“Fuck It. I Can Die Now”: Maluma and Olivier Rousteing on When Dreams Become Reality
Everybody wants a piece of Maluma. First, it was the residents of his native Colombia, who, in 2012, couldn’t resist the Medellín teenager’s impressive debut album, Magia. Then it was the whole of the Latin world, who with the release of his 2015 sophomore record, Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy, saw in him a crossover superstar in the making, oozing swagger and sexuality. And as his style of romantic reggaeton and laid-back trap began to take hold on international charts, the rest of the world couldn’t look away, either. Throughout his rise, which includes songs with Madonna and The Weeknd, and two albums in the last year—Papi Juancho, which was recorded in lockdown, and the island-influenced #7DJ (7 Days in Jamaica), his first audio-visual album—the 27-year-old singer has made style his signature, changing hair colors like the rest of us change socks. That commitment to image has turned Maluma into a muse for designers, none more so than the Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing, who has gone one step farther than making clothes for Maluma. He’s making clothes with Maluma.
OLIVIER ROUSTEING: Where are you right now?
MALUMA: I’m in Miami. The weather sucks. I miss Paris. Even when it’s cold, I want to be there.
ROUSTEING: I wish you could be. I don’t know what’s going to happen this year. I’m working on my fashion show now. We can’t have people there, so we’re recording it.
MALUMA: I just announced my U.S. tour yesterday. We want to do it, but right now we don’t know if we can. It’s crazy.
ROUSTEING: The moment those borders open, I’m coming to show up in your Insta story. Do you remember the first time we met?
MALUMA: Of course. We were at the Off-White show in Paris. We were sitting pretty close, so I said hi to you, and we started talking. That was my first time at Paris Fashion Week. It was magic.
ROUSTEING: When did you first start loving fashion?
MALUMA: This is going to sound funny, but I don’t care. When I was 15 years old, I was in a fashion show in high school. My friends and I had to design what we wanted to wear, and I had to sing. That was my first performance ever.
ROUSTEING: Oh, wow.
MALUMA: The girls from class walked down the runway wearing the outfits. I helped them design the clothing, and then I had to sing. My mom was there, my dad, my sister, and my close friends. That’s a good memory, and it’s when I fell in love with fashion and music.
ROUSTEING: Do you like sketching?
MALUMA: I’m not very talented at drawing, but I love it. I do it when I have free time.
ROUSTEING: Is there a celebrity whose style you remember being obsessed with?
MALUMA: When I first saw Lenny Kravitz, he blew my mind. Those skinny pants and leather vests, those sunglasses, that hair, everything. I met him in New York at the American Music Awards. I went into Madonna’s dressing room and he was next to her, and they were just sitting down and talking to me. Bro, I was dying. I was like, “What the fuck? It’s Madonna and Lenny Kravitz.” The biggest fashion icons I’ve ever seen in my life. After that, I was like, “Fuck it. I can die now.”
ROUSTEING: I know the feeling. Is there one outfit that you most regret having ever worn?
MALUMA: There was a period in my life when I was wearing pretty cheap suits.
ROUSTEING: Like bad fabrics?
MALUMA: Super bad. The material was terrible. And I was mixing colors. I had this red jacket with blue pants, and the fit was terrible. But I was only, like, 18 years old.
ROUSTEING: I think we all have those regrets. I hope our collaboration won’t be one of your worst memories 20 years from now.
MALUMA: You know that’s not going to happen.
ROUSTEING: Speaking of our collaboration, how does Balmain reflect your style, your vision, and the person you are as an artist?
MALUMA: There are no strict ways to wear clothing. If you want to mix different colors, if you want to mix different textures, if you want to combine different pieces, you can do it, because it’s about freedom. Balmain gives me that feeling of freedom.
ROUSTEING: As a designer, I love seeing my clothes on people who create revolution, people who have the strength and passion to dare. You are one of the people who inspires me most.
MALUMA: I released two albums in eight months, and no one was expecting that. First, Papi Juancho, with all those vintage Miami Vice vibes, and then I went to Jamaica and fell in love with the culture there. I feel like Balmain does that, too, by trying to change the rules of the game every time you want to play it.
ROUSTEING: How did you feel about creating this collection with us?
MALUMA: It was a dream come true. I used to dream of performing at the American Airlines Arena or Madison Square Garden. My new dream is doing this collaboration with you. It’s nice to be a fashion lover, but it’s nicer when you become a part of the product.
ROUSTEING: I do very few collaborations, but I do collaborate with people I love and who inspire me. Here’s a question that’s going to make you laugh, I hope: What do you wear when there’s no one else around?
MALUMA: Bro, I love being naked.
ROUSTEING: Oh, come on.
MALUMA: I’m being honest. When I’m alone in my house, why do I have to wear clothing? Fuck that.
ROUSTEING: I mean, hashtag freedom.
MALUMA: Hashtag free.
ROUSTEING: You’ve collaborated with a lot of musicians. How is it different to collaborate with a designer?
MALUMA: It’s a similar process. When you go to the studio to record, it’s about sharing different ideas, and that’s what you and I did. I sent you a couple of things I had in my mind, you sent me some back, and it’s just the way it is—sharing art.
