It's no secret that we at Fashionista are eager supporters of the boy band phenomenon — if only judging from our encyclopedic, at times rabid coverage of a certain British group's former members. But since said group, One Direction, unofficially-officially disbanded in late 2015, the music world has sorely lacked a suitable substitute. There have been contenders, sure, but none that possess that rolling thunder of star power for which we've patiently been waiting.
Here's hoping lightning can strike twice with PRETTYMUCH, Simon Cowell's latest discovery. As was the case with One Direction, Cowell handpicked the new fivesome — Brandon Arreaga (17, from Corinth, Texas), Edwin Honoret (18, from Bronx, New York), Zion Kuwonu (18, from Ottawa, Canada), Nick Mara (19, from Manalapan, New Jersey) and Austin Porter (19, from Charlotte, North Carolina) — who were then each pursuing solo careers, and assembled them into a group. But where PRETTYMUCH has all the contemporary relevance of One Direction, they also have the dancing chops of nostalgic triple threats NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and the like.
The boys have been living together in a house in Los Angeles since 2016 — said Mara, "it's like a slumber party every night!" — where they've worked on their debut album in relative solitude. Though that's changing, and quickly: After making their world debut at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards in August, PRETTYMUCH began promoting their first two singles, "Would You Mind" and "Teacher," followed by music videos for both.
Just one of the benefits of having such a lengthy incubatory period is that the group has been able to refine a truly airtight aesthetic, which is apparent in one scroll through their Instagram feed: They wear streetwear favorites like Supreme, Vans and Gosha Rubchinskiy with a mix of high-low, from Gucci accessories to vintage pieces they pick out together on group thrifting trips. And though they work with a stylist for red carpet occasions, they're otherwise entirely self-styled — meaning what you see (on social media, mostly) is what you get. It's a fun, admittedly refreshing take on the gussied-up boy band style to which we've grown accustomed all these years.
These style chops were on full display last week when we spent an afternoon together at the iconic LES Skatepark here in New York City. As soon the boys piled out of the car and into the skate bowl, it became clear that they were down to do things their own way: It didn't take long for Nick to scale the fence, or for Austin to lament how much he wished he'd brought his own skate deck. But they were true professionals, too, greeting us with firm handshakes and big bear hugs. It seems like an excellent recipe for record-shattering, generation-defining success.
We spoke to PRETTYMUCH about how they buy and wear clothes — whether that involves personal shopping, upcycling or DIY-minded excursions to Lowe's — and how their style has changed since they started the group. Read on for the highlights from our conversation.
How would each of you describe your own personal style?
Edwin: I base my style off ASAP Rocky, Luka Sabbat… kind of the chicer, fashion week style. But I like to be very outlandish with my outfits, so I'll wear a jumpsuit or I'll wear a big fur coat. If it's girls' clothing, I'm going to see how I can rock it for a guy. I don't want to look like the next person, in that sense.
Austin: I'd say it's very skater-esque. I wear a lot of skate brands. Right now, Rip N Dip's one of my favorite clothing brands just because of how weird and out-there they are. And I love cats, and that's their big thing. I also love very outlandish reference shirts — so "Star Wars" and things that I like. I love old band shirts, like old '80s, '90s rock shirts. I thrift them for the most part, unless my dad had them before. I'd say I'm very '90s. You know Brian from "The Breakfast Club"? Like that. That's how I dress — very simple, but cool.
Zion: I think my style's very urban, but I dress for comfort most of the time because we dance a lot. I don't like to go too far left or too far right with anything, so I keep it in the same spectrum. A lot of my influences are Chris Brown, Big Sean, Chance the Rapper, Kanye [West]. I usually wear skinny jeans, and I love vintage tees. I love all the vintage jackets, so we go thrift shopping a lot. And if I do throw [in] a designer piece, it's a jacket or maybe my hat — but for the most part, it's laidback and urban.
Brandon: There's really no good way to label my fashion, but I like to simple stuff done complicatedly — things like camo or checkers or flames or patterns, but if they're different colors or [in] weird lettering. I also like DIY; I like using shoe strings for belts. I literally went to Lowe's and bought a chain; I measured it out, put clips on it and tied it around [my waist]. I just like to be weird. For shoes, I mainly wear a low-top Air Force One or Vans or occasionally Adidas — pretty casual. I also like button-up shirts. I can pull off slightly nerdy; if it's not too nerdy, it could be cool.
Nick: For me, for the most part, streetwear is really all me. I like the athletic look, as well, so you'll see me in matching sweatpants or matching crewnecks. I incorporate vintage into it because there's a lot of vintage athletic stuff that I like, like old-school Champion. Tommy [Hilfiger] has a vintage sports line that I like wearing. But other than that, I like polos. And a big thing for me is shoes. I love all types of shoes that are crazy and loud and just fun. All the Jordans. All types of Adidas. I just bought myself some Gucci shoes that look like the Stan Smiths; they have the patch on the front. Those are dope. I'm not afraid to get cleaned up and clean-cut; it's just that I haven't really had the opportunity. I feel like that's going to change once I have the liberty to go and get something a little more expensive, but for right now, it's just a lot of athletic gear that's vintage.
Now, you guys are definitely a boy band...
Austin: How'd you figure that out?
Well, Wikipedia told me this morning when I was doing some research.
