Singer Khalid finds his happy place thanks to designer fashion and his neon-pink jacket and pants


When it comes to clothing, 20-year-old mononymous singer-songwriter Khalid’s motto is: the brighter, the better. “I look at everything within and throughout colors,” said Khalid, who wore a cobalt Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh sweatsuit and matching Nikes at Avalon nightclub in Hollywood, where the singer was headlining Sony’s Lost in Music campaign in January.

(A VR music video by Khalid, part of that Sony campaign, made its debut at South by Southwest last month and can now be viewed — for free — via the PlayStation VR platform.)

“I love bright colors because I feel like when I wear them I feel brighter. I feel happier,” said the “Young Dumb & Broke” singer whose signature look is matching suits. “I want to be bright because that’s the message I want to spread. I have this neon-pink denim jacket-and-pants set, and I’ll wear it with a white T-shirt underneath, and a belt. And it’s super ’80s.

“I love the ’80s. So every time I wear that, I just feel like dancing,” continued the R&B prodigy, who also rocked a millennial pink Salvatore Ferragamo suit at the Grammys in January.

While his life appears to be happy now, it wasn’t always so bright for Khalid, who moved around a lot growing up, and, like most teens, succumbed to peer pressure. “For a big part of my life, I was restricted in what I put on, just because of what people in school would think,” said Khalid, who’s lived in Georgia, Kentucky, New York, Germany and Texas thanks to his mother’s career in the military. “But then one day, everything switched. I was like, ‘I’m going to wear what I want because I love how I feel in it,’ you know? I want to put on an outfit that makes me feel good about myself. So I can express who I am inside, outside. I don’t want to go back to just wearing black.”

Khalid, who’s scheduled to perform two shows at the Greek Theatre in May, said he feels it’s important for artists to communicate who they are through how they dress.

Onstage at the Sony event, his performance was as upbeat and bright as his clothing. “I love performing live. I just love the connection with the fans and having the fans feel like they’re a part of something great,” said Khalid, who often shares painful personal anecdotes to inspire his audience to embrace their emotions, both happy and sad. At the Grammys, he joined Logic and Alessia Cara onstage to perform their nominated anti-suicide song, “1-800-273-8255,” surrounded by a group of suicide survivors wearing T-shirts that read, “You are not alone.”

Khalid's favorite labels include Gucci, Helmut Lang, Gosha Rubchinskiy and Louis Vuitton.
(Kacie Tomita)

Khalid’s message of self-love can be infectious. His debut album, “American Teen,” released in March 2017, earned him a 2018 best urban contemporary album Grammy nomination, one of five.

The singer, who loves L.A.’s sunsets and beaches, owes his love of disco and dancing to growing up in Heidelberg. “Germany, for me, is just the king country of dance music,” Khalid said. “It’s awesome.”

Living there also informed his style. “Growing up in a European country influenced me because they dress a lot differently. I feel like the clothes are a little bit more fitting,” said Khalid, whose favorite labels include Gucci, Helmut Lang, Gosha Rubchinskiy and Louis Vuitton.

Who inspires him today? “Zayn’s style is extraordinary,” he said of the mononymous British singer. “He’s definitely on a completely different level. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to dress as nice as he does!”

Last summer, Khalid collaborated on a collection with Forever 21, and while he has nothing in the works right now, his eye remains fixed on the fashion world. “If I could do anything, I would want to learn how to walk,” he said. “Walking for Gucci or Louis Vuitton or Helmut Lang would be super amazing. I walk like a duck. So I think it’ll fix that.”

While his sudden success has felt “slightly overwhelming,” Khalid said he appreciates the equally sudden growth spurt. “I’m learning so much more about myself throughout the process,” he said. “I just want to grow, and I just want to excel. I don’t want to become anyone else. I just want to be a better me.”

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