A CRE­ATOR IN BLOOM

TYLER, THE CRE­ATOR is an ex­u­ber­ant rap star and a thought­ful poly­math work­ing across fash­ion, an­i­ma­tion, and film. Warn­er­me­dia, Nike, and Sony have hopped aboard. Are you ready to ride?

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“There’s just a dif­fer­ent tone of yel­low in the sky to­day,” he says. North­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s wild­fires have given ev­ery­thing a per­ma­nent tinge of the golden hour. “It’s been like this all day. It’s weird. Like, it’s prob­a­bly me and five other peo­ple who no­tice it too.”

Tyler weaves be­tween cars and curses at speed-lim­itabid­ing mini­vans and a stalled pickup truck look­ing like a haute Gil­li­gan while glee­fully sing­ing along with ev­ery song that plays on his iphone. It’s a mix of soul-funk and old-school hip-hop, plus some lovely con­tem­po­rary stuff. Pure Plea­sure. Black­street. Janet. John Leg­end. He cues trum­pets with a slick point of his fin­ger, ac­cen­tu­ates bass drops by jut­ting out his chin. Fans spot him from the side­walk or nearby cars and shout, “Tyler!”

“There’s a lot of ’70s mu­sic on this playlist,” I say, sure I can al­most hear the warm, retro chords of his Gram­mynom­i­nated 2017 al­bum, Flower Boy, some­where in this mix.

“Oh, it’s just on shuf­fle,” Tyler says dis­mis­sively. He then flips quickly be­tween a few tracks, turns the stereo to max, and I hear the omi­nous first notes of “Freeee” by Kanye West and Kid Cudi. That’s when, as if by his own will, L.A. traf­fic drains away, and Tyler floors it.

The en­gine crescen­dos into a whir that com­petes with the speak­ers, and the world blurs. With each gui­tar riff, Tyler yanks the steer­ing wheel like a mixer, zigzag­ging the car in an an­gry stac­cato. His face has trans­formed from L.A.’S charm­ing cruise di­rec­tor into the mu­ti­neer who points the ship straight into the ice­berg just to hear the sound of the crash. With his eyes wide, he turns to me and shouts along with the track, “I feel freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

As he pulls the car into a strip-mall dough­nut shop, he con­fesses, “I don’t get this shit called anx­i­ety. I guess it’s when some­one’s ner­vous.”

He waits a beat, mim­ing in­tro­spec­tion, pre­tend­ing he didn’t no­tice me in­stinc­tively grab the seat in the ex­plo­sion of g-force.

“But uh, when I was driv­ing like that, were you ner­vous?”

This is the A side, B side of Tyler Okonma, aka Tyler, the Cre­ator. He’s high-oc­tane, high-fruc­tose. The 27-year-old rap­per­pro­ducer-di­rec­tor-com­edy writer–fash­ion de­signer–fes­ti­val or­ga­nizer is a po­lar­izer and a crowd-pleaser. He’s a hu­man fid­get spin­ner, and a pro­lific artist with a keen at­ten­tion to de­tail. He’s a provo­ca­teur who glee­fully shares his fa­vorite Youtube clip of an ana­conda eat­ing a vom­it­ing dog, and an asth­matic with a dog al­lergy who can’t help but pet the near­est puppy. He’s an artist

“I like get­ting lost, I like that shit. Ex­plor­ing, makin’ a left turn.” Wear­ing a red Louis Vuit­ton ca­bana shirt, open-toed Golf san­dals of his own de­sign, and a bucket hat, Tyler, the Cre­ator cruises his Mclaren 675 through Los An­ge­les while ap­pre­ci­at­ing the view from the port side.

banned in the U.K., in part, be­cause of ho­mo­pho­bic lyrics, and yet he has an in­creas­ingly open pen­chant for men him­self.

