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Kanye West may be the master of mixing hip-hop and high fashion, but he’s nothing without his homeboys. So much so, West dedicated his three new luxury collaborative sneakers with Louis Vuitton to his close friends and collaborators, Don C, Mr. Hudson and Ibn Jasper.

To kick off the “Kanye’s Louis Vuitton Dons” series, StreetLevel.com spoke to 33-year-old Jasper a.k.a. Ferrari Murakami, ‘Ye’s personal barber and image consultant to figure out how we can dress to impress, be meticulous like the Japanese and get a Louis Vuitton shoe named after us.

Check out the interview after the jump.

How did you start cutting hair? How’d you end up being Kanye’s personal barber and image consultant?I started cutting my own hair at 14 years old, then I started cutting professionally at 17 as a senior in high school. I could always dress. Don C, Kanye’s current road manager, and John Monopoly had their promotion company, Hustle Period, and they were Chicago’s top party promoters. I was always in the best salons in the city, and thought about my business as a lifestyle. My salons and barber shops were [like] the daytime clubs. Don had really long hair then, he used to get braids, and I cut his hair off. That was 1995, I was 19 years old, Don was 18, and I’ve been their barber since then. This is also when they started managing Kanye, and he kept asking them “who’s giving you these perfect hair-cuts?” Back then my cuts were $20, so getting a haircut from me was one of things Kanye aspired to.Then Don and John brought Kanye in my shop and, at the time, I was making beats for Bump J, a local Chicago artist signed to Atlantic records. Kanye brought his beats to my shop, give me pointers and then I’d cut his hair. He was a prodigy, the first young dude in Chicago to sell beats to signed artists. At 17 years old, he did Gravity’s whole album,[who was] another local artist.What made you leave your clientele in Chicago to be Kanye’s personal barber?

Kanye moved to New York and started with Roc-a-fella, but never liked his haircuts. Like in the movie “Fade To Black,” he always wore an orange hat, which he called his “haircut hat” because when he’d get his haircut in New York, he never liked it, and put the hat on right after. ‘Ye kept telling me “You HAVE to move out here!” but I wouldn’t because I was already established in Chicago. Why leave and go somewhere else? I told him, ‘If you could match what I make I’ll come.’ Then he got his record deal with Def Jam, asked me how much I made and had his mom set up my bank account.’ Then we went on tour “School Spirit” tour in 2004.

Where’d the nickname “Ferrari Murakami” originate?
The weekend of the first Grammy awards that Kanye attended, John Monopoly [then his co-manager] rented a 360 Modena Ferrari. ‘Ye took everyone to Polo to get fresh, but he only had four tickets, so Kanye, Gee Roberson, his manager, Don and John Monopoly were going. I was there showing Gee how to tie windsor knots, then Monopoly asked me to drive the Ferrari around the block while everybody got ready. Then Kanye said “Just let Ibn take the Ferrari after we go to the Grammy’s.” I had the Ferrari the whole night, we were in downtown LA and I drove out to Santa Monica. As for Murakami, if you’ve ever seen one of his paintings, it’s not computer generated. A person does all of that, it’s the epitome of art, design and engineering. I draw inspiration from the meticulousness of the Japanese.


How did the Louis Vuitton Sneakers happen and why are yours the most expensive?

Kanye calls me in the morning, and says “Yo, you didn’t see the shoes on the internet?” and that’s when I saw the shoes were in my name. Kanye said, “I didn’t tell you that I named shoes after you?” Designers, like Marc Jacobs, name things after their friends, so he named the shoes after our personalities. ‘Ye surprised us with that, he asked our design opinions but he kept the name’s a secret.I wear a lot of colors, that’s why the Jaspers are the most colorful. Mine is the most expensive to make because it costs at least $400 to produce the shoes. The gold tassels, the thick strap on the top, then the tassle and the gold clamp on the top cost $150 alone to produce. The patchwork Dons are more luxurious, whereas mine are a pink hi-top with a skater vibe. Mr. Hudson has white boat shoes since he’s the bloke from Birmingham, UK and knows how to give the best dinner toast in suits. No slight to Mr. Fonzworth Bentley, but Mr. Hudson is the real Mr. Bentley.

 

 

You mentioned the skater vibe of your shoe, not many people know that you’ve been skating before it was trendy. How’d you get into skating?

I started skating in 1985 when I moved to the suburbs at ten years old. When I moved back to the city, I really started skating. By 6th and 7th grade, I was sponsored by Physical Pursuit Skate Shop in Midlothian, Illinois.

We know that you’re a big fan of the H-Street skateboards . . .

Powell-Peralta, was the biggest thing in the ’80s, then H Street came and completely changed everything. H Street took it from birth skating to street skating, then everyone that represents skateboarding now, came from H Street and Plan B. Like Eric Koston, in the H Street movies. I was actually in a film directed by Spike Jonze, with Eric Koston with Girl Skateboards. Spike is a skater. it’s called “We Were Once A Fairytale” was supposed to be for “See You In My Nightmares” video but it became a 15 min film, he premiered it at the LA Film Festival with Kanye.

Can you give us any advice on dressing and haircut rules?

Keep it classic, and throw in a little personality, but keep your frame classic. Some people try to personality you out, then it’s an eyesore. I’ll do color pants like a red or a royal blue but then, you have to downplay everything else, like the Jasper shoe. As for haircuts, the people that solicit you usually aren’t good. When I was working, I was on appointment only. I never asked people, and I didn’t take walk-ins. You want to go to the dude who you can’t get in his chair, because he’s probably good. I say watch the consistency, go in to the barbershop and watch your potential barber for a few hours, don’t even get a haircut. Just watch.

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