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Hip-Hop News: Hip Hop Styles Taking Over Fashion Market
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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
10/29/2003 7:17:16 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Eve, Nelly, P. Diddy, Eminem and Jennifer Lopez.

Parents cringe and wonder what young men think looks cool about oversize hooded jackets, gargantuan pants slipping off their behinds and backward baseball caps.

Parents aren't happy, either, about teen daughters parading in cropped tops high enough to show off bellybuttons (pierced, no less) and jeans so tight and low-slung (a throwback to the 1960s) that doctors warn of possible nerve damage.

What's the answer? Get used to it.

Hip-hop and rap-inspired clothing, once dismissed as just a fad, has burst into the 21st century with more attitude and appeal than ever. So much so that leading hip-hop and rap artists, such as Eve and Eminem, are cashing in on their bad-girl and bad-boy appeal with clothing collections of their own.

They join Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, singer Jennifer Lopez, pop artist Gwen Stefani and rapper Nelly, who already have lines in stores.

Expect more to come, fashion-industry experts predict, as urban and Hispanic lifestyles become more entwined with mainstream culture, given that there are big bucks to be made. The NPD Group, a market information

company, estimates sales of hip-hop fashion in 2001 at $2 billion, and it's a segment that is growing rapidly in the apparel industry. The numbers are a reality check for fashion experts who early on dismissed and disparaged fashion that sprang from urban music.

"I can recall many designers who snubbed the whole urban category back in the late '80s," says Tom Julian, a trend watcher for Fallon McEligott advertising agency in New York. "The face of the American population is changing, and all designers and brands need to understand how and why and what to create."

The fashion industry underestimated the fire behind the desire of hip-hop artists and followers to distance themselves from the mainstream, Julian says.

"I think of music and apparel as the new creative springboard for performers and rock stars to make an impact," Julian says. "I believe that most of these personalities do have a style statement, a strong visual reference and a bright future in the world of retail. Why? Because most of the apparel manufacturers don't have the marketing genius that these performers have via their music companies, partners and promotional arms. . . . As a designer, it proves that one cannot be restricted, myopic or traditional in the sense of partnerships, opportunities and growth. The great thing about the music world is that it brings newness and excitement to retail."

As with Julian, author Bakari Kitwana also traces the connection between hip-hop music and fashion back a couple of decades.

"I believe that Karl Kani was the first hip-hop fashion designer," says Kitwana, a resident of Westlake who wrote "The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture" and also writes a column for The Plain Dealer.

"This goes back to the '80s. Phat Farm [the clothing line by Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Records] didn't arrive until the late 1990s."

Plenty more lines have followed, including these:

FUBU (For Us By Us) came in the early 1990s.

Marc Ecko started the Ecko Unlimited label. He's a white suburbanite who had a background in hip-hop music.

Combs later got in the fashion mix with his Sean John line, as did former girlfriend Lopez, whose JLo line collection hit boutiques a few years ago.

Eve's Fetish line of velour, satin, cotton spandex and denim separates was next to come.

Eminem's new clothing line, Shady Ltd., is expected to be out in July.

Stefani of the group No Doubt has a line of bags for LeSportsac.

Vokal is rapper Nelly's line of men's street wear, and he's going after women with Apple Bottoms separates.

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