“I’m not into stores,” said A$AP Bari, a member of the A$AP Mob who works with A$AP Rocky and Edison Chen on Vlone, a highly sought-after streetwear line. “I don’t shop at them.”
Bari, who was in New York on the night of April 6 to celebrate the opening of the Tupac by Vlone pop-up on Ludlow Street, is into experiences — a buzzword that’s often thrown around by retailers but rarely realized. He currently has no interest in selling his pieces at stores, but he’s open to working with them.
“I would do collaborations with different stores, but for them to sell my clothes? No.”
Over the past year, Vlone has gained a following for its graphic product and pop-up retail concepts that are held in various locations — Miami for Art Basel, Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest and Harlem, because that’s where Bari and Rocky grew up. And Vlone has collaborated with brands including Off-White, No Vacancy, Fragment and Nike; a pair of Nike x Vlone Air Force Ones sold for $94,800 on eBay.
“I want to do things for the right reasons,” said Bari. “And most of my collaborations come out of friendships.”
According to Bari, he didn’t initially revere Tupac in the same way he looked up to Biggie, but as he got older and learned more about the rapper — who his aunt actually used to babysit — that changed. A friendship with Tupac’s nephew helped create this partnership with Bravado, the merchandising company that produces Tupac apparel, and helped create the pop-up.
The pop-up is stocked with T-shirts, hats, bathrobes and baseball jerseys coming in orange and black, Vlone’s signature color story, and featuring the brand’s “V” logo that has been integrated with images of Tupac, the rapper’s lyrics and other graphics associated with the artist; the back of a T-shirt displays the same cross that was tattooed on his back. The collection retails from $150 to $300 and the pop-up will remain open through the weekend.
To up the ante on the experience factor, Sweet Chick, which is located next door to the pop-up at 178 Ludlow Street, has transformed its eatery into the Powamekka Café, a restaurant Tupac imagined on paper. Sweet Chick will serve drinks and dishes based on a menu the artist created years before his death. The walls are decorated with Tupac’s old family photographs along with copies of his handwritten poetry.
Bari has bigger plans for Vlone, but he’s interested in growing the brand slowly. The same day WWD spoke to him, it was revealed that Hood by Air, a brand Bari is very familiar with — A$AP Rocky was an early supporter who later snubbed the brand — would put the collection on hiatus.
“I’m trying not to move too fast or too slow with building this line, but everything comes to an end,” said Bari. “Shayne [Oliver] is working on Helmut Lang, so he will probably come back to Hood by Air. A lot of designers leave their brands and start working with other brands to build their name up even more and build hype around their brand. You have your new brands that are hot each period and it’s up to you to level it up with the fashion. You either get lost in the sauce or make your own.”