Occupation: Rapper, jeweller
Current release: Gio's new single "Hot" is out now.
If you enjoyed this interview with Gio, visit him on Instagram.
Fashion and music are often closely related to one's identity. Can you please tell us a bit about your own sense of identity – and how it motivated you to take an artistic path?
Growing up in a Caribbean household meant that music was always a part of me. We listened to soca, basement, and gospel music. Seeing how it was able to unite a room and uplift the mood, sparked my love for music from a young age.
Each genre had its own way of allowing people to feel free both through dance or worship. This helped to develop my musical versatility.
At the age of 13, my dad went to prison. This enhanced my relationship with music, it was no longer just fun - it became my therapy. Since then I have always used music as a way of having fun but also as a way of releasing my feelings and helping to control my thoughts.
Describe your personal style, please, and how your choice of fashion allows you to express it. Which fashion brands or style icons do you personally find inspiring - and why?
My style is not based on any movement or political standpoint. Instead, I use my style to show my character.
For example, in the song ‘Dr Ice’ I wore a white lab coat, this helped to express the joys I get from selling jewellery, performing surgery by flooding the selected items with diamonds. In other words, to ice them out!
Another example is my song ‘Hot’. In the first scene you see me wearing a tracksuit and in the second you see me wearing a turtle neck jumper with a jeans jacket. This expresses my versatility and the two paths I’ve always had to choose between: one being professional and the other being more hood.
I find Virgil Abloh’s designs inspiring, his play on Inside Out unfinished-looking clothing is unusual. Other than his designs, his journey from a small business to designing for a luxurious brand like Luis Vuitton is motivating.
What was the relationship between music and fashion for you like personally? When was the first time that you became aware of the connection between fashion and music?
My music and clothing style are a reflection of each other, they both express my versatility.
Growing up watching things like MTV and Channel U allowed me to see how jewellery, and fashion correlate with music. The further along artists were with the career, the more flashy they became. This helped to show their growth.
As time passed those people began to receive brand deals where they’d create items to fit their persona. For example, Kanye West’s iconic collaboration with Adidas or Travis Scott’s with Nike and Pharrell with Adidas and Chanel.
My dad introduced me to rock-wear, which was created by Jay-Z and Sean John which was created by Puff Diddy.
What do fashion and design add to your perception of music?
I feel like the way an artist dresses can tell you a lot about the music they make.
The best example would be America: if you look and listen closely, each state has its signature look and sound. New York has a clean style, with smooth raw rap. Whereas, Atlanta has a more trendy dress sense and their music is more trap, using autotune and more melodies.
Fashion can project an image, just like music can. As such, it is part of the storytelling process. What kinds of stories are being told, would you say?
In my song ‘Hot’ my styling choice tells the story of my life. In the beginning, you see me on the block in a tracksuit, this was my life before. After, you see me dressed up in a turtleneck jumper, ripped jeans, a jeans jacket, 3 Cuban bracelets, two Cuban chains, a tennis chain, 4 rings, and a Rolex covered in diamonds. This shows where I am and going to be.
What can fashion express what music can not?
Styling choice can show another side to an artist. Clothing can show a person's culture and influences. For example, up North, people tend to wear long-length chains whereas people in London like shorter chains.
It seems obvious that fashion and music are closely linked, but just how that influence works hasn't always been clear. Would you say that music leads fashion? Is it the other way round? Or are they inseparable in some ways?
In relation to myself, I would say music leads fashion, because I write my music first and from that get inspiration on what I would wear to help tell the same story from a different angle.
However, you can say they're inseparable because they pair together so well. Imagine a silent fashion show, it wouldn’t be as intriguing. The music helps to intensify the experience.
Fashion and music can be expressions or celebration of identity, but they can also be an effort to establish new ones or break free from them. How would you describe your own approach in this regard?
Being a young black boy from the hood, we are often given the label of a criminal. Having a versatile dress sense is my way of breaking these stereotypes, as it shows that there is more to me than just where I grew up.
I have a passion for jewellery and goals that I want to achieve / have achieved. I’m showing everyone that they can dress how they want and that you don’t have to conform to social norms.
Does what you wear change your personality – and thus the music you create or the way you perform?
To an extent yes - what I wear affects my moods. But in relation to my music specifically, no. For me it’s always the other way around: my music affects the way I dress, and the lyrics in my song will dictate my performance.
In my music videos, my clothes are my personality. I listen to my lyrics and from that, I know what to wear to help everyone see how I feel.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though designing a fashion item or even putting together a great outfit for yourself is inherently different from something like composing a piece of music?
I believe designing a fashion item and a piece of music is the same, both require me to use my personality and emotions creatively. They would both be a reflection of my thought processes. Saying that, it can be very different depending on the genre of music.
With real rap it will be very personal as I am talking about myself and my experiences. Whereas if I’m making a feel-good club song I’d have to consider the listeners and what they would like to hear. This is the same as making clothing: you cannot be as selfish, you have to assess and take into account your market and how they will feel wearing your design.
Tell me about your jewellery company.
It is called ‘icejewlz’. Our brand is different from the normal jewellery shop, we do not just buy and sell, we mainly do custom pieces. So when clients seek us it is mainly for our creativity.
We take things that are personal to the clients such as their family life, their brands, and simple things that they love, and make all of those things shine through whatever item they have chosen to buy.
Fashion extends to the artwork of releases and promotional photography as well. Could you talk about your approach in this regard and what some considerations were for some of your most recent cover designs and images?
Most of my single covers so far have been simple and clean. As I release more music you’ll see more creative pieces that I have in mind.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. This true both for music and fashion. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
In my opinion, using ideas from other people's cultures is not a negative thing. In fact I believe it can be very unifying and so positive.
However, I do believe it is important to acknowledge the culture you are copying from. That goes for both fashion, and music.