Jon Batiste Is The Star Of Coach x Basquiat Capsule
In conversation with the renown jazz musician and Coach family member.
In conversation with the renown jazz musician and Coach family member.
Launching today is the new and exciting project from Coach: the Coach x Jean-Michel Basquiat collection of accessories inspired by work of the culture-changing graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Coming in with a global campaign featuring recognizable Coach faces Jennifer Lopez, Michael B. Jordan, Jeremy Lin and Yang Zi, as well as beauty entrepreneur and Basquiat’s niece Jessica Kelly and other members of the extended Coach family. Created in collaboration with photographer Micaiah Carter and a global collective of creatives including Paloma Elsesser, Jon Batiste, Kyemah McEntyre, Diana Gordon, as well as photographers Fan Xin and Zhang Meng, the capsule tells the story of creative families united by shared beliefs and purpose to spotlight Basquiat’s vision of bold expression and activism through art. It’s truly an extension of his desire, as he once said, to “be part of the family of artists.”
“We really love this collection from Coach,” said Jeanine Basquiat, sister of Basquiat, on behalf of the artist’s family. “They did a great job in capturing the spirit and energy of Jean-Michel’s work and putting together a perfect group of creative talent to bring this to life. We’ve always been fans of Coach, so this is a dream project for us.”
The range, which debuted on the runway last February as part of Coach’s Fall 2020 collection, introduces Basquiat’s artwork and values to a new generation through the lens of the Coach family. One of those family members is Jon Batiste — the American jazz musician, bandleader and big fan of Basquiat and his enduring legacy. Ever since being introduced to the legendary artist’s work for the very first time at age 19, while working on his degree at Juilliard, Batiste used Basquiat’s ethos to guide him in the way he approaches and thinks about creativity. And now, he acknowledges that it’s more important than ever to extend that legacy and help people learn more about the history and the part that they have had to play in that history.
“I’m very interested in doing things, whether it's with brands or with people on the street protesting,” Batiste explains. “From high offices to the streets — I'm constantly looking for ways to collaborate, and I'm always going to be open to any ideas that have the right intentions.”
Read our full interview with the musician below, and stay tuned for his new single titled “I need you” slated to come out on September 25.
VMAN How are you, what have you been up to in the past few weeks/months?
Jon Batiste I'm good! I've been working on an album that I started in August, it's coming along with a lot of other projects — including a musical on the life of Jean-Michel Basquiat and a film for Pixar. The film is called Soul, and the main character is based on me and voiced by Jamie Foxx — and I'm doing music for the film as well.
VMAN How did you get involved in this Coach x Jean-Michel Basquiat Collection campaign?
JB I was a part of the Coach family for a few years now, I've gotten to know the team there and have done different events and represented the brand at fashion shows in the past. And I was already working on the Jean-Michel Basquiat's Broadway musical along with his family and the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Stuart (Vevers), who was a mutual friend of Jean-Michel Basquiat's family and of mine, we were talking about it one day, and he mentioned that they were doing this collection and that I should be a part of it. It all just kind of all happened very naturally.
VMAN Can you talk a little bit about Basquiat and his importance in your work and creative process?
JB He famously said that he's not an elitist, he's an autodidact wanting to be a part of the family of artists — which I think speaks a lot to his artistry. He took a lot of information in — whether it was anatomy, whether it was music, whether it was any sort of thing that he was interested in at the time. It could be engineering, it could be American history, but he would always find a way to put that into his creativity. That has really influenced me a lot because I'm someone who does a lot of things and there's not really a 'box' that you can fit it into.
I think it's really important to have examples of people who are also like that, who have achieved great things and found a way to put it together in a very clear presentation. Every time you see Basquiat's work, you know it's his work — it has a very clear visual language. It's very unique and signature to him, and that's really a hard thing to do when you're drawing from a lot of different sources. How do you make it your own?
VMAN When were you first get introduced to Basquiat and his work?
JB When I was 19 at Julliard. A few friends of mine were working on a project that was actually a really, really great time because the drama division and the dance division, all of which are at Julliard, really collaborated at that time. That was one of my goals with going to Julliard, finding ways for all of us to collaborate. And as we were collaborating, Basquiat's name came up, and I had never heard of him [at the time], so one of my classmates introduced me to his work. And from then on, I've been a huge, huge fan because it really resonated with how I felt about creativity.
VMAN Speaking of Basquiat's work, what does it say or represent for you personally?
JB Wow... His work speaks to the idea of what we talk about when we're trying to explain the American identity. He is a true omni-American in the sense that he represents so much of what we talked about when we express the American ideal: he's Puerto Rican and Haitian who grew up in New York City but also lived abroad. He wanted to go from his family and went to be homeless and became a star — you know, the rags-to-riches sort of American dream, that you can make it. He just represents so much of what we consider to be 'the American ideal.'
VMAN What did you think of this Coach x Jean-Michel Basquiat project when you first heard about it?
JB I was very excited because I have been keyed into his work for so long. I was excited that they were sharing something like this on such a big level with so many great artists and creators. I was really happy that this was happening because not a lot of people know about Jean-Michel Basquiat in mainstream sense. You would think that a lot of people would know who he is, but if you were to go to Omaha or you could go to somewhere like Minnesota, somewhere in the middle of the country — not a lot of people really know about Jean-Michel and his work.
VMAN What does this collection represent to you?
JB It's a creative organization like Coach using their platform to push forward something that resonates with the current generation and beyond. For all times, this collection is a legendary collection because it has such a significance, not only to the moment that we're in with COVID and with all of the different things going on in the world — but it represents an artist who spoke across time. He spoke to the generation that he was in while also incorporating in the past and speaking to the future. It's just a continuation of what Basquiat was doing and it doesn't happen too often that a brand can speak to that.
VMAN What's your favorite piece from this range?
JB The backpack is fantastic!
VMAN You said you're working on a Broadway musical based on Basquiat’s life — can you talk a little more about that?
JB Well, I think that project is something that's special because I've gotten to know the family and we're really the only project in the world, and the only project on Broadway of all time, that's been allowed to use his actual artwork. None of the movies that you've seen or any other projects about Jean-Michel Basquiat, besides the ones that he was a part of when he was alive, have been allowed to use his artwork. So this is a very special opportunity to have access to some of the things that no one who has previously created a piece inspired by Jean-Michel has had access to.
VMAN Do you see yourself participating in similar kinds of projects or campaigns in the future?
JB Yes! I'm very interested in doing things — whether it's with brands or with people on the street protesting. From the high offices to the streets, I'm down to keep pushing things that I feel will help people to know that history and to also know themselves. So I'm constantly looking for ways to collaborate, and I'm always going to be open to any ideas that have the right intentions.
VMAN What's next for you? Do you have any other exciting projects coming up?
JB Oh yes, there's some great music! This project that I'm working called WE ARE, and there's music coming out along with a visual album and a really inspiring set of pieces of content that will come along in the next week. This month, we're doing quite a few exciting things all inspired by the great lineage of the Black American diaspora, and WE ARE is something that I've been working on since August of last year. I feel like the world can really benefit from meditating on the things that inspired me for this album now more so than ever, I'm glad that it's being put out into the world.
The song that's coming out on the 25th is called "I need you," and it's something that is important for us to remember in this time where everything is feeling pretty dark and people are alone and isolated — that we need each other. We can't replace that.