Mr Jaden Smith Is Here To Take You On A Trip

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Mr Jaden Smith Is Here To Take You On A Trip

Words by Mr Alex Frank | Photography by Mr Thomas Giddings | Styling by Mr Jason Rider

15 March 2022

Mr Jaden Smith, the multi-talented 23-year-old scion of Mr Will Smith and Ms Jada Pinkett Smith, is excited to discuss the new drop by MSFTSrep, the fashion brand he began almost 10 years ago with a couple of friends and his sister, Willow. Recently, the company has been scaling up. It has transformed from a scrappy, sporty skatewear brand into something more akin to a luxury collection, with production in Milan and an actual CEO to run the business side of things. The clothes are smarter, sharper and more sophisticated and Smith has plans to make them all fully sustainable, starting with bags made from vegan apple leather.

Smith cannot talk fashion without first talking fungi. Launching on MR PORTER this week, MSFTSrep’s latest collection, called Trippy Summer, is an incandescent hodge-podge of kaleidoscopic styles. It is an ode to one wild and weird thing: Smith’s interest in psychedelic mushrooms. “I believe that mushrooms are going to help us expand consciousness,” he says over a Zoom call from his office in California, his eyes perpetually peaked with wonder, a string of white pearls around his neck. “The collection is not just clothes to sell. It’s loaded with spiritual experiences and mystical states. We’re just making clothes that can go along with people’s journeys.”

By that, he means he’s not just inspired aesthetically by psychedelia. The collection is made to be worn while tripping out yourself. “When you’re in that sensitive space, the wrong shirt can ruin things,” he says. “Whether the shirt says, ‘Oh, fuck you, you fucking fuck,’ or, ‘Go to hell and die,’ it might scare somebody.” So, for instance, the latest MSFTSrep collection contains a hypnotic, eye-melting spiral print, splashed across trousers and jumpers, which is meant to come alive as your mind does.

“We’re taking advantage of the certain visual cues that happen when you’re on mushrooms,” says Smith. “Things slightly move. If you give something the feeling of motion, when you’re on mushrooms and you look at it, your brain will finish the work and put it in motion so that you’re like, ‘Holy fuck! His pants are moving.’”

All of this is born from Smith’s own experiences with psilocybin, the natural hallucinatory compound found in certain so-called magic mushrooms. Psilocybin works on the brain by activating serotonin receptors, which affect mood and emotion, largely in the pre-frontal cortex, which helps manage, among other things, mood, memory, personality and motivation. Psilocybin’s effects vary, but recent studies have shown that, in addition to its hallucinatory properties, it has shown promise as an agent to alleviate depression and anxiety. Smith’s first trip (which he does not tell me anything specific about, such as date or location) was, he recalls in a long monologue, mind-openingly lovely.

“I was with people who I really loved dearly,” he says. “We go to a park, which was the best decision that we could have ever made. Everything just becomes so beautiful. We look at the sky and everybody starts feeling like they want to cry, but no one says anything. We were running in the park. We’re sprinting. We’re talking fast. We decided to hug a tree and felt like we actually went inside of the tree. I saw the inner workings of the tree and it looked like a rainbow. I could tell in that moment that trees were alive, but more alive than anyone could ever think. As alive as humans are.”

He left the experience a changed and better man. “I really saw what it was to not have an ego, losing track of yourself,” he says. “When I was hugging that tree, I was not Jaden Smith, the person. I was more of a raw-consciousness spirit of a human that was hugging a tree.”

He couldn’t help but bring everything he saw back into the real world. He developed a deep interest in the bohemia of the 1960s, particularly figures such as acid evangelist Mr Ken Kesey, and even created a kind of fictional alter ego called Wavy Baby in honour of the Grateful Dead mascot, Wavy Gravy.

