IN 2002, stylist Rachel Johnson walked right into a Burberry shop in New York to request a few clothes for a photoshoot. It was the kind of vulnerability that brands generally adore, but Burberry refused to help.
“They didn’t need him to wear their stuff,” Johnson later told Newsweek. “People have this stigma with the urban community.” She bought it after she awakened her client in the brand’s house check, his supporters did too. A couple of months afterwards, Burberry sent Ja Rule a letter of thanks. Much like the remainder of the fashion business, Burberry coincidentally defeated its distaste for rap just as rap became the loudest noise in the world; in December, Nielsen research found more people listened to rap than stone for the first time. Now it’s brands like Burberry that come knocking, and rappers that rebuff them.
“With hip-hop being the de facto noise of youth and rebellion, a great deal of the prominent artists — be it Beyoncé or Kanye West or even ASAP Rocky — are now like,’Why am I giving people free media?'” Says Jian DeLeon, editorial director at Highsnobiety.
Luxurious logos have been signals of success , but rap’s explosion has shifted expectations. “They understand they are currently brands and they understand the power that their manufacturers have. They are not only using it to market these symbols which they have made it. They are aware that they’ve made it.”
Ever since DJ Kool Herc’s initial block parties, hip-hop was a voice to the marginalised. Its appearance mattered up to the noise, partially as an expression of self-identity, partly as shorthand for success. For those pioneering black artists who grew up amid violence and crime, whose songs helped them transcend their place of arrival and their insufficient chances, European luxury brands were the first flex; a middle finger to a society that had written them off and a diamond-dripping, mink-trimmed embodiment of the American Dream for the people who bought their records.
True Street Wear No other audio has focused so much on beginning from the floor, perhaps because no other music has been dominated by artists who began life in the base. The uniform of stone was stuff that could frighten lovers’ mothers; for rap, it was clothing that backed up your bars.
Rap’s initial business flush put its stars in financial reach of luxury, but they were locked out by geography and race. Their focus on the grittier sides of road culture made manufacturers wary. Biggie might big up Louis Vuitton, but its clients were white, old and did not desire their couturier draped throughout an ex-drug dealer.
They’re even less comfortable regarding selling into real drug retailers, the only other people in Harlem in using the cash to afford them. That inaccessibility made luxury more covetable. So Harlem’s tailors figured out a workaround.
The go-to was Dapper Dan, born Daniel Day, a haberdasher who would import bootlegged fabrics or screen-print logos on luxury leather, then flip them in to one-of-a-kind, street-inflected pieces like oversized bomber coats and fur-trimmed coats. His clothes weren’t the duplicates of runway style you find on eBay; they were exceptional, hand-crafted and often more expensive than the originals. Particularly if you wanted something you would never find at Fendi, like a parka with bulletproof panels, or hidden stash pockets. His clothes embodied street culture and the needs and wants of individuals who were young and wealthy, but locked out of the things loved by young, wealthy, white people. “He drew on a long legacy of black style as both a form of self-realisation and also a report on political-aesthetic resistance”
Day characterized hip-hop design for a decade — oversize, affected by sportswear as much as luxurious tailoring and made to make sense from the street. It was clothing infused with swagger and to get a rapper about the up-and-up, copping a Dapper Dan was a sign you had made it.
“Rappers have always liked fashion and style for the longest time did not want to talk to that audience because it felt as though it may have hurt the integrity of their new,” says DeLeon. “[In Dapper Dan] they found someone who knew themwhat their needs were and who spoke the exact same language.”
His creations appeared on album covers, red rugs and heavyweight champions — Mike Tyson commissioned a coat with’Do not Believe the Hype’ embroidered on the rear before a 1988 title fight. Lawyers noticed (Tyson brawling out Day’s shop at five in the morning did not help). From the early 90s, Dapper Dan was bailed out of existence.