Two months into Justin Bieber's Purpose Tour, the reigning prince of pop sent out an important dispatch to his approximately 81 million devotees on Twitter. Following in the footsteps of Tyler, the Creator, Kanye West, and Drake, Justin Bieber would launch a two-day tour-related pop-up shop at VFILES in downtown New York. This being a combination of many of my favorite things -- Bieber, VFILES, merch -- it was hard for me not to feel pandered to by this event and even harder to pass up leaving the office in the middle of the day to experience it.
A collaboration between The Biebs himself, Fear of God creative director/founder Jerry Lorenzo, VFILES, and Bravado Merchandising, Bieber's Purpose Tour pop-up featured exclusive, super rare merchandise available only at VFILES. "It's definitely all of Justin's brainchild and his vibes," said Lorenzo of working with Bieber on the fleet of Purpose merch. "He gave me a bunch of different ideas for the direction, so I just tried my best -- with the help of the Bravado design team -- to make it all kind of make sense and say one thing."
That "one thing" was a visual cocktail of the brands that frequent Bieber's closet -- Fear of God being chief among those, of course -- skate aesthetic and late '90s metal and grunge. It mirrors the River Phoenix-channelling personal style Bieber has cultivated for his Purpose era with the help of stylist Karla Welch. Together, Welch and Lorenzo shaped the look of Bieber's Purpose wardrobe: '90s rock vibes that weave in real vintage merch from various other acts. "If he's in Seattle, he's gonna wear Nirvana; if he's back in Boston, he might wear Backstreet Boys or something. Kind of like a Jay Z Roc-A-Fella thing with the jerseys that they used to do in different cities," Lorenzo revealed of the initial idea behind the throwback Marilyn Mason and Wu Tang shirts that caused so much conversation when the tour launched. "That was the idea but then, you know, Justin, the day of the show, he gets up there and he kind of puts on what he feels."
Lorenzo explained further that the stage wardrobe was his primary responsibility, but that the merch was a nice complement. "We definitely wanted to integrate some of the logos -- the Purpose tour logo, the Bieber logo -- with stuff he's wearing on stage, the Fear of God custom stuff," he added. "That way, when fans come to the show, they can get a piece of that from the merch."
This kind of fluidity between wardrobe and merch isn't often seen -- even with Kanye's Yeezus tour, the Wes Lang designs that graced merch tables didn't find their way on stage in the way these Fear of God pieces wind up on Bieber's stage.
"I think it's just super important, especially now in this digital age, when people consume so much digital imagery and CDs are obsolete," Lorenzo explained. "Merch is kind of becoming that last physical thing that someone has to hold on to that reminds them of the tour experience and gives them a vibe and feel of the album."