“People were following me around when I was in a stroller. Before I could speak, I could feel the presence of people I didn’t know who were interested in me”

“Wavy Baby is just always on mushrooms,” says Smith. “He’s that guy. And he has this rainbow bus that he rolls around in. I started to understand all of the trippy symbolism that people created in past ages. That’s another powerful thing about mushrooms – it turns non-believers into seers.”

All this exploring has helped him forge a more inquisitive relationship with design, which he brings to his work in MSFTSrep. “Now when I design and I learn about fashion, it makes me have a flexible brain,” he says. Inspired by his interests in the hippie culture of the 1960s and 1970s, he sees himself as something of an apostle for the new Age Of Aquarius, a theoretical astrological era that many New Age proponents predict will bring peace and love to all the Earth once it dawns. With MSFTSrep – and its tie-dye T-shirts and mystifying spiral prints and radiant colours – he is aligning himself with a whole beatnik movement.

How, you might wonder, did a dauphin of Hollywood royalty become an advocate at the style forefront of new-wave psychedelia? Smith’s long, strange trip started before he was even old enough to read, when he became famous as the child of Will and Jada, making his debut on Ms Oprah Winfrey’s talk show as part of a family interview when he was three years old. “People were following me around when I was in a stroller,” he says. “Before I could speak, I could feel the presence of people I didn’t know who were interested in me.”

His career began as a child actor, first as the eight-year-old co-starring with his father in the 2006 movie The Pursuit Of Happyness, then as the lead of the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid, which included a theme song he recorded as a duet with Mr Justin Bieber (who remains one of his best friends). His sister, Willow, was more singularly focused on music and produced a surprise mega-hit single, “Whip My Hair”, when she was just 10 years old.

Their unconventional lives also made them seekers. Their parents gave them both an astonishing amount of freedom, intermittently home schooling them and reportedly even eschewing the concept of punishment, encouraging their two young children to explore creativity however they liked.

Smith had his first adult taste of infamy thanks not to a movie but to a 2014 interview he did with his sister. It centred on their philosophical pursuits, which is unusual enough, but particularly so coming from the offspring of Hollywood idols. It went viral and made both of them objects of intrigue. Among other things, they discussed quantum physics, prana energy and, according to Willow, the fact that the world “is a fragment of a holographic reality that a higher consciousness made”. Smith told the reporter that his one goal in life was to be the “most craziest person of all time” and that his art is inspired by the “melancholiness of the ocean”.

He mostly gave up on acting to focus on music and fashion, but he refuses to home in on just one or even two vocations. He has become the archetypal Gen Z slasher – model-slash-actor-slash-musician-slash-designer. He is an icon of style for his androgynous, gender-bending look and even landed a women’s fashion campaign for Louis Vuitton. But he has also been a serious partner in a sustainable water company, Just Water, since he was 12 years old, and helped develop a mobile water filtration system that he then deployed in Michigan to assist with Flint’s contaminated water crisis.

“It’s all about multitasking,” he says. “That’s what the internet has done to us. That’s what all of this has done to us. If I can watch a movie and go on Instagram at the same time, then I can definitely make an album and a collection at the same time.”

Throughout all this, he has been on his philosophical quest, unafraid to air far-out ideas in public, even proudly claiming the marker “conspiracy theorist” and using his celebrity status to try to pull at unusual sociological and cosmic threads.

Some years ago, during Mr Barack Obama’s tenure as president of the US, Smith was invited to visit the White House as a guest of his father, and he decided that he had a mission to get to the bottom of whether or not aliens exist. “I owe it to conspiracy theorists around the globe,” he says. “I’m the ambassador for us. We were in the Situation Room in the White House and I was choking up. I was about to not ask the question, but my dad wanted to show that he was going to support me, so he was like, ‘President Obama, my son has a question.’ And then Obama just goes, ‘He wants to know about the aliens?’ We didn’t even ask! The fact that he already knew what I was going to say, it really said a lot to me. He said, ‘I can’t confirm nor deny the existence of extraterrestrial life.’”

