Saumya Krishnamurthy on ‘Fashion Killa’

On August 11, 1973, then-18-year-old DJ Kool Herc hosted a “Back-to-School Jam” in his parents’ recreation room in the Bronx: a party now known as the birth of hip-hop. .

According to music journalist and author Soumya Krishnamurthy, what many people don’t know about this famous night is that the party was for Herc’s sister, Cindy Campbell, who organized it to raise money for her back-to-school wardrobe. did. Since that moment – ​​the origin of hip-hop – fashion has been an integral part of the genre. That’s where the story of Krishnamurthy’s new book, “Fashion Killa: How Hip-Hop Revolutionized High Fashion,” begins.

“fashion Killa” The relationship between hip-hop and fashion has an extensive history, from hip-hop’s origins at the famous party at Campbell’s to current events, such as hip-hop revolutionary Pharrell Williams succeeding Virgil Abloh as creative director of Louis Vuitton menswear. Took charge in. Is going through.

In the book, Krishnamurthy discusses the changes that have occurred in this regard – namely how hip-hop’s access to fashion has changed.

“Over time, as we see in the book, hip-hop started as an outsider (luxury fashion), and then later became a consumer,” Krishnamurthy said in a Zoom interview with The Michigan Daily. ” “Now I would say we are in the era of the collaborative, where fashion lines like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Saint Laurent all understand the power of hip-hop. “Where having someone like Pharrell Williams, or A$AP Rocky at the forefront of a house not only adds to the feeling of coolness and ‘it factor’, but also boosts the bottom line.”

Early moments of high fashion that took inspiration from hip-hop, such as Chanel’s Fall/Winter 1991 collection that included chains and streetwear, were essentially cash-grabs of hip-hop’s style rather than genuine appreciation for its culture. Those were caricatures. Krishnamurthy said luxury fashion has a history of problems related to racism and classism, and brands must now take steps to change this pattern.

“When it comes to hip-hop creators or even just black and brown creators, a lot of times, they’re not credited appropriately; They have definitely not been compensated,” Krishnamurthy said. “So I think when there’s the idea of ​​breaking away from a certain culture or tipping one’s hat, it’s also about making sure there’s representation, whether it’s on the design side or the corporate side: If you’re hip— Are going to be impressed and inspired by the hop, invest long-term in the culture, in the people.

“Fashion Killa” gives due credit and tells the story of the people and places where hip-hop and fashion innovation evolved. Much of the story focuses on New York, particularly Harlem, which, Krishnamurthy argues, is the most fashionable neighborhood due to its rich history – Harlem has given rise to many major fashion figures and important cultural movements.

“Harlem is home to artists like Dapper Dan and Cam’ron, the fathers of logomania, and Dipset and later A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg, and it’s always been a place of confidence and glitz,” he said.

In “Fashion Fort”, Krishnamurthy highlights the history of the neighborhood and the factors that fostered that creative atmosphere, giving readers a new appreciation for the community.

“We have to look at Harlem as this magical place. “Whether it’s through the lens of the Harlem Renaissance, or through the Black Church, this idea of ​​upward mobility and success and art and all of this happening at the same time created a very unique neighborhood in New York,” she said.

The book features interviews and anecdotes from hip-hop and fashion industry icons such as Pusha T and Tommy Hilfiger. It also highlights the unsung heroes of these worlds from whom Krishnamurthy learned the most, such as fashion editors Julia Chance and Sonya Magette.

“Or someone like Thurston Howell III,” Krishnamurthy said, “who was part of the Low Lifes, which was this infamous New York City gang that stole Ralph Lauren polos. Talking to those names really created a holistic perspective of what this story is. He promised that even those who think they know everything about hip-hop or fashion will find something new in his book.

Krishnamurthy has been covering hip-hop for outlets like XXL and Rolling Stone for over a decade, having worked with J. Cole to Tyler, the Creator. She was grateful to be able to tell “Fashion Killa’s” story, especially during hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, Because this was a story that had yet to be told.

He said, “In the literary landscape, (hip-hop) is still very… marginalized.” “Telling these types of stories… in a very introspective, smart and comprehensive way elevates hip-hop and really brings it the light that I think it deserves. (…) To me, it is in many ways a love letter to hip-hop and its contributions to the world.

Looking at fashion today, Krishnamurthy has a few hip-hop artists whom he believes are the most influential. He first named Farrell, citing a 2023 acquisition at Louis Vuitton.

“In the book, I trace his history from his penchant for trucker hats and skinny jeans to his rise to the BBC and now where he is at the helm of one of the world’s most respected luxury houses,” she said.

When it comes to women, Krishnamurthy was adamant that any conversation about fashion should include Cardi B.

Krishnamurthy said, “She was the first female rapper on the cover of American Vogue and what I love about her is that she’s really herself.” “She is the epitome of high-end[fashion]where she can wear Schiaparelli at Paris Couture Week, but can also wear some fast fashion brands. And it feels absolutely organic – that’s just the way she is, and I love it.”

Another artist on her fashion radar is Tyler, The Creator, whose style she’s tracked from Odd Future to now.

“I think he’s someone who likes to play with fashion,” Krishnamurthy said. “She likes to take risks, and her fans have really seen how important aesthetics have been to her artistic development.”

However, the rapper whose wardrobe she said she would love to steal from is Pusha T.

“She’s able to do very well off-duty, she can be on the red carpet, she can be front row at New York Fashion Week, (she’s) able to do something for every season, while It’s still a lot,” she said.

With “Fashion Killa” Krishnamurthy wants to give hip-hop creators their due and give voice to the culture that revolutionized fashion.

“To me, hip-hop is pop culture,” she said. “It has overtaken other music genres, entertainment and other aspects of celebrity and culture – its influence cannot be denied. “I don’t think high fashion or any other industry can operate in this area of ​​being cool, having the ‘it factor,’ being on top of trends, without embracing hip-hop.”

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