“It’s like Warp speed now and BOOM! It’s pretty exciting.” That’s how Will.i.am describes taking his i.am+ iPhone accessory from conception to the shop floor in just seven months. We’re sitting in a recording studio in London talking about his love of gadgets and fashion, which by the way, hasn’t gone unnoticed amongst his music pals. DJ David Guetta describes him as “a bit of a crazy scientist who has difficulty with only doing one thing at a time.” So true. Right now, his long list of side projects include appearing as a judge on Britain’s version of “The Voice”; an album with Guetta; and a ‘Tech Factor”-style television show that he plans to release in late 2013.
What were you trying to achieve with the i.am+ project?
Let’s take a tourist with their camera and their sense of odyssey, documentation and pleasure and turn this into a cool, wearable camera. It’s an iPhone case that actually serves a functional purpose – it’s phone, function and fashionology. Personalization, customization and rare oddities are the season right now. You can have anything right now but what about limitation and exclusivity? You don’t want to go all the way Steampunk because Steampunk is like super super super dooper rare. What I mean is, the design has to pay tribute to limitation and functionality.
A lot of celebrities branch out into design and fashion, why do you think it’s becoming so commonplace?
You want my honest opinion? Their manager told them that they could make some money here.
I don’t want to put people under a bus.
What do you think of Kanye West’s line?
Kanye, I see his passion and I understand his passion. He’s going to figure it out.
Is that your way of saying his clothing line still needs some work?
No, Kanye’s game is that he wants to design. He’s saying, “I want you guys to see my stuff.” That’s dope, right? He’s not playing the usual [celebrity] game – he’s passionate.
Would you buy any of his designs?
Yeah, because I like going for treasures. I want people to say, “Where did you get that?” “Oh this right here? This is one of Kanye’s pieces.” I got it. They’re conversation pieces.
Speaking of conversation pieces, you collaborated on a collection with the Japanese label Rynshu. How did that come about?
I was that guy who said, “Where did you get that? Rynshu? What the hell’s Rynshu? Can you text it to me?”
What kind of guy wears Rynshu?
Tech-savvy, fashion-forward people. Invisible tastemakers.
Sounds like you. You’ve had a few different looks over the years. How do you know when it’s time to change it up?
When you see this silhouette [points to himself] out multiple times on people that you probably wouldn’t want to hang out with. That’s why I hit up Rynshu, Loveless, Verbal and Yoon in Japan. I go to all the little cool spots that are rare enough, so I don’t look like everybody else. I need to have some oddities, dude!
How would you describe your look at the moment?
Short in the back, long in the front, draping on top and skinny on the bottom, with big shoes.
—Richard Peckett, Metro World News