New York Fashion Week kicked off on Friday with runway shows from your favorite labels including what I like to call “high-end-hype” brands like KITH. Streetwear has definitely seen an increase in demand over the last several years as street brands have mastered the art of “the hype”. So of course the high-end brands have watched how street brands market themselves, but more importantly they’ve been watching their designs. Most streetwear brands like Supreme, Nike, and Fear of God get their inspiration from…wait for it…the streets! Karl Kani is the father of “streetwear” and his pieces still sell overseas because of the branding with Tupac Shakur. The first “high-end-hype” designers were Harlem’s own Dapper Dan and of course The Mighty Shirt Kings of New York. Before Rappers made enough money from records to afford Versace, Louis Vuitton, or Gucci they had to go to the block and customize their looks to create the “image”. Growing up a lot of young men in our community will tell you that they looked up to the local drug dealer or pimp because they had the fresh threads, money, women, and cars.
Hip Hop/Rap fought for respect in the fashion industry and fashion icons like Lil Kim and Tupac Shakur still don’t get the respect they deserve for their contributions to the legacy of fashion history. In the nineties fashion brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Nautica and DKNY were super popular brands who developed a streetwear line then because of how popular they were in Hip Hop and Rap Music. I had my share of the aforementioned brands growing upespecially since my cousin worked at Nautica in our local outlet mall. Mixing those brands with more “urban” brands such as Karl Kani, RP55, Mecca, and Enyce was nothing new to those of us in the “urban” communities or “the streets”. You know how we do, we needed labels to prove we had money and that’s what staying fresh is always about. Hip Hop Fashion is streetwear, but the high-end labels make sure the prices are on hype-beast levels because the hype is all about the availability and limited collections/pieces. The problem I have with “streetwear” brands is the lack of credit Hip Hop or Black and Brown people get for pushing the fashion envelope.
Why don’t we put our money into a revived streetwear brand like Karl Kani, Fubu, Rocawear, or Baby Phat? They told us those brands wouldn’t last because we as the consumer are too fickle and what’s fly today, might not be fly tomorrow. There are multiple reasons for this and economics is only one part of the equation. No we can’t always afford high-end clothes, but if you saw an affordable Southpole sweater that looked identical to a Givenchy sweater that cost what a Givenchy sweater would cost would you buy it? Why, because “the white man’s ice is colder.” If our vintage urban brands adopted the marketing techniques used by Off White, Nike, or Supreme where do you think they’d be? Would they have to hike up the price or does Jonah Hill have to walk the runway for Paris Fashion Week? We, Black, Brown, poor, street, and urban created the streetwear style because the high-end brands didn’t want us in their clothing. Brands like Tommy Hilfiger had to adjust to us, not the other way around. Now young Black and Brown women like Zandayacan create with such brands after years of them improving their reputation. I mean, did they really change or did we forget after we saw that new fall collection?
“Stood the test of time like Dapper Dan” – Pusha T (Come Back Baby)