As both Game Of Thrones fans and Shakespearean thesps will testify, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Apparently not though if you’re a beanie-clad Tinie Tempah. “You guys have actually taken all the pressure off,” confesses GQ‘s current Best-Dressed Man In Britain as he reclines in the personal shopping suite of London’s Selfridges. “I just can wear tracksuits now and everyone says, ‘You look fantastic!’ So thank you for that.”
Not content to only support the labels of others, the country’s most stylish rapper has also been running his own clothing line Disturbing London, produced in collaboration with MHI. “I feel like we’ve achieved what we set out to do, which was create a high-end streetwear brand like the American ones – Stüssy, Supreme and Diamond Supply Co – but with a British twist. Off the back of this we’ve had loads of other offers to do collaborations. We’ve also designed a Nike shoe as well, our very own Disturbing London Blazer, which is coming out around the time of the Olympics. Kanye West is the only other rapper who’s been able to do a shoe with Nike. Hopefully we keep it small, credible and cool… and we’ll see what happens.”
Fashionable hook-ups aside, the alliances GQ.com is most intrigued by are those featured on Tinie‘s eagerly awaited second album Demonstration, with rumoured guests including fellow rapper-slash-designer Pharrell and Grammy magnet Adele. “There’s a load of collaborations on there which I’m not going to talk about but loads of people who were on my wish list I’m working with. There’s also loads of amazing production and throughout the festivals I’ll be doing the new songs in dribs and drabs. The album should be finished by about 30 May and by October it should be out. Fingers crossed…” In the meantime, comfortably the most hip-hop member of the British Fashion Council’s menswear committee talks to GQ.com about box-fresh trainers, Audemars Piguet watches and trying to get cost-per-wear out of £2,000 jackets…
My glasses are from Cutler & Gross. They’re not prescription: I just love wearing them. I used to wear Ray-Ban a lot and then I realised that a lot of the things I’ve started going for are a little bit more refined. I liked the fact that I was supporting a British brand, somebody I could have a relationship with and people that I could talk to. We are going to do some Disturbing London eyewear, potentially with Cutler & Gross. I would much rather prefer doing it with someone who’s British and whose office is just round the corner.
Fashion Week is surprisingly very short. At least the actual runway shows are. You have to catch a flight, stay in a hotel, do all this networking and socialising and everyone’s like [adopts posh voice, holds imaginary champagne flute], “Ah ha ha ha ha.” Then you sit down and it’s all over in ten minutes. I was thinking, “Maybe this is an interval. Let’s go for a coffee then come back and they’ll do the next part.” But no. The Dolce & Gabbana show was amazing: it was extravagant and it looked extremely expensive.
I didn’t ask the designers for any tips when I met them. I don’t want it to be like I’m one of those people who’s trying to replicate anyone else. I’m merely a fan of fashion from high end to streetwear, from Nike to Comme des Garçons. We met Domenico and Stefano and the designers from Lanvin and it was great. I’d much rather prefer that they just see me rather than I started hounding them with questions.
I first became interested in style when I was 16 and I had my first couple of gigs. I realised I couldn’t look like the people I was performing to. Not in a condescending way, but just that it would be weird if I was wearing exactly what someone in the crowd was wearing. What would set me aside from them? I felt like I had to start trying to find things that were a little bit more high-end and unique.
Do I get much wear out of my £2,000 leather jacket from Barneys? No [shakes head ruefully]. That’s the worst thing about when you’re an artist: you have to keep up appearances. So if I spend that much money on something, chances are it’s for a video or a really big performance. When you’ve performed in front of 20,000 people or you’ve done a video and it’s got like 60 million hits, you shouldn’t really wear the jacket again.
I’ve seen this new Louis Vuitton jacket. It looks like it’s crocodile or alligator, a really short bomber and it’s got a shearling collar. I think I’m probably going to start spending a bit more on the jackets but wear them until you start to think “That is attached to his skin.”
