Since releasing his debut EP in 2014, Vince Staples, 23, has risen from underground rapper to certifiable star, appearing in Sprite commercials and an Alexander Wang campaign. And Big Fish Theory, the club banger of an album he released this past summer, has only amplified the buzz. Staples claims he doesn’t talk much, but that’s only when it comes to topics he finds trite or too personal—like his teenage years spent running with the Crips, or how his straight-edge lifestyle and politically charged lyrics (he’s continually labeled, to his dismay, a rapper with a conscience) set him apart from the swaggering hip-hop community. “I don’t even know what rap culture is,” he says dismissively. “Katy Perry has a rap song.”
But get him going on his interests—or his endless moneymaking schemes—and he’ll chat your ear off. He’s obsessed with robots, would love to play one on TV, and just preordered Kuri, a kind of mobile Alexa, shaped like a penguin; he’s eager to start a French-brasserie food truck. “Serve up some steak frites,” he says with a broad, gap-toothed smile. Though he’s a bit coy about it, he’s into fashion too, showing off his Comme des Garçons wallet—a special edition featuring images by the French artist Aurélie Mathigot—and acknowledging a fondness for the Italian men’s wear brand Stone Island, which he sports in his “Big Fish” video. “Yeah, I’m conscious of my image,” he admits. “You gotta be cute.”
Staples wears a Givenchy jacket; Gucci sweater; Coach 1941 pants.
Quiet and quirky, Francis Farewell Starlite, 36, the leading force behind the band Francis and the Lights, seems to go through life as though it were performance art. In the rare interviews he grants, he tends to be reserved, often answering questions with a single word; but onstage he is expressive, accompanying his elegant, minimalist R&B sound with explosive herky-jerky dance moves. Born in Oakland, California, and raised in Berkeley, Starlite attended Wesleyan University, but dropped out in his sophomore year. It was while riding a train across the U.S. that he decided to give music a go; he released his debut EP in 2007. Drake, an early fan, enlisted him as a producer. Chance the Rapper, who toured with Starlite last year, called him “the new Prince,” and Kanye West annointed Francis and the Lights’ 2016 track “Friends” his favorite song of the year (West even appears in the video). Is Starlite surprised by the admiration from the hip-hop community? “No,” he says.
Milling around the photo studio in a onesie, his black knee socks pulled up high, the musician exudes a personal style that is as curious as he is. “My style is mostly trying to find things to wear that feel good and look good,” he explains, noting that his signature sock look is inspired by Rob Brydon in the film The Trip to Italy. “One day I tucked my pants into them,” he elaborates. “I liked it. It felt different.”
Starlite wears a Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello sweater; Coach 1941 pants; Oliver Peoples sunglasses; Church’s shoes.
In this very messy world, Mitski Miyawaki, who goes by her first name, strives for order. It is evident in her music, which, despite being filled with heartbreak, brewing rage, and distorted instrumentation, has a measured, thoughtful quality. And it is apparent in her personal style. “I love clean lines and elegance,” she says, adding that if dry cleaning were available on tour, she’d readily perform in a suit or a silk shirt and a fitted pencil skirt. “I like to think I’m going to work when I go onstage, so I put on all the clichés of a working person. But I just end up looking like an executive secretary who’s been on the road for a while.”
Indeed, Miyawaki, 27, who was born in Japan and moved with her family to eight different countries across Asia, Africa, and Europe before landing in New York at age 18, has spent much of the past year and a half on tour to promote Puberty 2, her emotionally fraught and critically acclaimed fourth album. “I’m just sort of milking it,” says Miyawaki. If an itinerant life has left her with a sense of detachment from places and things, it has also made clear that music is her mainstay. “This is what I’m meant to do,” she says. “Write music and put it out.”
Miyawaki wears a Coach 1941 jacket; Prada dress and slip; AG pants; Patricia von Musulin earrings; Giuseppe Zanotti shoes.
Clementine Creevy has been making infectious music since the age of 15, when the indie label Burger Records signed her on the basis of her bedroom recordings. She formed her band, Cherry Glazerr, not long after, was cast for a recurring role on the Amazon series Transparent (she plays a member of the band Glitterish, along with Petra Collins), and became a model and muse to Hedi Slimane, who commissioned a song from her for his Saint Laurent fall 2014 runway show—all before she had graduated from high school.
