Born in 1997, Atlanta rapper Lil Yachty came into this world just as clothing brand Nautica had peaked. The apparel company founded by David Chu in the ‘80s was widely known and heralded for its boat logo and adventurous color palettes. In the mid-’90s, it competed with the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren for the hearts and dollars of preppy Ivy League types.
Little did Nautica know, kids in inner city neighborhoods were also buying up their windbreakers, funky all-over print and cross color jackets and tees via offshoot Competition and Challenge lines to pair with the baggy jeans and shell top Adidas or Air Jordan sneakers. Though the culture wasn’t one a Hip-Hop-adoring New York City teen could necessarily relate to, rap stars like The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Q-Tip and LL Cool J all peppered their raps with Nautica references in the mid-’90s.
“Nautica is a lifestyle brand that everyone from all walks of life can relate to and we are proud of that,” says Karen Murray, President of Nautica. “We love the Nautica brand’s history and the mark it has made on fashion throughout the years. We continue to celebrate our history through the iconic, heritage items that we still offer, along with our classic sportswear styles.”
Now about 20 years removed from its heyday, Nautica recently announced that Miles “Lil Yachty” McCollum will be a brand Creative Designer, meaning that not only will he helping them dig out some of those vintage pieces and designs, but he’ll also “be working on a capsule collection with our design team and modeling in some of our upcoming social and digital campaigns,” says Murray.
And that’s key. On Instagram, Nautica has just a tenth of the followers that Yachty boasts (1.7 million for the rapper).
“Lil Yachty has such a vast and growing millennial following,” says Murray. “We want to show a new, younger audience, in addition to our existing customer, that Nautica is a brand that offers a mix of both heritage pieces and classics pieces–clothes that you can wear for any occasion, and still look cool. We admire his genuine passion for the brand and his unique sense of style and taste level.”
One quick search of his page reveals that Yachty, 19, was a true Nautica fan before signing on the dotted line. Here’s a shot of him two years ago in a yellow long-sleeved tee, before his red-dyed braids were even capable of dangling:
“I have nine blue Nautica hoodies,” Yachty tells Billboard exclusively. “It’s fire.” The partnership is a long time coming for Yachty, who says that joining Nautica is “extremely perfect,” considering that he named himself Yachty and one of his aliases is “Lil Boat.” For as long as he’s been an image-savvy teen posting selfies on the ‘Gram, he’s tagged every Nautica top he’s worn (in addition to following them and commenting on their posts), knowing that as his fame grew they’d recognize him sooner or later. “I put it together in the early stages of my career for a reason. It was a part of my brand.”
In 2016 he released his debut mixtape Lil Boat and follow-up Summer Songs 2 to much acclaim. Yachty also modeled in Kanye West’s Madison Square Garden fall fashion show and earned a 2017 Grammy nomination for his contribution to R&B singer D.R.A.M.’s ”Broccoli,” a party starter for weed smokers.
Yachty revealed that though his name — one he got from being in a small music collective called The Yacht Club — suggests that frequently floats on boats, he’s only been on “like three or four” in his entire life. That surely will change as his collaboration with Nautica reveals itself throughout this year. He was arguably already their biggest fan, but now this professional notch in his belt means even “more now, simply because of the relationship that I’ve built with Karen.” Fittingly, she’s equally as excited about things to come. “Stay tuned!” Murray urges.