mysterious entity to all those who have followed the A$AP Mob. While notable A$AP affiliate Ian Connor often shouted out the collective, he remained quiet on its purpose. Since their first project, the collective’s logo has been spotted in connection with almost all of the Mob’s creative endeavors.
Perhaps most notably, AWGE branding has featured prominently on two of the Mob’s most recent music videos; those for Playboi Carti’s breakout hit “Magnolia” and the posse cut homage to Raf Simons, “RAF.” With these two high-profile videos gaining wide-scale attention and millions of views, AWGE remained very much behind the scenes.
AWGE’s scope has not been limited to music, however. In 2016 rumors of a potential collaboration with fashion critic favorite J.W. Anderson were confirmed, with Rocky often seen sporting the collection’s standout piece, a faux fur teddy jacket. Similarly, Rocky’s stand-out collaboration with GUESS was holistically conceptualized by the AWGE team. Buoyed by the success of their first collaborative collection, which sold out worldwide, and to coincide with the collaboration’s second iteration, AWGE presented the ‘A$AP Rocky x GUE$$ Clubhouse’. The launch of the clubhouse, itself a pop-up shop and installation inspired by a ’90s treehouse, welcomed in attendance a who’s who of the Los Angeles creative scene.
Furthermore, in October of the same year, in the run up to the release of Cozy Tapes Vol. 1, A$AP Rocky premiered the AWGE-directed short film “Money Man.” The film, a partnership with Red Bull, was a contemporary reworking of the cult French film La Haine, shot by frequent A$AP Mob collaborator, Dexter Navy, and featuring London grime artist Skepta. The short film was AWGE flexing its creative muscle, an exercise in cross-discipline expression.
In this sense, it’s a testament to the collective’s desire for secrecy that even whilst consistently putting out high-profile content, AWGE has managed to continuously shroud itself in mystery. We reached out to a few members of the crew, but got the same reply: “The first rule about AWGE is you don’t talk about AWGE.”
The crew’s profile was raised in August, however, when A$AP Rocky announced the aptly-titled AWGEST: a month-long takeover by AWGE and the A$AP Mob, which featured multiple album releases, culminating in the release of the Cozy Tapes Vol. 2 and the launch of a new AWGE website and merch line. Seen frequently on A$AP Mob members in the run up to the site launch, the merch collection featured AWGE trucker hats in blue, green or red, as well as a selection of AWGE branded t-shirts, which sold out almost immediately.
The new awgeshit.com site gave fans their first look into the collective’s inner workings, removing the proverbial veil that had surrounded AWGE up until this point. The website’s “About” section clearly lists the integral members of the AWGE team. In addition to Robert Gallardo and Ian Connor, contributors are listed next to their creative roles: Matt Henson – Fashion, Shane Gonzales – Design, Kamil Abbas – Creative, Hidjifilms – Video, Ben Baller – Jewellery, Hec Lunas Frans – Producers. It’s a who’s who of A$AP Mob affiliates.
In the midst of AWGEST, the AWGE enterprise unleashed what is perhaps the most complete realization of their creative vision to date, their Midnight Rave in Los Angeles. Titled after Shane Gonzales’ punk-inspired label Midnight Studios, the Midnight Rave featured performances from international designer and DJ Virgil Abloh, as well as members of the A$AP Mob themselves. Set in an abandoned L.A. warehouse, the space was carefully curated with Midnight Rave branding as well as a moving L.E.D bar above the DJ booth.
In addition to the night’s performances, fans who were early enough were able to purchase a limited collaboration T-shirt by Abloh’s brand Off-White, Midnight Studios, and AWGE. Refusing to be confined by the limitations of one-dimensional art direction, it is perhaps in this multi-disciplinary, box-less manner that we will see AWGE venture further in the future.
What about the name itself — what the hell does AWGE mean, anyway? “The first rule of AWGE is don’t ask questions about AWGE,” Rocky replied when asked by The New York Times. “No one needs to know what the letters stand for. We know what it is, and that’s how we want to keep it.”
Be it clothing, music videos, or expansive events, one thing is for certain: AWGE has more surprises in store.
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- Author: Josh Proctor
- Cover Image: AWGE