Harlem-born rapper A$AP Ferg is one of the stars of New York’s hip hop scene and a long-time collaborator with the A$AP Mob, a creative collective known for their prolific creative output across music, fashion, design and art.
Born Darold D. Brown Ferguson, Jr., the 29-year-old polymath spent time in art school and launched his own fashion label before transitioning into rapping.
A fashion week front-row fixture, he is often photographed showcasing his luxe street and sport aesthetic alongside his Mob collaborator, A$AP Rocky. A well-known sneakerhead, Ferg has designed his own sell-out styles and continues to add to his extensive collection of rare sneakers.
Now he’s the first man to feature in Jimmy Choo’s Style Diaries series. Expanding on his Harlem roots and the connection between fashion and hip hop, Ferg takes us on a highly personal exploration of style, success and the power of sneakers to change the game.
You grew up with a huge fashion influence as your father owned a boutique — how much of his work informed your early style?
A lot of my father’s work influenced my early style and continues to do so even now, because he was the first person I knew who had owned a boutique. He was the first persona I knew who produced their own clothing line by creating silk screen and graphic design on T-shirts — and he had workers in a factory producing his clothing.
What did fashion and style mean to you when you were younger?
Fashion and style means being unique. It’s being the first to have the Jordans or any new or rare sneaker; the first to be onto a trend and changing the game. I always wanted to be fresh going to school and have all eyes on me. I wanted my teachers to say, “Oh man, you have some new shoes today.”
You have an education in art as well as launching your own fashion and jewelry lines when you were younger – how do fashion and art feel distinct from your creative expression as a musician?
Fashion and art opened the world up to me a little more. Through fashion and art, I was able to communicate with everyone in all walks of life. Rap can pigeonhole you sometimes and it can be hard to communicate with people outside of the hip hop community once you’re in it. But fashion and art are limitless. They allow me to think more broadly and help me to push hip hop culture forward.
Fashion and music have always been entwined, but the embrace of rap culture by high fashion is a relatively new phenomenon. Rap music has long fetishized branded fashion and has become a symbol of success – but why do you think there’s been such a crossover?
I don’t think it’s something that happened recently. I think rappers have always been into fashion and designers have always been into artists. Donatella Versace would hang out with Lil Kim and make her custom pieces while Gianni Versace wrote letters to Tupac in jail saying he wanted to dress him when he came home — and he attended the Versace show with his fiancée, Kidada Jones. Rappers have always been into fashion. Even when you think about the older rappers who dressed like rock stars, they always used clothing to express themselves. Social media has only helped to reveal the relationship between fashion and rappers.
How do you personally feel about the luxury fashion industry? Do you enjoy the fashion shows and razzmatazz?
Fashion shows are cool, I usually like the music which sets the mood and, in a way, it inspires me to make music and create different sonics.
How would you describe your style influences?
My style influences are David Bowie, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhyme music video costumes, Ludacris, late 1990s, early 2000s, Diddy and the movie Belly. I heard Kanye say, he didn’t want to dress like normal people — people walking in the streets. He wanted to dress in costume. I liken myself to that because when I get dressed, I dress as if I’m playing a role in a movie. Ralph Lauren also said he would look at movies and want to dress like James Dean or actors in his favorite films. For me, it was my favorite artists in videos.
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is imaginative, moody and colorful, I love primary colors.
What are the key ingredients to your personal uniform?
The key ingredient is that everything needs to be functional. I can’t wear anything that is uncomfortable and everything must feel magical.
Your passion for sneakers is boundless – what is it about them that means so much to you?
New shoes for me represented being fresh. When I was in Catholic school we had to wear uniform, so the only time I got to show my flyness was on Thursdays in gym and I would wear my new sneakers every week. Sneakers have always been a staple and still are a representation of how fresh you are. Now they’re coming in new styles, shapes and colors and are getting better as the technology improves.
How many pairs of sneakers do you own?
I have plenty of styles and I’ve lost count now.
Is there a difference in your off duty/ on duty look – how do you change up your footwear?
There’s no difference. I don’t have any days off. I’m A$AP Ferg 24/7.
Is there anything you would never wear – or anything you look back on from your youth style-wise that you now cringe at?
I hated my fade haircut with the lines. I would never do that hair cut or grow my hair again. That was an epic fail.
What were your favorite styles from the shoot with Jimmy Choo?
My favorite style was the tuxedo because it was classy. I also liked shooting with the dog in front of the Plaza hotel wearing the big coat, tank top and leather pants because it was like ‘Hood Rich’. It felt like something I grew up seeing during the Bad Boy era. This African American who is successful at the Plaza Hotel — uptown coming downtown and taking over.
How did you style them to make them feel really personal to you?
I styled them with my personal pieces. The attitude was most important.
You’re a vocal advocate for Harlem and its community – what about it is so special to you?
The spirit of Harlem is special as are the people that come out of Harlem. It’s a unique place, because the poorest person can have a rich energy about them. Our spirits are flamboyant and we have a lot of confidence.
You shot in the Grand Penthouse at the Plaza, one of the city’s most iconic hotels – as a New York native, what does that mean to you?
It feels like the uptown kid coming downtown and making it big. It was my “I have arrived” moment.
Where are your three favorite spots in the city and why?
Firstly, the Loews movie theatre because the seats are comfortable. Secondly, it’s 125th Street—walking past the Apollo theatre and finally I’d say Soho, because it’s one of the first places I saw lots of fashion and art kids hanging out. There’s a dope community there.
Do you feel that growing up in Harlem has influenced your personal style? How?
Harlem definitely influences my personal style. It’s embedded in me. The way people wore their shoes, untied shoelaces, du rags, the type of haircut they got…
The level of creative collaboration amongst the A$AP Mob is incredible – how does working with your collaborators feel different from working alone?
Working with the Mob is a different vibe. There are more people in the studio, with more of a party vibe. When I’m alone, I’m more in my head. Sometimes I’ll have friends over to get me out of my head to stop me overthinking.
What do you think the A$AP Mob offers to brands uniquely?
The A$AP Mob brings a bunch of individuals who are into culture and lifestyle. We love to get fly. A lot of rappers don’t know how to dress and we show them how to.
In terms of ambition what are your main goals and how would you love to see your career progress?
One of my main goals is to really spread my music around the world. I would love to get involved more in writing, signing other artists, getting into film, video production, television and a lot more.