A Couture-Level Show
“Couture-level flow, it’s never going on sale / Luxury rap, the Hermès of verses.” So promised Kanye West, who performed “Otis” alongside Jay-Z live at the MTV Video Music Awards last night. The two might have kept their stage looks casual last night, but they’re unabashed designer-philes. Unwrap their gold, Riccardo Tisci-designed, record-breaking album Watch the Throne, and you’ll find the duo dropping names—Manolo and Margiela among them. (One day, they may be able to add the name of Kanye’s own label to the mix, too.)
Name-dropping is nothing new in rap and R&B, but more and more, young artists are working in high-fashion references with panache. Sure, some—like Kreayshawn, the 21-year-old Oaklander and recent i-D covergirl, who says “Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi Fendi, Prada / Basic bitches wear that shit, so I don’t even bother”—claim not to go for big labels. But the best up-and-comers sound like they’re reading their Style.com. The hipster hip-hoppers at Das Racist, for example (“Tell the interns to shut the Di-or”). Or Harlem MC ASAP Rocky, who says, “Raf Simons, Rick Owens / Usually what I’m dressed in.” Oh, that was you we spotted at Atelier?
And if rappers love fashion, fashion loves them right back. The industry has taken a liking to Salem’s Jack Donoghue, who joins Kreayshawn in the latest i-D, regularly wears Givenchy Rottweiler shirts, and has become a fixture on Terry’s Diary. M.I.A. protégée Rye Rye has appeared in videos for Prabal Gurung; Santigold, for Alexander Wang. (Wang’s been a hip-hop fan for years. Foxy Brown headlined his after-party in 2008.) Theophilus London hit the menswear circuit in Paris last season alongside the likes of Usher and Kanye; next up, he’ll front a Carlos Campos ad campaign and design a shoe with Cole Haan.