The impact of hip hop on fashion can hardly be overstated. Since its emergence in the 1970s, one of the key factors in hip hop’s success has been the combined appeal of different forms of creative expression. Harlem-born rapper A$AP Ferg, shot here exclusively in Jimmy Choo’s A/W 2017 collection, has operated very much within that tradition. As a musician, artist, designer and general polymath, for this 29-year-old—originally christened Darold D. Brown Ferguson, Jr.—creativity has always been about more than just the music.

Featuring the ANSEL shoes

“Through fashion and art I am able to communicate with everyone, in all walks of life,” Ferg explains as we survey the selection of decadent slippers and hand-finished DERBY loafers lining the Grand Penthouse Suite sitting atop New York’s Plaza Hotel. “Rap can pigeonhole you sometimes. It can be hard to communicate with people outside of the community once you’re in it—but with fashion and art it’s limitless. Designing and creating art allow me to think more broadly and that helps me to push hip hop culture forward.”

Fashion, in particular, has been a lifelong pursuit inspired by his father’s involvement in the business. “A lot of my father’s work influenced my early style—and even now—because he was the first person I knew who owned a boutique,” Ferg recalls. “He had workers in a factory producing his clothing and he made his own clothing line, featuring silk screen and graphic designs on t-shirts.”

Featuring the FOXLEY slippers

As for style icons, he’s got a litany. “My style influences are David Bowie, Missy Elliott, Ludacris—during the late ‘90s & early ‘2000s—Diddy, Busta Rhymes’ music video outfits and the movie ‘Belly’. I heard Kanye say he didn’t want to dress like normal people—people walking in the streets. He wanted to dress in costume. I liken myself to that, because when I get dressed, I dress as if I’m playing a role in a movie.”

When it comes to collaborating with brands, hip hop artists have been incredibly successful at both harnessing the power of label aspiration and bringing their individual attitude to the table. “I think rappers have always been into fashion and designers have always been into the artists,” Ferg muses. “Donatella Versace would hang out with ‘Lil Kim and make her custom pieces, while Gianni Versace wrote letters to Tupac in jail saying he wanted to dress him when he came home. Even when you think about the older rappers who dressed like rockstars, they have always used clothing to express themselves. Social media has only helped to further the focus on the relationship between fashion and hip hop.”

Featuring the AXEL shoes and the SLOANE slippers

Of course, it’s that utilitarian sneaker that Ferg, alongside many other members of the hip hop community—are best known for. “New shoes have, for me, always represented being fresh. When I was in Catholic school, we had to wear uniform, so the only time I got to show my flyness was on Thursdays in gym. I would wear my new sneakers every Thursday. Sneakers have always been a staple and now they’re coming in new styles, shapes and colours are getting even better as the technology improves.”

As for his own collection of kicks, Ferg says he’s, “lost count,” of how many pairs he’s accumulated, but these days he uses his style to inspire a whole new generation. “Fashion and style means being unique. When I was younger it was about being the first to have the Jordans or any new or rare sneaker. It was about being the first to be onto a trend and changing the game. I always wanted to be fresh going to school, have the eyes on me and have my teachers say, “Oh man, you have some new shoes today”. What I’m doing now with style is iconic. The A$AP Mob [a hip hop collective which Ferg has been a member of for most of the past decade] brings together a bunch of individuals who are into culture and lifestyle and we love to get fly. A lot of rappers don’t know how to dress and we show them how to.”

So, what does that look actually consist of? During the shoot day, Ferg styled his ensembles with personal pieces and explained that the, “key ingredient is function. I can’t wear anything that is uncomfortable and it has to feel magical. I’d say that my personal style is imaginative, moody and colourful; I love primary colour.” Shoes, of course, take centre stage. “What I love about Jimmy Choo shoes is that they’re built with premium leathers and fabrics and they’re not overly designed with a lot of logos and embellishments .

The shots taken here also had significance to Ferg. “I liked shooting with the dog in front of the Plaza hotel in the big mink with the tank top and the leather pants. It felt like what I grew up seeing during the Bad Boy era—like the uptown kid coming downtown and making it big. It was my “I have arrived” moment.”

Featuring the ACE trainers

While Ferg’s international renown grows after the success of his two albums, Trap Lord & Always Strive & Prosper, Harlem remains central to his day to day life and identity. “The spirit of Harlem is special, as are the people that come from the neighbourhood. It’s an unique place because the brokest person can have a rich energy about them—our spirits are flamboyant and we have a lot of confidence,” he explains. “Harlem definitely influences my personal style. It’s embedded in me. The way people wear their shoes, un-tied shoelaces, du rags…The type of haircut they got. I definitely want to move one day, but I’ll always have a space in Harlem.”

Ferg’s favourite New York spots are all connected to creative inspiration. “Firstly, there’s the Loews movie theatre, mostly because the seats are comfortable. I also like 125th Street, walking past the Apollo theatre, and then I’d say Soho, because it’s one of the first places I saw a lot of the fashion and art kids hanging out. There’s a dope community there.”

As for the future, music remains at the heart of Ferg’s prolific output. “Music has got me to where I am now. With music I can talk about so much—fashion, acting or art. I can make people visualize everything through my music. Right now, it’s my biggest medium.” But Ferg’s ambitions go beyond just his solo albums. “I would love to get involved more in writing, signing other artists, getting into film and video production, television, and a lot more.” The one thing you can be certain of is that Ferg isn’t about to take the foot off the pedal any time soon, “For me there’s no difference between on or off-duty—I don’t have any days off. I’m A$AP Ferg 24/7.”

Featuring the ASHER loafers, and the FITZROY backpack

Follow A$AP FERG on Instagram at @asapferg