Black culture plays a major role in the fashion industry. Today, the impact of major protest movements and musical genres is minimized.
The impact of the Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance was a movement to revive African American culture in the interwar period. It extended from the 1920s to the 1930s. Its cradle is in the district of Harlem, in New York. The Harlem Renaissance movement sought to emancipate black Americans. Harlem became the meeting place of the African-American elite, which at that time became a world city of culture.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the jazz movement became very popular and attracted great musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. These black jazzmen popularized the “zoot suit” in the 1930s. It is a very large suit worn by Malcolm X, at the time, and that we now find in the form of oversized suits. Each fashion house revisits the suit in its own way: Louis Vuitton, Tom Ford, Giorgo Armani, etc.
The Black Panther movement
The social protest and civil rights movement, Black Panther, has its importance. Appeared in the 1960s, its emblematic outfit is characterized by a black uniform worn by the Black Panther army. Its members are dressed in black from start to finish : the black beret, black leather jacket, black sunglasses, etc. The emblematic outfit made the headlines of all American media in 1966.
The Black Panther movement would inspire the Punk Rock movement, born in the 1970s, seven years later. This new musical trend moves away from sentimental music, thanks to the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. These icons of punk style drew their inspiration from the all-black leather look of the Black Panther. They despised capitalist conventions and held British designer Vivienne Westwood as the architect of the movement.
How did Hip Hop music influence streetwear?
Hip-Hop culture, which was very popular in the 80s and 90s, imposed the streetwear silhouette. The Old School look consisted of baggies, oversized t-shirts, bobs, gold chains, etc. This style was associated with the golden age of hip-hop. There was a culture of flex, social protest and capitalism.
The explosion of logomania
Hip-Hop culture is accompanied by a race to logos. The more logos you wear, the more you rise socially and through your clothing style. In the streetwear identity, the logo must be visible. This frenzy of logos will inspire the black designer, Dapper Dan. A designer known for making big pieces totally monogrammed, but in fake.
Black owned streetwear brands emerge with P Diddy. He became the first African-American to win in 2004, the CFDA of the best fashion designer, in the men’s ready-to-wear. His brand Sean John is going to know a worldwide success thanks to the total velvet tracksuit. It will penetrate the sphere of luxury and allow the link between rap and luxury.
The duo Kanye West and Virgil Abloh
In the 2000s, more and more rappers infused the fashion world. Kanye West and Virgil Abloh wanted to impose streetwear culture on the world. Kanye West changed the codes of rap, offering a very nerd prep-hop look with shirts, jackets and vests of students. He stood out musically and stylistically. In 2009, Kanye West launched his first big sneaker collaboration with Louis Vuitton.
Virgil Abloh became the artistic assistant of Kanye West. After the Fashion Week in 2009, this couple of friends did an internship at the Italian brand Fendi. Afterwards, Virgil Abloh launched his brand Off-White in 2013, which specialized in luxury streetwear. Streetwear really became a generational identity.
Then in 2015, Kanye West created his brand Yeezy. He imposed a very tight silhouette and nude colors. This new aestheticism in women will be popularized by his wife Kim Kardashian. He will make sneakers a real luxury item. It even triggers a yeezy mania because everyone wanted to buy a pair of Yeezy, as they were in limited edition. The luxury industry will be totally inspired by the streetwear movement. Now, in the fashion shows, brands like Balenciaga offer the Triple S, or Valentino Garavani brings out the white Open Rockstud sneakers.
Wax fabric in the spotlight on the catwalks
The fabric from West Africa has been in vogue for a few years. Designers are introducing wax in the fashion shows to give a new lease of life to the western fashion.
However, designers can quickly fall into cultural appropriation when they go beyond simple inspiration and totally immerse themselves in an African hand-crafted fabric. Among the many examples, Stella Mc Cartney had provoked public anger after her spring-summer 2018 fashion show. Similarly, celebrities like Beyoncé can be seen proudly wearing wax fabric as an object of identity and belonging to the African community.
Finally, despite the teasing and the prejudice about black culture. The Black Panther movement and the Hip-Hop culture have prepared the ground for future collaborations between rappers and luxury brands.