Emory “Vegas” Jones is a self-described “fashion guy.” Back in the ’90s, when many of his friends, including the young (and then-unsigned) Jay Z, broke onto the music scene, Jones held steadfast in keeping fashion as his calling.
30 years later, Jay Z and Jones are at the forefront of Roc Nation Lifestyle, one of rap’s most influential design companies. Together, the East Coast duo created the brand’s famous paper plane logo and forged a monetary link between hip hop and fashion. Now, after facilitating major collaborations between sneaker super-house Puma and artists such as Meek Mill, Solange and Rihanna, Jones linked up with Puma to create his own line, including two sneakers and a suit (sweat tee, pant and jacket).
Jones spoke exclusively to Billboard about his “Bet On Yourself” slogan, the inspiration for his collection, and how to push forward in the face of adversity.
How did you come up with the vision for your Puma line?
I’m a student of the late ’80s, early ’90s. We grew up on army fatigue jackets, M80 jackets, all that. The color scheme came from that — the green and then blue. I wanted to mix these two colors together to have the heritage feel of what I grew up on, but [added blue because] everybody is back in denim now. The feel of the sweat suit was a mash of old school Columbia [jackets] meets today’s jogger suits. It still gives you a regular sweat suit feel, but it’s water resistant. I did two sneakers because Stars was more of an OG silhouette and the ignite is more for the youth. So it’s the best of both worlds.
Tell us about your “Bet On Yourself” slogan.
One of my most defining moments was going away [to prison] for a long time. I went away for 12 years. But I tell people all the time: Just because someone goes away doesn’t make them a bad person. They made bad choices. I knew from day one what I did in the dark would come to light, so the defining moment was being incarcerated, and seeing how incarceration really breaks people mentally. I didn’t take that time to let it harden me. It made me better myself even more; I knew I was a good dude, a good person, a good human. I knew I was good at what I do.
I told myself “I’m not going to come home and have all these opportunities and not bet on myself.” You can give me all the opportunities in the world, but if I don’t have the mindset to say I’m going to do it personally, none of that matters. So inside of the suit and shoes, the tape keeping the bonding together says “Bet On Yourself.” It’s the best detail.
What is your favorite piece in the collection?
The Star is my favorite silhouette that Puma has, but the sweat suit is really what I came into. I’m not even going to lie to you: I wore the suit from Friday to yesterday. It’s the perfect feel, and it takes me back to when I couldn’t afford much, but understood what it was like to get certain items you knew would last. Like when we used to get [Columbia jackets] and stuff like that, you knew what it was.
How would you describe your everyday style?
My style is really, simple fly. I’m a simple fly guy. Brands don’t make you, you should make the brands, and I love items that you can recycle and wear forever. Everything else is just trends. One minute, they’re wearing holes in their shirts, the next minute, they’re wearing long shirts. But simple taste is always there and simple fly don’t go nowhere.
Who is your biggest style inspiration?
It’s always been my big brother [Jay-Z]. I knew him before the records and the big name, and he’s always been ahead of himself when it comes to being fresh. It’s always been natural for him and never forced. So being around that my whole life, has been my biggest inspiration.
I also have a young friend Mike [Camargo] — they call him Upscale Vandal. I’ve brought him under my wing as a little bro and we do a lot of business together. To see the way he operates through fashion and how well he knows it, it makes me appreciate fashion even more. I love watching fashion through him.
Any advice for any aspiring fashion visionaries or designers?
Pay attention and be a student, because the reality is, sometimes you’ve got something hot, but people come in the business and think they invented it. But nobody’s reinventing the wheel. Somebody was doing fashion before us. They’re going to be doing it after us. We’re just a part of the cycle. It’s all about having that humbleness, and paying attention and being a student — even when you’re hot. Just be comfortable that you’re a part of this whole culture that’s going on.
See the collection and promo video below: