When it comes to pop culture, I am regularly late to the party; I didn't get into "Game of Thrones" until it had already been on the air for three seasons, and I still don't care about "Hamilton" (I know, I know, give me another two years).
The latest example? Rapper Machine Gun Kelly, who I became obsessed with at approximately 7:45 p.m. on December 6 thanks to "Bad Things," his new single with erstwhile Fifth Harmony member Camila Cabello. It turns out that MGK — aka Colson Baker — has been around for over six years! (Well, just over 26 years, if you want to get technical.) In addition to being a prolific rap artist, he's signed with Wilhelmina and starred in his own editorial for L'Uomo Vogue. Oh, and he has a budding acting career, too.
The icing on the cake is MGK's incredible style, both on-stage and off, which is largely the result of his work with up-and-coming stylist Morgan Pinney. The pair, who both come from Ohio, met while Pinney was in fashion school at Kent State University before MGK got signed. She spent some time doing editorial work in New York before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in men's styling — coincidentally around the same time MGK was gearing up for this latest phase in his career almost a year ago.
"We started out as friends and we kind of came up together, which is the cool part about it," Pinney says. "It's so nice to have built what both of our careers are from the ground up with each other. If I didn't listen to Kels's music, or if I didn't know his personality, there would be such a disconnect when dressing him, because the music and his personality relate directly to the clothes that he's wearing."
Since walking a menswear show in London earlier this year and attending his fair share of fashion events, MGK has become more aware of the brands he likes and how he can play with fashion to further his message. "I don't think anyone really realizes how important styling and fashion is until they're around it," Pinney says. "Now when we're in fittings and I'm pulling, he's super-involved and he knows what he likes. He definitely isn't a passive person — he likes what he likes, and his input is important to him."
At 6'4, his lanky, tattooed-to-the-hilt body is basically a #menswear dream and a Saint Laurent campaign waiting to happen. (Seriously, someone make this happen.) There's very little he can't pull off, which means Pinney gets to call in pretty much whatever she wants; the pair look to references like David Bowie and Sid Vicious for establishing a "rock-star" feel. "Eventually we want people to look back on his style and his vibe and think the same thing about him," she says. "We just try to do things a little bit differently than someone who would just go on stage wearing a bomber and denim, because he is a rock star and we're really trying to convey that in his looks."
That means it's all about pieces with cool detailing, like a Haider Ackermann velvet blazer he's been waiting for the right occasion to wear, or the black look he wore to perform on "The Late Late Show with James Corden," which had ropes at the sleeves, ankles, and midsection. Brand-wise, MGK and Pinney like to pull from places like Dior, Rick Owens and Vivienne Westwood; they also like to experiment with newer labels, like Gosha Rubchinskiy or the yellow set from Japan-based 99percentis MGK wore to perform in Los Angeles.
Surprisingly, styling for men has proven to be a challenge, especially when it comes to finding new brands. Pinney has been working with stylist Dianne Garcia, who dresses artists like Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q, which has helped her get a better feel for the menswear scene in L.A. "She's been a good mentor to me, menswear-wise," she says. "It's so crazy; it's super-hard to pull stuff here and get clothes because pretty much everyone out here is focused on women — award shows, red carpets, stuff like that."
Pinney has gone shopping with MGK a few times to help him build a wardrobe for while he's on tour; she will also occasionally send him pieces on the road if she sees something she knows will work for him. They'll have big fittings together before an awards show or a major appearance. Eventually, though, Pinney would like to start working for more custom looks; she teases something that could be in the works, and says that she'd love for these bespoke projects to become the norm for MGK. After all, it's worth all the effort to establish a signature sense of style as an artist — look at what aligning with the fashion industry has done for the likes of Frank Ocean, A$AP Rocky and Kanye West.
"It's really what makes an artist — besides the music," Pinney says. "It's of course important for the music to speak for itself, which it definitely does for him, but the wardrobe is a part of the whole package; he's so great at what he does that it's so important for this next chapter of his career to just be next-level with his wardrobe."
The moral of the story? Don't be like me. Do not sleep on Machine Gun Kelly — or Morgan Pinney, for that matter.
Homepage photo: Luca Teuchmann/Getty Images