For vast the majority of people, those who awkwardly stumbled across a stage to receive their graduation certificates this summer, the future is uncertain and the present is clouded with self-doubt. Gianni Harrell does not fall into this category.
Son of the music mogul responsible for blessing the world with Diddy and Mary J. Blige, Andre Harrell, it would be an understatement to say that success practically courses through Gianni’s veins. It’s genetics. After recently graduating from The American University of Paris – yes, he’s that slick – Gianni exudes confidence and has the world at his feet, but where will he first dip his toes?
After a lifetime of being surrounded by music, a new collaboration with ANZ – championing the knitwear label’s latest offering – marks Harrell’s first foray into the fashion industry. With both industries now beckoning – with and his innate knack for spotting new talent – we reckon he may just end up being a jack-of-all-trades. A quick catch up with the uber cool protégé only further fuels our suspicions…
How did it feel to be approached by ANZ? Have you always been a fan of the brand?
I’ve been friends with Ainy for about two years now. We met at a concert in New York and we just clicked. At that time I was living in Paris and she was living in London, so we knew we had to link up when we got back to Europe. There is no ANZ without Ainy. Ainy is so passionate about her designs and who she affiliates her brand with, so, as a friend of hers, it was natural for me to get involved. Ever since we met, I always knew ANZ was something special.
Cardigans and hip-hop culture seem like an unlikely combination, but ANZ manages to bridge that gap. What do you think attracts people such as yourself, Nas and Chris Brown to their designs?
There are several factors that make ANZ such an incredible brand. Everything from colour patterns, to the materials used, and overall design. The hip-hop community has defiantly gravitated towards ANZ. I think rappers such as Nas and Chris Brown enjoy Ainy’s designs not only because her pieces are fun, cosy, and stylish, but because ANZ’s success and popularity is really due to the direct correlation between the pieces she creates and her lifestyle. Ainy, as opposed to other designers, is able to encapsulate her lifestyle into wearable, beautiful garments. Hip-hop is all about being real: Ainy and ANZ are real. So obviously, the two mediums would be drawn to each other.
Which knitwear piece do you think you’ll be reaching for the most this winter and how will you style it?
I’m definitely looking forward to the joggers coming out. They look crazy fresh. I’ll probably rock them with some low top sneakers and a rare overcoat.
You’ve grown up surrounded by the music industry, how important do you think the relationship between fashion and music is?
Music and fashion have been influencing each other for as long as the two mediums have been around. Music artists associate with different fashion brands in order to create an image for themselves. Fashion brands have been tapping different music artists, searching for brand ambassadors whose sounds encompass the fashion label’s brand identity. That’s why recently we’ve been seeing a lot more partnerships between fashion labels and musicians. Musicians such as A$AP Rocky, Kanye West, Rae Sremmurd, and Kendrick Lamar have all inked deals with different labels. In general, I’m really excited to see what these different artists and fashion labels create, because it shows that there is a push within the mainstream culture to create more pieces for niche audiences.
How would you describe your own personal style?
Hmm. I hate the term hypebeast. I definitely have some pieces which would count as hypebeast-ish, but I refuse to call myself one. I love streetwear. It’s amazing how pioneers like Jerry Lorenzo and Ronnie Fieg have been able to take traditional streetwear brands and boost them to an almost luxury level. Recently, I’ve been into some of the more rare pieces that a couple high-end fashion labels have been putting out, like all of Demna Gvasalia’s work. Everything he’s put out from his private collection, Vetements, and now working with Balenciaga, has been incredible. Overall, I’d say my style is like Neo from The Matrix meeting streetwear in 2017.
You’re close to your father, Andre Harrell. What’s the best piece of advice he’s given you?
Yeah, my pops and I are super close. He’s a friend and a father. He’s given me so much wisdom over the years that it’s really hard to just pick one piece of advice. Throughout my life he’s always emphasised the importance of individualism, not following the trend, not always doing what your friend’s doing, and overall just being your own man. I’ve always been independent throughout my life. Initially on a social level, but now looking forward to this new stage in my life, I’m excited to transition some of these life lessons into my professional career.
Growing up, did you ever feel pressured to pursue a career in music due to your father’s background?
Absolutely. Sometimes I stop and think like, “wow, my life might be so simple if I just decided to become a rapper”. Thank god for my mom though. Growing up my parents were separated, so it was nice getting the best of both worlds. My mother is very spiritual and my dad lives a Hollywood lifestyle. Keeping in mind the combination of these two backgrounds, I’ve always had a passion for music but never wanted to pursue it for myself. Honestly, I felt like it would be too easy. I need something challenging out of life. When it comes to music, I have the same skills as my dad: I can see the best in an artist, I know what an artist is missing, who they’re trying to be, and how to best present the artist. Having two artistic parents, I knew I always wanted to be in a field that I was genuinely passionate about, whether it was fashion or music related. Luckily, I’ve been blessed to have an incredible circle of friends and family friends, whose talents vary in multiple industries, that help guide me on my professional journey.
And so who do you think are the new artists we should be watching out for? Is there anyone that you think could be the next Diddy or Mary J. Blige?
Well, Diddy and Mary J. Blige are in a class of their own. What they did for music and culture would be incredibly hard for anybody today to replicate. But in terms of who’s making historic strides at the same level they did, I would probably give it to my favourite artist, Kanye. His ability to clear a new landscape between music artists and corporate companies set the blueprints for anybody looking to collaborate with a multinational corporation. Also Rihanna. Rihanna is just really incredible. I say these two because they are two artists still in the prime of their professional careers making groundbreaking, life-changing content. The pieces of art these two produce will stick around for the next 10-20 years, just like Puff and Mary.