This article is taken from the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine.
Travis Scott is difficult to pin down – literally, for an interview or a photographic shoot, but also ideologically. He eschews and evades easy categorisation. Sure, he’s a musician – he has one of the highest profiles of a new generation of rap artists. Yet to see Scott as just that is to miss the point: whether creating a McDonald’s meal – he is the first celebrity to have one named after him since Michael Jordan in 1992 – performing a virtual concert on gaming platform Fortnite, or remaking himself as a modern media mogul, Scott embodies creativity in the 21st century. While somehow juggling an aura of mystery with a stratospheric level of fame, he matches a hazy, autotune-inflected musical output that defines the sound of modern hip-hop with a creative auteurship that goes beyond hit singles. Scott’s creative collective Cactus Jack encompasses a record label, a publishing arm and an array of merchandise with graphics devised by him. Perhaps inevitably his manifold talents attracted the attention of the equally multi-hyphenate creative Kim Jones at Dior – he thought they should collaborate.
Jones, of course, has brought the work of visual artists into the Dior universe on numerous occasions since stepping into his role as artistic director of menswear in 2018: the pneumatic robots of Hajime Sorayama; the playful, cross-eyed characters created by Kaws; and art-influenced clothing in partnership with artists Raymond Pettibon, Daniel Arsham and Peter Doig. But this latest collaboration exhaustively explores the elastic definition of the term ‘artist’ today. “I have always collaborated with artists. This time I said to myself, why not a musician?” Jones says. “Creating is a collective effort and, let’s be honest, a creative director is surrounded by a whole team of creatives. You can’t accomplish your ambitions for a house like this if you’re doing it alone. It’s not about talent or celebrity, but if someone produces something I find cool, I want to interact with him.”
Scott was born Jacques Bermon Webster II in Houston, Texas, in 1991: he renamed himself after a favourite uncle, Travis, and the American rapper Kid Cudi, whose real first name is Scott. Thus rechristened, he achieved global success as a recording artist: after dropping out of university to pursue music, his first commercial EP, Upper Echelon, was released in 2013 – since then, he has been nominated for eight Grammy awards. His 2018 album Astroworld has gone triple platinum in the US and, after the release of his last single – fittingly titled Franchise – in September last year, he became the first artist to have three songs debut at No 1 in less than a year on the Billboard Hot 100. Spotify currently ranks him as the 24th most popular artist in the world, ahead of Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and the Beatles.
He and Jones first met six years ago, when the latter was head of menswear at Louis Vuitton, clashing modern luxury with streetwear in a manner that’s now commonplace – not least at Dior. The label’s much hyped Air Jordan collaboration was previewed on Scott’s feet at the house’s menswear show in Miami in December 2019. The next step was for them to collaborate for Spring/Summer 2022, on the first Dior catwalk collection created with a musician or a record label, dual-branded as Cactus Jack Dior.
The collaboration, however, isn’t about two brands coming together – rather, it’s about the relationship between Jones and Scott, an intimate connection. The two have been in contact since that first meeting, talking, texting and ultimately gestating this possibly inevitable hook-up. “Kim is a friend of mine. I probably wouldn’t be doing this if he wasn’t involved,” Scott says. “He is such an inspiration. I was a fan even when I was in college, so it’s crazy to be working with him. Going to the atelier and watching things being sewn and made by hand, it was insane.”
“He is such an inspiration. I was a fan even when I was in college, so it’s crazy to be working with him. Going to the atelier and watching things being sewn and made by hand, it was insane” – Travis Scott
This wasn’t just a case of Scott slapping his name on a label and calling it a day. It never is with any of his collaborations: Scott and Cactus Jack have also worked with Nike, Bape and PlayStation, and his McDonald’s hook-up wasn’t just a meal – incidentally, it consisted of a quarter pounder with cheese, bacon and lettuce, fries with barbecue sauce and a Sprite – but a full line of merchandise. “This is the first time that a luxury house is collaborating with a musician and involving him in all the creation process,” says Jones in an implicit acknowledgment of the fact that while rappers like Scott are often on the moodboard or seated in the front row, they’re rarely found in the atelier or joining a designer for a bow at the end of the runway. Their creative process began with Scott visiting Dior’s archives. “Travis knew exactly what he wanted,” says Jones. “He understands what young people want, knows how to appeal to them. He also knows what the brand is about. We wanted it to be Dior with Travis’s element on top.”
