Who Is Theophilus London?
Fashion editors, stylists, and photographers might recognize Theophilus London as that guy who popped up front-row at the men’s shows in Paris this summer. (“That was kind of funny, actually. I got the Kanye treatment at the Lanvin show in France because he couldn’t come at the last minute, so I stepped in as the black rapper kid,” London explains to Style.com.) In Cannes, too, the young, relatively unknown (at the time) hip-hop star made sure people were taking note of him. Last week, Jay-Z and Usher even stopped by his Central Park performance to check out London’s vocal chops for themselves. (“Solange was at dinner with Beyoncé and Jay the night before, I guess, and he said he was going to go check out her friend Theophilus’ show—kind of cool.”) Even when he’s not on stage, breaking into one of his songs from his first solo album (released last month), Timez Are Weird These Days, the lanky Trinidad native has a commanding presence.
London’s explosive self-confidence is partly startling and off-putting, but it’s working. As he quickly picks up steam and his fan base multiplies, he has brands and designers knocking on his door to partner up with him. He has proclaimed he doesn’t like fashion, and yet he appears in photoshoots wearing Lanvin and he personally customizes the buttons of his suits. Here, Style.com discovers who Theophilus London really is.
You started rapping and performing at a pretty young age. What inspired you to do that?
Yeah, when I was about 12 or 13 I did my first lyrics. Two of my cousins were hanging out rapping and making words sound cool—lots of swagger. I did like two lines and then stopped and they were like, “No, you should keep going.” After that, I would bang beats against tables and chairs at school and I just never stopped.
Who do you count as personal music icons?
Definitely Prince, James Brown, Biggie Smalls—the list could go on forever, seriously. Kanye West for sure. Me and Kanye e-mail very often about fashion. We just acknowledge what’s next, what’s new, you know? And Mark Ronson—I’m going to his wedding next month.
You have been quoted in an interview saying you aren’t really into fashion, but I don’t believe that. Do you honestly not like fashion, at all?
I have tons of taste and I just got an eye for shit. I will walk into a store and come out with the best five shirts there. In high school, I always dressed to impress the girls. Brooklyn, where I grew up, is a competitive burg—there’s always a pretty boy around the corner there and you gotta look better than him. I love to shop; I’m just not like a fashion guru, though. I didn’t grow up drawing runway models and deciding what they should wear. Also, I couldn’t dress someone else up. Wait, actually, this year I just started [dressing] the band.
What is the stage style look you are going for? Dapper seems to be your typical look, but you seemed like you had something new going on the other week at the Opening Ceremony block party…
I never go for one look, kind of like my music. My outfits change and what I thought was cool one week might not be the next. I thought I had on dapper the other day though.[Laughs.] When I take photos, I would rather shoot in something that’s iconic, like Lanvin or Tommy Hilfiger. In shoots, you want to step outside your comfort zone. I can pull off anything; I have the height and the attitude. The only thing I can’t wear is a leotard, but I can wear anything else.
You customize a lot of clothes. How so, exactly?
Yeah, I do it like 80 percent of the time. Before my jeans come in, commercial or high end, I take them to my tailor for the Theophilus London fit. When I’m in Paris, I pick up different style buttons, or royal patches and zippers. I customize my jackets and put new buttons on them, sew a patch, and dye the fabric. I just started LVRS, my line, which includes hats, blazers, and stuff. It’s unisex, which is pretty tight. It’s cool, man, it comes out this fall. I have worn it on Jimmy Kimmel.
You also have a shoe coming out with Cole Haan soon. How closely involved with that are you?
Actually, I have been on the phone with them like nine times today. The shoe has three different blues—it’s a perfect shoe to wear while you make out with someone in a library. But I am going to make a couple shoes at the end of the month with someone else—I can’t share details though.
Designer Carlos Campos has also used you in his upcoming campaign. What particularly interested you about working with him?
He’s tight and has a good vision; it’s about color, fit, and feel. Seriously, repping brands is tight, man. I actually have a full-on picture book coming out at the end of the month with Bushmill. It’s a lifestyle photo book of all my travels, featuring all of the cute people in my life. I would love to collaborate with Givenchy, and Lanvin has been showing a lot of love lately.
What should we expect to see next from you in the coming months?
I have a new mix tape in the works that should be really fun. It’s dedicated to all the sexy women behind the scenes, not models. It’s for journalists sitting at their desks and the women behind the camera. Also, touring for the next three months, heading to Australia with Big Boi and Friendly Fires. It’s crazy, I just released my first official album and all of this is happening.