Director: Sacha Jenkins
Screenplay: Sacha Jenkins
Producers: Peter Bittenbender, Marcus A. Clarke Courtney Sexton
Starring: Dan Dash, Sean Combs, Nas, Karl Kani, Russell Simmons, Pharrell Williams, Big Daddy Kane
BBFC Certification: 15
Duration: 90 mins
As Rapper Slick Rick once said “Fresh dressed like a million bucks…” This phrase sums up the whole ethos behind the Hip-Hop culture. Fashion has always been lock step with popular culture and music, and it is particularly well pronounced in the Hip-Hop fashion revolution that emerged from inner city USA.
The role played by New York street culture, (i.e. music, rapping or MC’ing, graffiti and break dancing) cannot be overstated in the way fashion became a visual expression of the aural onslaught of break beats and rap. This fashion style evolved through gangland threads, stripes and colours to the b-boy staple of Lee Jeans, shell toe Adidas or Pumas sneaker (with fat laces), tank tops, Cazals specs and Kangol hats. The term ‘fresh’ became associated with crisp and clean”, out-of-the-box, fashion that is worn with pride. This was all about feeling good, and the mantra was something along the lines of “if you look good, you feel good”, regardless of your particular economic situation.
This documentary does a great job of exploring the roots of hip-hop fashion, from it’s initial influences of Sunday best clothes, gang wear, entertainer flair, B-Boy style to artiste owned fashion brands and hip-hop mega celebrity labels. It covered the rise of 1980s Hip-Hop fashion purveyors such as: Shirt King Phade (graffiti on clothes), Dapper Dan (luxury brands remixer) and Karl Kani. The sneakers (aka trainers) industry benefited greatly from Hip-Hop fashion, as did established luxury fashion brands such as: Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Lacrosse, Ralph Lauren Polos and later Tommy Hilfiger etc.
In the 1990s, Hip-Hop fashion brands such as Cross Colours were inspired by the urban fashion silhouettes (i.e. oversize clothes) which started to emerge with MTV Hip-Hop artistes, shows and TV programs. The phenomenal growth spurt of Cross Colours (i.e. from 0 to 100 Million dollars over 4 year) inspired other brands to join the fray. Brands such as Karl Kani took the game to the next level, working in partnership with Cross Colours, to get their brand of clothes into mainstream department stores and overseas.
Once the mainstream doors opened up more hip-hop industry names became involved as it was as much about apparel as the music – Brands such as FUBU, ENyce, ECKO, Mecca, Phat Farm, RocaWear, Wu-Wear and Sean John took up the mantle in the 2000s and beyond. Phat Farm’s Russell Simmons stands out as a blazing pioneer in the artiste based fashion business. Sean John then pushed through to the next level of high fashion and haute couture at a global level. The ensuing free for all predictably brought about an over saturation of music based fashion brands which has led to a current decline in the trend.
This was good documentary, colourful but matter of fact approachto relating the story of urban fashion. Its credibility is further established by the authentic voice contributed by premier players in the game of Hip-Hop and fashion, including: Sean Combs, Russell Simmonds, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West and Nas, as well as Karl Kani, Dapper Dan and Thirstin Howl III – don’t ask.
Finally the film acknowledges how the Internet has spawned a generation of globally aware consumers and young people who no longer want to be constrained by any one particular look or vibe, instead they are happy to take risks and embrace far flung cultural motifs in order to express individuality and personal style. Ironically, it has also gone full circle back to more established labels such as Versace, Ferregamo, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and YSL. What goes around really does come around.