Topman recently launched Private Views, a new series of films celebrating their Private Labels collections – Premium, LUX, AAA, and LTD – with each film exploring originality through the voices of four creatives. The Topman AAA film features stylist Matthew Josephs talking about his love for street style whilst modelling items from the experimental and rebellious Topman AAA collection. We caught up with Matthew following the Topman AAA film shoot to take us on a personal tour of his top iconic music videos – those which changed style and are a part of fashion history.
Matthew is on set when I call him at lunchtime on Halloween. He's been working on an immersive theatrical project called Rooms with FKA Twigs. Like pretty much everything Twigs has done, it sounds wild.
"She's got 12 set designers to make these amazing rooms, each one with a different performance in it." He doesn't elaborate too much on the concept, neglecting to mention that each room is tethered to a different zodiac sign, or that it involves a total of 30 paint-slathered, scantily-clad performers playing power games, or that Twigs leads the narrative by playing the widow of a champagne mogul. "It's been a lot of work," he adds. His voice tells you he's not lying.
Josephs is perhaps best known for his work with musicians. Alongside best friend, artist and photographer Matthew Stone, it was he who introduced Twigs to the world at large in a premonitory shot for i-D, using Tahliah Barnett's kiss curls to spell "LOVE" on her forehead.
Also responsible for arresting work with the likes of A$AP Rocky, we decided to ask Matthew to make us a playlist of his favourite music videos, ones that he feels have changed his view of fashion and helped shape the sartorial world. When he'd done that, we asked him to walk us through his collection of sophisticated R&B and surreal hip-hop: songs that are varied but aspirational, whether that's Biggie aspiring to be rich enough to chuck bucket loads of cash around on a yacht or Kriss Kross aspiring to create a strange little back-to-front jean-universe for themselves. As with Matthew's styling and the US street scene-influenced AAA collection he wore for Topman, there's a sense that these vids are reaching for something beyond the banal and quotidien, without leaving the real world behind entirely.
Noisey: Alright, so the first video you wanted to talk about was Creep by TLC.
Matthew Josephs: Yeah – aren't they one of the biggest girl bands ever? Up there with Spice Girls and the Supremes? In this video, they're all wearing silk pyjamas – which for me is an aspirational thing, because it's kind of like a suit but it's relaxed.
They're business because they're a suit; but they're casual because they're pyjamas.
Exactly. All the videos I've chosen are of a similar genre – hip-hop, R&B – and while I love pop music, to me, as someone who is non-white, seeing performers, musicians, who are non-white, looking cool… you know when you see a reflection of yourself in them, somehow? I wouldn't be able to look at an indie band that look cool and do that. But I can with these kind of people. I myself wear silk pyjamas as a "look" – they're so cool, it's aspirational but it's still really achievable.
Yeah, I can't think of anything more relaxed than silk pyjamas.
Most of your choices have at least one foot in reality, but this definitely does not. Why did you choose it?
Oh my god, it's so good. The supermodel Iman is in it, and Eddie Murphy, and it has a narrative. Beyonce wore something similar to that look – that gold, Egyptian-inspired look – he's wearing recently. Michael Jackson anywhere is just amazing – him and Prince are the two most stylish men ever. I just love the baroqueness, the over-the-top nature of the outfit.
What is it you Michael Jackson and Prince's aesthetics?
It's over-the-top, it's flashy, it's colourful… two supposedly heterosexual – I don't know – black – again, debatable – men wearing these clothes. It's quite groundbreaking and forward, especially for the time, and especially for Prince, being a black man in a purple suit and high heels. It's amazing.
I guess it was different to a lot of the macho, thuggy images of black men doing the rounds at the time this was made.
Yeah, but Jackson and Prince are still attractive to women. It is hyper-feminine but it's hyper-masculine at the same time – really sexual. when Michael Jackson wears those things between his jeans, like a codpiece...You don't really see anything that looks like that any more. I don't think there are any well-dressed celebrities at the moment.
