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Tyler, The Creator: The Blackbird Spyplane Interview
He comes thru talkin' rare Art Deco Cartiers, old-folks swag, how making perfume is like making music, André 3000's delicious-looking face + more
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Tyler, The Creator — what can’t this young GOAT do? He masterminded the Odd Future crew as a kid in his native L.A. before becoming a solo star, creating TV shows, directing videos, designing clothes, getting off monster fits, and putting out a string of solo albums that only got more ambitious with time. In 2019 he won the best rap album Grammy for IGOR, which is funny because it’s a fantastic LP with very little rapping on it — but maybe this year’s excellent Call Me If You Get Lost, stuffed with BIG RAPPIN’-A** BARS APLENTY, will win too and restore the cosmic balance!
Meanwhile, the other day Tyler installed a tiny, invite-only (!) shop on an undisclosed Malibu mountain to debut some rarefied new joints from his Golf Le Fleur line, including Italy-made angora cardigans and UK-made luggage along with a unisex perfume called French Waltz (inspired by Lake Tahoe) and unisex nail polish (inspired by Lake Geneva)...
I first met Tyler a few years ago in L.A. and enjoyed his whole f**king gestalt, so it was only a matter of time before BLACKBIRD SPYPLANE hit him up over encrypted SpyVideoChat technology (above) to discuss Italian mohair jawns, old people’s sniper-caliber swag, how making perfume is like making music, wanting to eat André 3000's face, and more “unbeatable topics”…
Blackbird Spyplane: First things first, I wanna thank you for opening my eyes to the power of brown clothes — I’ve been rocking hella brown s**t for the past year, and I think that’s ~100% down to seeing you wear brown pants with such panache…
Tyler, The Creator: “Brown really goes with almost every color. I wear a lot of pastels, and it’s a great base for that. There’s these brown Gucci pants I’ve been wearing constantly since January 2020. It’s a thousand photos of me in them at this point, ‘cause they’re my favorite pants in the world ever — I hope I can keep them for another 20 years.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Some time in the last few years you went from dressing like a skater kid — rocking a uniform of roasted Vans + cut-off jorts + striped athletic socks — to dressing like a swaggy Russian grandpa — rocking a uniform of chunky knits + brown highwaters + fuzzy Ushankas + loafers … Was that about approaching 30 and figuring out how to “dress for yr age” ?
Tyler, The Creator: “It’s funny that a sweater can have an age attached to it. Or a nice pair of pants. I mean, I’ve gotten caught up in that idea myself, but it’s, like, why is wearing a nice sweater or a tie considered old or outdated or wise or anything?”
Blackbird Spyplane: Part of the answer probably has to do with how little old people seem to care about what they wear. On one hand, aging as a jawns enthusiast can be tricky, because it’s way tougher than when you were younger to pull off wild s**t and not look ridiculous or try-hard — but on the other hand, hopefully by that point you have a clearer internal barometer of yr own “personal style.”
Tyler, The Creator: “Yeah, when you get older you’re more of a sniper. You know exactly what you’re going for, you’ve had 40-50 years of figuring out how pants fit, figuring out what kind of shirt looks good with your shoulders. That’s part of why I’m so enamored with how older people dress, ‘cause it’s, like, ‘Wow, that man has perfected how silk sits on his short arms’ or whatever.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Whose way of dressing do you admire?
Tyler, The Creator: “Hmmm. Honestly, it’s mostly random old people in the street. With the clothes I made this time, I actually wanted to reach past people who know my stuff and get to those older women who have the illest style, those older men I see in passing. A whole other world of people who I think are ill but may not be familiar with me.
“I do think Jeff Goldblum looks great in sh*t. I met him in person, he’s super tall, super lanky, he just looks ill — ”
Blackbird Spyplane: O, Goldblum’s a hottie for sure …
Tyler, The Creator: “Yes. I would f*ck Jeff Goldblum. Oh, and I think Traci Ellis Ross has great style. She copped some things at the Le Fleur shop and I was, like, ‘Man I wonder how she’s gonna piece it together.’ My friend Cam Hicks came by and he dresses really cool. And Ye came by wearing big-a** boots (below), and that silhouette just looked so ill on him, because he believes it. He means it. I was like, ‘That’s fire. No one else could do that.’”
Blackbird Spyplane: You’ve always communicated a strong sense of knowing what you like and what you don’t when it comes to clothes — a lot of ppl in the public eye don’t have that intuitive of a relationship to how they dress, and it shows!
Tyler, The Creator: “A lot of them have stylists or someone bringing ‘em clothes and saying, ‘Wear this.’ And a lot of guys just wear whatever clothing brands send them, because they just like free sh*t! I’m not knocking that at all, but I know what I like, and I figure out what I like: I’m okay with trying and experimenting for a few months before finally nailing it.”
Blackbird Spyplane: And once you figure it out, you’ll rock the same thing every day, which is tight… I admire someone who locks in a uniform.
Tyler, The Creator: “I think uniforms are ill. If I like a piece, I’ll wear it till I literally can’t anymore.”
Blackbird Spyplane: And at that point you can get it mended and keep it rocking!
Tyler, The Creator: “Dude, that’s really the move. These pants I have on right here got holes in ‘em and I just said, stitch ‘em up — now they’ve got this thread all over them, but I don’t care.”
Blackbird Spyplane: That’s the sashiko mindset: If you make repairs look interesting, it only deepens the beauty of the garment…
Tyler, The Creator: “And it’s about just buying pieces you love. With this new Le Fleur stuff, everyone who came to the store, everyone who buys a piece, I’m like, ‘Yo, this silk shirt? Wear it! Don’t keep it on ice. Live in it, get holes in it, go to an orgy in it.’”
