*Rapper and producer RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan has partnered with Mustafa Shaikh to create 36 Chambers, a contemporary menswear line that recalls the name of the group’s landmark 1993 debut album “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).”
The line, which ranges from jackets to wallets and pins, with prices starting at just $5, went on sale today via 36Chambers.com.
Billboard sat down with the pair to discuss the line, why they used the Chambers name, where RZA’s love for Asian culture comes from and the pieces in the line they are most proud of.
View excerpts from the Q&A below:
Naming the line 36 Chambers clearly connects it to the Wu-Tang and that classic album. Why was naming it that important to you two?
RZA: It took some time to get to that.
Mustafa Shaikh: We were going to call it Chambers Collection or Wu-Tang Private Label. [RZA,] you’re the one that had the breakthrough. I think we wanted to harken back to that first album and what inspired the Wu-Tang Clan. Kung fu. Eastern philosophy. Eastern art. Those are the underpinnings of both the album and the brand.
The golden dragon is featured on some of the pieces. What’s the significance of it to you?
RZA: The Chinese interpretation of the dragon is different from the American’s. It’s actually a very powerful and spiritual being. It’s more helpful than it is destructive. Parts of the dragon can be graceful, but then also destructive to the enemy.
Jin Long, which is basically the golden dragon, was the name given to my first godson. When he was first born, I went down to Canal Street and I got a gold dragon to symbolize his birth. He was born in the year of the dragon. The dragon Jin Long is also a picture that I have up in my family room. And it inspired what I brought to 36 Chambers. So my contribution to it had a personal element to it as well.
RZA, when the Wu-Tang Clan first dropped the 36 Chambers album, most thought the kung fu and Chinese influences wouldn’t be something you’d pull inspiration from decades later. What about that culture is so important to you?
RZA: When you think about the Asian culture, it’s one of the few that actually preserved its history in more detail than a lot of other cultures. Their principles of righteousness, physicality, spiritual growth, enlightenment… the poetry, chivalry, swordsmanship, all of those are great qualities for any human, whether you’re Asian, Caucasian, black American, Native American. They’re useful. During my period of development, I had to find those things in Asian culture, because they were buried in other cultures. And it hasn’t been tampered with or diluted. It has a universal message.
What are your favorite pieces from the line?
Mustafa: My favorite piece is the velour mandarin jacket. It’s a cut that’s traditional in Chinese culture. It has a high collar. I finally got my own in my size. [RZA] is a large and has everything at his disposal.
RZA: All of my cousins have been hitting me up about that souvenir jacket. You’re not alone. But the one that I’m most proud of is the wallet. When you’re conscious, you want to try to live up to your consciousness. You’re not going to throw a plastic bottle in the ocean because you’re conscious of what plastic does. So for us, it was important to make a wallet that stays away from animal skins. I was very proud that we were able to do that. No animal had to die.