Tyler has re­leased four sin­gles this year and is work­ing on more new mu­sic; he’s ex­pand­ing his re­la­tion­ship with Con­verse

(his first five crit­i­cally lauded col­lec­tions sold out); he’s sig­nif­i­cantly in­creas­ing the num­ber of prod­ucts that his own fash­ion la­bel, Golf Wang, will re­lease in the com­ing year, and likely launch­ing a Golf Home line in 2019. This past sum­mer, he signed an ex­clu­sive, first-look deal with Sony to make new TV shows, and sea­son 2 of his car­toon se­ries, The Jel­lies, will air on Car­toon Net­work’s Adult Swim next year. He’s worked with com­poser Danny Elf­man on an orig­i­nal song that’ll ap­pear in the film adap­ta­tion of The Grinch that hits the­aters Novem­ber 9. He also stars as a bed­sheet ghost in one of sev­eral mu­sic videos he’s di­rected this year, which def­i­nitely counts for some­thing.

“He’s a plu­ral­ist, as are many mu­si­cians,” says Phar­rell Wil­liams, who (like West, an­other of Tyler’s pals) helped forge the path for record­ing artists to be taken se­ri­ously in fash­ion, film, and more. What’s dif­fer­ent about Tyler, Wil­liams says, is his “au­dac­ity to try.” Tyler has fa­mously built his fan base with­out the ben­e­fit of ra­dio air­play: Camp Flog Gnaw, the seven-year-old fes­ti­val Tyler hosts and cu­rates in Los An­ge­les each fall, will be held at Dodgers Sta­dium this year (its 45,000 tick­ets sold out in 37 min­utes). As Wil­liams notes, “Ra­dio, AM, FM, Sir­ius, Twit­ter, In­sta­gram, Youtube. Tell me what is main­stream. What are the met­rics to say some­thing is mas­sive or niche? That’s the beauty of ex­ist­ing now, and that’s why I feel like Tyler wins, be­cause the met­ric is based upon his own per­sonal suc­cess, not how it looks in one of th­ese par­tic­u­lar di­men­sions.”

By cross­ing so many artis­tic bound­aries at once, Tyler is also able to con­nect with his young fans in a way that they crave. They don’t want him to be just a mu­si­cian or an in­flu­encer. They don’t want him to be just a spokesper­son. They’re em­brac­ing his unique per­spec­tive. For the busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives who want to work with some­one like Tyler—and more and more do—the old ways of cor­po­rate spon­sor­ships no longer ap­ply. “My core is to ex­plore,” Tyler says. “That cu­rios­ity, peo­ple lose that, be­cause they think they know ev­ery­thing.” Brands that work with him must pre­pare to strap in.

Anx­i­ety op­tional.

“Peo­ple love when I’m like, Aar­rrgh.”

“Even when Tyler was a younger ver­sion of him­self, he was al­ways wildly mag­netic,” says Chris­tian Clancy, who serves as Tyler’s man­ager, along with Clancy’s wife, Kelly. The Clan­cys won the job only af­ter Chris­tian saved Tyler’s life and bought him waf­fles—both of which hap­pened in the same night. In 2010, Chris­tian was driv­ing the mem­bers of Tyler’s hip-hop col­lec­tive, Odd Fu­ture, in a van to their first pay­ing gig. On the ex­press­way, a semi-truck ap­proached them head on, forc­ing him to swerve off the road to avoid an ac­ci­dent. Af­ter the gig, he took Tyler and his band­mates (in­clud­ing fu­ture solo stars Frank Ocean, Earl Sweat­shirt, Steve Lacy, and Syd Tha Kyd) out to eat. The Odd Fu­ture crew split their unimag­in­able wind­fall of $500 in the bath­room, and then they all en­joyed a late-night break­fast, Tyler seal­ing his bond with the Clan­cys in syrup. “[Chris­tian] took us to Denny’s and paid for the meal,” Tyler says. “It was prob­a­bly like 50 bucks, but that fuck­ing worked. I was like, This the dude.”

Born out of L.A.’S skater scene, Odd Fu­ture’s home-recorded, highly ex­per­i­men­tal mix tapes, filled with un­cen­sored teenage angst and unedited hor­mones, were re­defin­ing hip-hop, which Tyler co­pro­duced in a lead­ing role. “This was the punk rock of that gen­er­a­tion,” says Mark Wil­liams, the record ex­ec­u­tive who signed Odd Fu­ture to Sony in 2011. “It’s Youtube and beats in­stead of gui­tars. But the en­ergy, at­ti­tude, DIY, and re­bel­lion was what I had seen in the late ’70s and ’80s with the Sex Pis­tols and Ra­mones.” Adds Kelly Clancy: “[Tyler] in­spired kids be­cause be­fore, ev­ery­thing sounded and looked the same.”

