Emory Jones wearing his Puma Spezial Groove City Track Jacket.
Emorymay have just launched his second collection with Puma, but don’t confuse him for a designer. The head of apparel and merchandise for Jay-Z’s Paper Planes brand made the distinction clear when speaking to radio host Charlamagne tha God and a crowd of fans in New York on Monday. The long-standing Roc Nation creative made a stop at Jimmy Jazz in Harlem along his press tour, where he discussed his new “Bet on Yourself” collaboration, culture and style.
“The thing I love most about Puma is, they’re good people. I ain’t saying we always get it right, but it’s good people. At the end of the day, when good people communicate, we can always figure out something better,” Jones told Charlamagne.
In this latest matchup between Jones and the sportswear brand, three unique shoes — the Clyde x Emory Jones, the RS-0 Emory Jones and the RS 100 x Emory Jones — complement a selection of apparel and accessories including throwback tracksuits and graphic T-shirts. The sneakers, which officially released last week, retail between $90 and $130 at Puma, Jimmy Jazz and other select retailers around the nation. While they are the centerpiece of the assortment, the act of creating footwear has never been Jones’ focus. In fact, he claimed at the event that this would be his last collection.
“I’m not in this s**t to be making sneakers. I got bigger fish to fry. I don’t want to be defined off of how many sneakers I sell. To wake up and see my son being the face of this and the product is fire — I already won,” he said.
“There’s still business to be done,” Jones clarified when Charlemagne touched on Jay-Z’s recently joining Puma.” We just did the basketball [launch]. And the streets [are] talking. Puma is on everybody’s breath,” he said.
FN caught up with the businessman after the discussion, where he chopped it up about the collection, moments of betting on himself throughout his life, Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton and more.
Has it always been intuitive to “bet on yourself” or is there a moment where you started going with that flow?
“I always bet on myself, but I think I didn’t bet on myself for all the right reasons. For me to be here now that means I’ve bet on myself the whole time. But after going through what I went through and realizing that my voice is strong and my voice is needed, I was like, ‘I got to make it more about others than myself.’ And I’ve always been a people person, always looked out for others, but it’s when I consciously said ‘I’m [going to] make this about everybody else over myself,’ that’s when the light switched.”
What is the most impactful moment that you bet on yourself in your life?
“I think taking the challenge of when I came home [from prison] and being able to not get caught up in the mix of what [opportunities] I should chase. I made it my business to study and figure out what to do next. I had a five-year plan, and the first year, I didn’t do anything but go to work and home. The second year, I started branching out and seeing what was out there. By the third year, I started planting my seeds. So by the time I got to the fourth year and the seeds started sprouting, it wasn’t about the growth [or the] money; it was, ‘[I’ve built] something that I’m gonna have for later.’ And that’s when I knew that my projector was right.”
You pointed out the rose gold on your tracksuit as an important color that represents the hustle mentality. What’s the meaning behind the color palette of the shoes?
“The evergreen has always been a thing for me — being semi-New York — because we [New Yorkers] have always been into the military. The dusty coral gave off that pop. Who said we can’t wear these rich colors but then put the white sneakers on in the winter? The richness of it all was my mindset. That’s why you see the two white shoes stick out around the collection because those rich winter and fall colors with those white sneakers — s**t that’s clean.”
What’s the most unique element of the shoe or the most special detail for you?
“Being able to take a brand like Puma and put my DNA logo on that and it’s respected. It’s not forced. I’m not doing it to say, ‘Give me some credit.’ I feel like my brand is just as important as anybody else’s. To be able to stamp my brand on something that’s relevant, that’s what’s important. I feel like I can stand in the room with anybody.”
What are your thoughts about Virgil Abloh, who has been largely talked about in fashion this year, especially with regard to his Louis Vuitton appointment?
“Him being from Chicago — and because it’s like a second home to me — I know what fashion means to Chicago. This ain’t nothing new. My OG in Chicago, Jay Boogie, was making leather jackets for Biggie Smalls back in the day. It goes deep. For Virgil, the day it happened, I was so happy. The only thing that pissed me off about it was, I was waiting for Nike to do that. Nike was supposed to step up and do that. Because he single-handedly made us look back at Nike differently, and I was waiting on that part, but it didn’t happen. But then when I saw it happened with Louis, I felt good. I was up that morning, texting and sending screenshots because I felt like I won. Him winning is me winning. And I understand people [having adverse responses] but no, man — it ain’t that. You got to be in those buildings and in those situations to understand where we can go even more. If we ain’t in the building, how are we gonna know? He’s in the building now, so the door is open for the next kid to come from the same situation and be in the building. I love it.”
How has working with fashion at Roc Nation impacted your creative direction in your personal endeavors and vice versa?
“For me, it all starts from your lead. Jay is our lead, and what he instills in me and what I see from a fashion standpoint is how he’s been confident in everything he does. When you talk about fashion, fashion is more about confidence than the clothes. So to walk in that building and walk out every day with confidence booming? To me, I’m [going to] win. [I’m going to] always be in the conversation. People get caught up in the clothes — no. If you ain’t got confidence, we can all buy the same clothes and it ain’t coming off the right way. Confidence, that’s what our building persists of. That’s what Jay stands for, and I think giving that off to each other, that’s why we still here.”