For J Balvin, the hard part was already wrapped up. In March of this year, the international reggaeton superstar released a synesthete’s dream: Colores, a concept album with a tracklist like a Crayola box. Translating colors to music requires high-minded abstract thinking. Bringing his colorful vibes to an accompanying clothing collection with Guess? That should have been the easy part. Clothes and color get along about as well as J Balvin and the Billboard charts.
But what was meant to be one massive cohesive statement—an album, music videos to go with every song, and a clothing collection to top it all off—was doled out in separate pieces as the world was upended by disease and unrest. The collection, originally slated for March, was pushed back first because of coronavirus, and then again in early June out of respect for the Black Lives Matter movement gripping both the U.S. and the world. Separating all those elements was hard—"Of course!” J Balvin said over the phone from Medellín, Colombia, Thursday—but, ever the optimist, Balvin believes the timing is more perfect now than ever.
“Now the vibe is more enthusiastic,” he said. “People are happier and they expect a better world right now.” Spreading joy and positivity—through colorful hair, albums, and clothing—is central to the J Balvin project. “Jose has a big influence on youth and he really wants to transcend his positivity all over the world,” said Nicolai Marciano, Guess’s director of brand partnerships, who worked with Balvin on the collection. “I found it really inspiring to see Jose exploring new music through a lens of individual colors and use that as his creative inspiration for this capsule.”
And the collaboration with Guess indeed arrives as a grand celebration of Colores and Balvin’s indefatigable optimism. There are hoodies, shorts, and vests in bright produce-section shades, as well as striped tees and button-ups that swirl those colors together. One tranche of gear features a collage of images from Balvin’s Medellín. There are bucket hats, watches, socks, fanny packs, and sunglasses—meaning if you want to live and dress like a globe-trotting music sensation, everything you need to do so is here. “We want to bring those colors and happy vibes,” he said.
GQ: This Guess collection we're talking about has been a longtime coming. I know it was moved around twice—the first because of coronavirus and the second out of respect for the protests—how do you feel now that it's finally dropping?
J Balvin: Man, I feel so grateful and blessed. I think we understand every aspect and every situation that happened globally because, Guess and myself, our presence is global, too. So we really want to understand and be tolerant of what's going on out there. And I think it's perfect timing, not before or after just right now.
Why is now the perfect time?
Because now the vibe is more enthusiastic. People are happier and they expect a better world right now. A lot of things are going on and I'm a positive guy so I think it's going to be a better planet. And the name of the collection is Colores, like my album, we want to bring those colors and happy vibes.
Yeah, what was your mindset designing this? Because it is so colorful and vibrant when the world is sort of the opposite right now.
The mindset was always to have an identity that goes with what I'm doing. I cannot be doing dark music and have a dark look and then drop a Colores campaign with Guess. That's why we were launching [the] Colores album at the same time we were supposed to launch the collection, but of course everything happened. We launched the album, and this is like a second phase of the album with the Guess campaign.
What was your role in designing it? Were you helping with influences or sketching?
We knew we wanted to bring colors. We wanted to share with the world a lot of my country, Colombia, and my city, Medellín. From there we started brainstorming. But the inspiration was definitely Colombia and our colors.
Some of my favorite pieces in this collection are ones featuring scenes of Colombia. Can you tell me the story behind those images?
That was amazing because we got to show this colorful and bright vibe. When I used to see Guess when I was a kid, I saw it as something I was never going to reach. After that, my name being in the collection and my city on the textile was fire.
Every place that we print in this collection, we've been there, so we know the vibes. What's in those pictures is a lot of what we saw in La Comuna 13, which is one of the hoods that used to be one of the most dangerous hoods in Medellín. Then it became one of the most artsy and safe places in the city. So it's beautiful to tell the story of the transformation and that's actually where we shot the campaign.
You've been really successful collaborating with different musicians—Bad Bunny, Cardi B, Beyoncè. What's different or similar about working together on music and collaborating on clothes?
At the end of the day, we're all human beings. It's a matter of just sharing ideas. It's the same thing when you do a song: you're sharing your melody and I should write this or maybe they hit me back and say, "I think you should add this" or "Take this out." It's the same—it's a collaboration. And it's a human thing, thank God.
I want to switch gears here. What have you been doing the past few months in quarantine and self isolation?
I got used to it. At the beginning it was really hard because before we could have been in three countries in a day. Then not being able to do that was different but since I started quarantining I was like, I'm going to focus more on my music and just recording, recording, recording. I think I've been working more than I used to work.
Has this affected your music at all?
For the better. Creatively I feel better. It's the first time in a long time I've been in one place more than three months. It's been more than ten years since I've been able to stay in my hometown Medellín and just vibe.
Your Instagram is a place of such positivity and bright colors but a couple weeks ago you made an exception to post in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Why was that important for you to speak up on?
Well, I have to. That's it. I have to, man. I'm totally anti-racist. In this case, it's a human thing. It's something that really goes beyond politics.
What is your perspective of the movement being in Colombia the past couple months and seeing what's happening in the U.S. from that vantage point?
We suffer the same here in Colombia. Right now we have a lot of cases that I need to talk about, too, on social media. It's a reality. The racism with black people here is hard, too.
Just on your Instagram now you've been showing off some really rare Air Jordan 1 models from 1985. Did you just recently start collecting those?
I got them on right now. I have been a huge fan of Jordans—actually my Jordans are coming out in December—and I became the first Latino ever to make an official collab with Jordan. In 1985, the year I was born, is when they started the Jordan 1. So when I was born two beautiful things were born: Jordan 1s and myself. [laughs]
I have a lot of love for the design and a lot of love for how it stays forever. If you look at what the Jordan 1 looks like, it's actually the same shape from 1985. So the beautiful thing is that they changed the shape in '94 and then they were like, "Nah, we gotta go back to the original shape,” which is the '85. And nowadays, all Jordan 1s are based on the '85. So I have a lot of love and respect for Jordan and I've been with and around him talking about life. And of course I'm a big fan of him and I'm part of the Jordan family. So I became more and more addicted to the OGs—the '85s—and I want to be one of the biggest collectors of ‘85s.
Being around Michael Jordan and talking about life, has he given you any good life advice?
The last time I was with him was actually the first time I met him but we talked for, like four hours in Paris from midnight to 4 in the morning. I was just paying attention. When you're with a legend like that you just pay attention. So whatever he was talking about I was just paying attention and watching him.
What do you talk about for four hours at midnight with Michael Jordan?
Everything. I was just like, keep talking. He was telling me stories and of course we were talking about our collab. Actually, it was that day in Paris when Jordan was like, "Yo, we have to go out now with the sneakers, so let's go." He made the call, he's the boss [laughs]. It was dope, really special.
Did you guys have a cigar?
He was smoking the whole cigar the whole night!
Shop the Guess x J Balvin Colores collection starting 1 p.m. EST on Friday, June 19th, here.
Originally Appeared on GQ