Tyler had no short­age of ideas—for al­bum cov­ers, videos, cloth­ing, and even a car­ni­val. He’d sketch in a note­book for Chris­tian while the two sat to­gether on Tyler’s grand­mother’s couch. Chris­tian’s per­sis­tent chal­lenge, to this day, has been “to play chess with the ideas,” he says. “How do I get this done? How do I help a kid, who at the time was more con­tro­ver­sial, nav­i­gate [cor­po­ra­tions]?”

For­tu­itously, Odd Fu­ture wasn’t just punk, the group was hi­lar­i­ous. In early videos, Tyler would rap to a we­b­cam while Hodgy and Left Brain danced in sync be­hind his head; in an­other, Cu­ri­ous Ge­orge walked into a bed­room to find his bunny rab­bit girl­friend in re­la­tions with an­other stuffed an­i­mal.

Two de­vel­op­ment ex­ec­u­tives for Car­toon Net­work’s

Adult Swim late-night pro­gram­ming block—wal­ter J.

New­man and Nick Wei­den­feld—saw Odd Fu­ture per­form

at an L.A. club called Low End The­ory and found Tyler’s on­stage charisma in­fec­tious. “It was like, Who is this kid?” says New­man, Adult Swim’s VP of com­edy de­vel­op­ment.

As it hap­pened, that kid had been post­ing on Adult

Swim’s mes­sage boards for years, ex­plain­ing to no one and ev­ery­one that one day he’d have his own Car­toon Net­work show. So New­man and Wei­den­feld met with Tyler, along with Odd Fu­ture mem­ber Jasper Dol­phin and a few oth­ers. “I’d never been in a meet­ing like that be­fore or since,” says New­man, laugh­ing. “Tyler can’t sit down, he and

Jasper are slap­ping each other, whis­per­ing. They’re do­ing what you’d nor­mally never do in a meet­ing.”

Adult Swim is known for its un­fil­tered con­tent, which is beloved by ado­les­cent males. But the chan­nel was also part of Turner, owned by Time Warner (and now part of Warn­er­me­dia, a sub­sidiary of AT&T, which has more than $160 bil­lion in an­nual rev­enue). “Adult Swim seemed like a good place for Tyler to dip a toe into the cor­po­rate world,” says Chris­tian Clancy.

The net­work green-lighted an Odd Fu­ture sketch-com­edy show called Loi­ter Squad, and New­man paired the band with the pro­duc­tion com­pany Dick­house, the team be­hind Jack­ass, to turn the idea into a TV se­ries. Loi­ter Squad’s three-sea­son run ended in 2014, right as Tyler’s team thought the project had fi­nally gelled. Adult Swim threw some other ideas at Tyler and his writ­ing part­ner, Lionel Boyce (whom Tyler be­friended in high school drama class), but they passed. “At first I thought, ‘Should we just try?’ But it was Tyler who said, ‘We don’t have to,’ ” Boyce re­calls. “He al­ways says it’s in your mind that you feel ob­li­gated.”

In­stead, the duo pro­duced their own car­toon, The Jel­lies, a sur­real com­edy loosely in­spired by 1980s fam­ily drame­dies, where the par­ents are jel­ly­fish and their adopted hu­man child, Cor­nell, is an overly sen­si­tive teen whom many crit­ics read as a stand-in for Tyler. They re­leased the first sea­son of The Jel­lies on Tyler’s own dig­i­tal plat­form; Adult Swim’s New­man ac­quired it last year and con­tracted the pair to make a sec­ond sea­son. “At Adult Swim, we won­der, who has fig­ured out some­thing dif­fer­ent—comed­i­cally, visu­ally, what­ever,” says New­man. “Tyler au­to­mat­i­cally works from that space.”

“Know your worth.”

