Above all else, A$AP Ferg is an artist. Though he splits his time between creating critically-acclaimed music and fashion design, Ferg’s creativity developed from an early age in drawing and painting. “I was a young artistic kid, but I didn’t know how to channel my powers,” Ferg tells Billboard. “The thing about fashion is that I got a chance to wear my art like a walking canvas.”
Growing up in Harlem, A$AP Ferg (born Darold Ferguson, Jr.) learned about style from one of the neighborhood’s most memorable tastemakers: his father. Known as D Ferg, he owned a popular boutique, created custom silk-printed t-shirts, and even designed a logo for Diddy’s label Bad Boy Entertainment. “He was basically a pioneer, an innovator,” Ferg explains. “Since he was the underdog and he was up against all these big companies, he had to create something to draw people to his work. He put magic into whatever he created.”
Following in his late father’s footsteps, A$AP Ferg already has a range of accomplishments well beyond his 28 years. As part of the A$AP Mob, he’s released two studio albums —2013’s Trap Lord and last year’s Always Strive and Prosper. In 2012, he launched his own fashion line, Trap Lord, and has collaborated with brands like Bape, Young & Reckless, Adidas, the sustainable, socially conscious label Uniform, and Citizens of Humanity’s denim offshoot AGOLDE. He’s even ventured into home goods with Fancy.
Because of the success from his first AGOLDE spring 2016 capsule collection, Ferg is back with another line for fall. The twelve-piece collection, which ranges from $58 to $350 in price and is available for pre-launch at TheWebster.com, includes outerwear, graphic tees, a tracksuits, five different jeans, and is entirely unisex. Billboard Style caught up with A$AP Ferg between his travels for Future’s Nobody Safe Tour and studio time for his forthcoming project Still Striving to discuss the process behind such a fruitful designing career.
You studied fashion design in art school. Did that prepare you for eventually launching your own brand, or was there a lot of learning-as-you-go in the industry?
It definitely prepared me. I took a sewing class and learned how hard it is to actually sew and how much time it takes. So, I knew that I didn't want to produce the clothes myself. But it taught me the know-how. I actually love to draw the designs and come up with the concepts. It taught me what I love and taught me my passions. It sharpened my talent.
I took two internships as well. I interned at Rocawear and Artful Dodger, which are both owned by JAY-Z. I also took an internship with Sean John early on. I was a kid just figuring it out, making my own contacts and connecting the dots.
Who are some of your style influences?
David Bowie, Grace Jones, Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes, Puff Daddy, Kanye West, Ralph Lauren, Pharrell, DMX. And my dad, of course.All of these guys, they definitely did a lot of self-evaluating and they searched real deep in themselves to find something original. Or, it just came naturally and they trust themselves to just be original. A lot of people don't trust themselves to know that the world will like what they're doing.
This is your second capsule collection with AGOLDE. What got you coming back to this brand?
The fact that they allow me creative freedom. From the jump, they told me that they didn't want it to be a collaboration with just another rapper and just add my name to the clothing. From that point, I knew they were serious. They took their time to teach me [for the first line]. I basically entered an internship with them, did a nine-to-five for about a week in L.A.
They took me to all of the factories, showed me the tumbler machines, introduced me to all of the staff that was working on the clothing. We talked denim, Japanese denim, the origins of the loom machines, and how the garments are made. It was definitely school for me, class was in session. I appreciate that because that I can take with me. I can go anywhere in the world and reproduce now because I have the knowledge to do so. Beyond just the collection, I was given a gem.
As a designer, what was your process like?
I usually start off with a bunch of pictures and references. I'm always grabbing pictures from everywhere, whether it's Tumblr, Google, or if I'm walking in the street and I see anybody with something I like. I'll take what I love from that and incorporate it with something else that I love, like a certain era.
How does this process compare to your process as a musician?
I think it's a bunch of reconstruction. I start off abstract—it's all over the place and unorthodox—and then I incorporate that into a structure. I break myself down as an artist. I learned that from David Bowie. He used to just jot down all his thoughts on the paper before he even started to write. So, you're just releasing everything that's in your brain until it's empty and you can't write anymore. You subconsciously start putting those words or vibes into the lyrics, and it makes them something very original and different. At the end of the day, I also allow God, magic, and energy in to make my music into something that I can't do as a human.
What were the main inspirations for this collection?
‘70s and ‘80s New York was what inspired this collection—basically, what my dad and his friends used to wear. I took my uncle's (we call him Psycho) jacket out of the closet. It was an army jacket that he drew on, so I kind of drew inspiration from that. We brought back the silhouette of my favorite jeans—we just duplicated it in different colors and added embellishments to it. I sat with Riri Zipper, the company, and we came up with dope embellishments as far as zipper and buttons to add on the garments. I went with the nickel plated buttons and zippers because they’re really shiny. I liked the way the contemporariness of the shiny buttons hit the washes of the vintage-inspired garments we created. It gave it a real twist—you don’t know if it’s new or old.
You appreciate being cozy. Did this mentality influence the collection as well?
I created a sweatsuit this go around, which I didn't have in the first collection. After my show, I don't want to put on anything uncomfortable—I just want to put on something cool that I could wear to jump on a plane and go somewhere else. I wanted it to be my brand, so I created a sweatsuit that everybody can wear.
Was it important for you to have a unisex design approach with this line?
It was very important to me. I noticed that every time I wear something, all of the girls want to wear my clothes because they feel left out. They're like, "Man, why you don't make nothing out for females?" Girls don't even wanna wear girl clothes no more. Girls want to be comfortable, and I noticed that. Now, it's blurred lines with fashion—men are being more fashionable and females can actually dress down. So, I went into this line with intent and created it knowing that females are gonna wear it. I paid more attention to fabrics and just made it to where [the clothing] can be real elegant and hit a female's body nice, but at the same time it can be masculine enough for a man to wear.
Do you have a favorite piece from your collection?
My favorite piece is the black denim shearling jacket. And I just love the denim that we used. It's basically the same silhouette from the last collection, but we just modified it by making the jeans with less give and no stretch to give it a more authentic, old feel. The clothes remind me of Stranger Things, the series on Netflix.
Fashion wise, what can we expect from you in the near future?
My Traplord x Uniform collection is going to drop real soon, that's the first time I'm doing actual female clothes like sports bras. I'm about to drop another sneaker with Adidas and fall capsule collection with them that comes with a jacket, t-shirt, cap, and sweatpants. Music wise, Still Striving comes out in August.