A$AP Nast: "I’ve always had an unorthodox relationship with fashion"
The NYC hip-hop artist and rapper talks about his fashion muses Kurt Cobain and Tupac, and launching his debut collection at Copenhagen Fashion Week.
Photography Bladimir Corniel
This story originally appeared in i-D’s Out Of The Blue issue, no. 366, Winter 2021. With thanks to Tiffany & Co. Order your copy here.
Since bursting onto the scene with A$AP Mob a decade ago, A$AP Nast – aka Tariq Amar Devega – has been part of a revolutionary wave in hip-hop. Breaking out with the song “Trillmatic”, which reached back to the mid 90s NYC boom-bap and forward into the new world A$AP Mob were busy creating, the group mixed Harlem’s rap history with the new sounds coming from the South. It was equal parts laconic and charismatic. It was also very cool. And in the decade since, Nast has made that cool his currency, working with Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton, walking their shows and starring in their campaigns, and recently releasing a capsule collection during Copenhagen Fashion Week. We caught up with him in Los Angeles to discuss fashion, family and the art of doing what you want.
I wanted to start at the beginning and ask you about your first fashion memories. What were they? Was it a music video or an image in a magazine or a piece of clothing?
I don’t know if I remember the first time I was interested in fashion. I’ve always had an unorthodox and unexpected relationship with fashion. Even when I was a kid I was different with the way I dressed. I never aimed to be in the fashion world or anything like that.
Growing up, what brands did you aspire to? Did you look at what the older kids were wearing?
A lot of it came to me from my mom actually, and how she dressed me, and from me not wanting to go to school in the same thing all the other kids were wearing. I was very picky. I think that stuck with me – not wanting to look like anyone else, being a bit unorthodox. I can’t quite explain it.
So how much influence did your mum have in terms of developing your own personal style?
She actually played a very, very huge role in it. In the late 80s and early 90s my mom was a real ghetto girl. She was in spandex, the huge goose bomber jackets, the Reebok Classics, the doorknockers. My mom loved sweatpants and Air Max trainers. You know? That always stuck with me growing up.
She always had that kind of style and it stuck with me. I’m still a fan of that stuff, the Air Maxes, the Reebok Classics. I love sweatsuits and tracksuits – that’s where a lot of my style comes from. But then I’ll get freaky too, I love the 70s. My grandmother was a very stylish woman, she was very chic, very elegant. I think I got a love of the dressier and preppier stuff from her. She wore the fur and the pearls, she was rocking Vanessa Petey.
So fashion runs in the family. But like I said, I’ve never, ever really tried to be a fashion guy. I just always liked to dress myself really well.
As you’ve evolved in your career, have you started collecting fashion? Do you collect pieces? Are there things that you buy and you don’t wear? Or do you look for rare and vintage stuff? Tell me a little bit about how you approach that.
I’ll say only a bit because I don’t need everybody doing what I’m doing. But obviously I collect Comme, a lot of archive Comme, a lot of Issey, and Yohji. I have loads of that stuff. But I always get overwhelmed with how much shit I have, and then have to give stuff away. It’s the same with sneakers. I’m not a collector, because collectors are hoarders – they keep stuff forever. I get overwhelmed by how much I own. You know what I mean?
We live in a day and age where people don’t really necessarily have their own personal style, but Kurt Cobain definitely had a personal style. It wasn’t about just the garment – it was just normal stuff, a cardigan and a T-shirt, a pair of jeans, some Converse – but it was how he wore it. He mixed it up with a goofy hat, those big glasses. He found his own way of wearing these garments that were all his own.
God knows, everyone is probably going to rock blue jeans and Converse at some point. But he transformed that into his own personal style. I think that’s what I loved about Kurt’s swag; he wore the most simple and normcore clothing but he made it look his. You know? He did his own thing with it.
What’s the perfect outfit for you? What’s the perfect look? What’s your go-to, your uniform?
There’s always a few outfits that I go back to a lot. One is a pair of sweatpants, a crew neck sweater, some good tube socks and a pair of Air Max. Or another go-to is probably a pair of slacks and trainers, as well and just a white T-shirt or a hoodie. And then obviously I do suits, that varies. You know? I do different types of pleated suits, some oversized suits.
How do you feed your creativity in general? Is it something that you have to work on, or is it just something that’s naturally stimulated?
A lot of it comes just from myself, from using my imagination, and a lot comes from people watching, and watching movies.
People watching is a good one.
Yeah. I’ll take inspiration from anywhere. I’ll take inspiration from this fire truck that’s going past right now and be like, “I want to make that into a pair of jeans.” People are like, “What the fuck are you talking about?”
Oh my god.
I’m extremely unorthodox for most of these things. I never really know where my creativity is coming from, and I personally don’t give a shit. I don’t know. I’m just making and I’m doing what I’m doing, and it’s working.
“I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing with my life. I’m just doing whatever I want to do, man.”
So being a musical artist in 2021, obviously you have to be a great performer, but there’s this dimension of being a complete, three hundred and sixty degree, creative, visionary, having a strong art direction, and a strong visual identity. Did you always, from the beginning, have a clear vision of how you saw yourself as an artist?
No, I never did. And I think I still don’t, to be honest. I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing with my life. I’m just doing stuff. I’m doing whatever I want to do, man.
Okay. So it’s really kind of just a step-by-step feeling?
I take it step-by-step. I’ve always hated making plans. You know? I don’t like making plans because plans never quite go to plan. And if stuff doesn’t go as planned I’m fucking pissed off. I don’t want to be pissed off, I want to be happy. I want to have a smile on my face. Everyday I wake up a different person. My mind is constantly changing. I might have a dream tonight and wake up and change everything. But then that could change tomorrow again. It works somehow. It’s messy and it’s all over the place, but it works for me.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Simply, to follow your dreams and chase your real dreams and your goals, and don’t chase money. That stuck with me because where I’m from, people always chased money. They don’t care about what they are good at, they just want to know how they can make some money. So you should follow your dreams and let money come later. Don’t chase money and women, chase your dreams. Even if that’s like just trying to be the best dad ever. If that’s your goal, stick to it.
Are you good at spending time alone? Or do you work better in a team? How important is collaboration for you?
I feel both, to be honest. I’m a loner who enjoys collaborating, especially if the energy is good. Great things come from collaborations.
Last year you were at Copenhagen Fashion Week and you released a capsule collection. What plans do you have in terms of fashion for the future? Can you tell us a little bit about that process, about doing fashion yourself, collaborating with brands?
That was pretty unorthodox as well. And even that whole Copenhagen situation was something that me and the homies dreamed up in our backyard just to get us to Copenhagen. We wanted to get some people involved, make it a thing. We wanted to do a runway show but it didn’t come together, it was so last minute. But we threw a good party for it. We called it PDP – Please Don’t Pet. That was with me and my brother D33J, and a few other DJs. COVID just completely slowed us down. It’s still going though, even though I don’t know exactly where it’s going. You know what I mean? We’re enjoying the journey. It’s good to be doing something with friends and that’s that. It makes me happy.
Totally. I feel that’s a good place to leave it. That was great. Thank you so much.
Yeah, no, for sure.
Cool. Thank you so much for your time.
Thank you so much. Have a good one.
With thanks to Tiffany & Co.
Photography Bladimir Corniel
Production Sun-ny Side Up
A$AP Nast wears coat and T-shirt COMME DES GARCONS. Jacket and trousers model’s own. Cardigan MAISON MARGIELA. Hat UNDERCOVER. Boots BOTTEGA VENETA. All jewellery (worn throughout) TIFFANY & CO.
All jewellery (worn throughout) Tiffany & Co.