When Tyler was 9 years old, he was lis­ten­ing to Jamiro­quai’s disco-funky Love Foo­los­o­phy alone in his room in L.A.’S South Bay. Some kids from the neigh­bor­hood came by and asked what he was do­ing, and Tyler was ec­static. Fi­nally, he could nerd out with other peo­ple about mu­sic! He was never into toys; his pas­time was read­ing al­bum liner notes. Jamiro­quai—white guys out of the U.K. mak­ing mu­sic that sounded like it came from peo­ple with his skin color—was up­end­ing his world.

“Ten sec­onds into the track, they said, ‘This shit is gay,’ ” Tyler re­calls. “It was hard be­ing 9 and black.”

Tyler would find af­fir­ma­tion from his role mod­els. Not just Phar­rell Wil­liams but also Outkast’s An­dre 3000 and Kanye West. They in­spired him son­i­cally and stylis­ti­cally; their con­fi­dent, coifed looks broke the tropes of black man­hood Tyler saw around him. “I love that man,” Tyler says of West. “What he did for young black kids is like crazy. It’s no rules. I grew up not lik­ing bas­ket­ball, not want­ing to wear do rags and big white shirts. With him, An­dre, and P, it was like, ‘Oh shit! They’re doin’ what I want to do! It’s okay!’ ”

Tyler was im­pressed with them as en­trepreneurs as well. By 2013, Phar­rell had two cloth­ing lines, a Youtube chan­nel, and col­lab­o­ra­tions on ev­ery­thing from tex­tiles to fine jew­elry. West, mean­while, was ex­pand­ing into fash­ion and cre­at­ing spec­ta­cles, such as de­but­ing the video for his song “New Slaves” by pro­ject­ing it onto the fa­cades of 66 build­ings around the world, in­clud­ing the Chanel bou­tique in Bev­erly Hills.

Thanks to re­la­tion­ships Chris­tian Clancy had made while get­ting his “PHD in bull­shit” in the record in­dus­try be­fore be­com­ing a man­ager, Tyler signed to do a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Vans and scored a deal with Pep­sico to write and di­rect three Moun­tain Dew com­mer­cials.

At the same time, though, Tyler was deal­ing with the con­tin­ued blow­back from the mu­sic he had made as an an­gry teenager that con­tained vi­o­lent and ho­mo­pho­bic im­agery. It didn’t mat­ter that he stopped per­form­ing those songs, or that they were from an Eminem-es­que al­ter ego. It didn’t mat­ter that sup­port­ers like Mark Wil­liams, the record exec, knew that the day would come when Tyler would share the hid­den depths they sensed within him.

One of Tyler’s ads, about a thiev­ing goat that at­tacks a wait­ress off screen to get his Moun­tain Dew fix, was in­ter­preted by some as racist and oth­ers as misog­y­nist. Moun­tain Dew pulled the ad af­ter one TV air­ing. Vans stuck with Tyler, but he says they weren’t sup­port­ive of him as a de­signer with a real viewpoint. As he’d later put it to Dazed, “Imag­ine be­ing in a fuck­ing co­coon.” (Nei­ther Pep­sico nor Vans re­sponded to a re­quest for com­ment.)

The ex­pe­ri­ences helped him re­al­ize, “You just gotta know where you sit, and that’s where peo­ple fuck up,” he says. “I know I can’t do an I Heart Ra­dio fuckin’ fes­ti­val. Peo­ple don’t know that they don’t mat­ter at cer­tain places.”

Tyler has yet to apol­o­gize for his past; he rolls his eyes pre­emp­tively at any whiff of a ques­tion on the top­ics of provo­ca­tion or con­tro­versy. “Do I look like a ter­ror­ist?” is how he cut­tingly summed up his feel­ings on be­ing banned by Theresa May from per­form­ing in the U.K.

He is more re­flec­tive in his art. On Flower Boy, three songs al­lude to his at­trac­tion to men; in “I Ain’t Got Time,” he ad­mit­ted to kiss­ing white boys since 2004. On an­other track, “Where This Flower Blooms,” he ex­presses a mes­sage of in­clu­sion for his young fans, rap­ping, “Tell th­ese black kids they can be who they are/dye their hair blue/shit, I’ll do it, too.” He’s been de­lib­er­ately enig­matic as cul­tural crit­ics have tried to get him on the record about his evo­lu­tion, but as Mark Wil­liams says, “He could have made that record a lit­tle ear­lier, but like most artists who come from where he comes from, there’s a nat­u­ral sense of edit­ing and hold­ing things back. It’s al­most like, ‘I’m not ready to re­veal that yet.’ ”

“He’s just reach­ing the point where peo­ple in the pub­lic are see­ing him how peo­ple who know him see him,” says

Boyce, his friend and writ­ing part­ner. “Ev­ery­one is weird and crazy when you get to know them. He dis­plays that side of him­self first. If you can get along with this side, you can get along with my other side.”