Austin: Don't believe Wikipedia. [Laughs]
...and boy bands traditionally either match or coordinate, and that's not something you guys do.
Is it important for you as a group to dress as individuals first and foremost?
Austin: It's really funny, actually, because a lot of times unknowingly, we'll match. We'll walk out wearing the same white top. We'll color-coordinate by accident a lot of times...
Brandon: Never on purpose.
Edwin: At the end of the day, we like to shine as individuals, as our own superstars, and I feel like that helps people who want to be our friends or listen to our music or be a part of the lifestyle because…
Austin: It makes us more relatable.
Edwin: They can pick who they would want to be friends with, if that makes sense. It's like, as [Austin] was mentioning earlier, "The Breakfast Club" — a group of friends you wouldn't think would work, but at the end of the day, do work.
Austin: People from all walks of life.
Edwin: I feel like that shows in our music, but that also shows in our clothing. And if we do match, it's going to be something crazy — like we're all going to decide to wear Versace, but he's going to rock it differently and I'm going to rock it differently.
Austin: [Gestures to Nick] Like, he'd be the only one wearing shorts.
Nick: Yeah, something like that.
Austin: He's got nice legs. [Laughs]
And you don't work with a stylist on a day-to-day basis, but how do you go about putting together those more formal looks for red carpet events?
Nick: We have a stylist that brings in tons of options, but it basically comes down to us.
Brandon: It's like bringing a store to the house and we just pick what we want to wear, like doing the shopping without having to leave your house. It's nice.
Edwin: When it comes to me, I try to wear one piece that's outlandish. For the VMAs, my jacket was vintage Supreme and it had a cool pattern, but everything else was more simple. I stick to keeping it clean because it is a carpet — you want to be at least somewhat presentable.
Austin: When I was picking things out, I wanted to wear a headband from "Naruto," which is an anime, to make a statement. People know I love anime. I was like, I don't want to cover my forehead — that's weird — so I put it on my arm because one of the characters wears his headband on his arm. I had a normal purple Supreme jacket, but I threw that on to make it something.
Edwin: It's like a more emphasized version of us on an everyday basis, a more high-end version of what we would already do.
Austin: Also, I love the idea of upcycling. My mom did something for me recently: She took a flannel, bleached it white, dyed it tie-dye and took one of my old shirts that I couldn't wear anymore and put the pattern on the back.
Brandon: One thing I do love about the carpet is that we make sure to buy new shoes, so we're fresh. The shoes are always squeaky clean.
What's the last thing each of you bought?
Nick: I just bought the Gucci shoes.
Edwin: Oh, I haven't shown you guys yet, but there's this guy in the U.K. who customizes Air Forces. These ended up costing a lot of money, but they're these sick, customized Air Forces.
Brandon: The other day, I just bought — I don't think you guys have seen them yet — these checkered pants.
Zion: I think the last thing I bought was a Gucci wallet.
Lots of Gucci.
Zion: [To the tune of Lil Pump's "Gucci Gang"] Gucci Gang, Gucci Gang, Gucci Gang.
Austin: The last thing I bought was, I think, just a bunch of Rip N Dip stuff. They dropped the new spring line and I bought all that stuff, and they kept dropping stuff throughout summer so I was just buying that. I want to get these sandals — they have really funny sandals. They look like the Gucci sandals, but they just have a cat on them, instead.
How have your personal styles changed since PRETTYMUCH got started?
Edwin: I always wanted to wear things, but I didn't have the money or the research or resources — that's where I would fall off — so I would always shop at like, Forever 21 or H&M. Before, I was afraid to go out of my comfort zone, which I wanted to do. Now, I'm just not afraid because I just don't care about what anyone else thinks.
Brandon: I actually didn't realize how much I liked fashion until I started learning about it and focusing on it and trying to make sense of it, and then I started falling in love with it. I like coming up with concepts, or trying things you wouldn't have thought of.
Zion: My style used to be a lot of what Edwin said — H&M — just because it was accessible and easy to get to and affordable. But now, I realize that I don't like a lot of the trendy, clean stuff. I like a lot of the vintage, older stuff. Before, I'd just be wearing long tees and skinny jeans and that was it.
Edwin: I also didn't know what looked good on me because I never tried it.
Austin: That's you.
Edwin: Before, I thought baggy pants wouldn't look good on me, but now I'm wearing baggy pants all the time because I see how it works. Now that I know what looks good on my body, I can explore.
Nick: For me, there was only so much I could pick from, which were certain stores in the mall. But I was just naive — I didn't really know that I could wear certain things a certain way. Like, I didn't know that I could buy an extra-large T-shirt that clearly doesn't fit me and make it work. I didn't know I could wear pants that don't fit me. I didn't know it could look good because I was just sticking to the script — not to what everyone was doing, but to what was available to everyone.
Austin: I was naive in the sense that I just didn't know. My brands were Hollister, American Eagle and Forever 21. Maybe. You know what I mean? And that was a maybe that I'd walk in there. If not, then I went into Zumiez. And that was about it.
Edwin: It's funny, we had these G-Star pants and Nick was like, "Yo, these are so sick, but they don’t fit me," and I was like, "I'm going to make them work." So I put them on, I grabbed a belt and then I rolled the pants five times and he was like, "How? How did you make it work?!"
Homepage photo: Whitney Bauck/Fashionista