Zayn Malik Is So Lit Right Now
August 11, 2016
When Zayn broke off from One Direction, he immediately started dating supermodels and making hit records of his own. Here he tells us what’s next on his rise to the top.
There is no electricity in the tiny sea shanty where Zayn Malik would like to have a conversation about Zayn Malik. No heat and no real floor. Just darkness—and the underfoot lick of London’s dead-black Thames.
And yet, near midnight, when our pirate hero (singer/musician/T-shirt maker) Zayn bursts through the rusty-hinged door, home from sea to his shanty (an unfurnished, pitch-dark toolshed his people thought would be maximally “chilled,” as Zayn suffers severe anxiety), he’s in a good mood.
“Romantic!” He sparks a joint to illuminate a stubbled boomerang jaw, plus a brown suede shearling jacket that swells him to the rough scope of a weedsidaisical Saint Bernard. He doesn’t seem too anxious, moving with the loose-hipped swagger of someone used to walking in fake wind. He looks, as he would say, sick.
“It’s about being happy to look a bit scruffy,” he says of his style, which comprises thousands of dollars of designer merchandise. “I just got into the whole rock sort of feel to clothes—big boots, skinny jeans, and dark T-shirt, and rings. Just the grungy feel.”
Grunge, to be clear, as opposed to the pip-squeak gleam of his boy-band start. If you don’t know Zayn, 23, as ex-One (of the) Direction(s), he is now a hugely famous solo act, a recipient of Gigi Hadid’s giddy PDA, and an ongoing case study in mononymous rebranding. And as Zayn, he’s a true style renegade. He’s worn robot arms (Versace). He’s worn a doorman duster (Valentino). He’s worn one Yeezy and one dress boot at the same time. His metaled-up ears, full sleeves, and daily-shifting hair are pure Beckhamian (“He’s sick,” says Zayn, flicking his lighter for emphasis), his own hair having been man-bunned, skunk-striped, and buzzed under some fake scalp tats.
Zayn now has two lines of his own. The first is his contribution to the Great Upscale Merch Revival—a 26-piece capsule linked to his album, Mind of Mine, with shirts featuring Urdu script for his Pakistani roots (like the word for mind, pronounced zehn) and graphic work by Iron Maiden’s guy. It’s Hood by Air crossbred with Supreme’s ’99 Arabic collection, says The Guardian, a review Zayn endorses. (Specifically, he says: “Sick!”)
His other, newer, and more ambitious fashion project is footwear. He loves biker boots so much he made a pair with Italian designer Giuseppe Zanotti, a similarly edgy dude he fell into natural partnership with at Paris Fashion Week last year. “Style is not being afraid to be bold about some things, or to say what it is you have to say,” Zayn says. “I feel like Giuseppe does that with his collection—and I try to do that with my music. So it kind of works.”
Meanwhile, if you want to know what’s next, as we did, you’ll get the kind of answer where the platitude machine-gun fire of an ex-boy-bandee merges with press ramble and weed haze into maybe-sort-of-possibly-deep profundity:
“I’m being very, like, blessed at the minute by God or whoever it is [lighter flick], fate or whatever, so um, there’s a lot of offers come our way at the minute with different things to do with fashion. And hopefully I get to get involved in all of them. I’d love to just continually have a presence, because I feel like it’s very heavily tied into music and the image and the fashion, and it’s all kind of one thing. So you kinda gotta be in there, I guess.”
Honestly, you do gotta be in there. And by our lights—even in the dark—he is.