“Cities have their own personalities,” says the fresh-faced musician Mabel McVey. “They get into your head and influence your relationships. The city you live in can make you the happiest or the saddest person in the world.” McVey should know. Born in Málaga, Spain, and raised in Stockholm, it was only after moving to London a couple years back that the 20-year-old truly found her home. “It’s quite straight and conformist in Sweden,” explains McVey, who studied music production in Scandinavia. “I felt as though I wasn’t able to admit to liking all the music I really love, like Destiny’s Child and Justin Timberlake. There’s more freedom in London. Without thinking, I embraced all the sounds and styles I’d tried to suppress.” Two tracks and a record deal later, you have only to hear the rolling beats on her second single, “My Boy My Town”—an ode to the British capital—to recognize the arrival of an irresistible breakout talent.
If McVey’s dewy skin and coolly powerful demeanor seem familiar, it’s likely because she’s the youngest daughter of singer Neneh Cherry and producer Cameron McVey. The Cherry doesn’t fall far from the proverbial tree, and much like her catsuit-costumed mother, McVey knows how to bring sassy attitude whether onstage in her favorite high-waisted Moschino sweats or at the studio wearing oversize denim and Calvins. “Outside of music, fashion is the only other way I know how to express myself,” she says from the Los Angeles hotel room where she is sketching out tracks for her forthcoming album. “I keep a folder of inspo on my phone and it’s all ’90s looks. It’s weird. I’m not going to pretend I was there—I was born in 1996—but that era just speaks to me.”
Favoring classic casual ensembles like dungarees and crop tops, McVey’s “elegant streetwear” style borrows from a latter-day J.Lo and Mariah—just check her Instagram feed—while those Judy Blame accessories, which add a little feminine bling, are pulled straight from her mother’s jewelry box. “She collects jewels like I collect jeans,” says McVey, who has also inherited the odd Alaïa jacket from the depths of the Cherry archive. Her other current obsession: chokers, which she hand-makes from haberdashery lace or velvet ribbon.
When back in London, where she’ll be taking in the season’s buzzed-about runway shows such as Fashion East, McVey makes frequent trips to cult skate haunts like Supreme and Palace to stock up on hoodies and logo T-shirts. But it’s a baby pink bomber and track pants by South London designer Caitlin Price that she’s most enamored with right now. “There’s nothing better than a tracksuit,” she says before returning to that 1990s mood board. “I’ve been looking at pictures of Aaliyah in her 1997 Tommy Hilfiger campaign. It’s so sexy and powerful. It was a time with a really strong female R&B presence. We need more of that.” The great hope is that McVey will be the one to bring it.
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