Alright – Jump by Kriss Kross.
I really love American sportswear from this era – the late 80s, early 90s. I can see myself within them, and I think they look cool. Wearing your jeans back to front is a pretty major look. I don't know if it could catch on today, but maybe it's something that does need to come back.
Did it ever catch on though, really? Or was it just a strange little back-to-front jean-universe that Kriss Kross carved out for themselves?
I think it might have just been their own thing. I did actually see an editorial, when I first started getting into fashion when I was interning at i-D, by the stylist John Colver, and that was inspired by this video and all the models were wearing back-to-front jeans.
Why this one?
Because every girl wants to look like her. She's on everyone's moodboard, but no one's ever gonna look like her again. It could have been any one of her videos, every time she looks amazing. How many years later are we now from her death? And still everyone just wants to look like her.
Do you think Twigs is someone whose look will reverberate through the decades in a similar way?
Oh yeah, definitely – have you seen how many girls there are on Instagram dressing up as Twigs? She's the only one who's capable of pushing things forward like that. You get a lot of people now who look good – Rihanna, for example – but they don't have their own signature look. Aaliyah did. Even Kim Kardashian – pencil skirt, boob tube – does, but I don't think Rihanna has that. Twigs definitely has it.
Even going back to that Michael Jackson video, it feels like there's quite a lot of parallels between Twigs and Iman in that.
How about Missy Elliott?
It's just so good. Someone really pushing it with their visuals. I feel that's lacking right now. But it's just iconic, even though I hate using that word because it's so overused. But Missy Elliott, in that video, with that bin bag – that's iconic.
I guess what links a lot of the people in this list is that they're doing something that should seem ridiculous, but you can't take the piss out of it.
Yeah, yeah. It's that whole fantasy-reality thing – she's wearing this bin bag and these crazy diamante sunglasses, but at the same time she's got that "Auntie at church hair", with the waves – it's surreal but it's so normal.
She's kind of like a chimera that you might see in your dreams of loads of different Freudian fantasy figures all merging into one.
Then Biggie, obviously.
Again, this is another that seems to re-appropriate high fashion. The video is him and Puffy in a speedboat in silk Versace shirts. It's like Miami Vice except it's Biggie, this massive black guy. It just looks flash and in your face and I love that: showing wealth through your outfit. Fashion right now is… I don't even know what fashion now is. I think it's at a really dull point. There are people glamourising realism and that's fine, it's just not for me. You get people, too, who are being ironic and piss-takey when they wear, I don't know, Juicy Couture tracksuits. But I like that stuff! I feel like fashion at the moment is quite cynical and snobby.
So it's a more satirical, parodic thing rather than really coming from a genuine place?
Yeah – like an in-joke. And in-jokes aren't for everyone. It's real but it's elitist at the same time. I find it really confusing.
I guess there's nothing really that snide or cynical about Biggie wearing a silk shirt and throwing money off a yacht.
No. He just wants to look good and show his wealth. At that point, it wasn't really stereotypical or expected for people like Biggie to hang out on yachts, throwing money at people. I think it's trashy, showing your wealth, but I don't see anything wrong with it. I'd much rather wear a big gold medallion and a silk-printed Versace shirt than a sportswear sweater with a few extra seams in it.
Why So Solid Crew?
I like this one because it's clearly American-influenced, in terms of styling, but it's done in such a London way. For me, the all-black, all-leather look is so much like the Black Panther thing, but done in a British, London way – when Lisa Mafia comes out and she's got that leather dress on, it's so similar to this Lanvin dress that everyone shot two seasons ago. They all look, sharp, cool – and aren't they all from council estates? They're all showing their success and wealth through their clothes. And I really like that.
What about Kaish's contact lenses?
I mean, I like the contact lenses, but I don't really know what thought went into that. But he looks cool.
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