A throng of screaming fans greeted Justin Bieber outside Dolce & Gabbana’s Madison Avenue store Thursday night and the noise level wasn’t much better indoors. But the teen idol turned out to be the consummate guest of honor, calmly assuring the paparazzi that they would each get their shot. The Canadian singer and actor was nearly as unhurried when answering reporters’ predictable questions.
Later, upstairs and away from the media mosh pit, Bieber showed more of his 17-year-old self — watching “Family Guy” on a tablet as he signed T-shirts for excitable youngsters and more than a few fawning adults. Dressed in a purple leather jacket, gray really-low-ride jeans and black high-tops, Bieber sang to himself and occasionally checked himself out in a mirror as he hiked three flights to be certain his pants weren’t heading too far south.
This story first appeared in the September 10, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In a Green Room stocked with soda, cold cuts and Swedish Fish, the pop star opened up to WWD about his financially challenging childhood, Selena Gomez, designer ambitions, Usher’s style advice and why he wants to wed in 10 years’ time.
WWD: What’s more powerful, fashion or music?
Justin Bieber: For me, as a musician, I think music is the universal language. No matter who you are or where you are, you love music, you know, whatever music that may be, whether it’s country or rock music. Music is very complicated. It brings a lot of emotions that you can’t really speak about.
WWD: Do you see fashion in your future?
JB: Definitely, I want to eventually start a clothing line or a shoe line, something like that. But nothing is in the works right now. I’m just focusing on my music now.
WWD: Is there anyone’s style you look up to?
JB: Yeah, Kanye West. Usher’s real cool. He knows way more about fashion than I do. I’m learning from him. He helps me put stuff together and find different designers who I’ve never heard of. I just got a pair of Fendi sunglasses. I’d never heard of them before. I like Louis [as in Vuitton]. I started wearing their belts and stuff, which I really like [lifting his jacket to reveal an “LV” belt buckle].
WWD: How would you describe your style?
JB: I try not to do too much. I try to keep it, I’m not sure what the word is — I don’t get too dressy. I don’t like to dress up. I really like to keep it casual.
WWD: Do you think you’re more influential than Barack Obama or the Dalai Lama, as that British report suggested?
JB: No, I think those people are very influential and popular. I’m just lucky to be in the position I’m in.
WWD: Has your career played out as you expected it to?
JB: I never really thought I was going to be like this. I did it for fun at first. Now that it’s gotten so crazy, sometimes I look back and think, “Wow! This is crazy.” I performed for the President of the United States. That was a wild moment. Winning a VMA, that was a big moment.
WWD: How do you stay normal.
JB: I love to play sports and stuff. I love just hanging out with my friends. I’m just a regular 17-year-old. I grew up playing hockey so I like to get on the ice every once in a while. I love to play basketball and I try to play soccer as much as I can.
WWD: Why did you decide to have a charitable component in every business deal you do?
JB: I love what I do but I think it’s important to give back, especially for me. I was less fortunate. I didn’t have a lot. I grew up in geared-to-income housing. It was always rough for me.
WWD: What was rough?
JB: We went to the food drive all the time. I always thought, “If I ever get rich or famous, I will help people who are less fortunate than me.” This year I’m helping with the food drive in my hometown. I’m just trying to do as much as I can with everything I do. With Pencil of Power, we gave $1 for every ticket sold on my tour, which was amazing.
WWD: How influential has your mother been in your life in terms of her resourcefulness as a single mother?
JB: She always pushed me to be the best that I can be. But she never pushed anything on me. She always let me do what I wanted to do. She let me follow my dreams. She never held me back.
WWD: You told one of the kids earlier that you’re still friendly with Selena.
JB: She’s amazing. She’s my girlfriend right now.
WWD: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
JB: [Visibly counting] Well, by 25 or 26, I want to see myself, like, married or start looking for a family. I want to be a young dad. I want to be able to have done what I wanted to do — to be successful, to do a movie or whatever. But if the time is right, I definitely want to be married by 25.
One thing — I’m not looking to get married now.