Blackbird Spyplane: Last time I saw you, we were driving around L.A. and you had perfumes from Prada and Chloë Sevigny tucked into the cupholders. You told me that “when I was a young kid I’d sneak in my mom’s room, spray her perfume on my wrists and listen to songs I liked, and there was a connection.”
Is there a similar connection for you between composing a fragrance and composing music? It’s interesting how scents & songs both relate so deeply to memory, and how we talk about both in terms of ‘notes’…
Tyler, The Creator: “It’s almost too many parallels to say them all without getting long-winded, but it’s wild: Fragrances are really like music for the nose. Like, in a song you got that top melody — I like putting the synths at the top, those are the leads — but then you listen to early-‘70s Stevie and the drums weren’t as present as they are today, they were like 3rd in the mix. And that’s the same in a fragrance, with a top note, a base note…
“Certain smells work better in certain environments, too, just like songs. So when I came up with the description for French Waltz I wanted to frame it, like, describing this day when I swam in Lake Tahoe, so it’s less about the specific ingredients than it is about setting a scene.”
Blackbird Spyplane: There’s something else you told me that stuck with me, about DREAM CHASING despite societal pressures: You said, “You know how many n****s in the ‘hood wanna do ballet, but they f*cking can’t? When Jay put Prodigy on the screen at Summer Jam in the dance clothes, Prodigy should have said, Yeah, I can dance ballet — and what! F*ck what they think, I’m gonna do my thing.’” It’s not so long ago that a rapper might have gotten looked at sideways for releasing unisex perfumes and nail polishes, ostensibly products “for women” …
Tyler, The Creator: “It’s a f*cking smell — what does my big-a** d*ck have to do with whether it smells good or not? People will go, ‘Well, back in the day…’ But I’m talking about now. Stop being obsessed with the past. What does this good smell we’re enjoying have to do with whether I c*m out of my d*ck or not?”
Blackbird Spyplane: Hahaha, well put— relatedly, you were wearing a very sick women’s Cartier watch at the Le Fleur Malibu thing, with a concealable face…
Tyler, The Creator: “That one’s fun — I don’t even know if it’s a ladies’ watch, but you lift it up to see the clock, ‘cause it’s got, like, a little door. I’m into old Cartiers. I’ve traveled far places to get a few. I’ve got a crazy one on right now (above), it’s got like a fishbowl dial — if you look at it from the side, it’s crazy. Super Art Deco, a little something from the 1940s — something nice you never saw before!!”
Blackbird Spyplane: The craziest thing as far as I’m concerned is that Henry Taylor showed up at the party with your portrait painted on a briefcase and gave it to you. WTF!!
Tyler, The Creator: “I wanted him to paint my last two album covers, and it never came to be, but we stayed in contact. He pulled up in Malibu with the case, like, ‘I painted this this morning, it’s a congratulations gift — here.’ I was, like, ‘Are you f*cking crazy? Do you understand how much this is worth? I don’t mean in money — it’s priceless. I get to have this briefcase with your idea of me on it.’ I don’t think he understands the gravity that holds for me.
“I had him there with all these other amazing artists, too. André was there playing his flute; Spike Jonze was running around; architects were there, car guys, all these different walks of life just breathing the same air. I was like, ‘This is the YMCA for the illest people ever.’”
Blackbird Spyplane: I really like the trench coat André 3000 was wearing… not just anybody can pull off a trench in Malibu.
Tyler, The Creator: “He’s the style god. That man — his skin? Immaculate! It’s so beautiful, it’s like super dark but honey glazed. I can’t explain it. I wanna eat André’s face. The gap between his teeth, his mole — I love that man and he’s cool as sh*t.”
Blackbird Spyplane: You’ve said the idea for that Malibu shop came to you while you were out riding yr bike. Traveling through the world at “bike speed” with your eyes at “bike height” really does wonderful things for the brain…
Tyler, The Creator: “It’s my yoga. I come up with so much sh*t moving at that pace on that bike. That’s my illest luxury — getting to do tricks, even falling. I love falling on my bike. It resets me.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Rock a helmet, big dog, these crashes can get real!! BTW, one of the nail polishes U made comes in a color called “Geneva Blue” — am I right that the color’s based on yr Lancia Delta Integrale? This is a beautiful car that I had no idea existed ‘til I saw pics of yours…
Tyler, The Creator: “I’ve been obsessed with that color for a few years, and when I was thinking, What am I gonna call the nail polish? I remembered being in Geneva, swimming in that lake, and the water felt like that color. It wasn’t really that color — it was darker and more green — but it felt like that, so I gave it that name and that’s pretty much the main color of the brand.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Speaking of which, you sent over a picture of this very handsome Le Fleur cardigan with appliqués and pins on it. What’s the deal?
Tyler, The Creator: “This is the second sample I got back from Italy, and it’s my favorite sweater. It’s this soft angora mohair and the color is so beautiful it doesn’t make sense. It fits perfect, I’ve worn it for a year straight, lived so much life in it, and it hasn’t gotten f*cked up at all.
“That’s a little leather Le Fleur flower on the pocket — the only logo, because I don’t really wanna do much logo-heavy sh*t right now. Then there’s a gold Le Fleur pin, and the other one is a pin I got made of my feet with white and black diamonds.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Aha, I didn’t know if the pins came with the sweaters, on some Bode s**t… Apparently not.
Tyler, The Creator: “No — that’s my personal legs and ankles!”
🍃 There’s a bunch of fire pins for FESTOONING cardigans & other garments in our “Blackbird Spyplane Master Jawn Index” — a running guide to earth’s greatest under-the-radar pieces and designers — here.
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