There is no doubt that the fashion market shares a symbiotic relationship with the music industry. Nowadays, the number of expensive street-style brands have been increasing; leveraging the value of casual, swagger high fashion. Partly due to the mainstream acceptance of rappers and DJs as icons in the past few decades. The recent flux of pricier, casual streetwear brands defies the concept of “high fashion” prior to this multifaceted phenomenon, that was once ruled exclusively by the fashion elite and viewed to be untouchable.

Polo Ralph Lauren ⎮ Photograph courtesy of GQ

Bruno Mars x Tommy Hilfiger ⎮ Photograph courtesy of Billboard

From a historical lens, the hybridization of hip-hop and high end fashion was not an easy accomplishment. The dual influence between the two underwent many changes before it’s coalescence could be deemed trendy and high quality. Hip-hop music first emerged in the 1970s, and its stereotypical look was initially rejected by the mainstream media. It was thought that clothes originating from minority, urban communities cheapen luxury runway shows and brand names. Thus, the influx of hip-hop consumerism did not infiltrate high fashion.

Photograph courtesy of Highsnobiety

Alexander Wang “Do Something”⎮ Photograph courtesy of Teen Vogue

Perhaps it was the sudden ambition of high end labels that wanted to create an unprecedented image, along with the rise of famous hip-hop celebrities, that introduced high end fashion to hip-hop. The collaboration between large brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, and icons like Russell Simons and Jay-Z, established an entry point for hip-hop to delve into the world of fashion. Labels such as Adidas also started forming relationships with rappers, as their branding technique and selling point, to exploit both the fashion and music industry’s commercial potential.

Joey Bada$$ modeling for Adidas ⎮ Photograph courtesy of Complex

Kanye West x Louis Vuitton ⎮ Photograph courtesy of Out of the Box

This “b-boy” culture instigated a popularity in sportswear brands such as PUMA, Reebok, Nike, FILA and more. Reebok subsidized a $35 million campaign that displays caucasians dancing on a graffiti-adorned, urban street. Alexander Wang, a big fan of hiphop music himself, also created a streetwear collection, “Do Something” claiming that hip-hop music “is the most relevant genre of music that speaks to me and our generation”. Recently, street style has also been hybridizing with more high fashion tastes. Louis Vuitton, for instance, collaborated with Kanye West for an exclusive shoe model.

A$AP ROCKY starring in Dior | Photography courtesy of Highsnobiety

Elle Espana ⎮ Photograph courtesy of The Style Watcher

What was once simply an expression of culture through music, is now inclusive of a transcultural expression of fashion. Oversized pants, hoodies, shoes and bling transcends the urban neighborhood and enters the mainstream, international scene. Hip-hop meeting high end fashion has become a diverse reflection of culture and narratives, displaying the upward mobility of a subculture, and a change in the trendiest fashion tastemakers.

Written by Ally Chou

Edited by Sonia Wan

Many thanks to the referenced sites for press materials.

“References”

Smith-Strickland (2016) How Rapper Took Over the World of Fashion, Available at http://www.highsnobiety.com/2016/01/15/hip-hop-fashion-history/ [Accessed 02/06/17]

Sanchez (2016) How Rappers Became the Most Important Fashion Ambassadors, Available at http://www.complex.com/style/2016/08/rappers-as-new-fashion-ambassadors [Accessed 02/06/17]

Cabrera (2016) How Has Hip-hop Influenced Fashion?, Available at https://www.leaf.tv/articles/how-has-hip-hop-influenced-fashion/ [Accessed 02/06/17]