As the new PUMA Mayze campaign featuring Bree Runway drops at ASOS, we catch up with the artist about her fashion inspirations, Freddie Mercury, and her definition of ‘hot’
Bree Runway is hot hot – can you handle it? Despite only releasing her debut mixtape 2004EVA last November, the London-born Ghanaian musician has already shown more range than most artists do in their whole careers. Jumping on tracks with everyone from Rina Sawayama to Rico Nasty, she also caught the attention of the mother herself after the internet declared her Missy Elliott’s ‘fine daughter’.
A tough legacy for anyone to live up to, sure, but Runway – real name: Brenda Wirenko Mensah – took the comparison in her stride, turning it into a co-sign and collaboration in the form of pumped-up know-your-worth anthem “ATM”. Like her cool mom, Mensah defies genre, synthesising the dissonant sounds of her hometown and heritage through frenetic freestyles, PC beats, dancehall, dulcet R&B, and more.
This instinctual drive for fresh, unexpected combinations informs her personal style too, which she admits has gone through its distinct “eras” – all the way from goth to an aspirational fake Birkin-toting phase. Now settled into what she describes as “street-meets-chic”, Bree Runway is just as at home in her lockdown uniform of LAPP crop tops as she is in Suman Gurung’s custom Josephine Baker-esque diamante and ostrich feather dress.
What stays consistent is the attitude that pulls these off – be that the swagger behind rapping lines like “Ride that boy face like a Yamaha,” or the wordless addition of her personal favourite: a loud bag that speaks for itself. Today, the street side is winning out, as the rising star becomes the face of the new PUMA Mayze collection at ASOS. Colourful, bright, and a celebration of her personality, the collaboration was a no-brainer for the artist who has also curated a Spotify playlist and recorded an acapella version of her new summer-out-of-lockdown single, “HOT HOT”, for the occasion.
Music and fashion go hand-in-hand, afterall. From Bowie to Beyoncé, musicians have long since carved out their cultural impact through the clothes they wear and the labels they name-check in their lyrics. “Dripped in couture,” riding in (not rented) Rolls-Royces “in YSL and Chanel, bad as hell,” while remaining a Hackney girl at heart, Bree Runway is no exception, writing her own brand of luxury. From the music videos that made her, to unlikely style icons, an enduring love of the 2000s, and what she would buy with a limitless ATM account – we caught up with the artist to get into this drip.
You serve looks in your music videos. Which music videos inspired you growing up?
Bree Runway: Oh, I think anything that was on TV in the early 2000s of MTV. So like I love Kelis, I love Britney Spears, I love anything Madonna. I also love anything from Freddie Mercury – anything that was very eccentric, loud, and just crazy. That’s the kind of stuff that sucked me in. I love all the looks in Freddie Mercury’s “Living On My Own”. He has this really big party in the video and it was not a regular party. Everyone showed up looking inSANE. There’s so much inspiration in that video.
You’ve worked with Missy – how was that?
Bree Runway: Oh my god, that was insane! At the start of 2020, I remember I dropped a song called “APESHIT”. When I dropped the teaser, everyone was like, “Oh my God, I didn’t know Missy had a fine daughter? Like, who is this girl?” I was like, “Who, me?” Like, “Oh my God, she’s giving me Missy vibes!” I’m like, “Really? Me?” It was a thing, the whole day, for hours back-to-back Missy, Missy, Missy, Missy, Missy. So I tagged her in the tweets. And I was like, “I don’t know if you’re seeing this, but apparently I’m your fine daughter. Hi!” kind of thing. And she was like, “Yeah, I’m seeing it actually! Keep shining!” I’m like, “What the hell? Did I just get a reply from the queen of all queens?”
After that, I just kind of kept going with my craft and I think I dropped a song called, “GUCCI” and by that time, I had my A&R call me and say, “Missy actually wants to do a song with you.” I was like, “Pardon? Pardon? Me?” So I thought, let’s send her “ATM” because “ATM” was one of those songs that felt really incomplete to me so I thought maybe she’s the missing piece of the puzzle. Let’s send it to her and see if she likes it. And she did. She was the missing piece of the puzzle.
She’s an amazing missing piece of that puzzle.
Bree Runway: Amazing missing piece! Probably the best missing piece in the whole entire world.
“I love Freddie Mercury; I love David Bowie. I can’t lie to you – Freddie Mercury can do a really good white top and boxy mom jeans, and then he can also have the higher end stuff, the big oversize padded shoulders and things like that” – Bree Runway
A style icon too. Who are your style icons, specifically?
