Culture Creator Capricorn Clark Talks Hip-Hop and Opens Up Her OG Streetwear Archive
Culture Creator Capricorn Clark Talks Hip-Hop and Opens Up Her OG Streetwear Archive
- Words Lawrence Schlossman
- Date July 28, 2017
To know Capricorn Clark is to know the culture. And I don’t say that lightly. The hip-hop and streetwear vet has had her fingers on the pulse for nearly two decades and her story is one we can all learn from. From serving as Sean Comb’s personal assistant to lending her voice to Pharrell’s music and everything in between, Cap packs more advice and anecdotal fire into a hour-long conversation than most do in an entire lifetime. Check out our illuminating and wildly entertaining conversation below and then shop her wide-ranging personal archive featuring some of the best BAPE, BBC and Ice Cream pieces to have ever graced Grailed.
Photos of Capricorn by A$AP Nast.
To start off, can you introduce yourself and explain a little bit about who you are and what you’re currently up to?
Okay, so my name is Capricorn Clark. I’m a creative director, marketing consultant—kind of a branding person, you would say... Previously, I was the global brand director for Sean Combs and before that I was his personal assistant. I left him for a little bit and went to do some marketing and some strategic work at Zomba|JIVE Records—nowadays it’s called RCA. Before all of this, when I first got to New York, I landed in advertising and I was doing account management for The Island ECN, a Nasdaq traders platform, Crunch Fitness, Price Waterhouse Coopers and The Plaza Hotel. From there I went into production. I was a production manager at a place called Crossroads. We did all the big TV spots, like watch the Oscars on ABC, watch the Superbowl, high profile shows - networks outsource those. I also got into writing TV spots there, won a few campaigns. That’s when I got a call from a headhunter asking if I wanted to be Puff’s assistant.
Do you remember what it was like getting that telephone call?
Yeah, September 11th had just happened so it kind of affected the advertising agency and that whole world in a way because our primary clients were in the financial and travel sectors. So, our agency went from like 90 people to 20 people. Everyone who was sort of low on the totem pole moved up quickly because they couldn’t keep the expensive people, which worked out for me. Anyhow, I got the call—it was winter time and I was hating life. It was all very tedious to me, coming from California. Weather and lifestyle wise, it was a lot.
Is that where you’re from originally, California?
I was born in San Francisco, but I grew up in L.A.
So you get this call to be Puffy’s assistant and…
I get a call from this company called the Jennifer Group. It was this headhunter agency asking to meet with me. But, Puff was already my friend. Like, we were super cool. We would go out like 3-4 times a week.
Oh, you had a personal relationship already?
We were friends through one of my other longtime friends, Jeanette Dilone and you know how friends link up. We just all got along so we hung. He didn’t know that these people were contacting me. He knew his office was working with different agencies to find people, but he had no idea that they would land on me. When they called me, they said, “Hey, we’re looking for your qualifications,” which were so all over the place because I had done a lot by that point once I had been in New York for a bit. They’re like, “You kind of have the skill-set for this tycoon fashion entertainer.” That’s what they said, “tycoon fashion entertainer.” And I was like, “Are you talking about Sean Combs?” They were like, “Um, how do you know that?” Well, that description in New York is only so specific. So I told them, “Yeah, I’ll come in for a talk.” But on the side, I called Puff as was like, “Get the fuck out of here. They just called me to be your assistant.” And he was like, “No way, that's crazy" But then he goes, “Would you be my assistant?” I was like, “Do I get to travel and get out of this city?” And he was like, “Yeah you would!” So we went direct and he linked me up with his team, and I met with them and he hired me. Finally, he was like, “Are you sure you want to do this because we won't be able to be friends all the time?”
There’s that separation of church and state so to speak, right? Like, it’s tough to work with someone you are super friendly with once money gets involved. It can get a little dicey.
Well, it wasn’t even about money so much, it was more about going from “haha heehee let’s hang out” and “what party are we going to?” to can you now help me get the drink, can you figure out where my wallet is, can you now not just be at the party with me, but help me at the party. The positioning changed. But it had nothing to do with money.
So how old were you at the time?
So that must have been crazy! Puffy is, and still to this day, this legendary almost mythical figure. And the public has all these impressions of him from, like, how he was on Making the Band. remember that show? He was sending people to the end of the earth for Junior’s cheesecake—all those crazy requests. Obviously I would never expect you to betray the trust of like a close personal friend and associate, but do you have any stories off the top of your head of amazingly ridiculous shit from back then?
