The other night I was surfing through Netflix and came upon a movie about the pioneers of Hip Hop fashion. I have been in the apparel business as a developer, merchandiser, and manufacturer for over 35 years. When urban wear was popping big time in the mid-1990’s I was developing and producing garments for some of the brands that at the time were either just on the come up and others who started out that way and became iconic. For me, it was a great time to be in the apparel business. There was a great vibe about Hip Hop and you could see that it was heading in the direction of becoming a cultural phenomenon which eventually it did become.
In watching this documentary I had known the names of the key players. What I did not know is some of the back story. Misa Hylton, a pioneering stylist who was responsible in the early day’s of hip hop fashion for dressing some of the biggest names on the hottest music videos of that time. April Walker who was a fashion pioneer and visionary with her own homegrown brand Walker Wear. She lead the way for many urban brands who followed later. Karl Kani, designer and founder of the iconic brand Cross Colours. He was one of the true originators of Urban streetwear. Dapper Dan, he was a visionary who saw the potential of putting iconic logos of some of the most luxurious brands on one of a kind garments that he sold to his clients out of his store in Harlem.
All these people were so far ahead of there a time that the most prestigious brands today are doing what they did 25 years ago. Also, let’s keep in mind that they pioneered what was to become a worldwide fashion cultural phenomenon as women and people of color. Back then Hip Hop was dominated by men and the two women mentioned hear did not come to the forefront until later. So not only were the women dealing with gender discrimination and all of them dealt with racism. So what is my point? I think it’s important if you are going to be in the world of fashion and streetwear to understand its history and to praise and give thanks to those who paved the way for the current generation of fashion designers and enthusiasts.
As for me, the documentary reminded me why I’m in this as long as I have been. Also, to acknowledge Misa, April, and Dapper Dan for there courage, passion, and vision which inspires me to keep going and mentoring those young people that want to be part of this industry today. Bob HeimannGrateful for Hip Hop
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