How do you properly cap off a house party and recording studio sesh? No, not sleep. You have to hit the park and in Amsterdam, there’s no better location for the most lit picnic in the city than the sprawling Vondelpark. Where else would we find ALLE$ Lifestyle than among the trees and sprawled across picnic blankets?
For the city’s rising young crew that seem to dabble in every creative outlet imaginable, the park became the final stop on their city-spanning campaign to bring A|X Armani Exchange’s threads to the side of Amsterdam far removed from red-light districts and weed cafes. Sure, those institutions have as much place in the city’s history as the overstuffed canal sidewalks full of tourists do, but that’s another side of the city. For ALLE$, whose moniker means “everything” in Dutch, the small city they’ve grown to call home (after beginning the crew in the smaller city of Nijmegen) is as important to their DNA as the overstuffed roster of talent that they’ve brought together. For everyone from the R&B prodigy RIMON and rising rap star Narco Polo to the DJ Mijo and producer Samuel Kareem, Amsterdam is home base — at least for now.
Across three sprawling editorials, we’ve caught up with ALLE$ to talk about the struggles and strengths of coming up in the Netherlands as a music crew, how fashion shaped their lives well before they met each other, and where they found the inspiration to pursue their craft. Now, for the final installment, we sat down one last time among the grass and trees at Vondelpark to talk about the challenges and sexism of the city’s creative scene, what comes next, and why they’ll always stay true to the “Combine Strength, Maximize Power” mindset.
How do you feel being in Amsterdam has benefited you compared to being in your town?
Armin Heravi: In our business, apart from being creative, [it’s about] knowing each other face to face and knowing what people can do for you. In Nijmegen, we didn't even [have an] infrastructure. Now, we're in Amsterdam, but we are moving internationally; we're getting an infrastructure with certain key figures you need to be with. Learning the process. People will organically help you in their own lane. If you're not doing the same thing, people are trying to help each other, and trying to make it bigger.
Narco Polo: Amsterdam is a different world inside of this country. If you go outside of here, it's a real different mentality, different culture.
What sets Amsterdam's creative scene apart?
Armin: The smaller a population is, the more competition there is. The more creative you have to be. You're seeing each other and you need to stand out. It’s not really talked about, but it drives people to be creative as fuck. I don't think everyone is fond of working together, but everybody knows each other and everybody is cool with each other. They're trying to be their own entity.
Yannick: The unity. I think it's partly due to the fact that Amsterdam is a relatively tiny city if you put it next to Berlin, London, Paris or whatever. In a city like London, you'll have multiple sub-cultures that have their own groups attached to it, and their own camps, and their own brands and their own artists. Here, we have that to a certain degree, but it's mostly collaborative. Everyone fucks with each other, there are collabs all the time, whether it be music or fashion.
Here, you can't physically go that far. There are only so many people in Amsterdam. There are only a million people in Amsterdam. Of that million, there's, I don't know, a few thousand that are in the creative scene that we're a part of. It's like a big high school. If you go to a big high school for four or five years, you'll know everyone. You might not know all of their names, but you'll have an idea of who they are and where they belong, and who they're with, and which class they go to. Amsterdam is comparable, man.
But does it make you feel trapped or limited at all?
Yannick: Yeah. That's one of the things that we found out through the music. Like how we position RIMON, for instance. It's never been a Dutch focus. From day one, when we were working on her debut single. Her very first single, we managed to debut it on the UK I-D magazine, which was huge for us. That set the tone, because we didn't want to do it local. We still, to this day, say no to about 80-to-90% of local media requests, just because it doesn't interest us. We feel our music goes way further. Especially because music in the Netherlands is very, we call it copy-paste culture.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced here?
Samuel Kareem: We had problems with meeting the right [people]. We always met the right people but sometimes the energy didn't match up to our energy. If it clashes, it clashes. We had a lot of trouble with that. We still have the same people from day one around us, but some people don't have the right energy to keep up with us.
Is there a lot of sexism in Amsterdam’s creative scene?
