Over the past 10+ years at Highsnobiety, we’ve experienced massive growth and change first hand, and are still consistently in awe of how quickly our world continues to develop. With mobile technology and social media becoming more firmly entrenched in our daily lives, at times it can feel as though a collective affinity for “likes” and followers is, in some ways, homogenizing culture. Yet the internet has also allowed us to hyper-focus our interests, however niche they may be, allowing the cream to rise to the top infinitely quicker.

From an upstart brand creating a cult following through nothing more than a well curated Instagram account, to a relatively unknown artist uploading a track that turns into a number one hit - look no further than 19-year-old Brooklyn wordsmith Desiigner, featured in this issue, for proof - global connectivity has bolstered entrepreneurship, enabling individuals to create their own audiences and scenes outside the boundaries or confines of any traditional “industry” structure. And that makes for an incredibly inspiring time to be involved in this world.

The theme of Highsnobiety Magazine Issue 13 is Independence. At its core, independence is about self-reliance, individualism and thinking for oneself. Embodying so many facets of our culture, we chose four distinct cover subjects for the issue - a rapper, a pop star, a fashion designer and an actor turned streetwear entrepreneur - all of whom exemplify the issue's theme in their own way.

First up is 25-year-old Atlanta-based rapper Jeffery Lamar Williams, known professionally as Young Thug. From his eccentric persona and androgynous dress to his unhinged flow and sometimes incomprehensible lyrics, Thug’s entire approach has been unconventional. Taking aim at outdated macho tenants of hip-hop, Young Thug has, in many ways, completely changed the landscape of what rap music looks, feels and sounds like in 2016, all while being entirely and unapologetically true to himself.

Next, we have 23-year-old British singer and songwriter Zayn Malik. While Malik may seem outside the scope of Highsnobiety’s usual framework, we were intrigued by his abrupt decision to quit the massively popular UK boy band One Direction and go it alone. Reinventing himself and shaping his own identity, Zayn has evolved in sound and style since (seen here wearing a denim jacket from the newly refreshed Gucci). And though it hasn’t been without tribulation, as a mainstream pop star who is also Muslim, Zayn is a true icon of multiculturalism today.

Then there is fashion designer Haider Ackermann, the self-proclaimed “eternal stranger.” Though thrust into the spotlight in part by a Kanye West co-sign, Ackermann is a true independent in every sense of the word. From his business structure to his design philosophy and everything in-between, Haider is a man who embodies the freedom of being everywhere and nowhere at once.

For our fourth cover, we showcase the infamous Chinese superstar and founder of CLOT, Edison Chen. A man of many talents, Chen is currently working behind-the-scenes with a number of independent streetwear labels in Los Angeles, staying out of the limelight of Asia. As such, he appears masked on our cover, in a collaborative piece from Matthew Williams’ incredible new womenswear label, ALYX and mask-maker Shin Murayama.

Beyond the four cover features, this issue of Highsnobiety Magazine also explores many other stories of self-reliance and freedom, including the journey of legendary FUCT founder Erik Brunetti, the slow and steady rise of Sean Brown’s NEEDS&WANTS and the nuanced work of London-based creative Andrew Bunney.

We also spoke with Samuel Ross of A-COLD-WALL*, caught up with A$AP Rocky and A$AP Bari to discuss their bubbling VLONE venture and sat down with Vancouver “fetish” rapper Tommy Genesis, in addition to many others, to shed light on the ways global creators are embracing self-directed approaches to lifestyle, art and business today.

Highsnobiety Magazine Issue 13 is available now from our online store as well as fine retailers worldwide.

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