I love football. It’s my favorite sport! I’ve worked for two professional NFL teams — the Washington Redskins and the San Diego Chargers. I can remember seeing the players in their street clothes looking completely different than they do in uniform…… VERY HOT!! So I wasn’t surprised when I learned that several current and former football players will be collaborating with dress shirt brand Van Heusen as they launch their newest season of their Institute of Style campaign featuring Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and Matthew Stafford. This year, the company is offering an internship with Young as their 2013 campaign ambassador, focusing on educating and helping men step up their style. For more information on their internship you can visit the Van Heusen Facebook page via their website.
If you follow Hip Hop then you already know that they (rappers) are “trend setters” in fashion. But I must admit I was still kinda surprised to learn that Barneys tapped Jay Z to collaborate on this year’s holiday campaign. He’s working with Balenciaga, Balmain, and Proenza Schouler to create a limited-edition capsule collection titled “A New York Holiday.”
Apparently Barneys is no stranger to high-profile holiday collections. Last year, the luxury retailer teamed up with Disney on the somewhat-controversial fashion cartoon “Electric Holiday” and the year before that, Lady Gaga presented a tricked out version of Santa’s workshop. But the Jay Z collaboration marks the first time in history that Barneys is working with a hip hop star. (Although he’s much more than a rapper, he’s also a sports agent, producer, business owner — who just happens to be a rapper as well.)
Surrface to say twenty years ago—and perhaps even five years ago — this kind of joint venture probably wouldn’t have ever happened? A luxury, high-end retailer tapping a rapper to handpick items for a major holiday collection? Hip Hop has always loved high fashion but high fashion–except for maybe Versace — had never really reciprocated that love.
In the ’80s and early ’90s, way before anyone like Jay Z and Kanye West, rap attire was all about street wear, — baggy jeans, bandanas, and saggy pants. We saw brands like Cross Colors PHAT Farm and FUBU. Slowly thereafter, a groundbreaking change washed over the industry as artists like Biggie Smalls, Puffy aka Sean John and Tupac Shakur shifted lyrics from life-on-the-streets to luxury brands. Soon a lot of the rappers dropped their baggy bags in exchange for designer silks and prints from fashion houses like Versace, which was one of the only major fashion brands to initially embrace hip hop.
With his new interest in fashion, he soon begin rubbing elbows with designers and fashion houses, attending shows like Chloe, Christian Dior, and going on to collaborate with Louis Vuitton in 2009. Other rappers soon followed, attending various fashion week events around the country. Now they’re parked front row center with seats at Milan Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week and of course NYC Fashion Week.
In recent years, the popularity of rappers and their influence on pop culture has caught the eye(s) of designers who have always linked up with celebrities of the moment–it’s good for press, great for sales. West’s collaboration with APC sold out in a matter of days; Drake shares his devotion to Rick Owens by wearing the designer almost daily.
Rappers like Lil Wayne have traded in bandanas for Balmain and baggy jeans for skinny leopard-print ones—though Wayne still rocks his favorite no shelved tie shirts. Swizz Beatz is a Christian Louboutin connoisseur. And, finally, Pharrell Williams went from pioneer of street wear to one of the most highly regarded contemporary fashion icons.
If West is BFFs with Givenchy’s creative director, Riccardo “Ricky” Tisci, his taste can only continue to improve right?
Lastly if brands like Barneys continue to link up with tastemakers like Jay Z, it’s more than simply checking off the “cool factor” box. It’s savvy business — it’s now business too. Today, designers not only accept hip hop stars — they design for them and keep them as inspirations.
Jay-Z’s “A New York Holiday” collection will be at Barney’s New York starting November 20. The collaboration benefits the Shawn Carter Foundation.
Jay Z is currently being pressured to walk away from his deal with Barneys over recent in store controversy due to racial profiling of an African American male.
Until next time my Veteran Fashionistas, as always, stay fashionable!
Jackie Thomas is a proud Navy Veteran. She has represented designers from Project Runway, Project Runway All Stars, All On The Line, etc. She produces celebrity fashion shows all across the country and abroad. She’s also a Guest Speaker for FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising) in San Diego.