Consider last year’s shows. Cardi B graced the front row of several top NYFW shows, Versace closed its Milan runway show with Migos and Drake’s track ‘Versace’, and Marc Jacobs dedicated his entire fall collection to hip-hop culture, taking inspiration from early hip-hop fashion icons Salt-N-Peppa and LL Cool J.
“It’s impossible to talk about culture without talking about hip-hop,” says Lucie Zhang, Senior Social Manager at Vogue. That extends to fashion, says Zhang, especially as fast fashion has enabled every trend to become commodifiable and accessible.
Leomie Anderson for Moschino F/W 2015. Photo: Getty Images.
Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 2 show. Photo: Getty Images.
And, just as technology ushered in the streaming success of hip-hop, it has enabled the genre’s stars to become trendsetters. “You can’t insulate yourself from culture anymore,” says Dalila Shannon, a buyer for Urban Outfitters. “We’re all taking in information from our phones and it influences the things we do and what we wear.” For example, Shannon traces the popularity of ripped jeans back to the style of artists Lil Yachty and 21 Savage.
“Hip-hop brings a cool to fashion that [it] just couldn’t reach beforehand, and it also brings in a new audience.”
Rappers have long associated themselves with luxury fashion. In 2005, Kanye West was the self-titled “Louis Vuitton Don” and in 2013, A$AP Rocky rapped, “Got a lotta Prada, that Dolce & Gabbana/ I can’t forget Escada, and that Balenciaga.” But labels are no longer a token of success for hip-hop’s royalty—now, the genre’s stars are trendsetters who are equally in-demand by the brands leading the industry. Harper’s Bazaar recognizes Kanye West as one of “the most important players in the fashion world” and A$AP Rocky is the face of Dior.
Leomie Anderson, a UK model working with some of the most iconic brands of our time like Fenty, Yeezy and Victoria Secret, says the merging of fashion and hip-hop benefits both creative communities. “Hip-hop brings a cool to fashion that [it] just couldn’t reach beforehand, and it also brings in a new audience.”
Marc Jacon’s hip-hop-inspired F/W 2017. Photo: Getty Images.
Cardi B. Photo: Getty Images.
Hip-hop has been one of the factors that have led the fashion world to expand its audience and runway shows and campaigns more inclusive. The Fashion Week runways have become increasingly diverse, and brands like Yeezy, Kanye West’s line, now cast runway shows in which models of color are the majority. Hip-hop’s presence “has been a force to bring diversity into the fashion space” says Zhang. “Fashion has opened its doors a lot more — it’s become more democratic. Designers are finally getting in touch with what’s happening in culture.”
If fashion reflects the culture, then we can expect to see hip-hop’s streetwear sensibilities mirrored on the runway. “Hip-hop is edgy and speaks out about the world,” says Zhang. That attitude is evident in young consumers who no longer want to be mascots for luxury brands, but, says Shannon, think that “it’s more important to look interesting and edgy than put together.”
See more from Leomie Anderson on hip-hop’s influence in fashion::