RIMON: Back in the days when we grew up? Yeah, definitely. It was there. I remember there were certain streetwear brands in Holland and Amsterdam and they would always have the guys do the campaigns. It was always the guys being co-signed and promoted. One of the big complaints about Amsterdam is that it's so expensive and, I'm curious how you work as creatives in a city that can be quite pricey.
Aki: Yeah, it's a hustle. We've been struggling from day one. Even in Nijmegen. I think that's everywhere. Doesn't matter where you live, its expensive. Find your side hustle and at the end of the day, just keep believing in what you really want to do. It doesn't matter if you are today broke and tomorrow rich. At the end of the day, money is minor.
How different would your life be if you weren't in ALLE$ Lifestyle?
RIMON: Completely different.
Fatu: Yeah, because we all push each other when we are feeling uncertain about our craft. We're pushing each other, motivating each other. I think everybody needs a person that motivates. We always did that for each other. I would be in a completely different stage in my life if I wasn't with them because you can't do everything by yourself. We have so many people and so many different perspectives on things. Everybody has their own talents, so when we are doing a video, everybody can add on to that vision and it becomes greater than I could have ever imagined.
Do you think that you'd want to keep your home base in Amsterdam? Or do you eventually want to move to another city?
RIMON: Me personally, I always thought I wanted to live abroad, but now that I've seen so many places, I can appreciate Amsterdam. New York is really fun and L.A. is a lot of fun too, but it's also a lot. I think I could live in certain places for like six months, or maybe a year. Then I would always come back to Amsterdam because I feel it's just a more calming vibe. Over there I just get anxiety.
The only thing I do imagine for myself when I'm old is going back to Ethiopia. That's it. Back to Africa. Just get a house there with my family and chill and live the good life. You have your own people over there, so it makes sense to stay there. That's the only place I really feel at home.
Yannick: We'll always rep Amsterdam as like, "This is where we're from, but it's not where we're headed." We've already been here. We know that we've got this on lock. We'll stay here, we've got our studios here. We've got our offices here. It's a good home base to move out of.
Plus, the added bonus is that there isn't, to my knowledge, a similar group of individuals from Amsterdam, or the Netherlands, that are kicking it on a global scale. We aspire to be the first ones to come out of Amsterdam and really do something. There's a lot of exports coming from the Netherlands. But, culturally relative export? That's ALLE$. That's what we want to be, and I don't really see that around me on the scale that we aspire it to be.
What's your goal moving forward?
Narco Polo: Just keep combining everyone's strength to be more powerful and expand the culture, support the culture and multiply. That's the goal for us, to do it all, and also to support the creatives because in this scene, there are a lot of entrepreneurs who take advantage. We try to flip the script and we want everyone to eat. We aren't here only for us. Normally people come for their own shit, but if I'm in a position to help others I will.
What do you want your message to be? How do you want to inspire people?
Yannick: I'd say that the key to ALLE$, and I think because it's the key to ALLE$, for some people it could be a key to life as well, is to recognize individual strengths and then bring those together. The tagline that we used to use was: "Combine strength, maximize power."
There are some people that are pure lone wolves, and they should 100% go for that if that's their style. But I always thought of myself as a lone wolf, and then when I ran into these guys, it just clicked. And I'm still a lone wolf in certain aspects. For instance, the DJing part. If I'm playing a DJ set, I'm not playing back-to-back with 20 people. That's my piece of the cake that I put in there. But, because it goes into that universe and it mixes and matches with all these other ingredients and flavors, there's just one ultra-strong product.
It's an energy that's hard to put a grasp on and I know for sure that I would never be able to produce such an energy by myself. I don't want the lone-wolf stuff anymore. I don't aspire to be that anymore. The feeling of satisfaction and gratification of doing things with a crew of your best friends, nothing tops that, man.
For the full rundown on how ALLE$ Lifestyle jumped from the small city of Nijmegen to an A|X Armani Exchange collab, check out the first and second parts of our spotlight on the Amsterdam crew who've locked down their dominance in the Netherlands' famed city with their "everything" approach to music, fashion, and art. MORE INFO