“Ev­ery­thing is trust. Ev­ery­thing.”

Af­ter Tyler sev­ered his re­la­tion­ship with Vans in 2016, “he came to me and was like, ‘Let’s do our own shoe,’ ” says Chris­tian Clancy in his ever-re­laxed Cal­i­for­nia drawl. “And I’m like, ‘OK, cool. Let’s fig­ure that out.’ ”

They found an over­seas man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner, and when the sam­ples came back, they were . . . ter­ri­ble. “We both re­al­ized quickly that’s a crazy busi­ness for a bunch of dif­fer­ent rea­sons,” Clancy says. Phar­rell Wil­liams then in­tro­duced them to Paul Mit­tle­man, Con­verse’s creative di­rec­tor. “We thought, Re­gard­less of where this goes, let’s learn from some­one who knows what they’re do­ing.”

At the time, Con­verse had painted it­self into a cor­ner. It made a big bet in 2015 on up­dat­ing its sig­na­ture shoe, the Chuck Tay­lor, mim­ick­ing the strat­egy used suc­cess­fully by Nike, Con­verse’s par­ent com­pany: Im­prove the tech­nol­ogy, mar­ket the per­for­mance, and profit.

The Chuck Tay­lor II, if you will, flopped hard. By early 2016, Con­verse sales, which had been de­liv­er­ing low dou­ble-digit rev­enue growth, dropped 1.5%. Nike in­stalled its chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer, Da­vide Grasso, as Con­verse’s CEO, with the man­date to shake up the brand. To help him do it, Con­verse needed a col­lab­o­ra­tor the way Kanye and Phar­rell el­e­vated Adi­das.

As Con­verse dug through its ar­chives look­ing for prod­uct ideas, its lead­ers re­dis­cov­ered a low-top called the One Star, which had de­buted in 1974 and had been pop­u­lar for ten­nis and skate­board­ing but had since faded from rel­e­vance. Mit­tle­man saw Tyler’s name on a short list of po­ten­tial part­ners and moved him to the top.

Their first re­lease, in July 2017, was a lim­ited-edi­tion pow­der blue One Star, which quickly sold out on Tyler’s site and Con­verse .com. They quickly fol­lowed up a month later with a full col­lec­tion, avail­able ex­clu­sively at Foot Locker. “I haven’t talked about a Con­verse shoe on the earn­ings call for a long time,” Foot Locker CEO Richard A. John­son told in­vestors in Au­gust 2017, “but we had a great col­lab­o­ra­tion with Con­verse One Star and Tyler, the Cre­ator . . . . We saw kids lined up.”

Con­verse worked with Tyler to de­sign his own sil­hou­ette, a mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the One Star, which it dubbed “Le Fleur.” Over sev­eral col­lec­tions, he’s played with bright colors and a rich, suede tex­ture, fash­ion­ing a daisy that boldly en­veloped a Con­verse star. He also con­cep­tu­al­ized their creative cam­paigns, down to how the shoes were pho­tographed. In one in­stance, he sent the Con­verse team an in­struc­tional video of him­self re-lac­ing the sneak­ers so they could be de­picted specif­i­cally as he wore them. “When we think about Tyler, we talk about a cocre­ator,” says Grasso, con­trast­ing this re­la­tion­ship with how a lot of col­lab­o­ra­tions are just co-mar­ket­ing ex­er­cises.

Con­verse won’t share sales num­bers, but ex­ec­u­tives dis­closed that they have in­creased pro­duc­tion of Tyler’s line by a fac­tor of 10. For his Novem­ber 2018 col­lec­tion (which will launch ex­clu­sively at Camp Flog Gnaw), Tyler has taken a sharp left turn from this aes­thetic in his ex­panded line, which will in­clude a burlap Chuck Tay­lor with the daisies hid­den from sight. “Ex­pec­ta­tions are low-key trash,” Tyler says. “When you don’t know what to ex­pect, that shit is fun.”

