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Music + fashion: A collab for life.

Kansai Yamamoto designed costume for David Bowie
Kansai Yamamoto designed costume for David Bowie

Today I want to get into a topic that, I know, has been discussed at nauseum-- the beautiful dance between music and fashion. From the smooth elegance of jazz to the raw energy of rock ‘n’ roll and the dynamic beats of hip-hop, music has always had a profound impact on what we wear and how we express ourselves through fashion. Whether we've got the moves or not, whether we love pop music or not, it shapes even the most basic of fashion.

Let’s start with jazz, a genre that burst onto the scene in the early 20th century, bringing with it a sense of freedom and innovation. Imagine the roaring 1920s, where flapper dresses with their fringes and beads allowed women to move and dance like never before. Jazz was all about rhythm and improvisation, and fashion followed suit with loose silhouettes, dropped waists, and flowing fabrics. It was a time of liberation, and designers like Coco Chanel captured this spirit by creating stylish yet practical garments that broke away from the restrictive fashions of the past.

Just think about how those flapper dresses must have felt, swishing and sparkling on the dance floor, perfectly in sync with the syncopated beats of jazz music. It was all about movement and expression, just like jazz itself.

Fast forward to the 1950s and 60s when rock ‘n’ roll took over. This genre wasn’t just about music; it was a full-blown cultural revolution. Leather jackets, skinny jeans, and graphic tees became the go-to look for a generation that wanted to break free from the norm. Designers like Vivienne Westwood and Jean-Paul Gaultier embraced this rebellious spirit, incorporating punk and rock elements into their collections.

Rock ‘n’ roll fashion was bold and defiant, just like the music. It was all about making a statement and celebrating individuality. Think about how you feel when you put on your favorite leather jacket – there’s a certain confidence and edge that comes with it, right? That’s the magic of rock ‘n’ roll fashion.

No discussion about the impact of music on fashion would be complete without talking about hip-hop. Emerging in the late 1970s in the Bronx, New York, hip-hop quickly grew from a local movement to a global phenomenon. Its influence on fashion has been immense and continues to evolve.

In the early days, hip-hop fashion was all about oversized clothing, tracksuits, and athletic wear. Brands like Adidas, Puma, and Nike became staples in hip-hop culture. Who can forget the iconic Run-D.M.C. song "My Adidas"? It’s a perfect example of how deeply intertwined hip-hop and fashion are.

Run-D.M.C. in Adidas
Run-D.M.C. in Adidas

As hip-hop evolved, so did its fashion. The 1990s brought baggy jeans, hoodies, and baseball caps, popularized by legends like Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. These styles were more than just comfortable; they were a way to assert identity and pride.

Notorious B.I.G. wearing one of his famous sweaters
Notorious B.I.G. wearing one of his famous sweaters

In recent years, hip-hop’s influence has permeated high fashion, with designers drawing inspiration from the streets. Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White and former artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear, seamlessly blends streetwear with high fashion. His collections are characterized by bold graphics, industrial aesthetics, and a raw edge that echoes hip-hop’s beats.

Alexander Wang is another designer deeply influenced by hip-hop. Known for his edgy, urban designs, Wang often incorporates streetwear elements into his collections. His use of oversized silhouettes, graphic prints, and utilitarian details speaks directly to the hip-hop aesthetic.

Alexander Wang x H+M 2014-2015 Fall Winter
Alexander Wang x H+M 2014-2015 Fall Winter

And we can’t talk about hip-hop and fashion without mentioning Kanye West. His Yeezy brand, with its minimalist designs and muted color palette, has redefined fashion. Kanye’s ability to merge music and fashion has inspired a new generation of artists and designers, proving that the two worlds are deeply connected.

Hip-hop artists often celebrate their love for fashion in their lyrics, paying homage to designer brands and fashion icons. Here are a few tracks that highlight this beautiful connection:

"Fashion Killa" by A$AP Rocky: A love letter to fashion, this song name-drops numerous designers and brands, showcasing A$AP Rocky’s admiration for high fashion.

"Versace" by Migos: A tribute to the luxury brand Versace, this track emphasizes the rapper’s love for high-end fashion with its catchy, repetitive chorus.

"Tom Ford" by Jay-Z: In this song, Jay-Z expresses his preference for designer Tom Ford, highlighting his love for luxury fashion over trends.

"Gucci Gang" by Lil Pump: This song’s chorus repeatedly mentions the brand Gucci, illustrating its popularity and influence within the hip-hop community.

Now, let’s talk about the magical way rhythms influence fashion design. Just like music, fashion has its own rhythms. The way fabrics flow, the patterns they create, and the overall composition of a garment can all be seen as a form of visual music. A designer may not be able to dance, but they can create rhythms through their designs, translating the beats and melodies they hear into something tangible.

Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto are two designers who beautifully embody this concept. Miyake’s pleated designs create a sense of movement and fluidity, much like a piece of music. Each fold and crease is deliberate, forming a visual rhythm that’s both dynamic and harmonious.

Issey Miyake’s pleated design
Issey Miyake’s pleated design

Yamamoto, known for his avant-garde approach, often uses asymmetry and draping to create garments that challenge conventional notions of beauty. His designs are like freeform jazz compositions – unexpected and improvisational, yet meticulously crafted.

The relationship between music and fashion is a testament to the power of creativity and expression. From the elegant rhythms of jazz to the rebellious riffs of rock ‘n’ roll and the powerful beats of hip-hop, music has continually inspired and shaped fashion. Designers draw from these musical influences to create garments that resonate on a deeper level, translating sound into sight and rhythm into design.

Who loves to get dressed for the day with your favorite track on blast?

Hip-hop, in particular, has had a profound impact on fashion, bringing streetwear to the forefront and blurring the lines between high fashion and everyday wear. The collaboration between hip-hop artists and designers has given rise to a new fashion lexicon, one that celebrates individuality, creativity, and cultural pride.