Dressing Diplo

Notes from the set of the DJ/producer’s Vegas/Rated cover shoot

Photo by Anthony Mair

Photo by Anthony Mair

The Wynn Tower Suite has three bedrooms, a catering kitchen, a billiard room and a spa. But on this particular day, it also holds a rolling rack stuffed with designer menswear and a large assortment of photography gear. Somehow, without anyone noticing, Wesley Pentz (a.k.a. Diplo) has materialized in the suite’s foyer. The DJ, producer and record-label owner is standing alone, sporting an open expression, a phone in each hand and a wildly embroidered, fuzzy KTZ coat upon his back. As an assistant leads him to wardrobe, glancing around, he asks, “Do I get to stay here after the shoot?”

For a man who travels the world, routinely triggering dance-floor melees and compelling nubile young club-going females to do his trademark “Express Yourself” hand-standing, wall-humping move with but a simple flick of his wrist, Diplo seems surprisingly mellow. The shoot’s stylist asks him what type of clothing he prefers to wear, and he answers, “Layered separates. Straight, clean suits. Is that too boring?” The room is cleared, and while the photographer, art director and ersatz fan-club members wait for the man of the hour to change clothes, both his phones lay abandoned nearby, ringing incessantly.

Emerging an hour later (and with a fresh haircut) in a slim-cut Emporio Armani suit and Tom Ford loafers, he steps in front of the camera, and as the shutter clicks, Diplo talks. He speaks to everyone and no one in particular, quietly and earnestly, about such wide-ranging topics as fashion, shopping malls, his young son, the beach, Los Angeles traffic, strip clubs and his upcoming Converse-sponsored collaboration with Frank Ocean and former Clash guitarist Mick Jones. His phones continue their tantrums, but he pays them no mind. He’s at ease in front of the lens, but he never peacocks. He’s guileless, straightforward and, well, nice.

While Diplo the DJ may be experiencing international success (he’s just been slated as one of the headliners of the 2014 Ultra Music Festival), Diplo the Guy comes across as friendly and grounded. These are surprising qualities in a business known for its outsized personalities and for a man The New York Times recently dubbed “one of the most dynamic forces in an unsettled industry.” As he talks, it becomes clear it’s his love of delivering boundary-pushing sets to music lovers rather than a craving for the spotlight he currently occupies that drives him. Of his Mad Decent Monday night residency at XS, he says, “To be honest, I prefer to be a locals DJ. I’m able to play more adventurous [music]—to the bartenders, the locals. That’s the best way to do it. I think I got really lucky when I became the locals’ night guy.”

The camera clicks, the phones ring, the adoring females look on and Diplo the Guy makes polite chitchat until later that night, when Diplo the DJ takes command of the XS booth and it’s time to let the music do the talking. What happens next is another story entirely.

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A version of this story appears in the February issue of Vegas/Rated. For more from Diplo, and to see the results of the photo shoot, visit VRated.com or download the Vegas/Rated app. Catch Diplo live at XS on March 24.