For the past few years, Givenchy’s Black Panther and Virgin Mary motifs, Versace’s iconic Greek fret and Medusa heads, and Roberto Cavalli’s excess animal prints have been firm hip-hop favorites. Ostentatious peacocks from 2 Chainz to Pusha-T and A$AP Rocky to Drake are regularly seen hat-to-sneaker in this form of fashion branding, leading to the coveted design house’s inevitable overexposure. Go figure. But lately, a more authentic stamp has been popping up on clothing created and championed by the young style cognoscenti: hip-hop icons.
While it’s likely that rappers will always favor a high-end designer’s seal of visceral approval—until a fellow spitter says otherwise—there’s a burgeoning clique of labels that have been getting inspiration from old school royalty, resulting in ready-to-wear pieces covered in graphics of Notorious B.I.G, Eazy-E and Ice Cube.
Take the Madrid-based Patricia Abrahamsson, whose Biggie-crowned collection of swimwear, iPhone cases and dresses have almost completely sold-out on her Big Cartel eComm site. Though her stock list is virtually non-existent, seeing that she is a newbie, items can be found at the prestigious Browns Focus boutique in London in the £70 ($110 USD) to £190 ($300 USD) price range. Also carried there is Ted’s Draws: a minimalist line by the über-cool DJ and home-schooled Illustrator Ted Pierce. The east Londoner’s brand of caricatures, which include the faces and lyrics of Missy Elliott and Snoop Lion during his Dogg days, are drawn from fabric pens on simple white tees that bring to mind the ethos of classic streetwear, but with a high-brow twist that gets him plugs in style bibles such as Vogue.
And it gets more interesting still. British duo Anna Wilkinson and Lindsay McKean of Cats Brothers launched their collection in 2011 with deep sentiments. Choosing to focus on deceased hip-hop icons, the concept was conceived drinking margaritas at a west London bar during the Mexican holiday known as Day of the Dead. Here, vintage pre-printed separates of Aaliyah and Eazy-E are colorfully embroidered giving the collection a whimsical feel. As the décor is handmade, prices range upwards of £260 ($400+ USD), but if your budget falls within the fast-fashion bracket, brands like Forever 21, ASOS and ELEVEN Paris have muscle tees and hoodies with Tupac’s striking mug. Urban Outfitters is also on board with Biggie-printed attire including a snapback that was seen on Queen Bey whilst shooting her most recent video in Coney Island.
Can’t choose between Biggie or Pac? Manhattan-based artist Serene Bacigalupi of Leroy’s Place brings the rivals together with a collection of jewelry that literally turns hip-hop and pop culture in general on its head. Lil’ Wayne is juxtaposed with John Wayne, and an acrylic-painted Biggie ring resembles a blown-up version of a graffiti mural reminding us that hip-hop, and fashion, doesn’t always need to be taken too seriously. Rappers, take note. —Safra Ducreay