Words by Hrishika Maniar
The boom of social media, particularly Instagram, has made rap fans more in-touch with their idols than ever. Twitter made it possible to see what your favorite rapper was thinking, and Instagram made it possible to see what your favorite rapper is wearing. Visuals sell, that’s why there are Influencers. You’ll often see rappers’ fits surfacing on the hype/style side of Instagram (see accounts such as @WhatsOnTheStar). Brands and costs tagged, this is free advertisement for the brands worn.
The constant visual feed of what he or she is wearing means that more people want to be like their favorite rapper. ‘A brand is an extension of one’s self – psychologically, in terms of how you want the world to see you, or what you want the world to believe you are’, told Jonathan Gabay, author of Brand Psychology: Consumer Perceptions, Corporate Reputations. Rap fans want to have the Balenciaga hats and jagged-fronted Vetements hoodies. Fendi ‘F’ prints too. As such, logomania is back. Back in the 80s, Dapper Dan created custom clothes covered in fake logos for rappers including LL Cool J. Dapper Dan has since collaborated with Gucci
Music videos are also more accessible now, which is advantageous for designers. Music videos are now viewed (lol, pun) as one of the best marketing tools, as psychologically, viewers retain more information this way. Check a rap music video and you’ll see sparkling Gucci sweatshirts, Prada jackets flashing casually, and scattered Louis Vuitton prints. Brands are going as far as to collaborate with rappers for music videos, like Lil Uzi Vert’s XO Tour Llif3, featuring Virgil Abloh and the eponymous Off-White font and logo. Kanye West x Balmain for Wolves was made for the brand’s AW16 campaign. Of course, Olivier Rousteing is very close to the Kardashian-Wests. T.R.U, 2 Chainz and Skoody have a song called Virgil Discount, and Travis Scott and Vic Mensa are part of the #WangSquad, Alexander Wang’s ‘coolest friends’. What I’m trying to say is, that rapper and designer friendships are more visible to the public eye now than ever before.
In fact, the rapper/designer dichotomy isn’t so clear and rooted anymore. Rappers are turning into designers, exemplified by Kanye West with Yeezy, Tyler the Creator with Golf Wang, and musician turned designer overlord Virgil Abloh. Rappers have made their own clothing lines before, like Jay-Z with Rocawear and Pharell Williams with Billionaire Boys Club. But with all of this visibility now, paired with ‘hype’ culture, the rapper-turned-designer market has boosted the luxury fashion industry.
Rappers are now seen and heard more accessibly, and their style has become more visible. The act of rappers making high fashion more desirable has been accelerated and pumped with likes, collaborations, and campaigns, and it’s all having a measurable effect on the fashion industry.