How Hip Hop is Re-Urbanizing the Fashion Industry.
It's 1999 and Gap has commissioned none other than LL Cool J to star in a commercial rapping about his love for Gap denim. Unbeknownst to the brand, LL slid in a For Us By Us line as an ode to the hat he was wearing in the commercial— skyrocketing the sales of the FUBU brand. Gap was not the only brand to tap into hip hop's mainstream culture; brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, and FILA tapped Black artists to appear in commercials and ads in the '90s and early '00s. Think about how uncool Coogi was when Bill Cosby wore the brand on The Cosby Show. Now think about Coogi's sales in the urban community once Biggie rocked a Coogie sweater on a cover of The Source. Fashion in the hood is a gold mine for promotion; why else would Tommy Hilfiger be pulling up to the hood handing out free Tommy Jeans out the trunk of his car like a drug dealer? Hip hop artists popularizing other brands paved the way for Black-owned urban brands to flourish including Karl Kani, Baby Phat and Phat Farm, and Sean John.
The street wear trend died in the mid-00s, however, the trend has been refueled by social influencers and activewear brands alike. While the upside down triangle of Guess Jeans were once praised in urban communities, the raunchy (and country) ads of blonde haired women with large bouffant hair and denim boustiers that followed were clearly not for the consumption of Black audiences. However, the Guess crew has teamed up with A$AP Rocky for a capsule collection whose clear target is to get urban communities back on board. While the brands below are popularizing urbanwear again, I hope that this ignites a new era of Black brands resurfacing and profiting (Daymond John of FUBU has already dropped a new collection for the year). As Stephen Hill states in his farewell email to BET, "Other brands have to study the culture. We are the culture."