Thango Ntwasa | How hip-hop culture is saving fashion

Riky Rick proves fashion has no boundaries./STEVE TANCHEL
Riky Rick proves fashion has no boundaries./STEVE TANCHEL

Local fashion designer Thebe Magugu was awarded the iconic LVMH prize, a monumental achievement that will see him shine next to previous winners who are now at the helm of design houses such as Dior and Louis Vuitton.

With SA Fashion Week's autumn/winter show just around the corner, it is a little sad that A-listers with immense buying power and social influence scarcely attend the front row of the biannual event.

In the US this is not a reality, especially among the hip-hop fraternity, which has become a force in the fashion world.

As hip-hop ascended to the mainstream so did the wallets of its talents. Young kids of the ghetto could aspire to the image of wealth they often saw in the media.

If designer boxers weren't bulging out of Calvin Klein jeans, it was about carrying bigger bling and bolder prints on your Balenciaga.

To any fashion lover, designs on the runway can be an artistic, visual journey. For the layman it's bizarre and unwearable. Yet stars like Kanye West and Pharrell Williams were not afraid to take fashion risks with clothes you could find on the ramp. They also started getting involved in fashion, as per Pharrell's Millionaire sunglasses with Louis Vuitton.

The rise of black youth hungry for fame and fortune saw hip-hop's celebrities buy as much high-end threads as possible, creating a ripple effect for black-owned brands like Run DMC, FUBU and Baby Phat. With the receipts to boot, hip-hop stars carried the flag for black consumers - from P. Diddy's ostentatious love of furs and Rolex watches for kids, to Notorious B.I.G giving birth to hip-hop's love affair with Versace.

Femcees were not far behind either. One could argue that Missy Elliot heralded Afrofuturism. While she was quick to sport an Adidas tracksuit, Missy's performances featured black women (especially plus-sized) in sci-fi worlds. When she was not taking Timbalands to crop fields for a dance break with aliens above her, she made a garbage bag look like a high-fashion innovation. More recently, Cardi B's excess has become an almanac of fashion history.

It would be a sin not to commend local hip-hop stars like Riky Rick, who embraces fashion as he does a bass drop. Riky can pull of any couture look, as per Rich Mnisi or Chulaap, without defying his masculinity, a feat no rapper has ever pulled off.

JR's collaboration with Loxion Kulca was an apt celebration of his rise in music and the brand's heritage as a purveyor of kwaito and hip-hop style.

With our own major celebrities clamouring for high-end international brands like Gucci, Dolce and Dior it's sad that they are missing from the front row of local shows and their tills.

Let's appreciate and support the genius of local talents in their respective fields so that they don't need to find excellence or opportunities in international conglomerates.

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