I don’t think there were any ridiculous requests, but I think I learned very quickly that the dynamic of our friendship had changed. I remember it was my first day, maybe second day, that he wanted his regular order from McDonald’s and part of that order has a vanilla milkshake. So I come back, but the McDonald’s downstairs from the office didn’t have a vanilla milkshake. He looks up like, “But where’s the milkshake?” And I was like, “Ah, they didn’t have it.” He looked at me again as if to say, “Bro, I don’t want to tell you, but this is McDonald’s. There’s one on every corner. The next one over has got to have it.” He didn’t say this directly so much, it was more of like a visual transfer. I was like, yeah, duh and back out to get a whole new order.
If you had to sum up with what you learned working for Puff, what would that be?
Let me tell you something. He has this movie out—Can’t Stop Won’t Stop—you should watch that because it’s hard to verbalize what you learn from this guy. I would say he’s better than any masters degree program, any higher learning. I got first rate, top of the line, experience to learn what it really takes. The reason why he’s so successful is because he follows through. A lot of people don’t follow through. And the reason he’s allowed to have his lifestyle is that he knows the importance of execution. You can’t just party your life away, you have to figure out a balance. And I would say he really mastered that, a long time ago. When I was his assistant, there were six businesses that he was juggling. He taught me how to get things done. Not delegate your life away, there’s too much room for error in that, but you do have to have an amazing team you trust or you will fry your brain. That work ethic doesn't exist anymore. I inherently don’t know any other style of working at this point. I am blessed to know and work with some of the most talented humans on the planet.
How long did you work for Puff?
I started when he was doing Raisin in the Sun on Broadway and stopped in 2012.
What were the hot brands at the time?
Let me back it up for a sec because I think it’s important for you to know. When I landed in New York, in 2001, I was working right by Comme des Garçons on Cooper Square. Broadway was very prolific. The Lower East Side was prolific. I never went uptown to shop unless I was buying makeup. Barneys didn’t get on my radar until 2005. You had SSUR when it was still over by Café Habana, street brands were all we wore downtown, Hells Bells, Married to The Mob, Filth Mart. I think this was golden era of cool street fashion. Think about it, I’m coming from LA where there’s a whole different style of dress. I’m automatically a bit more tomboy because we wore stuff like Quicksilver and Santa Cruz on the west coast. When I started working for Puff I got back into tennis shoes and stuff. I got into BAPE, but he’s in fucking Brioni. So it was my uniform of sorts. Working seven days a week, 21.5 hours a day, I needed easy stuff, already ironed. And you know there were cameras everywhere because we had TV shows always filming us. We had Making the Band, I had my TV show, I Want to Work for Diddy, it was constant. We did MTV’s Vote or Die. I mean that was a whole thing.
So you’ve been collecting streetwear since, like, ’01.
Yeah and I was wearing a lot of SSUR, BAPE, MTM, Hell’s Bells. And I dabbled in Supreme, but not so much until a little bit later.
When you and I have spoken before, you mentioned your relationship with Pharrell. Can you break that down?
Pharrell is a good friend. He’s obviously been Puff’s friend forever too. I knew a lot of people on my own, I met Pharrell through Puff though. We would go to Miami to work a lot since Puff has a house there. We spent a lot of time down there and we did a lot of music with Pharrell. Pharrell, The Clipse, Fam-Lay, Natasha Ramos and I would all hang. Kinda into the same stuff, the same films, the same books. If I had time off, which was rare, Pharrell’s studio was honestly the closest place to Puff’s house. So if I had a four hour break I would go hang with Pharrell and whoever was working.
You were around for the inception of BBC, right?
Yeah, for sure. At first It was all BAPE. We were BAPE’d out. Then he decided to do BCC. I still have the sample ladies tanks and tees on American Apparel blanks. You remember Pharrell’s album, In My Mind?
Of course! It’s a classic.
Right, the kids have a cult love for that album. I’m on two tracks. There’s one called “How Does It Feel?” and then there’s another one with Slim Thug.
In what capacity are you on those records? As like a background singer?
Speaking of that era’s fashion, why do you think that stuff is kind of having a moment again after being kind of off the grid for maybe like five years or so?