“The collection is not just clothes to sell. It’s loaded with spiritual experiences and mystical states. We’re just making clothes that can go along with people’s journeys”

MSFTSrep, Smith says, is more than just a fashion brand. He alludes to it as an interconnected network of people around the globe who number more than a million. “We have MSFTS communities in Singapore and New York and Miami and London and Paris and Germany and Poland.” At first, I assume this claim that he heads up a million-member organisation with satellites all over the world is more hyperbole and suggestion than actual literal fact, but Smith says this network is a real, palpable thing with a structure and a broad mission.

“We’re organised,” he says. “We have meetings on Zoom. We share information and art. It’s all the people who got kicked out of the cool kids’ club, all the people who don’t belong. We come together to rebuild the world in the way that we see it.” And while there seems to be no verifiable evidence that a coordinated MSFTS movement with cells across the continents actually exists, Smith remains emphatic that if he believes something to be true, it is true. “If nobody else vibes with it,” he says, “that’s fine.”

Smith brings an authentic intensity to his work with MSFTSrep. When he discusses designing for the brand, it sounds less like a creative occupation, more like a crusade. When asked whom the brand is intended for, he gives a speedy battle cry as an answer. “It’s for the kids who stare out the window on the bus at the pink hue in the sky on the way back from school,” he says.

“It’s for the kids who are stealing MPCs [drum machines/samplers] out of the back of a studio’s freaking trash and trying to make a song and an album and something new. It’s for the kids who want to fucking, I don’t know, just be weird as fuck and came into this world as an alien. It’s for street rats who want to wear a skirt but are too afraid to go to the skate park like that because they know they’re going to get the shit beat out of them. It’s for the kids who are trans, that are not accepted for who they are. It’s still about misfits changing the world – being able to stand up for those kids that are getting beat down.”

For all Smith’s big ambitions, sometimes, in the brief and quiet corners of the conversation, when he comes down off his lectern to discuss the little things, what’s most engaging is seeing the regular 23-year-old kid behind all of this radical energy. Born into wealth and privilege, he says that his definition of success is not macro but micro when he is told how his work influences others on a humble person-to-person level. “When people come to me and they’re like, ‘That thing changed my life for ever and I will be different because of it,’” he says. When asked to explain why motifs of sunsets abound in his work, including in the new MSFTSrep collection, the answer isn’t so much metaphysical as endearingly simple: a girl broke his heart during twilight and he survived the pain. “This girl killed me in the sunset once,” he says, “and I lived on.”

“If I can watch a movie and go on Instagram at the same time, then I can definitely make an album and a collection at the same time”

Beneath the uber-cool captain-of-industry exterior, he’s also proudly something of a geek. “I play World Of Warcraft,” he says. “I watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I’m obsessed with cryptocurrency and the metaverse. I’m definitely a supernerd.” His interest in psychedelics flows primarily from a desire for better mental health and wellbeing, but also a charmingly relatable need to hang on to the awe of youth. “Plant medicine can help people be young at mind,” he says. “As you get older, your brain gets more rigid and rigid and rigid and then right when your brain is set in its way, you start experimenting with mushrooms.”

Like most people his age, it seems that the larger mission to change the world is born from the common, smaller, day-to-day desires that define a young life – the hunt for excitement, the pursuit of purpose, the yearning for community, the love of learning, the need for speed. An avid skater, his eyes light up particularly brightly when he discusses the regular joy of flying down a New York street on a board. “I went down Broadway on a skateboard at 12.00pm with no other cars,” he says. “I was the only moving thing on the street. That was an experience that changed my life.”

Given everything that he’s done and everything that he’s seen, why is it that he still finds skating such a thrill? “I like,” he says simply, “to move fast.” And for a faithful audience of fans and admirers, that’s ultimately been the real fun in following Mr Jaden Smith. No matter what he’s doing, we’re just trying to keep up.