Now, at the age of 20, the L.A. singer, songwriter, and guitarist is eager to prove that Cherry Glazerr, which released its fast and furious—and extremely fun—sophomore album, Apocalipstick, earlier this year, isn’t merely a fashion band. “Those don’t survive,” she says. “What people gravitate toward is honesty and art made from a place of necessity.” As if to underscore the point, she arrived for this shoot sporting a T-shirt picked up at Goodwill, ill-fitting pants, and a pair of sneakers from Payless. She usually performs in whatever she happens to be wearing that day, and has also been known to strip down and rock out topless. (“Iggy Pop never played with a shirt on,” she reasons.) Funnily enough, though, her antifashion image couldn’t be more in style. “I just care about music,” she says with a shrug. “That’s all I ever want to do.”
Creevy wears a Calvin Klein 205W39NYC shirt, pants, and boots.
Laetitia Tamko makes poetic, punk-inflected music for “weird girls,” as she likes to put it, “those who don’t feel immediately accepted or seen for the beauties they are.” Admittedly, Tamko, 25, knows the feeling well. Born in Cameroon, she moved first to Harlem at 13 with her family, then to suburban Yonkers, New York, feeling like an outsider all the way. At 17, she taught herself to play guitar, then bass, synth, and drums. But, figuring she didn’t have what it takes to make it in music, in college she turned her attention to science, with a double major in electrical and computer engineering. “I was good at it, and you have to be an adult,” she says. During her junior year, at the urging of a friend, she posted songs she’d written on Bandcamp under the moniker Vagabon, and received invitations to play at New York City venues. “I didn’t think it was possible to be a professional musician, but I knew I didn’t want to be an engineer for my entire life,” she says.
With the release earlier this year of the critically acclaimed debut album Infinite Worlds, she has earned her rightful place in the male-dominated world of indie rock—which she proudly, and stylishly, assumes. A self-proclaimed tomboy offstage, onstage Tamko likes to play up her femininity with flirty dresses and platform sandals. “I love that it’s not what people expect to see in the punk-and-rock scene.”
Tamko wears a Chanel shirt; her own nose ring.
Kweku Collins began writing melodic flows about girls and civil rights in middle school. During his senior year of high school, he signed to a record label, and soon after graduating, released his debut album. But to call the 21-year-old a rapper would be to sell him short. “I hate genres the way I hate gender,” he says, echoing the sentiment of many young musicians today. “If you’re a dude, you can’t do these things because they’re considered feminine. If you’re a hip-hop artist, you can’t do things considered in an alternate vein. I don’t want to be a rapper doing country or an R&B artist doing reggae shit. I just want to be an artist making music. Fluidity is key.”
Raised in the Chicago suburbs, the son of an African and Latin percussionist and a schoolteacher, Collins grew up playing drums, but had dreams of becoming a professional skateboarder—the sport informs both his music and his style. “What’s so great about skate culture is that it pulls from everywhere. There’s a lot of punk, hip-hop, surf influences,” says Collins, who arrived for this shoot sporting overalls and NikeLab Air Force 1s. “I like to think I represent a bit of everything.”
Collins wears an Oscar de la Renta coat; Burberry jacket and pants; Nike shirt; his own necklace and bracelets.
“Punk rock can come from anywhere,” says Kiran Gandhi, whose first public act of rebellion came in the spring of 2015, when she ran the London Marathon with menstrual blood seeping through her leggings. The “free-bleed” incident garnered worldwide attention, and Gandhi, who attended Harvard Business School while also touring as a drummer with M.I.A, decided to use it as a platform for women’s issues. “It gave me a megaphone in a way that I could never have anticipated,” says the 28-year-old New York native, who ultimately picked up a mike and became Madame Gandhi. Her debut EP, Voices, released last year, features dreamy, drum-heavy tracks filled with messages of female empowerment. “Do the work to know yourself—and then express yourself” is a mantra that Gandhi seems to wear on her sleeve. “I love to dress in the fire colors of the sun: red, yellow, orange, gold,” she says. Much of her clothing is by the young artist and designer Leah Ball, and from the shop Otherwild. And you’ll never spot her in a pair of heels. “I wear sneakers and comfortable shoes because I have to run around and play the drums, and carry them!” she says. “You can’t be debilitated on your own stage—no one will take you seriously.”
Gandhi wears a Fenty Puma by Rihanna coat; Altuzarra sweater; Emporio Armani pants; Prada shoes.