Courtesy of Off-White
On Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas, Usher will have exactly 40 seconds—no fewer, and certainly no more—to change into a bedazzled leather moto jacket, as well as a matching shirt, pants, and roller skates. This will occur at the midpoint of the Super Bowl LVIII halftime show, the most-watched concert of the year.
I get the sense that the lightning-fast wardrobe swap had been keeping the Off-White design team up at night. “Everything is being meticulously planned. A lot of work goes into a quick change of 40 seconds,” says the brand’s art and image director Ib Kamara, calling in earlier this week from Milan, where he and Off-White are based. The day prior, Usher was in rehearsals, and the change was taking too long thanks to a stubborn sweater that required 35 seconds to pull on. The Off-White team sprung into action, chopping the jumper in half and adding a zipper down the back. “So that was an exciting day,” Kamara says.
Kamara and the Off-White team are no strangers to primetime performances, having dressed Beyoncé in a custom red jumpsuit—also bedazzled—for her Renaissance tour. But kitting out the Super Bowl halftime star is one of the biggest coups in fashion. You might not remember much from the big game last year, but you surely remember when Rihanna hit the stage in Glendale in a custom fire-truck red Loewe jumpsuit. There’s no margin for error at a moment that brings with it a host of unique challenges. “Beyoncé’s look was very specific,” says Kamara, “but she wasn’t roller skating and doing the splits. And she wasn’t wearing pants.”
Usher is the biggest menswear obsessive to play the halftime show since, well, Usher himself cameoed in 2011 with the Black Eyed Peas. Last year, the R&B superstar was all over Paris Fashion Week. At the time, he told me that he was basically on a shopping trip. He had a few weeks off from his sold-out Vegas residency, and he wanted to see the new men’s collections firsthand, hitting the front rows in a heavy schedule that included Bode and Rick Owens and Comme des Garçons and Louis Vuitton and Wales Bonner. He considers his wardrobe to be a part of his performance, and his taste is sophisticated and personal; he told Vogue that he loves to “see a designer’s passions and emotions.”
Usher’s team got directly in touch with Kamara and Off-White to make the halftime look happen. Kamara, the Sierra Leone-born and London-based editor and stylist who succeeded Virgil Abloh at Off-White in 2022, told me that Usher has long been considered a part of the label’s extended family. Of all the brands in the world Usher could have selected, he clearly saw in Off-White and Kamara the passion that he channels through his stagewear. “I think we felt like a natural brand to work with,” Kamara says.
Usher’s choice was indeed extremely considered. Once the two sides began talking, Usher’s team sent over a Super Bowl-sized moodboard: a 50-page deck with references to Kamara and Abloh’s work. “It was pretty heavily researched,” Kamara recalls. “He obviously had a really strong vision for what he wanted.” Which was critical to the process. “Where do you start with the Super Bowl halftime show?” says Kamara, who admitted he’s not the biggest football fan. But with Usher, Kamara added, “it was actually the easiest project to start.”
“There was a sense,” continues Kamara, “of empowerment within the mood board that I really drew from.” Usher’s ideas for the look revolved around Off-White’s Spring-Summer 2023 men’s show, a kinetic collection that accentuated the human body through anatomical details and dynamic shapes. That show was very sartorial, but Kamara wanted to introduce a biker theme with the jacket, which he calls “very American,” adding that he and his team were keenly aware that they were designing to a much grander spectacle than a Paris Fashion Week runway. “We asked ourselves, how can we represent this look on the global stage and with the greatest impact? So I think everything has been much more pumped up.” Quite literally: Usher has never been afraid to flex his muscles, and the jacket features crystalized paneling in the shape of superhero-level pecs and abs. Across Usher’s five Off-White wardrobe pieces are 394,000 embroidered crystals, enough shimmer and shine to light up all of Vegas.
Usher will wear the Off-White look in the crescendo of his set, which the pop icon has promised will feature a roller-skating sequence of the kind that had crowds going nuts at his 100-show Vegas residency that wrapped in December. The only thing Off-White couldn’t make was Usher’s roller skates. “But we tried!” Kamara says.
Before turning back to design meetings, Kamara reflects on the significance of what he and Usher were about to pull off. “I think it’s a collective moment in history for all of us,” he says. Kamara’s tenure at Off-White is still young, and Usher was about to give him the world’s biggest co-sign. “I'm feeling very happy for Off-White, to see the brand on such a world stage.” When he first saw the full look last month, he didn’t feel stressed about zippers and split seconds. That would come later. In the moment, he simply felt “very emotional.” “To see everyone rally around this project to make it come to life, it’s a beautiful thing to see that within Off-White,” Kamara says.
Originally Appeared on GQ