Glass speaks exclusively with Swizz Beatz to discuss his collaboration with Bally

BALLY, the second oldest luxury brand in the world, are embracing the fun element of fashion within contemporary culture by collaborating with Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist and producer Swizz Beatz. Bronx-born Beatz, husband to the soulful Alicia Keys, has worked within many aspects of the creative industries in recent years and now turns his talents to updating a few selected Bally pieces, injecting colour and energy to their classic silhouettes.

The collaboration, which came about when CEO Frédéric de Narp spotted Swizz’s enthusiasm for the brand via Instagram, features designs by Spanish artist Ricardo Cavolo that breathes fresh life into the brand. When Swizz Beatz flew over to London this week to celebrate the release of the new pieces, Glass met with him to talk Bally, his artistic inspirations and how his ethos translates throughout his work.

Swizz_Beatz_X_Bally_Launch_022Swizz Beatz (right) at Bally New Bond Street Store in London with guest

Congratulations on your collaboration with Bally, as a hip-hop artist you have previously stated “Bally represents the music culture very early”. Could you further explain how the fashion brand connects with such music.
Thanks man, I am excited to be here in London. Sure … my first early memories of music were with Slick Rick and Doug E Fresh and the song was saying “put your Bally’s on” and  these artists even had album covers with their Bally’s on … and to be in 2017 and have Doug E Fresh and Slick Rick do our announcement party with Bally was everything to me.

The thing that I love about that was that they didn’t forget about the culture, even though that was so many years ago, you know back in the ‘80s. To be in 2017 and for the CEO, Frédéric to say “Swizz let’s go, whatever you want to do with Bally let’s do it”. For me to pay that homage back through the brand was an experience and it’s very rare that you see a brand willing to be 100 per cent authentic like that nowadays.

You have taken a fun, youthful approach to updating some classic pieces, do you hope to appeal to a younger target audience?
Yeah! I think Bally has a mature audience already so my thing was,  let me scoot the demographic down a little bit, have some fun. I thought lets go to Bally, change up the windows, the shoes, the clothing,  let people know that this collaboration which is Bally x Swizz, is fun, even the name of it is fun as I’m Swizz and Bally is from from Switzerland, right? So it’s a natural fit. One thing I aimed to do is to bring new energy to compete with all the other brands that are having fun as well.

Bally x Swizz (7)_Online HighResBally x Swizz Collaboration

Speaking of a younger audience, you’ve taken art and replicated it for consumption. Do you hope making art so accessible will help to fuel the young creatives of the future?
Definitely, I mean just think of how this collaboration come about with the artist. I had my platform ‘No Commission’ which gives the artists 100 per cent of what they sell. So Ricardo Cavolo comes from working on Kaytranada album cover to me calling Kaytranada  saying “who’s this artist, put him in no commission as I think it’ll be great exposure for him”.

Ricardo’s work goes into no commission, does well, he lands the Bally gig with me, now he’s in 300 stores around the world and millions of people know his name now, right? This is a guy that could’ve just been doing album covers so I think by the artist, for the artist with the people is how it should be. The fact that I’ve seen this artist grow is the one thing I love because it ties everything into the gift bag and his creative ideas can be seen everywhere now.

Ricardo Cavolo has created street art around the world. Do you think growing up around graffiti in the Bronx has meant you appreciate art like this more so?
Art period. You know, not even a particular style or name but just growing up in the south Bronx around different variations of art just made me appreciate art in all its forms. This is is why you might see me designing a car, a watch, making fashion, creating music. Art is all of those things; those things that I grew up around, it was all art. You can give all these different things titles but even this interview is art … it’s just different peoples expressions.

Bally x Swizz (Gavino sneaker and shoe box)_OriginalBally x Swizz Gavino Trainers

For this collection with Bally you focused on an idea of freedom. With Alicia rocking the all-natural look and your views on feeling free, do you think such open-mindedness translate into your parenting styles?
Of course. I mean for instance one of our sons is having a birthday, he’s turning seven. He wanted one gift from us and the other gifts he might get from other people he said he didn’t want them and with the money he decided to start a fund to help Pandas instead. He’s only turning seven and he’s already donating to charities and saying, listen, I only want this one gift from you guys and the rest of it I want to donate to the Pandas which makes me proud of him.

 This collaboration completely contrasts with your Reebok design. Is this due to changes in fashion, personal changes or simply due to the difference within the brands.
I would say just differences in brand. One is an athletic brand and one is a luxury brand so I’ve been able to do more things with fabrics now and Bally is the second oldest luxury fashion brand in the world so I  have access to all of its archives. Hundreds of years of experience within the DNA of this brand that I can pull from is what has really made the difference in my designs.

 I am aware of your appreciation of Jean-Michel Basquiat whose work is currently being exhibited here in London right now at the Barbican. How has his artwork influenced your journey within the art, music and fashion industry?
With Basquiat I think more of him than his art. I think of a guy whose father was pretty successful, so I think Basquiat could have had it the easy way and done everything by the books. However,  he said he didn’t want to do that, he wanted to go against the grain, ran away from home, slept in the parks in Brooklyn and kind of figured out his way and put his life on the line for it. Of course, eventually, it all caught up to him. But he really risked his life for his creativity which is what a real artist to me. Everything else after that is a plus, like his works, I love a lot of his pieces and I even have a couple of them.

 Finally, what is your favourite piece from the collection and why?
I love all of the pieces, but I’ll have to go with the Hercules shoes because I love the message that they have at the front, “by the artist, for the artist, with the people”. Even when you are walking around, looking down you can still be reminded of what my collaboration is all about.

Swizz_Beatz_X_Bally_Launch_041Bally x Swizz Hercules Trainers

by Joseph Furness

Bally x Swizz exclusive collaboration is available now in-store and online