Sicko Mode: The Destructive Force Of Travis Scott

The Washington Post called him “the maestro directing the chaos”. After this year’s Astroworld mahem, Travis Scott will forever be linked to the death of some of his rabid fans. Who would remember his connection to the world of fashion? Do we want to?

Warning: this post contains language and descriptions some readers might find offensive

Nike has made the first move, but Dior has largely kept mum. In the wake of the Astroworld tragedy, it is doubtful that Travis Scott’s very name can still move merchandise, massively. But his fashion collaborators seem to prefer to wait and see. Nike held on for more than a week before announcing that their collaboration with Mr Scott’s Cactus Jack brand on the Air Max 1 will be postponed “out of respect for everyone impacted by the tragic events at the Astroworld Festival”, according to a corporate statement issued on its SKRS app a few days ago. Delaying the launch is not canning it. At the moment, it is known that Nike has some ten styles in the works with Mr Scott. That is a staggering amount to do with a single fellow, without counting those already released and sold out, a sell-through situation no brand can resist. How long more does the owner of Air Max intend to wait is not known.

Also in with Nike’s now-troubled partnership is Japan’s Fragment Design. As we have noted before, collaborations these days can consist of three brands (or more), not just two. To triple the allure of the initial pairing, Fragment Design joined Nike and Travis Scott three months ago to reimagine not only the Air Jordan 1, but also to put out a three-piece apparel collection (that was, as expected, sold out), which Nike described as one “that satisfies the ‘rule of three’”. Hiroshi Fujiwara of Fragment Design has not issued a statement with regards to his past pairing with Mr Scott or future partnerships. His association with the rapper now under investigation, it seems, would not be severely affected as Fragment Design is still associated with credible, fashion-forward brands such as Sacai.

But perhaps the label that has to really deal with the increasing ignominy of the rapper is Dior. Hitherto, the LVMH super brand has not uttered a word about what has happened, nor the pal of Mr Scott, Kim Jones. It is known that Mr Jones had conceived the spring/summer 2021 collection almost entirely to benefit from Travis Scotts’s fame, more as a consumer rather than designer of fashion. In fact, the collab was dubbed Cactus Jack Dior, after the rapper’s own Cactus Jack Foundation. The first drop will likely appear next month, but would it have any pull? There is no doubt that, there would be those shoppers who will still bite not matter how contentious the sale of such a collaboration would be. The question is, how would Dior play down the fact they paired with a performer whose concert reportedly resulted in the death of nine people and who apparently went on singing even when attendees were screaming for the show to be stopped? Or is it too late in the progression of the production of the line to stop now? According to a WWD report two days ago, Dior is merely “evaluating the situation”.

It is often said that Travis Scott’s style “is as popular as his music”, admired globally, but no one can say with certainty that his talent in design is tantamount to that of his music

Dior’s predicament, if it sees itself in one, does open the postern into the persistent creative pair-ups between luxury brands and mega-successful stars that frequently ditch true design for brazen hype. It is often said that Travis Scott’s style “is as popular as his music”, admired globally, but no one can say with certainty that his talent in design is tantamount to that of his music. Or, that he understands what it takes to put a piece of clothing—any—together. The ability to dress himself in some semblance of what is deemed fashion overrides practical ability or manual dexterity. Popularity alone is often enough for brands to want to be associated him, from Bape to Saint Laurent. The merchandise, one Gen-Z fan described on Quora, “goes higher and higher in value just like brands like Supreme. Our generation loves that. We love status symbols.” That Travis Scott is a “status symbol by which the social standing of the possessor of his goods could be derived/assessed is not unusual—even if staggering—when consumers are eager to surrender to the power and prevarication of social media influence.

Mr Scott’s status in fashion is so lofty that collaborator Nike would even allow him to tamper with the Swoosh, a trademark so entrenched in popular consciousness that it would normally be considered sacrilegious to meddle with. In the Air Jordan 1 and the Air Max 1, to name just two, the Swoosh is placed as a mirror image on the sides of the shoes—the longer, narrower end does not emerge from the heel notch, close to the collar. While no Tinker Hatfield, he was able to have leeway to do as he pleases. It did not occur to Nike that it could perhaps be more convincing if he were to create a totally new silhouette, like mentor Kanye West has with the Yeezys. Could that be indication that Travis Scott has scant design flair?