On his 2016 track “High Fashion”, Scott raps a list of designer names: Maison Margiela, Louboutin, Givenchy. But he isn’t keen to label either himself or his sound. He has bristled at a music industry keen to pigeonhole the latter as hip-hop: “I would just describe it as different pieces of my brain,” he has said. The same approach applies to his personal appearance – the two go hand in hand, blending sports and formalwear, street and couture. That is what influenced Jones for this Cactus Jack Dior show: Scott’s own style, filtered through his eye and the workmanship of Dior, a conversation in cloth.
Scott’s home state of Texas served as an inspiration – it was, coincidentally, the first place in America that Christian Dior himself visited, in 1947, a bit of Dior folklore that connected now to then. As such, the set of the show offered a visual mash-up of Dior’s childhood rose garden in Normandy with an imaginary rendering of the Lone Star State – all fluorescent fibreglass cacti, larger-than-life bleached bison skulls and desert sand (no matter that Scott actually grew up in the lush Houston suburb of Missouri City). The colour of the clothes came from there too. “The pink is the sky over Houston, the green is the cactus, the brown is the soil,” shares Jones. “We tried to connect worlds and take where I’m from and the identity of Houston, Texas, and spread it across the collection,” Scott adds.
Of course, Scott provided the soundtrack for the Cactus Jack Dior catwalk in June – the Paris menswear show debuted two new songs by Scott, one titled “Escape Plan”, the second “Lost Forever”, featuring rapper Westside Gunn. He also included a song originally leaked in 2019, “In My Head”, featuring Swae Lee and CyHi the Prynce, with a different beat and additional ad libs. All three are set for release on the forthcoming Utopia LP, his fourth album to date. As we go to print, it’s scheduled to drop sometime later in 2021 – but precise details are hazy. Scott values his mystique.
“Travis knew exactly what he wanted. He understands what young people want, knows how to appeal to them. He also knows what the brand is about. We wanted it to be Dior with Travis’s element on top” – Kim Jones
What does the music sound like? Ambient, unexpected, kind of earwormy, lo-fi yet high-tech. It’s a bundle of contradictions, which is – as Scott says – connected to the clothes. His personal style has been described as grunge – which it is, with beaten-up jeans and flannel button-downs and even Nirvana T-shirts making appearances. Then he’ll tote a crocodile Hermès Haut à courroies bag below an Ozzfest T-shirt. “I think high end and evening couture have always been in the metaverse of things I’m into,” says Scott, who cites the tailoring as his favourite part of the Dior collection. And there was a philanthropic element too: a series of shirts hand-painted by American artist George Condo will be sold to raise money for a new foundation Scott is establishing, which will support students with scholarships in collaboration with New York fashion institution Parsons.
“I have been thinking about young people a lot recently. With the pandemic, it’s a very difficult time for them,” says Jones. “Studying, going to university, following their dreams, it’s all a lot more difficult today with Covid-19. And yet Dior is doing incredibly well in spite of this crisis. We need to use our power and the means at our disposal to support the kind of initiatives in which we believe.”
As Scott puts it, “I’m just a kid from Texas.” Maybe this collection will end up helping the next kid from Texas too.
Lighting: Romain Hirtz and Hugues Poulanges. Styling assistants: Isabella Kavanagh and Ewa Kluczenko. Production: Artistry Paris. Executive producer: Laura Forrest at Artistry Paris
This article appears in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue of AnOther Magazine which will be on sale internationally from 7 October 2021. Pre-order a copy here.