From the moment the lights dimmed and the uptown dance crew Waffles stormed the runway, backflipping and BMX-ing to two HANN tracks, the VFiles Spring show was absolute insanity. There were five very different designers, two performances, two Migos walking the runway, and one DJ—A-Trak—overseeing it all from a booth splashed with his name. Unifying the chaotic scene was a formidable task—there were broken heels, a model traffic jam, a Keith Ape set—but A-Trak maneouvered through the transitions smoothly, helping to mold the show's disparate sections into one buoyant whole. Here, he tells us why clothing and branding are just as important to him as they are to VFiles, plus exactly how he pulled off that crazy show.
Moses Gauntlett Cheng
Feng Chen Wang
A-TRAK: I think my interest in fashion started later than a lot of people. I was so obsessed with DJing from such a young age that that literally consumed a big part of my life. I started scratching and DJing when I was 13, and I really didn’t look at the outside world for almost 10 years after that. My older brother was always into fashion more than me. We would go shopping together, and there was a point in the mid-naughts when I got really interested in the sort of downtown scene and the street.
I would come visit New York, go to Union and shop. It was the era of the all-over prints, the all-over hoodies. I had a fitted cap to match any outfit. That’s probably when I developed a sense of style for the first serious time, and it kind of coincided with a time when I began paying more attention to how I marketed myself, because this was also the era of Myspace, which made everything more visual. After years and years really being all about the intricate techniques of scratching, I started thinking about presentation. I was taking in my environment more—sort of like emerging from the attic.
Shortly after that, I started to tour with Kanye and that made me even more aware of presentation and everything. I already embraced that downtown streetwear scene. [Kanye] kind of discovered that from me; if he would see someone with like a letterman jacket and an all over hoodie and, like, some Jordans, he would be like, "Oh that guy's got an A-Trak suit." As a DJ I've always liked the idea of having a recognizable uniform. For a long time it was the fedora and the leather jackets, and then it turned into other stuff. That’s been a big part of how I brand myself. I don’t really pretend to be an in-depth fashion aficionado, but I'm just interested as an observer in the same way that I could be interested in any of the other arts, the same way I could be interested in cinema or painting.
As far as the intersection between fashion and music, it’s hard to not be cliche, because obviously the two have intersected for the longest time. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, there was that caricatural style of runway dance music. I think a couple key people, labels, groups, —including VFiles—have done a really good job recently in terms of moving to the cusp of newer styles of music when it comes to pairings for fashion. The music at Hood By Air shows is amazing. Two years ago, Rick Owens had those Chicago footwork dancers. I thought that was really cool, that was crazy, and then Hedi Slimane always got those sort of surf-rock kinda bands and in any given year. There are bands that are pretty much known just from the fact that he got behind them.
This might sound silly, but it’s my job to even make sure that everything stays on track timing-wise. They've given me full trust, the whole VFiles team, to execute. And since we’re working on even more stuff together, our platforms are so complementary. There's a bunch of projects we'll be doing in the coming months together, and the first of those was VFiles Loud, a music contest that they asked me if I would be down to judge and if we could release the winning contestant on Fool's Gold, and it was great—the winner was Brockhampton.
Personally my favorite part of the first VFILES show I DJed last year was when it was finished they just said, Hey keep playing, and we kept mixing for like 15 minutes and people were getting up and dancing and that was completely raw and improvised. The thing that's cool with anything VFiles does: they just bring out all the cool kids. Everyone that's there has great taste and knows what's up. It's not your typical fashion show where you're playing for like some snooty aging editor kind of crowd. All the people I follow on Instagram are just sitting there.