Fact: will.i.am can’t stop working. A founding member of Grammy-winning hip-hop/pop group the Black Eyed Peas, the 38-year-old multihyphenate’s growing list of titles include songwriter, entrepreneur, DJ, record producer, and philanthropist. His latest venture is EKOCYCLE—a eco-focused initiative with Coco-Cola that drives brands to produce items made in part from recycled materials. The latest brand to jump on board is Levi’s, who crafted a limited-edition pair of 501 jeans made of plastic bottles.
Cleverly named the WasteLess jean, the design comprises of 29% post-consumer recycled content and uses and average of eight recycled PET plastic bottles per pair. (Peep the promo video here.) This past week, Levi’s kicked off the game-changing collab with a party at LA’s Haus of Strauss showroom, hosted by the brand’s VP of Design Jonathan Kirby and Will himself. I sat down with the artist to hear more about the collab, how he tames his creativity (I mean, the dude is everywhere), and why attempting to change the world will get us nowhere.
What is your earliest memory of recycling?
"It was actually when I was an adult, living on my own. My girlfriend said ‘we need to put the bottles and plastic in this container so we could go to Thrifty’s and turn them in.’ Then we started to collect cans and send them to the liquor store to get money. We were poor."
How did you make this partnership happen?
"I came up with the concept in 2008. In 2009, I made the deck and pitched it to Coke and all there executives in Atlanta. The concept was simple: take the word "COKE" and turn it around, so it’s "EKOC" and replace the "C" with different things that related to our society, such as ‘conscious, cycle, community, center, collaboration, consumption’ and so on. It took a few years before we turned it into something real and launched with our partners, including Levi’s."
How do you maintain your creativity energy?
"I try to control my brain. It wants to do everything, so I have to start taming it. Because I could be, like, ‘I want to design lamps!’ and then suddenly start working on that. No, I need to cool out and focus on one thing at a time."
Whose creative energy do you admire?
"There are a few people, like Philippe Starck. He’s on another level and does a bunch of stuff. I think he’s an amazing guy. Kanye West is dope, too. I really admire a few fashion folks like Christian Louboutin and Vivienne Westwood."
Speaking of fashion, would you ever want to design your own collection?
"No, because fashion’s hard. Hats off to all the designers out there because that stuff is really, really hard. You’re thinking so far ahead knowing that it’s not forever. Like, when you’re making a song, you’re not really thinking that far. You’re thinking of right now, knowing that if you crack it right, it could be nostalgic and last forever. Fashion is not like that. It’s about how you feel at the moment, but also keeping in mind what people are going to be wearing way in advance.
So, is that a hard no, or should we never say never?
"It’s a no, for right now. I’m enjoying my work with EKOCYCLE, which allows me to design but also focus on sustainability and global progress."
What is one thing that everyone could do to really change the world?
"We need to inspire the world rather that try to change it. Changing the world is a scary concept, actually, which is why the world stays the same. Instead, I want to inspire people to change their lives. Be a little bit more conscious about the things you buy, because we’re not. We’re not conscious of the things we buy, put in our bodies, put in our minds, and put in our homes."