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For me, Five Fits With is particularly special this week. As a music obsessive, I can’t think of anyone more fun to talk to then one of the most documented obsessives in the world: Zane Lowe, Apple Music’s global creative director and Apple Music 1 host. No doubt you’ve seen his interviews with some of the world’s most famous and exciting artists. What’s most fun to me is how wide-reaching this series has become. The through-line is style, and while we sometimes discuss “fashion” in these interviews, the most important thing is that the subject has his or her own, honed through years of experimentation, joy, and appreciation. Brand names really aren’t important here.
I love these outfits Lowe put together. Yes, there are a few notable luxury brands, but nothing he wears is emblazoned with logos, and you can really tell these are clothes he wears daily. I’d add Zane is exactly the same person that you’ve seen conduct those interviews, and it’s why he’s able to elicit such comfort and openness from his guests, regardless of who they are or how much success they’ve had. Below, Zane and I discuss how how he’s able to continue such a prolific interview output with the same standard and integrity, his favorite albums from 2023, his own style journey, and plenty more.
You’ve interviewed some of the biggest artists on the planet. You also interview serious up-and-comers as well. How have you honed your ability to have these conversations?
They’re all the same conversation, in the sense that it’s supposed to be a very human experience. I don’t really go into it thinking, “Well, because someone is five or six albums into their career and doing huge numbers and selling out arenas, that conversation should be any different to someone who has that ambition, or is starting out and has a different ambition.” I really just try and sit down opposite whoever I’m talking to. I listen to the music, I feel the music, I get a feeling from the music, and then I let that start the conversation. From there, the idea is that we just go wherever the moment leads us. That’s not to say that I don’t research and I don’t have things in my mind—beats that I want to hit—but it’s way less structured and way less formulaic than it used to be. As long as I listen to the music and I understand where I think the artist is at at this moment in their life, I feel very confident and comfortable sitting down opposite somebody for an hour and just have the most human experience I can.
Are you desensitized to the gravitas of talking to these artists?
No, never. Never, ever, ever, ever. I’m here [in New York] to talk to an artist I’ve been trying to talk to for eight years. It takes time to build that trust, even before you get a chance to talk with them. I’m not in any hurry, because I realize that when it happens, it has to be the right time. If I was desensitized to that or I didn’t realize the importance of that, to me, I wouldn’t hold it down for eight years and wouldn’t be trying to build a pathway to this moment. I take every opportunity to talk to someone really seriously, and I really appreciate every single one.
“Desensitized” is the wrong word. For me, particularly with photography, I hit that flow state where I’m not really thinking, and that’s closer to what I meant.
Oh, I see. I mean, that is the goal—to remove any of the external thought patterns that might get in between you and the moment; to get into a space where it’s a very connected conversation. It’s a very present experience. Sometimes I do snap out of that and I’ll realize, “Man, we’ve been here for 45 minutes.” I can honestly tell you that when I walk away from a conversation with Tyler, the Creator or Janelle Monae or Rick Rubin and Neil Young, and I say, “How long was that?” Sometimes they tell me, “Over two hours of stuff.” I’m like, “Are you kidding? It felt like half an hour.” The goal is always to get into a place where you are present with whoever you’re with. That’s why it’s such an important part of my life. Not just because I’m a music fan and I love people who make music and I’m eternally curious about that process and what goes on within that, and the artist’s spirit. But because I need to be in the present, otherwise I’m an anxious person. Being live on radio, being in the moment, having conversations with people, I can’t do that. I can’t detach myself from that, or I’m not going to do a good job. It really works for my mental health, actually, to do it.
Can you share some artists and albums you’re loving this year?
I think it’s one of the best years for me for songwriting in a long time. Ryan Beatty has made a stunning new album, Calico. Then you have these two incredible Cleo Sol records that have just come out, which are just unbelievable. They’re on repeat. You’ve got SZA smashing records numbers, like 10 weeks at number one on the albums chart with one of the best albums I’ve heard in the last 10 years. Boygenius coming through, absolutely stunning. Teezo Touchdown delivered on everything that we all wanted him to; more than we expected from his debut album. We love him, and the fact that some of the biggest artists in the world are leaning into his craft and asking him to be a part of what they do.
Then you’ve got Taylor [Swift] and Beyoncé and Drake, three of the biggest artists in the world, showing up, making three of their best albums ever. Renaissance is a stunning body of work. Leaning into the depth of club culture and the community of the club from day one and authentically bringing that experience into the modern age, not just musically, but culturally, is what inspired people to go to the club in the first place. It wasn’t just the music. There was a desire to go and be with each other and build a community from the outside, inside that club—build a family. She really got that. It’s such an authentic, amazing experience. Taylor Swift has had what I would consider to be one of the most remarkable years any artist has ever had in my lifetime. Not just with her album and with her tour, but continually rerecording her albums at the highest possible quality, putting them out, doing remixes, collaborations, putting her concert in theaters. She has continually fed all of us with quality all the way through the year. From the biggest artists right through to the newest artists, it’s been incredible. Fred Again is reaching the highest new levels, and people like Central Cee are coming out of the UK and taking another massive step for music from the UK to the world. 2023 has been one of my favorite years for music in memory.
What is the relationship between fashion, style and music?