Con­verse is, like Adult Swim, a plat­form within a larger com­pany (Nike gen­er­ated $36 bil­lion in rev­enue in its fis­cal 2018) where Tyler can get the kind of mu­tual buy-in he needs. “You buy a car, you trust that the man­u­fac­turer has it safe enough for you to drive,” he says. “And [com­pa­nies I work with] trust that what­ever art I put out, or what­ever we col­lab­o­rate on to­gether, is gonna work.”

“Ev­ery­one has their base thing. I’ve just fig­ured out ways to switch it up to keep peo­ple en­gaged.”

“What are you work­ing on?”

“A song,” Tyler re­sponds, with the de­flated con­fi­dence of a 13-year-old caught writ­ing po­etry.

We’re at a record­ing stu­dio that Tyler calls “Dr. Dre’s house,” a man­dala and Christ­mas light–in­fused space

where some of the most fa­mous hip-hop artists have cut records. Most days, Tyler wakes up early and com­poses at home, but to­day he’s go­ing to be work­ing into the evening, sam­pling his new al­bum for some friends.

First, he has a bridge to write. He turns to me, and for the first time asks me to cut the recorder. Then his hands fid­dle on the key­board, find­ing a se­ries of beau­ti­ful chords that harken back to 1979.

Grad­u­ally, he gets down the pro­gres­sion that he’s look­ing for. Then he switches in­stru­ments on his key­board, pulling up a bass. He rips off a deep elec­tric riff spir­i­tu­ally rem­i­nis­cent of “Freeee.” His en­gi­neer, Vic Wain­stein, steps out of the room. “Save me some!” Tyler yells, as he of­ten does when any­one heads to the bath­room. “Save me some pee pee this time. I al­ways ask, and you never do!”

It’s just the two of us in this win­dow­less stu­dio, and time melts away while he coaxes the trick­i­est four bars of a song to­gether. The fid­get spin­ner is fi­nally at rest.

As the pieces come to­gether, Tyler be­gins to dance in his chair. His head cues the down­beats. He surfs his hands along with vo­cals and mum­ble raps over the top. Af­ter an­other nudge, the beats and chords click. He cranks up the vol­ume and stands in front of the stu­dio’s mas­sive speak­ers. He falls and flails and kicks with his strange, sig­na­ture grace, putting on a con­cert for one. When he’s done, he’s sweat­ing hard enough that he needs to towel off.

The song is haunt­ing and hooky, with an ethe­real, dis­torted re­frain: “Run­ning out of time run­ning out of time run­ning out of time . . . to make you love me.” Only when I hear the words do I re­al­ize this song has been in his head all day. He’s been sing­ing it to him­self every­where we went. Tyler lives his life to a sound­track of his own mak­ing, a grand com­po­si­tion full of sun­sets and sud­den, ag­gres­sive chord changes that sound right only three sec­onds in ret­ro­spect.

Austin Fe­in­stein, an L.A. gui­tarist with Cole Sprouse looks, walks in and lis­tens to the track. Tyler wants acous­tic gui­tar, not elec­tronic chords. Fe­in­stein can’t dis­cern the notes and asks which key they’re in. “You know I don’t know what the fuck keys are,” Tyler re­sponds.

Af­ter Fe­in­stein de­ci­phers the chords, Tyler ex­claims, “Aaahh! When that gui­tar hap­pens, all those white [girls] at Coachella are gonna love that shit.” (Tyler was dis­ap­pointed in his 2018 Coachella per­for­mance.) We cel­e­brate by duck­ing out for Star­bucks, where an ex­ul­tant Tyler grinds on the café’s um­brella like a strip­per pole and or­ders a white hot choco­late with the pep­per­mint mixed in and a caramel driz­zle on top. “Y’all never ex­per­i­mented?” he shouts, de­fend­ing his bev­er­age choice when we wretch. “Or y’all straight?”

“Just take a dif­fer­ent way home.”

