“Versace, Versace, Medusa head on me like I’m ‘Luminati,” raps Drake in his verse on the 2013 hit “Versace”. Braggadocio has always been a pillar of the rap/hip-hop genre and the wave of name-dropping luxury designer brands in the 90s has come to define modern hip-hop’s idea of boasting, also known as “flexing”. Though modern hip-hop’s obsession with amassing wealth and adopting a lifestyle of debauchery was initially met with conflict for the high-end brands that dominated the fashion scene, it seems like now, more than ever, it has become somewhat of a symbiotic relationship.
In 2016, however, it would appear that the toe-in-the-water collaborations with hip-hop artists have become not only ubiquitous, but a stepping stone into the world of fashion. Kanye West, Young Thug, Pharrell Williams, Tyler the Creator, and Lil Yachty are just some of the names of hip-hop artists who have made concrete moves in the fashion world in 2016.
Pharrell Williams is a hip-hop artist who has made ventures into fashion in the past, being the co-founder of street wear brand Billionaire Boys Club. Many consider Pharrell to be a fashion icon, one of the first hip-hop artists to make waves on the fashion scene. 2016 was no different, with Billionaire Boys Club releasing some strong pieces, reinforcing their simplistic aesthetic.
In and amongst Kanye West’s chaotic year were the releases of Yeezy Season 3 and 4. The Grammy-nominated rapper’s collections were lacklustre, with West’s almost formulaic oversized aesthetic once again dominating most of the collection, despite developments in graphic and colour. Furthermore, the disastrous logistics and poor choice in venue for the unveiling of Yeezy Season 4 led to most critics discounting the collection as a whole, once again setting back West from being taken seriously as a designer in the sphere of fashion.
On the other end of the spectrum, Tyler the Creator, the often provocative rapper and founder of hip-hop collective “Odd Future”, held his first runway show. His brand “Golf Wang”, has had a remarkable rise since its origins in 2010 as a merchandise line designed by Tyler himself. Since then, he has developed both a unique personal style and a clear artistic direction with the collections at Golf Wang. The use of exuberant neon colours, cheeky, ironic graphics, and messages of positivity and fun have become the brand’s signature.
It’s daring contributions like the ones we see, made by the unique personalities of hip-hop that invigorate the fashion world. They provide a fresh take on the way we use fashion to express ourselves. Bringing fashion to a market that in the past, wouldn’t necessarily be a demographic of interest, but will be the forefront of fashion in the future.