I know people who were born with style, and I think it’s just how you look at life. How you look at the world is how your style’s translated. If you look at the world a certain way, then you see yourself inside it, that translates to how you show up and how you wear things. It’s same thing with skateboarding, right? Three skaters could do the same trick and everyone’s got a different style, and by the way, the person who does the trick the worst sometimes has the best style. It’s how you ride that board. It’s what you do once you’ve landed the trick. There’s something indefinable about that, and that comes from absorbing the world around you and figuring out how to translate that into your day-to-day. Fashion is a total art form, like music or canvas work or writing. The perfect combination for musicians is when they can pull off all three—when they can make incredible art and lean into fashion with style and pull things off, and we know who those people are. I don’t think you need to have style or know fashion to make incredible music. In fact, some of my favorite artists in the world couldn’t be further from a fashion show and couldn’t care less about whether or not anyone thinks they have style. Their music is enough. But if you can do it, that’s the holy trinity right there.
Your output is prolific. Do you ever feel pressured to wear new outfits?
It’s funny because I actually have taken far more of an interest in what I wear and how I present myself in the last 10 years of my life. When I was working in New Zealand and in the UK, it was really not something that ever crossed my mind. I wasn’t doing a huge amount of on-camera work, just bits and bobs. Then I moved out here, and I was inspired by my kids. I started seeing them taking an interest in clothes and I was like, “Oh, man.”
What age were your kids starting to take interest?
Seven and nine. They both started looking for things to help them figure out their identity. They’re both very different, and dress very differently. Our oldest boy loves fashion. He likes things that are very high-level, and he likes the way things fit him. He’s into clothes that suit his body. The youngest is thrift shop crazy, in the bins every weekend, skating and just looking for the deals like, “Oh man, I got this for three bucks.” And he puts it on and it just sits on him amazingly. Both of those kids have style in their own way. Different style, but they definitely have it. When I saw them starting to develop their style, it reminded me that when I was a kid, I cared about that stuff. I started looking and asking around, meeting some people in Los Angeles and saying, “Hey, where’d you get that?” or, “This is a nice fabric. What is that?” Then I found my spots, and once I did that, one thing led to another and now I’m really into it. My midlife crisis was probably clothes—and vinyl. I went crazy. Started collecting vinyl again. Went deep into that. That’s not a cheap addiction. I got really into [clothing] particularly in quarantine. I came out of quarantine and I realized I just like to wear things that are comfortable.
What do you look for in a new clothing purchase?
First of all, I’ve got to feel it, and I have to know that it feels great. If something looks great but doesn’t feel great to touch in terms of the fabric or the weight of it, I struggle with it. I have to want to wear it, regardless of how other people see it. I’m self-aware enough to know the areas of my body that I think things are going to fall well on or not. So, it’s got to be good on my shoulders. I have to know that it sits really good around the shoe level. I have a real thing about where trousers sit in relation to my shoes or my feet. Length is really important to me. I have a color palette. I’m definitely into my greens. I’m definitely into my off-whites, and I like bits of color. I’m really into earthy tones. I like it loose. I have no problem with it running off the sleeve. I have no problem with things falling off me. I have no problem drowning in clothes, as long as there’s a way for me to bunch it or move it around. I like a hot mess.
Are there any brands you’re into lately, or just in general want to shout-out?
Shout out Dries [Van Noten].
In my opinion, he’s probably the best men’s designer.
The highest level. I go in [to the LA store], it’s a problem. I love Trading Post. I love Dr. Collector. That was really a big moment for me when I walked into the shop on La Brea and I tried on the Z Boys trousers for the first time and I was like, “This is exactly what I’ve been looking for.” I’m obsessed with Prospective Flow. [The pants from look three] are the most comfortable trousers I’ve ever put on in my life. I love how they taper at the bottom. I feel honored to wear his clothes. Shoutout Applied Art Form. I get all my T-shirts from General Quarters. It’s funny, when you find a T-shirt that you like, it’s such a good day. If the T-shirt doesn’t fit well on me, the rest of the outfit’s done. Maharishi is still operating at the highest level. I really like the cardigans that Harden are making—very, very nice high-level cashmere. I love Y-3. Shoes-wise, I love the deconstructed Vans and the Craig Green collabs. I like things that are my idea of street… Again, rediscovering clothes around the same time my kids were discovering clothes for the first time, it’s funny how I subconsciously started back when I was at their age, searching for big, baggy stuff and sneakers that didn’t just feel like sneakers. It goes without saying, I’m a big Virgil [Abloh] fan and I have some pretty amazing sneakers and items from Off-White. He’s a visionary, and his legacy will only grow. What he achieved in an all too short an amount of time was just remarkable. It was the spirit of what he did and why he did it and his dedication to simplicity that was so inspiring to people. He was more than the clothes he designed or the music he made or the DJ sets he did. He’s one of the great artists.
If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it consist of?
It’s going to be a medium-weight cotton pair of loose trousers. Probably something not dissimilar to [the pants in look three]. It’ll be some North Face Nuptse collab [mules]. I live in those. It would be a General Quarters T-shirt and one of my Harden cardigans, and I’m a happy guy. You’ve got that outfit on camera.
Christopher Fenimore is a writer and photographer living in New York. Working with clients ranging from clothiers to vineyards, he’s also covered street style for a number of outlets. Follow him on Instagram at @c.fenimore.