ROUSTEING: Can you talk about the inspiration for our capsule?
MALUMA: Well, it’s very Papi Juancho–inspired. It’s also very Miami Vice, with the colors of the Miami sunset. When I was doing Papi Juancho, all the songs talked about freedom. And that’s what these clothes feel like: Miami Vice, sunsets, and freedom.
ROUSTEING: And optimism. It’s about hoping for a better world, and I love that feeling. When you create, what do you think is the most important step between what you have in mind and the final product?
MALUMA: When I have an idea, I try pretty hard to make sure it turns out the way I’ve envisioned it. The things you have printed in your mind, they have to be exactly the same when you see them out in the world.
ROUSTEING: You move a lot from place to place. When you go to a new country, does it influence your style?
MALUMA: Absolutely. I felt pretty connected to the whole culture and the way they were dressing in Jamaica. It was so chill, but at the same time, they were telling a story. They didn’t need a bunch of accessories to express themselves—they didn’t need any diamonds. They didn’t need a fucking Rolex or whatever. They were just happy with their lives. They had food. They were healthy. For me, that was the most important thing.
ROUSTEING: Can you talk about how you plan on incorporating our designs into your Papi Juancho tour?
MALUMA: I’m dreaming about that moment. We have to take the game to another level. I want everybody to talk about the outfits I’m going to wear, because it’s a pretty special moment, being onstage and having all the lights show off a badass outfit. I want to have a lot of options, because when I did the last tour, sometimes I was getting tired of what I wore. I had the same vest, the same concept, for the whole tour. This time around, I want to surprise people every night.
ROUSTEING: You have made music with Madonna and, more recently, with one of our friends, Jennifer Lopez. What were they like?
MALUMA: We’re talking about two legends. Madonna and J. Lo, they are legends in every aspect—musical, fashion, acting, everything. When I went to Madonna’s house in Portugal, I went into her room and I saw this big pillow with a message from Michael Jackson on it saying, “Madonna, I love you,” and she was like, “Hey, Maluma, look at this pillow Michael Jackson gave me.” I was like, “Are you fucking kidding me? I’m with the Queen of Pop.” With Jennifer, we did this movie Marry Me that is going to be out next year. I learned a lot about acting from her, about trying to be yourself when you’re acting. It was such an honor.
ROUSTEING: What has been the best thing about being famous?
MALUMA: That’s a good question. I would say all the experiences and opportunities I’ve had. Working with you, working with J. Lo, working with Madonna, going to so many different countries, touring around the world. If I wasn’t famous, these things wouldn’t be possible. Working with amazing humans is one of the most beautiful things that being famous has given me.
ROUSTEING: Beautiful words. By the way, keep being humble, because it’s what is so precious about you.
MALUMA: If you’re not humble, everything is going to fall apart. You know how it is, bro.
ROUSTEING: Tell me about your relationship to social media—how you use it, what you get from it, and what you don’t like about it.
MALUMA: I love social media, but I’m not that attached anymore, because I really felt like it was destroying my life.
ROUSTEING: In what sense?
MALUMA: The cyber world is not good for your mental health. There are a lot of mean people leaving bad comments about you, and, to be honest, I don’t need that energy. I was, at one point, pretty obsessed. I was spending 12 to 15 hours a day on it. So I stopped, and now I feel happier.
ROUSTEING: It also felt like an addiction for me, and I was so scared of every criticism and comment. What is one thing you think your fans get wrong about you?
MALUMA: There are a couple of things. One is that I feel like men think I’m going to steal their girlfriends.
ROUSTEING: You wouldn’t?
MALUMA: It’s funny, sometimes when I go to my hometown and I go out, maybe to have dinner at a restaurant, I get close to a table where there are a couple of guys with their girlfriends, and they see me, and they start rubbing their hands. I’m like, “I’m not going to do anything. I’m single, but I don’t want to be with your girlfriend. I’m not like that.” Another thing is that people think that maybe I’m not humble. I’ve been working so fucking hard to get what I have. Yeah, I got a plane. Yeah, I got my car and my house, but it’s because I worked fucking hard. People get confused by that, and think you’re not humble because you have these things. Making money doesn’t make you not humble.
ROUSTEING: What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?
MALUMA: I would say doing the remix of “Hawái” with The Weeknd, that was great. Also, working with Madonna was insane, man. I still don’t believe it, to be honest with you. Working with her was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done in my life.
ROUSTEING: What do you want to achieve next?
MALUMA: One day I want to have a family. I want to be a father. I’m young and I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen soon, because I still want to live my life, but that’s my biggest goal eventually.
ROUSTEING: How many kids would you like to have?
MALUMA: Bro, a soccer team. But that’s not my decision, it’s hers.
Grooming: Luis Rivera, and Colleen Stone at Creative Management
Executive Producer: Dario Callegher
Digital Technician: Javier Sanchez
Photography Assistants: David Friske and William Takahashi
Fashion Assistants: Cristina Garzon and Suki Hewitt
Tailor: Gloria D. at Atomic Assistants Agency
Production Coordinator: Rita Rainis
Production Assistant: Nora Natz