A$AP Bari, Hood Fashionist
Bari talks his brand Vlone, Harlem, and channeling his inner Dame Dash.
Photos by Versus and Co.
When it comes to style, A$AP Bari is the go-to guy, no matter if you’re referring to streetwear or high-end brands. Born Jabari Shelton, the Harlem native is a founding member of one of the most influential crews in rap, the A$AP Mob. Although he doesn’t rhyme, his contributions to the crew are still valuable. He takes care of everything creatively and connects the dots. As the story goes, Bari introduced Rocky to A$AP’s musical genius Yams. They’ve been making history ever since.
While Bari maintains a low-profile within the fashion industry, he makes large contributions to some of streetwear’s most infamous brands. One of his most recent endeavors has been the launch of his own clothing line, Vlone.
A$AP Bari made it clear that he stays away from interviews, unless it feels right. Fortunately, Mass Appeal was able to sit down Bari and chop it up with him regarding his style influences, Basquiat, the first Vlone collection, his love for talking shit on tracks, and much more.
Mass Appeal: You’re a very low-key person for the most part. For those that don’t know, give me a brief introduction to who you are and what you do.
A$AP Bari: I’m A$AP Bari. Real name Jabari. I’m a creative director for the A$AP Mob, a freelance creative director, a designer, movie director— I’m everything in one.
MA: I’d definitely say you’re one of the most influential figures in style in right now. How does it feel to walk the streets and know that you influenced the people, especially since you said that you and Rocky would get called gay or would have to fight people back in the day because of what you were wearing.
AB: I was just thinking about that the other day. I seen a dude wearing some tight sweatpants and he had colorful socks on and shit. I never used to wear colorful socks or shit like that, but most of the niggas you see nowadays wearing this shit— more fitted clothes, playing with the style type shit— that shit came from us. Just being in Harlem, going to stores, stealing clothes, trying on shit we knew we couldn’t buy [Laughs]. Kid shit. We always had a hands-on reach to shit. We wasn’t no motherfuckers that was on the blogs just looking at clothes. We were actually touching these Raf Simon pieces, KSUBI pieces, Rick Owens pieces, and Margiela pieces. All of that shit was in a 5-block radius of each store. I always went in those stores and touched fabrics, looked at the clothes and shit like that.
MA: What are your style influences?
AB: Harlem, the train stations, the cabs, New York period. Just going to Brooklyn and knowing I’m from Harlem and no one was going to be as fly as me. Going to Queens and knowing no one was going to be as fly as me. Going to Bronx and seeing niggas as fly as me, but in Harlem we were always advanced.
I was a kid that was down here in SoHo, but I was always in my hood as well. I would come down here and have to go back to my hood and chill with niggas from my hood after being down here chilling with niggas from Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, the Bronx. It was just a different world down here in SoHo. Like, I used to skip school in junior high and get on the train and come to SoHo right after school. And this is all me being like 13 up until 15, when I started going to school down here. I was always sneaking my way to SoHo to come to BAPE, Supreme, Stussy, Union, Recon.
I got the knowledge of all this fashion shit from being in the streets, from being in the trap houses, being locked up by the police, getting out of central booking and going to school the next morning. Moms ain’t even seen me. That’s why I wouldn’t call myself a fashionist, I would call myself a hood fashionist. I can tell you about hood shit and I can tell you about fashion shit in the same matter, you feel me. Most of these designers, nowadays, they get their inspiration from the hood. You’ve got Supreme, they get their inspiration from Wu-Tang and Mobb Deep. That’s hood shit!
MA: You’ve had your hands in a lot working with different brands. What would you say has been most memorable thus far?
AB: I don’t think it’s happened yet, man. I’m 22-years-old and I’m blessed to be where I am right now. I’m a young kid from Harlem just having fun.
MA: You just released your first Vlone collection not too long ago, how did you feel about the reception of it?
AB: It was crazy, b! Kids were patiently waiting for it and I was throwing out little shit. I’m working on much bigger things than t-shirts and hoodies though— doing a collection, doing a movie, doing fashion shows. I’m working on my next collection right now.
Everything was sold out in the matter of a month. I just wanted to see if the kids were really motivated and really down for the cause, because I don’t just make clothes for just anybody, you feel me. I make clothes so you can wear that shit for a month straight. I want to make pieces that people can grow with or just be like, “Yo, I treasure this.” I want to make masterpieces. I’m not just here for the time being. I’m not a trendsetter. People might respect my style, but I’m not a trendsetter. I’m not a person that just starts styles and people are sick of it the next day.
MA: In one of Ferg’s most recent interviews, he compared you to Basquiat. That makes a lot of sense now that I’m sitting here chopping it up with you. You’re a real free spirit type of guy.
AB: Word? Ferg seen me in the hood being different, in the streets randomly just walking by myself. That’s just what Basquiat was. He was a random person. His art was for him and people loved it. Like my style, it’s for me but people happen to love it. I’d definitely say we have the same creative mindset, like “fuck everything” and “fuck rules.”
MA: You’re known for your famous rants. Your most recent one was on A$ton Matthews’ A$ton 3:16. Whose idea was it to first put you on a track and let you talk your shit?
AB: The first song I ever got on was Rocky’s “Toast To The God.” I was starting up a clothing line called Toast To The God, which I’m no longer naming my clothing line. We were in the studio and he was like, “Yo, I got a ill ass plan,” and I was like, “What?” Rocky was like, “Imma make a song called ‘Toast To The God’” [sighs jokingly]. I was like, “This nigga about to make a corny-ass song with my fucking name.” So I was iffy, watching him the whole time.
Then I was like, “Let me hear your verse.” Rocky spit the best verse I have ever heard from him. “Toast To The God” is Rocky’s best song, hands down. That’s my opinion. Too bad we couldn’t put the song out though. It was supposed to be on his first mixtape. I hopped on A$ton Matthews shit, but I was just fucked up one night, talking shit [Laughs].
MA: That’s that Harlem lineage. Diddy and Dame Dash are two Harlemites that are well known for their infamous rants.
AB: I’m inspired by Diddy and Dame Dash. I grew up on the whole “talking shit on the track” era. Everybody know I like to talk my shit sometimes when I’m around my people.