If I had to speculate, I’m looking at the kids. They really idolize Pharrell, they idolize Kanye, and anything they were into has now become the thing. I think they're inspired by wanting to be in 1996/97/98/99, respectively those guys' peak era. That era, visually speaking, is obviously very appealing to these kids. It’s purposeful, it’s smart, it works and it’s new again. All the big Jacob The Jeweler pieces back in rotation.
It’s history that has a legacy, but it’s not so far back that it can’t be discovered. You can still somewhat regularly find these pieces and you can buy them. It’s not like we’re talking about stuff from the ‘70s or even ‘80s where it’s not even in circulation anymore.
You can see how it’s evolved. I think they just appreciate being able to be close to those people and time ‘cause, like what you just said, it’s tangible history. It’s right now. You can still look at Pharrell. I think they want to get in step with what he was doing because if he’s still here you can’t be him now, but you can go where he’s been. You have to have to kind of go back and appreciate his past to see how his style evolved. I think everyone wants to relate to some sort of icon for their age.
He’s as relevant now as he has been ever before. He’s this elder statesmen-like figure and I don’t see that going away. Your fiancé Chace manages Rocky. Do you have your hands in that at all? Any of the creative stuff?
Whenever AWGE self-produces a video, I work with them to produce the video. So, like, “Yamborghini High,” and "RAF," I produced for AWGE. Rocky is very collaborative, he likes creative expression. So sometimes I help out. When it’s in-house, I’ll do what I can. There are a lot of moving parts to AWGE—dope creatives. For Rocky’s GUESS collection, I produced the campaign and the pop-up event we had in Los Angeles. These things are naturally in my wheelhouse. Whatever they need I’m there, that’s family.
To bring it back again to the clothes in this sale—because I know a lot of people are going to be interested in this stuff—the BBC backpack for example, what is the deal with that? Is that a sample?
So the backpack—they had, like, a green one, maybe a red one, at that time, I don’t remember all the colors—but that year I produced Rip The Runway. I also did the Zac Posen and Sean John runway productions. Pharrell had performed in the Zac Posen set and he brought that backpack to rehearsal. And I was like, “Dude, you keep saying you’re going to give me a backpack, what’s good?” And he was like, “You can have this one now”
Wait, just to be clear, that’s Pharrell’s personal backpack?
He had got it that day. It's a sample. It was Pharrell’s backpack for a few hours haha.
Hearing you tell these stories, talking about your life and your career, it’s almost like you’ve lived 10 lives and have had all of these amazing jobs, and there’s a lot of young kids that will read an interview like this and wonder how they can do it too. What kind of advice would you maybe give to a kid like that?
Well, I would say, do a lot of different jobs. Do not just keep doing the same job. Obviously, keep it to one industry—entertainment, film, music, whatever—but pivot a lot. I think for me, being a jack of all trades and a master of a few was crucial. I think that’s how you just become a valuable person. That’s a thing that social media has kind of taken away from these kids because you can get to the end point without having put anything into it. Like making a shell of a car with no engine. These days you use an app and it's done, in theory. You can post an image, nobody will ever know if it was real or just optics. So I would say, get off social media or the highly edited content and learn some actual practical skills. Experience is currency no matter what, and be open to opportunities to work hard. The worst person to be is the one just getting a check. Bare minimum people. That’s not inspirational.
You have to be ready to step up.
That’s the mentality that real go-getters of the world understand. The people that have really made it far know that you can’t just do what you’re there for. If a hand is needed, be that hand. You have to participate. You have to be an active participant in everything: the pitch, the sale, the project. People are so individualized right now that they lose sight of the collective. Team is so important, learning everything and working with people that together you can mutually elevate in creativity and elevate your thoughts. That’s the best way you can be as successful as possible.
What are you working on now? Anything you want to plug, tease or promote?
Lots of great stuff on the horizon. Cassie’s new project. The music is amazing, the visuals are amazing, I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised with her project. Working on a new children's shoe called SuperHeroic. The guys involved are really smart, they get it, and they have heart. I think heart is really what is going to make that particular business really successful. I'm doing some branded content with Pusha T and helping with some creative strategy and visuals for Nipsey Hussle's upcoming album. Keep a look out for all things AWGE. I’m so proud of them. They are really trailblazing. They have their fingers on the pulse of, you know, the youth. They really get it.