Most alluring for both fans and some members of the media is his personal style. Last year, Esquire called him “a tastemaker par excellence second to none”. The taste, CR Fashion Book wrote, “typically features vintage t-shirts, denim, baseball cap, relaxed joggers, oversized jackets with bold brands like the Louis Vuitton LV logo or bright colors like pink and Nike sneakers”. Esquire also stated that Mr Scott “tends to stick to a few variations on the same theme when it comes to getting dressed, at least casually”. How all that is sufficient to allow him to be a trendsetter or dip his hands in the process of design is not clear. As the Rolling Stones correctly noted, “for close to a decade, Travis Scott has carefully positioned himself squarely at the center of hype”. He barely traipses into the unconventional, let alone groundbreaking. For sure, no dresses/skirts of A$AP Rocky or Andre 3000 for him. At the 2019 “Camp” Met Gala, he skipped the theme entirely, appearing in a brown Dior top and pants, with what appeared to be military webbing. Camp? Perhaps to those going from Ah Boys to Men.

From left to right: Cactus Jack Dior spring/summer 2022, Nike X Travis Scott X Fragment T-shirt, and Nike X Travis Scott Air Max 270 ‘Cactus Trails’. Photos: Respective brands

Although Mr Scott is known to encourage reckless behaviours during his performances and has, in fact, faced two charges before the Dior show in June for “disorderly conduct”, the French house did not see that their star collaborator’s brush with the law would be problematic or a blemish to their impeccable couture suits. In 2015, Mr Scott had allegedly urged his unthinking fans to climb over barricades at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, leading the repetitive shout, “we want rage”. According to media reports, the scene was so tumultuous that the police had to detain the rapper after just five minutes into his performance, but he fled. He eventually pleaded guilty to the charges. In 2017, during a concert in Arkansas, he again encouraged “rage”—so rapidly it escalated that the police accused him of “inciting a riot”. Just weeks after that, one of his concerts in Manhattan was said to be so riotous that a fan fell off a balcony and was left paralyzed after suffering a fractured vertebrae. Mr Scott was often quoted saying in past performances, “it’s not a show until someone passes out”. Does that apply to the fashion he peddles? Is raging and the resultant injuries, if not death, compatible with the culture of clothes?

Despite his disturbing track record, no one anticipated the tragedy of Astroworld. Earlier that fateful day, before the 500,000 concert goers stormed the NRG Park, Mr Scott released a single ironically called Escape Plan in which he rapped, “but wait, it opened gates and this shit just start paradin’, olé (Let’s go)”. While we are not certain what “it” refers to, the rest of the sentence seems to preempt the disaster that struck Astroworld. As much as this is considered a hackneyed view, rap music does seem to laud destructive behaviour. Mr Scott’s own lyrics don’t negate violence and such. In the 2018 release Sicko Mode, Drake used the expression to introduce his friend in the song: “Young La Flame, he in sicko mode”. The phrase, it is believed, refers to the rager mentality that Mr Scott encourages (his fans are known as “sickos”), with clear consequence now. But more than that, death was suggested too: “And they chokin’, man, know the crackers wish it was a noose”.

Born Jacques Bermon Webster II, Travis (also TRavi$) Scott and his rap contemporaries make and break in equal measure. However, some, such as Mr Scott, just more destructively than others. Stars are cancelled for saying and doing stupid things, but he, for whom inciting his fans to “free the rage” characterise him as a performer, is often lauded. In fact, after the Arkansas drama in 2017, he dropped a T-shirt on his website with those three words printed on the back. Unsurprisingly, they sold out. Now ensconced in his Houston “retreat”, Mr Scott seems to be waiting for the rage of the community to abate. How did he, a college dropout, become this powerful? Not that much, in fact, is known about him other than the rebelliousness with a rock-star stance that seems to have served him in good stead. Uncontrollable is a credo, a virtue, a merit. But, if social media is to be believed, many are now ready to denounce the unstoppable rager-rapper. Is Dior, then, brave enough to douse La Flame? And rip out Cactus Jack?

Illustration and collage: Just So

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