In 2002, Burberry refused to dress Ja Rule when he was on the promotional tour of the follow-up to Pain is Love, a Grammy-nominated, triple-platinum studio album released the previous year. The reason, according to his then-stylist Rachel Johnson, was that there was a certain stigma associated with rappers and the urban community in general. Until a few years ago, designer brands were averse to the idea of dressing hip hop artists because of the seemingly negative image that was associated with them. Today, however, with hip hop music creating waves on global charts and artists commanding a huge army of fans, brands have started banking on their immense popularity to push sales. In the past, hip hop artists wanted to be seen in luxury brands (think Dapper Dan’s bootlegged fashion); today, brands are scouring to dress big names like Cardi B, Kanye West, Travis Scott, and so on.
Hip hop has always had a monumental influence on fashion, with its distinct style dictating fashion trends of the last three decades and artists namedropping brands in their songs.
Here are some of the fashion icons and most influential names in hip hop fashion:
Kanye “Ye” West
went from being hailed as one of the greatest rappers of all time to becoming one of the – if not the – biggest names in hip hop fashion. His ready-to-wear Yeezy line has been showing at fashion shows for a few years now, with its hot-ticket items, especially the shoes, selling out in seconds. Yeezy has collaborated with various other brands, including Nike and Adidas. Its most recent collaboration is the YEEZY GAP Engineered by Balenciaga.
Dapper Dan’s Boutique was located on Harlem’s 125th Street, serving an exclusive clientele of hip hop musicians, professional boxers, as well as drug kingpins. His clients’ fascination with designer logos led him to revamp repurposed fabrics from brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. His designs drew interest from the likes of Salt-N-Peppa and L.L. Cool J. Dapper Dan’s creations are considered to be a significant influence on the logomania craze that has taken over hip hop fashion today.
Virgil Abloh (1980-2021) was more than just a hip hop fashion designer – contrary to how the 2022 Grammys might have identified him – he did dress some of the most popular hip hop artists like Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, and A$AP Rocky. Throughout his career, including when he was serving as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection, Abloh used his personal relationships and artistic collaborations with rappers like Ye to redefine the idea of luxury fashion. From his work as an intern at Fendi to working at Donda, founding his own brand, and taking the reigns of Louis Vuitton, Abloh has undoubtedly become one of the modern fashion’s most recognizable names.
Want to know more about hip hop fashion? For the latest in hip hop fashion trends, check out Birth of Hip Hop. We offer a treasure trove of information about all things hip hop, including rapper style fashion, ‘90s hip hop trends making a comeback, the legacy of Dapper Dan, and so much more.