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A Review Of 'Fashion Killa: How Hip-Hop Revolutionized High Fashion'

Borrowing its title from an ASAP Rocky song of the same name, not only did Hip-Hop journalist Sowmya Krishnamurthy perfectly craft the oral history of Hip-Hop and fashion, she also examines the strenuous relationship between the two and shines a spotlight on how Hip-Hop music and fashion aren’t a phase or fluke, but a lifestyle.

This literary piece of work isn’t just on time with the celebration of Hip-Hop turning 50, but it provides the reader with in-depth context to a Hip-Hop subject that’s often not properly acknowledged. We all know that there are four elements of Hip-Hop, but the unspoken fifth element of Hip-Hop is fashion, and Krishnamurthy takes us on a journey on how Hip-Hop arrived at the destination of luxury.

Sowmya Krishnamurthy's Fashion Killa

The glory of the book Fashion Killa is that it just doesn’t reverse its erudition to fashion. It showcases how the lore of record labels, magazines, models and designers are all responsible for the marrying of the two genres. With that, we’re reminded of Tommy Hilfiger’s fable fiasco being our first form of "Cancel Culture." The birth and impact of Vibe and The Source magazines. Brands like Carhart and Timberland refused to aggressively market to urban communities because they assumed it would cheapen the brand. They intended to be exclusive to those in the workplace. To their surprise, the demographic they didn’t target elevated the footwear to new heights and made it a staple in urban neighborhoods across the East Coast and beyond. And because you can’t discuss hip-hop without mentioning the crack epidemic, “hustlers and rappers are natural extensions of one another,” or as Nas puts it, “street guys and rap dudes are from the same stuff.” The two [rappers and hustlers] began their merger in urban communities as fashion icons and influencers and that caused the paradigm shift between fashion and hip-hop.

Krishnamurthy deliberately made sure women got credit for their fashion contributions, starting with Josephine Baker popularizing the short skirt, which decades later would be coined the mini skirt. Coco Chanel was more than a force, she was revolutionary. [Donatella] Versace was one of the first fashion houses to embrace Hip-Hop and use Lil Kim as her muse, making her the first rapper to attend the Met Gala. The pair trauma bonded over losing the man closest to them. Kimora Lee made her mark, Missy was innovative, and here’s where an excerpt and not a mere mentioning of stylist June Ambrose in the book would have been fitting.

One of the book’s highlights is chapter nine and its ghetto fabulous splendor. What Andre Harrell initially set out to do with Uptown Records eventually lunged itself into becoming more than a record label, but a style of life that captivated and captured the essence of Black urban life. Ghetto Fabulous is where the hood meets high fashion with a sprinkle of froideur. And by way of Misa Hylton, Puffy, Biggie, Mary J. Blige and most of the Bad Boy roster, we got a front-row seat at their decadence that oozed opulence. That era of Bad Boy birthed Sean John, the designer who would go on to receive the highest level of fashion prestige, the CFDA award.

By then, being a rapper was synonymous with having a clothing line. Still, only a few brands and fashion houses would embrace Hip-Hop while the others still wanted nothing to do with Hip-Hop. But it was the unenviable and undeniable commercialism of Hip-Hop that would become its superpower, forcing brands to collaborate to ensure success that sustains. What was once deemed urban and not good enough possesses the prowess to elevate itself to luxury status. Then enters Pharrell Williams bridging the gap between Hip-Hop and Japanese design. Virgil Abloh shifts the paradigm in fashion once again. And streetwear takes over. Remissly, with the heavy citing of the streetwear surge, Jerry Lorenzo’s clothing line Fear of God went missing from the conversation. Also, Telfar Clemons deserves an excerpt, and I wish the book reserved a page or two to define and elaborate on luxury rap.

However, there’s a whole chapter etched as an ode to The Louis Vuitton Don, documenting his immersed, impressionable imprint on the fashion industry. The chapter “Devil in a New Dress” did an astounding task at introducing the nuance of gender while expanding the minds, and explaining how gender plays a large part in fashion and Hip-Hop, and its movement from being a taboo topic.

Fashion Killa is a reminder that the urban community and culture influence the culture overall. We’re the movers and shakers, the tastemakers and trendsetters. The way L.A. California made the Converse Chuck Taylor popular, and the Clarks Wallabee is essential to New York City. It’s the influence, leadership and innovation of Dapper Dan, who is the reigning supreme pillar of the Black fashion community, and the originator of all of this. And to think, “decadence was Hip-Hops escapism from trauma and loss” and now it’s revolutionized itself into a killer high fashion money-making lifestyle.

1 Comment

sabrina collins
sabrina collins
Dec 22, 2023

What a brilliant exploration of the intricate relationship between Hip-Hop and fashion! Sowmya Krishnamurthy's portrayal of the synergy between these two cultural powerhouses is nothing short of captivating. For those eager to delve into thought-provoking essays or in need of expertly crafted written works, look no further than for your "write my essay for me" needs. In the middle of the page, you'll find a treasure trove of writing services that perfectly complement the depth of Hip-Hop's influence explored in Krishnamurthy's work. Embark on a literary journey that not only celebrates Hip-Hop's 50-year legacy but also unveils the unspoken fifth element — fashion. Cheers to the fusion of culture, music, and the art of words!

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