Bree Runway: Oh, style icons! D’you know what? Crazy enough, I love Freddie Mercury; I love David Bowie. I think they’re my favourite y’know, because I can’t lie to you Freddie Mercury can do a really good white top and boxy mom jeans, and then he can also have the higher end stuff, the big oversize padded shoulders and things like that. And David (Bowie) – the way he experiments with colours, pattern clashes, like I love that. I love it.
We love range!
Bree Runway: Yes, honey!
Your ATM account has unlimited funds. What are you buying?
Bree Runway: Oh my god, everything Jean Paul Gaultier and Chanel! Everything from all the archives, like I need everything. And Chanel... I’m very into Chanel fingerless gloves right now, so I would locate all the pairs in the world and buy all of them.
What was your style like as a teenager and how would you say it’s changed?
Bree Runway: I felt like I had to dress by eras, like there was a point in my life where I was like to my mum: “Yeah, mum, I’m a goth now!” And she was like, “What?” I would look at e-girl styles and be like, “Yeah, I’m gonna dress like this,” and my mum was like, “OK, so how long is this one gonna last now?” And then I went through like a really chic phase at probably 14. I was like, “No, I want Hermès Birkin,” but obviously I couldn’t afford it at the time, so I bought a fake shape of it and tied a silk scarf around it, like how the rich women do it. I had a jacket that matched the exact shade of my fake Birkin and just walked everywhere with it. I thought I was the poshest girl ever. Now I’ve grown up I’ve realised: babes, you don’t have to dress in eras, you can actually mix everything together, and that’s what my style is now, basically.
What’s the best fashion advice you’ve ever received?
Bree Runway: I would say... Who cares if nobody likes it? If you like it, rock it.
You’re from Hackney – how has that influenced your style?
Bree Runway: I think with Hackney… I love how it’s so full of colour. Growing up, it was all about the tooth gems and how crazy your baby hairs can be and stuff – and I still carry that spirit with me now. I’ve gone from tooth gems to an actual diamond grill that I’ve actually got made for me now so I’m still the same girl, in an evolved way. So I think it’s just made me want to think bold, because in Hackney there are so many different types of people that dress really cool. I’ve seen some really chic people there, really punky people, everything… there’s inspiration everywhere.
What have been your go-to outfits in lockdown?
Bree Runway: Oh, so obviously I’ve been on Zoom 24/7 so I think... My go-to outfit, I’ll be honest, is my best friend’s brand – Leomie Anderson – LAPP, the brand. I’m literally wearing the crop top now from her. I’m a crop top girl, like no matter the weather... My stomach is always out.
What are you excited to wear when we get out?
Bree Runway: Oh god, all my cool Christian Dior pieces that I’ve had just hiding in the closet. I’m excited to wear shorts, like I have these really amazing denim shorts that just make my bum look really great... I really can’t wait to wear that. I really can’t wait to wear the new Pumas out as well because I feel like you can kind of pair it with anything and I’m just really excited to get my stomach out!
“My definition of hot is ‘free’. If you’re free, you’re hot – like if you don’t give a damn about what anyone thinks of you, you’re hot. If you’re doing you, you’re hot” – Bree Runway
Which designers, past or present, would you want to see on the runway?
Bree Runway: I’d like to see Mugler on the runway.
Who would you like to walk for?
Bree Runway: Mugler! Or I’d like to walk for Chanel.
That would be amazing, they have crazy sets as well.
Bree Runway: Yeah, exactly!
You said before that your stage name comes from your cousin and his style – what was it that you liked about his fashion?
Bree Runway: What I liked about his fashion is everything I am now. It’s very simple, but it’s a statement. He had some really cool pieces that if you know, you know. Like, “Oh my god, this is from like Kanye West’s Louis Vuitton collection – how the hell did you get that?” Or, “This is a very rare BBC ICECREAM t-shirt,” like those kinds of things. I was like, “Oh my god, this is so simple, but so effective,” – and that’s what I loved about it. It was just statement, statement, statement, statement.
Is there a particular piece you remember that you really loved?
Bree Runway: Definitely his Louis Vuitton Millionaire sunglasses. Loved them, at the time it was all I wanted because Pharrell had them, and I really wanted to be Pharrell.
Your new single is called “HOT HOT” – what’s your definition of hot?
Bree Runway: Oh my definition of hot is “free”. If you’re free, you’re hot – like if you don’t give a damn about what anyone thinks of you, you’re hot. If you’re doing you, you’re hot.
I love it. That’s exactly what we need this summer.
Bree Runway: That’s hot!
Like Paris Hilton – also a style icon.
Bree Runway: Yeah like Paris Hilton, exactly!
The PUMA Mayze collection is available here.