It’s 10 p.m. in the stu­dio, and Tyler’s last task be­fore his night is done is clos­ing out an­other mu­sic project, remix­ing his al­most-fin­ished Grinch theme. His most sig­nif­i­cant tweak is mak­ing the choir of sing­ing chil­dren more promi­nent. “This movie is for fuck­ing 10-year-olds, so bring them up,” he says. “That shit’s im­por­tant to me.”

Dur­ing mo­ments like this, Tyler seems, well, more grown-up. There are signs in his fash­ion am­bi­tions as well. Golf Wang started by sell­ing T-shirts, hats, and hood­ies, but it will soon sell a needle­point cardi­gan, a bike, a hel­met, a for­est-green bul­let­proof vest that reads NO VI­O­LENCE, and a jacket that looks straight out of Joseph and the Amaz­ing Tech­ni­color Dream­coat. Golf has dou­bled its prod­ucts from 293 to 508 in the past year, and with each new cat­e­gory, Tyler finds new and bet­ter part­ners to re­al­ize his vi­sion. Two years ago, his puffy coat was “kind of trash,” in the words of Brad Scof­fern, Tyler’s for­mer road man­ager who grew to run op­er­a­tions, strat­egy, and mar­ket­ing for Golf Wang. Now, that coat is made by a com­pany that works with North Face and Patag­o­nia.

In Au­gust, Golf Wang re­lo­cated from a Span­ish-style bun­ga­low on a res­i­den­tial street in West Hol­ly­wood to a large ware­house in Cul­ver City, lev­el­ing up in the same way that his other projects are. What if Golf Wang gets too big for him to man­age? “Oh, when it gets to that point I know how to let shit go,” he says with­out hes­i­ta­tion. “If it’s ever some­thing I don’t take time for, then that means I don’t care about it and it shouldn’t ex­ist.”

Two days later, Tyler rolls into Whole Foods on his bi­cy­cle along with his close friend and Golf Wang model Wy­att Navarro. They don’t have locks. “I’m gonna leave them out there, they’re okay, they’re good,” Tyler muses. “And if they get stolen, that’s kinda sick.” Travis Ben­nett, aka Taco, a DJ and for­mer Odd Fu­ture mem­ber, sits down as well.

Tyler is eat­ing the most adult­ing food I’ve seen him con­sume all week—a sal­mon bowl with ex­tra teriyaki sauce—but he still some­how looks more youth­ful than the nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions I’ve watched him catch gummy bears in his mouth (or eye) from across the room. In this mo­ment, Tyler and his friends could be the char­ac­ters from some 1980s mon­ster movie, solv­ing a mys­tery in their small town af­ter the au­thor­i­ties didn’t take them se­ri­ously.

Pulling at his neck­lace, Tyler shows me I’m not far off. About a year ago, Tyler as­sem­bled his clos­est con­fi­dants, his “ride or dies”—dol­phin, Boyce, Navarro, and Ben­nett—and gifted them each with a piece of cus­tom jew­elry, a chain with a daisy charm, mod­eled from the Flower Boy cover art Tyler drew him­self. Each neck­lace is a dif­fer­ent mono­tone hue; Tyler’s fea­tures mul­ti­col­ored petals from them all.

“It’s like he’s Cap­tain Planet,” Ben­nett later tells me, laugh­ing, be­fore con­fess­ing how mov­ing he found the ges­ture. He’s never taken the chain off.

“We don’t dress the same. We don’t lis­ten to all the same mu­sic. We have dif­fer­ent opin­ions for shit—that’s why I love them,” Tyler says. “We’ll be on each other’s team dur­ing the zom­bie apoca­lypse.” He feels the same way about his fans, en­cour­ag­ing them to see his art and his per­sonal style as not a model to be copied, but as proof-of-con­cept to be em­u­lated. “For his gen­er­a­tion,” says Kelly Clancy, “he’s made peo­ple think they can do it too.”

Tyler turns to de­bat­ing how to spend the rest of his af­ter­noon. Should he get straw­ber­ries or ice cream? Should they ride their bikes more? “I want a Jamba Juice like a moth­er­fucker,” Tyler de­clares, turn­ing to Navarro. “Where should we go?”

Navarro looks up from his iphone. “Wher­ever the wind takes us.”

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