Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hip-Hop and High Fashion Are Closely Knit

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hip-Hop and High Fashion Are Closely Knit

Article excerpt

I was talking to a friend of mine back in New York, when

the designer Gianni Versace's name came up.

"I wonder what all these wannabe rappers are going to talk

about now that they can't talk about Versace any more?"

It was a facetious remark, of course. Though it may seem

otherwise at times, today's rappers do talk about other things

besides designer clothes. But it illustrated an important point

-- namely, how much high fashion and hip-hop interact and

intersect. Designers get more than their share of free

advertising from hip-hop artists -- who wear the clothes in

videos, concerts and album covers and name-drop their favorite

designers in their lyrics.

Some references even turn up in artists stage names: Timbaland

and Magoo (after Timberland boots) and the underground group the

Hillfiguz (an obvious reference to Tommy Hilfiger's popular


In recent years, major designers are realizing the enormous

potential of the urban market, courting artists for ads and

fashion spreads, said Emil Wilbekin, fashion director for urban

culture magazine Vibe. This, despite the fact that the music has

had a romance with brand-name gear almost since the beginning:

Brand name sneakers, Polo Cologne, Calvin Klein jeans.

The current obsession with Italian designers is an outgrowth of

the '90s "urban mafioso" aesthetic, epitomized by the Puffy

Combs-led Bad Boy label, which included artists like the late

Notorious B.I.G.

"When the whole gangster thing came in, with the fedoras and

the suits, that's when the artists started going for the Armani

and Versace clothes," Wilbekin said.

"For men, it was because Italian designers have traditionally

made the best looking suits. For women, the clothes had a lot of

flash appeal. And that whole thing escalated with the Bad Boy


The issue has divided hip-hop fans and artists, some of whom

see the designer madness as evidence of a shallow, materialistic

mind set. …

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