Since making a name for himself, French rapper Kalash Criminel has become synonymous with the Balaclava. Much like The Rolling Stones are with the tongue logo and Guns N’ Roses are with, well, guns and roses. It is a signifier for artists alike to distinguish themselves in their own unique way, right? You’re probably wondering why The Rolling Stone and Gun’s N’ Roses are the topic of conversation…
In step Artist and Designer, Millinsky, has partnered with Kalash Criminel for the very first time on a limited-edition collection of merchandise. This partnership follows Millinsky’s recent collaborations with the likes of Eminem, The Rolling Stones, Guns N’ Roses, Paul McCartney and Arctic Monkeys, amongst others. Dipping their toes into native French roots, where design meets music, the limited collection dives deep into Criminel’s usual imagery and ambience – where the focus is on the core visual element, in this case, the balaclava.
We caught up with French designer, Millinsky, who outlined the inspiration and meaning behind the merchandise, “Whenever I am collaborating with music artists or brands, I spend a significant amount of time prior to starting the design process doing some research about the person or the entity I’m working with. It is important for me to inject meaning in the design so that the pieces feel more impactful. Each collection needs to tell a story. That’s what merchandising is all about I believe, or at least according to me. In the case of this collaboration with Kalash Criminel, I focused on Kalash Criminel’s origin which is something he references a lot throughout his discography. He was born in Zaire, and I wanted to use the country flag’s colour for most of the pieces. The central piece of the collection, the Zaire themed balaclava, is composed with all the colours from the official flag.”
Touching back to the musician’s humble roots was a common denominator, adding a unique sense of style to this foray. Having worked in the worlds of music before, Millinsky set out on a route, with fandom in hand. “I mostly collaborated in the past with American or British artists, and I really wanted to work with a French artist in 2022. As far as Hip-Hop is concerned, he has been one of the greatest in France for many years now. His style is unique, and he has a strong personality. I am also looking to work with artists that have a special aura, and that’s clearly the case with Kalash Criminel. In addition to that, he is an incredibly remarkable human being, and it was a great pleasure spending time with him over the past months in preparation for the release.”
Originally from Congo before moving to the Parisian outskirts, Kalash Criminel eventually took up a career in music after starting out as a semi-professional footballer. From then on, his sound has perpetrated through regions of France for years, with his track “Arret du Coeur” having amassed millions of streams online, growing his status as one of the most relevant rappers of his generation.
The emergence and growth of merchandise over the recent years, especially within the realms of Rap and Hip-Hop has become extremely popular, don’t you think? Kanye West, Travis Scott, Justin Bieber, and Post Malone alongside others, are known for having released limited edition collections on a regular basis, with an influx of designer collaborations on hand to prop up their brand. “We tend to consume products based on our ability to emotionally connect with the brand, and I think a lot of brands are doing a bad job. On the other hand, music is the most popular thing in the world. Every human on this planet loves to listen to music, and we tend to bond emotionally with our favourite artists. What we listen to says a lot about who we are, what we feel, and what we aspire to. It is therefore not too surprising that fans want to showcase their appreciation for a certain artist because it says so much about who they are. We wear products to make a statement about ourselves, and that’s exactly what wearing merchandising does.” With such a collection and the rife hints of the balaclava seeping into fashion, Millinsky and Kalash Criminel have hit the nail on the head at the perfect time.
Check out the full collection on Kalash’s website now.