Meet the Designer Who Puts Rappers in Lace
Drake, ASAP Rocky and ASAP Ferg wear men's designer Astrid Andersen's feminine brand of luxury streetwear.
"The word 'unisex' belongs in the '90s," says Astrid Andersen, a Danish menswear designer with a flair for the dramatic. "The younger generation doesn’t even consider the concept."
Andersen, a graduate of the Royal College of Art in London who has consulted for Nike, infuses street-wise looks with a feminine sensibility, combining joggers with crop tops, basketball jerseys with lace, skirts and kicks. It’s a radical approach given streetwear’s characteristically masculine silhouettes (baggy pants, oversize T-shirts). Yet Andersen’s critically commended collections, now in their fifth season, have been eagerly embraced by the hip-hop world. Drake, Chris Brown and ASAP Rocky are fans. And Rihanna has run with Andersen’s gender-agnostic approach, co-opting the men’s pieces for herself.
It’s not just Andersen’s post-unisex outlook that’s getting her noticed. With ready-to-wear pieces priced up to $1,000 and bespoke items costing even more, the designer, known as the Queen of the Luxe Tracksuit, is ushering streetwear into an economic stratum that competes with the Saint Laurents and Louis Vuittons.
Her "new strand of luxury" (according to Financial Times) leads the growing segment of elevated streetwear, where similar brands now contribute to the $60-billion share of the market and have begun to garner mainstream recognition: Public School won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2013 (and is the new designer for DKNY) and Hood by Air nabbed the Swarovski Award for menswear at the CFDAs this year. The brands are proving that the crossover between the runway and streetwear isn’t a passing trend.
"I relate to her because we are both trying to bring something new to our fields — me on the rap side, her on the fashion side," says ASAP Ferg, who collaborated with Andersen earlier this year on a kung fu-inspired video in which he modeled her spring 2016 collection. "I love and respect tradition, but sometimes people respect tradition to the point where they don’t create new moments."
Andersen — who declined to divulge details about her personal life and, when asked for her age, would only say that she is in her early 30s — grew up listening to hip-hop.
"Drake doesn’t want to wear suits because it doesn’t tell how he lives," she says. "It’s hard for Gucci to [do what I do] because they have a history and a customer they have to cater to."
1. The New Rules
"I'm lucky to have a customer who will push his look. This season that means trench coats with flowers, neons, lace."
2. Eastern Promises
"I'm inspired by the places I’ve been, and I've mostly been traveling to Asia these past few years. We did a show in Shanghai for the first time this year."
3. Fresh Bloom
"The Chinese blossom print, the silk flowers in the spring 2016 collection, all came from my time in Shanghai."
4. Style Icon
"Andre 3000 has been a pioneer since before people knew what he was doing. He has been mixing everything and doing it for 20 years. And people respected him and look at him as a man. He’s one of the most masculine personas I can think of. Even when he wears a wig and a skirt, he looks like a man."
5. Kung Fu Magic
"The video ASAP Ferg and I did let us share our creative energies. Everything in the collection is referenced somehow."
6. The Sound of Family
"I'm affected by the music I grew up with, and the music I was forced to listen to. My father was fanatical about Pink Floyd. It’s such an emotional thing for me."
7. On Repeat
"I'm super obsessed with Krept [right] and Konan. They’re two boys from London who are making sounds that are so sexy."
8. First Concert
"Destiny’s Child in 2000. They definitely shaped who I am as a person and how I treat a person. The Writing’s on the Wall album made me feel stronger as a woman.”
9. Hometown Love
"I prefer being in London and thinking freely and coming back to Copenhagen, where things are more focused. I appreciate Copenhagen and it’s in my blood. I like to be able to bike to my office."
This story first appeared in the Aug. 29 issue of Billboard magazine.