Kevin Abstract Talks New Album and Life After Brockhampton at the Prada Show
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An hour before the Prada men’s Fall-Winter 2023 show, Ian Simpson—better known as Kevin Abstract—is sitting in his hotel suite, contemplating his future. “I’m trying to figure out my life,” he says, leaning back into the couch. “My band broke up, and I don’t know what I’m doing.” Ian is referring, of course, to Brockhampton, the hip-hop collective he fronted until November, when the crew released their final album and went separate ways. One can understand why he would now find himself in a state of unusual uncertainty. Brockhampton, which he organized in 2010 across an online music forum from his hometown of Corpus Christie, Texas, was conceived as a boy band for a generation of misfits searching out a form for their excessive creativity. Through the band, he found himself as Kevin Abstract; now, he has to figure out who Ian Simpson is.
What better waypoint on a self-discovery tour than a Prada show? “When Prada called, I was so happy,” Simpson says. Lately, he’s been seeking out scenarios that can tear him out of his LA malaise. “I want to be around things that feel inventive and have inspired me or had some sort of impact on me, no matter what the medium is. I think it adds to the journey of it all. The journey of me accepting that I’m lost, and leaning into being lost,” he says.
Simpson has been “obsessed” with Prada since last year. “I was in Italy in the summer, and every guy I thought was hot was always Prada-ed out, and I was like—I probably should go buy some Prada.” Today, he’s wearing a dark navy cable-knit sweater, and faded jeans that taper cleanly over a pair of pointy, shit-kicking western boots. The doors to the balcony are wide open, and it’s freezing. Simpson keeps his living spaces as cold as possible, so he can swaddle himself in blankets. For now, a long leather trench coat will have to do—from the slim, hide-heavy Spring-Summer 2023 Prada collection, like the rest of the fit.
Simpson is the first to admit that he’s not as avid a fashion follower as some of his friends, like Tyler the Creator. “I love fashion, but I don’t really care [about it]. I keep up with specific shows that get talked about, but I’m not tapped in like that,” he says. With one exception. Once Simpson started buying the brand, his Brockhampton homies fully inducted him into the cult of the triangle badge: how Miuccia Prada built the family business into a defining force of style, and how co-creative director Raf Simons is now contributing his ultramodern attitude. “I love the story of Miuccia [Prada], and I love Raf Simons. The idea of Miuccia and what she’s built is mad inspiring to me, so I relate to that. And how inventive Raf is, I relate to that too,” Simpson says.
He’s not going to the show, in other words, just to figure out next season’s personal order (though he does dig his fit, which he picked out at the Beverly Hills store). “I was down with the silhouette of the jeans, the boots remind me of Prince, and the sweater was chill enough where I could blend in and chill out. I’m not tryna be extra anywhere,” he says. Simpson’s existential yearning requires a slightly deeper level of engagement—he sees the show as a potential opportunity to receive a message at a time when he’s keenly listening. He’s hoping to see Mrs. Prada and Simons backstage after the show. He’s more interested in opening himself up to, perhaps, his hosts’ thoughts on art and beauty and design, and less interested in making small talk. “I just want to be a sponge,” Simpson says.
Simpson may be searching, but he’s also staying busy. He says he’s working on his long awaited fourth solo record: “I want to put an album out this summer.” A tour—the lifestyle of which he dearly misses—will follow. But he’s also looking at new pursuits. Film and TV are at the top of his list. “I’m here with my buddies who make things and write scripts,” he says. His buddies, youthful New Yorkers named Pilot and Cole, are lounging on the bed. The idea is to shoot a feature film this summer. A TV show is also in the works, which would feature Simpson in the starring role. So far, their output includes a Brockhampton Christmas special, a goofily endearing short featuring cameos from the likes of Hunter Schafer and Mac DeMarco. The way Simpson describes it, the film activated him creatively unlike any of his recent music. “I’ve always wanted to do film and TV,” he says. “There’s something about [Pilot and Cole], they’re like: If you’re feeling it, why don’t you just do it? And [the Christmas special] really inspired me to go for things in life, again. I haven’t had that feeling in like five years.” It reminded him of the naive, boundless energy that launched Brockhampton into the cultural stratosphere.
Showtime. Around the Fondazione Prada, a thousands-deep crowd waits for the arrival of celebrities, mainly the K-pop group Enhyphen. Brockhampton had its fair share of superfans, but Simpson is clearly perturbed by the scene as he stares out the window at the mob of screaming Italian teenagers. “I don’t get line culture in fashion,” he says. “You’re just waiting to see people get out of a car?” As Yeat blares over the sedan stereo, he laughs. “They heard Kevin-Pop was pulling up.” The low key fit works, and he slides inside to his seat next to his boy band contemporaries without causing too much commotion.
The collection, titled “Let’s Talk About Clothes,” almost seemed designed to hit Simpson with the force of a lightning strike. Menswear archetypes, reduced to their fundamental parts—a trim suit over a floating collar peeking out of a knit cardigan—were an articulation of clarity in an era of social and sartorial turbulence. Yet there was a sense of coziness to the collection: those cutaway cardigans caressed the collarbone, and exaggerated puffy bomber jackets cocooned the body like so many blankets in a freezing house. Pops of color on a series of green trousers, and a particularly lovely boxy aqua blazer, surely got Simpson plotting out tour fits, and a closing section of suede apron-dresses—well, those were just cool. After the show, Simpson has a slightly dazzled look on his face. “The silhouettes felt new. But it was so consistent,” he says, dodging the Enhyphen retinue on his way backstage. Before he enters the scrum, Simpson declares that this stop on his journey has been a success: the show, he says, was “beyond inspiring.” He sounds hopeful. As if he knows exactly what he’s doing.
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