Kerwin Frost arrives at the GQ offices in what can only be described as regal fashion. He’s got a procession with him, to start: His wife and manager, Erin, and their rosy-cheeked six-month-old daughter, Waffle, made the trip with him. But he’s also wearing a cape, and a top hat—and, atop the top hat, a golden crown that must weigh 20 pounds, which requires Frost to walk with a placid, upright bearing. Like I said: regal.
He’s wearing the crown as a sort of celebration. Today, Frost is announcing a long-term partnership with Adidas that will see the multihyphenate 24-year-old designing clothing, sneakers, and ad campaigns for the brand. And a closer look shows that brand’s familiar trefoil logo etched into Frost's headpiece. “This was a store display for Missy Elliott's Adidas collaboration back in 2004,” he explains. “I found it on eBay. I paid more than I wanted to for it.”
Elliott’s collection was particularly resonant: She was “a woman of color who was categorized as, like, overweight or not the ideal weight people wanted her to be,” he says. “She made all these crazy shoes and these high-tops that went to her knees and leather jackets. It was crazy. That was, like, for the people. It super spoke to me. I’m 100 percent trying to carry that energy.”
Adidas, more than its sportswear-competitor peers, partners with creative types: your Kanyes and Pharrells, your Pusha Ts and your Missy Elliotts. But even for Adidas, Frost is something of an unconventional pick. There’s the trick of describing him, for one. “I always have a tough time explaining what my position is, because I do so many things, and I never know exactly how to word it,” he says. “Because I wouldn't say I was a designer or I was a journalist, even though I do those things.”
Frost grew up in Harlem, and emerged from the loose constellation of cool kids who were bumming around SoHo not quite a decade ago. He partnered with a few of them to become the Spaghetti Boys, a DJ-slash-merch-slash-whatever collective, and seemed to catch famous pals and Instagram followers in seemingly equal measure. He started making YouTube videos, eventually landing on Kerwin Frost Talks: a joyfully shaggy set of interviews with the likes of A$AP Rocky, Post Malone, and his pal Luka Sabbat.
The way Frost tells it, it was all leading to this. “I wanted to work with Adidas for a long, long time,” he says. “I was always just banging on the doors—maybe for four years.” Eventually, one opened. Today, he’s cagey about what, exactly, the deal entails. “Basically, I'm collaborating with them on footwear apparel, campaigns, the whole nine,” he says. It’ll start dropping later this year, and you can expect them to be deeply Kerwinized: “I'm not just doing colorways,” he says.
Don’t believe me? Check the photos announcing the campaign: Kerwin as alien, Kerwin as hunchback, Kerwin as yeti. Adidas, it seems, is in for the whole Kerwin experience, which, as his fans know, involves a serious dose of novelty footwear and a fair bit of costume makeup. “My Adidas products aren't in there,” he clarifies. “These are costumes, but they're an expansion of my vision and of where I want to take it—almost a peek at what I'm going to do. I wanted to push the needle with it."
The needle was pushed. Frost walks me through the images. "With the hunchback, I was inspired by The Hunchback of Notre Dame, because growing up I kind of felt like a black sheep. It's also a play on just kind of loving who you are and being yourself," he says. "The next one was the yeti—which, I mean, that just speaks for itself. You had to do it." (The yeti! You had to do it!) "And the alien was very inspired by Lost in Space. It's one of my favorite shows.” When Adidas issues a press release noting that “Kerwin Frost is a creative force who embodies the unapologetic spirit of adidas Originals,” Adidas is not lying.
It is, undeniably, weirder—more Original?—than just about anything I’ve seen from a major athletic-wear brand in recent years. Frost, even, is a little amazed that he’s getting to run this wild. “Surprisingly,” he says, the Adidas team “were kind of just like, ‘What do you want to make?’ And I did not know that. Even after I signed, I didn't know that I was going to be able to really take my imagination as far as I am.”
Throughout our interview, Waffle lies patiently in her stroller, playing with mom and burbling peacefully. She provides perspective, Frost explains: Sneaker design might seem daunting, but it’s nothing compared with raising a child.
And Frost is deep in it. “I'm not a regular clout dad,” he says. “I'm in there changing diapers. It's really crazy.” But not, like, that crazy: “Look at her!” he exclaims. “We were blessed with the most beautiful baby, dude. I was so surprised. I thought she was going to be ugly or something. She's f**king gorgeous. She looks like a cartoon baby. Right? Like, What?” (Waffle Frost basically had no choice but to be the coolest baby in New York: Frost explains that he DJ-ed Erin’s labor and delivery with a “push playlist” that included “Gangsta’s Paradise,” XXXTentacion, and Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.” Waffle was born to the dulcet strains of the Black Eyed Peas’ “Pump It.”)
This, it becomes clear, is why Adidas is in the Kerwin Frost business: He is a downtown cool kid, but he is generous, full-hearted, eager to share the things that make him happy. He’s throwing a party at the Adidas store to celebrate the announcement. “I'm just going to have all the kids come out and we can celebrate it together. This is one for the kids, for sure.” So: What’s the party gonna be like? He can’t tell me, and it’s clear that it’s killing him. “A lot of theatrics,” he says, nearly vibrating. "You know, I came in here with a crown. And a cape."
In the Instagram age, fame can be fleeting. His Adidas deal, Frost recognizes, means something a little more concrete. “When I die, there'll be a Kerwin Frost sneaker. And that is incredible,” he marvels. “My daughter will be made fun of in school for wearing my sneakers. And she'll be able to say, ‘My dad made these.’ That's pretty crazy.”