We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what’s “you”? These are some of the questions we’re putting to prominent figures in our column “How I Shop.”
Due to a slight scheduling mishap, my interview with Ashanti was not … on time. (I’m so sorry; I couldn’t help myself.) But, hey, I was happy to wait patiently for my chat with the R&B singer whom I greatly enjoyed as the “ft.” artist on some of my favorite early-2000s MTV “Total Request Live”-era bops — like “What’s Luv,” which has been playing in my head for the past two weeks. (Not mad about it.)
But, of course, Ashanti has been working hard in the industry for the past 15 years — continuously releasing albums, acting and appearing as a judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” — and 2019 will be no exception. She double bills as star and executive producer in her upcoming movie “Stuck“ and will be dropping a new album, which may include a collaboration with her “Always on Time” partner and Fyre Festival co-founder Ja Rule. Ashanti also recently covered Paper magazine in an edgier, more experimental look to kick off her big year.
“Image is really important, especially nowadays because everything is visual. Sometimes people will love you more for how you look than how your talent is,” she says, over the phone from New York. “So for me, as an artist, it’s just really important to stay true to myself. Try different things. I never in a million years would have thought that I would be wearing a turquoise bun on the cover of Paper.”
Speaking of fashion, Ashanti also collaborated with New York-based Miss Circle, founded by designer Isabel Deng, on a capsule collection of body-con, party-ready dresses, jumpsuits and separates. “I just really wanted things that I love, things that I wear, things that make my body look the best and accentuate [it],” she explains. “Just really make it my style and my swag and, at the same, time affordable and approachable.” Prices for the line run from $60 for a velvet, wine-hued bodysuit to $140 for a silver-sequin blazer dress.
Unsurprisingly, the multi-platinum artist and multi-hyphenate is a total professional — and a really great sport, to boot. While prepping for the collaboration’s launch party, Ashanti was happy to discuss the “layers” to her personal style, revisit her early 2000s fashion (low-rise jeans and sparkly belts!) and admit her latest five-digit splurge.
“I have so many layers to [to my style]. It depends on the mood. So if I want to feel sexy and fashionable, I might put on a one-piece with a cinched waist. I have what I call ‘mosquito bite-sized boobs,’ so I might have the V-cut and a high pump and a high pony. You know, keep it chic and sexy. If I want to feel like I’m just kicking it, I’ll probably just put on some jeans and whatever the limited-edition Nikes are. Throw on a quick Gucci tee or something.
I grew up being a tomboy, so I loved sweats. I loved sneakers. Obviously, I like things to fit my body and then I like things to just look effortless and cozy and comfortable and just be me. I always say my style is ‘sassy, classy, sexy, not trashy,’ and it’s just really important nowadays to be super versatile.
I found my style somewhere around my second [“Chapter II,” 2003] or third album [“Concrete Rose,” 2004]. Then, I was doing hats, tank tops, jeans and had little sparkly belts and the jewelry. People would identify it: ‘oh, that feels like an Ashanti vibe.’ One thing that I remember that was an ‘Ashanti thing:’ I would always wear a Kangol and then I had a long crooked heart jewelry piece that was a signature. People would always say, ‘oh, that’s the Ashanti heart.’
You know what’s so funny? So my stylist is very young. He’s in his mid-20s and he was looking at some really old pictures of me — like when my first and second album came out [in 2002 and 2003] — and he’s like, ‘oh my god, this is so freeesh. This is coming back right now!’ It’s so weird how everything is really coming back around: the puff jackets, Karl Kani is coming back. Fila is coming back.
Ah, I love the low-rise trend [from the era]. The low-rise Levi’s?! Oh my god. Those were my favorite. They sent me boxes and boxes of Levi’s [back then]. I’d been at an event and I stayed at a hotel and they put the boxes in the basement because there were so many and I never went and picked them up. I’m so sad to this day. Those were my favorite, favorite jeans. Oh my god, I had so many pairs.
These days, I do some online shopping and I definitely go into the store and shop. Online, I do Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Intermix and Zappos. That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. In person, my sister put me on to some really cool vintage shops on Melrose. There are really some gems on Melrose. I hate, absolutely hate, trying clothes on, but I absolutely have to. But, I’ll do a little bit of both. I’ll screenshot some stuff and maybe send it to my sister or send it to my stylist, like, ‘Hey, what do you think of this? Can you go pick it up for me?’ Kind of slide it in.
I like limited-edition stuff. I like one-of-a-kind; if they only have this color. For me, just being in the studio and being comfortable and still feeling fashionable. I’ll get a Chanel hoodie and some Chanel slides, and I’m still comfortable.
I was recently on the phone with the Louis Vuitton personal shopper for like an hour. We were trying to locate these pieces that I wanted from different parts of the country because none of the pieces were where I was. I just bought two Louis Vuitton sweatsuits that I absolutely love. This is a little bit of impulse shopping: I bought two sweatsuits, a pair of sneakers and luggage. And then I said to myself, ‘I really just wanted to come in and get one thing. How am I leaving spending $30,000? This is ridiculous.’ Oh, my sister and my cousin just walked in.
‘Did you guys bring me anything? I see the garment bags!’ No, they only brought stuff for themselves.”