This past Saturday, Wizkid – currently Africa’s hottest pop star by almost any measure – unveiled his new capsule collection with a takeover of Reign in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Better known as a destination for hard-to-find Y-3 gear, the New York City streetwear shop was remade, floor to ceiling, in Wizkid’s image for the pop-up, complete with a glass dome emblazoned with “Starboy” (the name of the new collection, as well as Wizkid’s music imprint and longtime nickname).
From this futuristic perch, the Starboy himself performed and posed for a veritable flash mob of devotees. “For me, when I dropped my last project, I just felt it was time to do something for my fans, so they could have almost like, a piece of me,” explained Wizkid, unwinding from the impromptu concert in the shop’s secluded backyard. “I sat down with my team, and we did a couple designs, we designed some shirts and some bandanas, and we just decided to put it up for the fans—something we intend to do like every three months, put out new collections.”
Photo: Courtesy of Reign
Afrobeats, a scene centered in Lagos, fuses the melodic sense of West African Highlife and Palm-wine music with a range of Black Atlantic sounds, including dancehall, Soca, and U.K. soul, to arrive at a truly Pan-African pop place. (In fact Wizkid and some other Nigerian artists describe the movement as “Afropop” and avoid the term “Afrobeats,” which was coined in the U.K. to describe the emerging sound). Lest those new to it underestimate the street value of a piece of Wizkid—the genre’s undisputed king—the shop was jam-packed with hundreds of die-hard fans feverishly snapping pics and exuding Beatlemania-levels of nervous energy at being so close to their idol (he generally performs at arena-size venues in New York and London).
They were also ready to scream the words to every song he performed, from his international crossover “Ojuelegba” (which inspired Drake and Skepta to jump on a remix) to more recent hits like “Soco.” Though the crowd strongly represented the West African diaspora, it was sprinkled with faces from all over the world, including shoppers from Europe and Asia, who also showed interest in getting their hands on the exclusive gear.
The collection, which includes a Starboy-branded tour jacket–style bomber and a Made in Lagos green and purple gradient tee, is admirably minimal, given the ubiquity of splashier West African prints and Black Panther knockoffs over the last year or two. Interpolating Wizkid’s brand with subtle references to classic rock memorabilia and pop culture (the Made in Lagos design, for instance, has a distinct Lost in Space feel that echoes the Star Trek–inspired font of the Starboy logo), resulting in pieces that pair as easily with a Bape hoodie as a Bad Brains tee. As he tells it, the star only had two criteria for his creative team when they brainstormed the look: “One: simple and two: fresh. It has to have a more universal appeal to it. Something you can be proud wearing—not just as a Starboy fan but proud being an African,” he said. “But I also want people around the world to be able to wear it. Even if you’re not from Lagos, it should be fashionable enough for you to just throw it on. I want people to look back and be like, Yo, I had that Wizkid T-shirt when it dropped.”
Photo: Courtesy of Reign
Made in Lagos is the title of his forthcoming album (currently slated to drop on October 1) and putting Lagos on the pop cultural map is very much Wizkid’s mission at the moment, even if it means coming all the way to the streetwear mecca of New York to do so. Still, the Afropop ambassador looks quite at home in downtown Manhattan, even if Ojuelegba (the Lagos neighborhood which was home to his first studio) is an ocean away. “New York style is very, very similar to Lagos style,” he said. “Because New York is a cosmopolitan city, you have so many different people from different parts of the world, just throwing on whatever they like, whatever they think looks good. Lagos style is the same; when you stand on the street, that is like a fashion show on its own.”
This stateside launch also hints at a larger American invasion in the works. Although he wasn’t ready to talk details, the singer did reveal he has “a little project I’ve been working on with a very big producer, here in America, something I’m very excited about.” Initially reluctant to pinpoint the project anywhere more specific than “America,” when pressed, Wizkid ended the interview on a single tantalizing word: “Atlanta.” For those who’ve witnessed the way Wizkid’s style has impacted global music and culture from Lagos to London, the possibility of a major confluence of trap and beats can only mean one thing: America, there’s a new Starboy in town.
This piece was written by VOGUE’s Contributor, EDWIN HOUGHTON.