I don’t really like proper shoes. I’m more of like a trainer geek. A lot of last year I was wearing suits with Converse because I was resilient to the change of having to wear shoes. For me slip-ons seemed like a nice idea: you don’t have to wear socks, don’t have to think about it. I’ve got five pairs of great slip-ons: two Dolce & Gabbana, two Jimmy Choo and one Alexander McQueen one. They serve me completely. I like that.
At the end of the day I’m 23 and I feel like a lot of people who follow me are pretty much the same age. I want to show people that you can be young and wear a suit. It’s cool to dress up, it’s cool to want to look nice and there’s ways that you can do it where you don’t look like an old fogey.
I love a good watch. I spend a lot of money on watches that will hold their value. It beats a blingy chain or whatever. This is an Audemar [Piguet]. I haven’t got very many: two APs and three Rolexes. The one that I wear all the time is the gold [Rolex] Presidential.
I’ve got very specific trainers that I wear. So if I wear a pair of chinos, I wear a pair of Air Force Ones that have never been worn: a fresh pair. I think if you’re going to go for that whole look, they have to be entirely fresh. I know it sounds very hip-hop: wear them once and don’t wear them again. But if they start getting a bit black or grey around the edges, you are not going to look good with the clean chinos and the stripey, loose-necked top.
I’ve got an infinite amount of trainers. Every time I go for a new pair it’s there. If I don’t get them from Selfridges then I think Size? probably do the best trainers in London. Then you’ve got 1948 in Shoreditch. In America I really like Flight Club – there are two in New York and one in LA.
I love a beanie. I like to wear it like a tea cosie, as Alan Carr described it. Fair enough!
My style heroes are much more modern people. I like George Lamb, Adrien Sauvage and I’m quite proud of my manager Dumi [Oburota, also his cousin] who’s just a local hero. I’m quite fond of the way Brian Gathii who designs To-orist dresses. I think Reggie Yates dresses pretty well and of course Pharrell and Kanye West.
Jay-Z is the coolest rapper alive. But with all due respect, he’s 42. You have to dress to fit your age with the whole suit thing. That’s why I kind of wanted to not reinvent the suit but to show young people that when you’re going out, it’s nice to wear something that’s quite fitted. Now you’ve even got the affordable and accessible high-end Topman range, everyone’s going a little bit more fitted and they know not to wear a three-button suit. I think that’s quite cool.
Be careful with graphic-print T-shirts. Everybody’s got someone on their T-shirt: if it isn’t Kate Moss, it’s Rihanna. A lot of other brands have adopted that style, which again was a very American, streetwear thing. People have gone really crazy with it: it’s graphic here, graphic there, triangle there, red stripe there. It just looks like a mess. Be very careful with that.
I hate it when people wear chinos with the wrong shoes. There are certain Jordans that you can wear chinos with but especially in America I see a lot of people wear chinos with really high-top, bulky trainers. I just think it looks really, really bad. I also hate when people mix brands, like if someone wears like a Louis Vuitton rucksack and a Gucci belt with obvious logos. Very big mistake.
What brand names will I drop on Demonstration? Well, Dolce & Gabbana, obviously. They’ve been very good to me. I love those guys: they’re amazing. The amount of suits I’ve got, Jesus Christ… Obviously a lot of Disturbing London – you’ve got to promote your own. What else? Acne‘s been pretty good. I haven’t really namedropped a lot of brands. These are just brands that I like and may come up because of the fact that I’m wearing all them the time.
My worst style mistake was velour tracksuits. I think they’ve been burnt, I was so disgusted. Everyone was doing wearing them. It was a weird time. Recently, because I’ve been doing a lot of travelling I’ve regressed. I’m going back into really smart tracksuits which is why we’ve got two tracksuits in the Disturbing line. One’s got a more loose fit than your average, based around a Nike tracksuit. Then we’ve got like a more tailored, tapered, fitted tracksuit.
I don’t keep any clothes at my aunt’s house anymore. I’ve got myself a really nice place with a nice walk-in wardrobe. Like in Sex And The City? Sort of.