It Was Fashion’s Complicated (And Fascinating) Relationship With Hip Hop

When, in 2018, Alessandro Michele, then a Gucci designer, was ‘inspired’ by a bomber jacket that Dapper Dan had designed 10 years earlier, social media rescued the African-American tailor from oblivion and Gucci bought his decided to cooperate with and reopen our Harlem atelier 25 years after police shut it down for intellectual property infringement. Because Dan made his fortune from 1982 by copying famous logos and emblazoning them on the bomber jackets and sweatpants worn by Nas, Missy Elliott, Salt-N-Pepa and other big names in 80’s and 90’s hip hop. “I don’t dictate fashion, I translate culture”, Dan used to say.

Salt n Pepa created by Dapper Dan in 1987 Photo: Courtesy of Rizzoli

Not just because all that culture surrounding hip hop, from music to fashion, is based on creating new ones by sampling or adapting what already exists; Also, and above all, because as explained by journalist Elena Romero, co-author of the book and curator of the exhibition Fresh, Flying and Fabulous: 50 Years of Hip Hop Style (Rizzoli), “While all those present were not welcomed into the luxury of Fifth Avenue, he treated them like luxury clients in his workshop”. until the nineties rappers They wore the clothes they could afford because no one wanted the brand. expression shopping while black (Shopping While Black), which referred to the surveillance they were subjected to in stores, was very real. Black customers were restricted because of the way they dressed,” he continues. Indeed, while many of these artists had already acquired a reputation for being famous among whites, they did so in terms of prices. Dan continued to wear.

Queen Latifah photographed by Jesse Frohman in 1990 Photo: Courtesy of Fotografiska

In 2018, the same year that Gucci put Dan on the payroll, Ralph Lauren launched the collection stadium, a capsule of sportswear that was paradoxically similar to an outfit worn in the early 1990s by Low Life, a group of Latinos and African-Americans from Crown Heights (Brooklyn) who buy (or steal) Ralph Lauren clothes became famous for doing and customizing. them at will. The Ralph Lauren brand, although founded in the Bronx, represented the opposite, communicating a privileged way of life at a time when white Wall Street yuppies collected multi-zero labels. Till the low life comes. “I used to go around the neighborhood and then I’d find a white kid on Fifth Avenue, but he bought it, and he was wearing it for different reasons,” one of the cast members explained in a report. the new Yorker of that year.

One of the jewels of the Chanel spring summer collection in 1991 Photo: Courtesy of Rizzoli

Dapper Dan and Low Life exemplify how hip hop transcended the stereotype of logomania; It was not a matter of reaching out to certain brands, but of turning their symbolic power around, which they could not access due to societal prejudices, adapting it, falsifying it and using it as Timberland Boots, Kangols were mixed with hats and clothing (hooded, wide). pants, slip-on sneakers). ) which in the collective imagination refers to a prison uniform or vandalism. But these are also examples of how the global influence of this aesthetic inevitably brought the circle closer: despite the fact that sports brands had already realized rap’s value among new generations (adidas and Run DMC’s Beach collaboration, in 1986, it was the first) The luxury firms he had named in his songs from the beginning continued to turn their backs on him. until they had no choice but to pay homage to them, however, as Romero points out, “the insanely complex idiosyncrasies of hip hop aesthetics and its evolution continue under an imaginary umbrella called ‘urban fashion’ in which everything fits Is”. An umbrella from which this industry has earned a lot of cash in the last five years.

Missy Elliott by Christian Witkin in 1998 Photo: Courtesy of Fotografiska

Now it’s 50 years since the 1973 party at a Bronx house where rap was born (the DJ, Kool Herc, flips the record and calls out the names of the guests to liven up the roast a bit). , Now the opening of the first major museum dedicated to him in the same district is being finalized and now, in the same year a rapper (Pharrell) becomes the first musician to be appointed as creative director at a large luxury house French (Louis) Is. Vuitton), it is worth remembering the complex relationship that this industry has with perhaps the most influential street subculture in the world.

The Fugees in 1993 Photo: Photography

“History hasn’t done a great job of recognizing hip hop’s weight in culture, fashion and art,” admits Amanda Hajjar, curator of another of the exhibitions, which celebrates half a century of its life, conscious, unconsciousAt the Museum of Photography in New York. Hajar points to the early 1990s as a turning point for hip hop as “the rise of MTV to become a phenomenon beyond North American shores”. It was then, in 1991, that Lagerfeld, the epitome of French refinement, at Chanel showered models with ostentatious jewelry with the brand’s name engraved on a plaque (the so-called). nameplate that they had been using since its inception). In 1996 Gianni Versace invited Tupac Shakur, a new style icon, to an exclusive party that celebrated his men’s collection, also inspired by the style. Rogue And, that same year, Tommy Hilfiger hired Aaliyah as a global face.

marc jacobs fall 2017 show Photo: Getty

“Fashion was surprised by its popularity. In fact, many brands had already been born (Kross Colours, Karl Kani, Eko…) that despite billing had no place in the media or traditional stores, probably because who bought them and Who designed them”, says Romero. Hundreds of thousands of young people bought the brands created or worn by their idols, but it was not until 2004 that a black person won the CFDA, The Council of American Designers Award, for the first time. Puff Daddy took it for his brand, Sean John, which has been billing millions for a decade. It has never been carried by a woman of African descent. And that behind the impressive suit style pioneered by Daddy was his then-partner, Misa. Hilton, one of the most powerful stylists on the women’s scene from Mary J. Blige to Lil’ Kim. She was among the first figures to overturn stereotypes of women in said scene, reappropriating her body in countless video clips until then. And in the wake of their sexuality, for example, Cardi B. Another woman, June Ambrose, was responsible for reducing the aggressiveness of macho, Jay Z or the creation of a new image of Pharrell himself, which in the book fresh, fly and fabulous: 50 Years of Hip Hop Style qualifies as “the turning point of the new hip hop fashion”, more melodic, ironic and fragmented. In this, after 30 years, Ambrose is the creative director of Puma from 2022. We already know Pharrell’s near future.

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