Quitting the most popular boy band in recent history in the middle of a world tour was likely not an easy decision for Zayn Malik to make, but it turned out to be the right one: His sudden departure gave his own public visibility a significant boost, and his solo Mind of Mine release became the first album by a British male artist to debut at No. 1 in the US and UK. Speaking with Dazed for their summer 2016 issue, Zayn opened up about finally writing and releasing music on his own terms, taking fashion inspiration from Prince, and finding a famous fan in pop's golden girl Taylor Swift.

“I don’t get much feedback from my peers. I spoke a bit to Taylor,” he admitted during the in-depth interview. “At Gigi’s house we briefly spoke and she told me she really enjoyed the album. It was nice to get some feedback. She said she thought I was cool and I kind of blushed a bit and didn’t know how to take it.”

Zayn also talked about his appearance at this year's Met Gala, where he was one of a small handful of celebrities to embrace the evening's theme, Fashion in An Age of Technology. Despite being on the receiving end of both positive and negative feedback, he has no regrets about his bold sartorial decision to wear robot arms.

"I was asked to design my own costume by Donatella Versace," he said. “It was cool. I had seen a few people hitting me online, saying negative things about it. But I enjoyed it because they were saying I looked like a dude from Mortal Kombat, and it was actually based on a character (from the video game series), called Jax. He had metal arms, and the theme was technology, so I just took it from him... It’s a bit easy to just dress up in a suit. I like to do things that are a bit outside of that.”

It was a decision, Zayn continued, partly inspired by late icon Prince.

“A lot of starting references for me are technology and Prince. I’m conscious in the back of my head, of how he was sort of bold and fearless in the way he decided to dress. He created another world with the clothes he wore, and it gave him an otherworldly feel, which is all part of his legend, I guess," he said.

"I was really upset with the fact that [Prince] passed away. But it’s nice that we can use things now to portray what inspired us about him. That was kind of what I was doing at the Met Ball... being fearless. But I was just having fun.”

And despite what may seem like a further foray into celebrity culture (dating a model, attending red carpet events, hanging out with Taylor), Zayn insists on staying grounded in an attempt at self-preservation.

“I haven’t done much acclimatin’,” he said. “I’m just staying the way that I am. I think that’s the best way to keep your sanity. You’ve got to hold on to what you are and not let things get to your head, because if you do, that’s when everything comes crashing down terribly.”

Head over to Dazed's official site to read Zayn's full interview.

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