Hip-hop’s influence on fashion now seems ubiquitous, but the FIT Museum is planning an exhibition that will magnify its origins and lasting influence.
From February 8 to April 23, “Fresh, Fly and Fabulous: Fifty Years of Hip-Hop Style” will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of hip-hop. The show will be the first that the museum dedicates to a musical genre.
During a joint interview Monday, Elena Romero and Elizabeth Way of the Fashion Institute of Technology, who co-curated the show, discussed hip-hop’s upcoming milestone anniversary and how they’re trying to expand the narrative around the genre. Hip-hop began in 1973, thanks to the black and brown youth of the Bronx, who created the definitive style of music, dance and visual art that reflected their lifestyles.
As a former Associate Editor at DNR and a former Contributing Editor at WWD, Romero is part of the hip-hop generation, covering hip-hop fashion at its peak, experiencing it as part of her culture, and writing the book “Free Stylin’: How to hip-hop changed the fashion industry.”
She came up with the concept for the show in 2018. “Fashion is this unofficial sixth element of hip-hop. It is a form of expression and the style goes with the music,” she said.
Along with its comprehensive approach, the fact that the exhibition is being curated by women is striking, since much of the market perspective has traditionally come from a male point of view. Exhibition designer Courtney Sloane is also tied to hip-hop, having worked with Queen Latifah, Sean Combs and Bad Boy Entertainment, and has designed the offices of Vibe magazine and hip-hop exhibitions, including one for the Rock & Roll of Fame.
Visitors will learn from the beginning of the exhibition how the hip-hop style was the chosen dress code in different places in the club. Various forms of media, including record companies, television shows, and movies, used fashion as a vehicle to promote hip-hop artists and ideas. The Museum at FIT will highlight sections such as The Designer Dreams, High Fashion Does Hip-Hop, Collaborations and Hip-Hop in High Fashion to highlight connections between established brands including Jordache, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton and Gucci. There will also be information on custom designers such as Dapper Dan, the 5001 Flavours husband and wife team of Guy Wood Sr. and Sharene, and Shirt King Phade, the pioneering graffiti streetwear maker.
While celebrity branding and endorsements are rampant, in the early ’90s, hip-hop-inspired fashion was a popular means for musicians and entrepreneurs to broaden their reach. Some, like FUBU, expanded into other categories like suits and bedding, but always with a hip-hop twist, according to Romero.
And many went from musicians to moguls in the ’90s, including Sean “Puffy” Combs with Sean Jean, Russell Simmons with Phat Farm, and Jay-Z and Damon Dash with Rocawear. They were among the businessmen who helped generate more interest in the sector, Romero said.
“There were a number of artists who tried their hand at entrepreneurship. That made a lot of sense to them. They found out how much money was being spent on merchandise that was being sold, when they were on tour, and what their percentage of those sales was. They saw how influential they had become in influencing fashion brands and style,” Romero said. “Taking that step beyond just an endorsement to powering his own brands was a natural progression for the artist. In many cases, we ended up seeing that they were making more money in fashion than in music at a given time.”
At the FIT Museum, gallery goers will also find sections for Sports Influence, Pink, Celebrity Style and Hip-Hop Glam. Around 50 collectors and lenders have provided the fashions, jewelry, sneakers and other accessories; There are even stunning custom acrylic nails from Cardi B’s nail stylist, Jenny Bui. Sal Abbatiello of Disco Fever in the Bronx, Ralph McDaniels of Video Music Box, Monica Lynch of Tommy Boy Records, April Walker and others helped illustrate the global impact of hip-hop artists as fashion icons on the red carpet of the Bronx. XXI century. Romero also contributed: his exclusive brass plate belt buckle will be featured in the exhibition.
The show’s goal is to broaden the perspective of hip-hop beyond a particular aspect or time period to see the full range for “men, women and everyone,” Romero said.
Hip-hop has been one of the strongest influences on culture since before the 1990s. From a fashion standpoint, traces of hip-hop can be seen on the catwalks of haute couture and designers, as well as in the American brands and the intercontinental style.
To be sure, 50 years of hip-hop style is too much to encompass in one exhibition, so next year’s show is skewed more through a New York lens, the curators said, with spotlights on how hip-hop made denim, outerwear, and formal wear their own. .
Bold pieces like Adidas sneakers, tracksuits and shearling coats that Run DMC helped popularize will be in the mix, as will the Karl Kani-designed clothes worn by the late Tupac Shakur; and the Aaliyah Tommy Hilfiger bandeau and jeans. Other fashion items once worn by Lil’ Kim, Cardi B and Lil Nas X will be on display.
To help bring the exhibition to life after it opens, a symposium is being planned for next year, a companion book will be published by Rizzoli, and other talks are scheduled. “It’s about being able to capture stories and stories at this very important time, looking at hip-hop at 50. But it’s also about how the style was so important in promoting music, artists and something that has become such a international phenomenon. Romero said.