Catwalk hip-hop

Zebra Katz/Courtesy

With its big egos and conspicuous consumption, hip-hop is not as distant from fashion as it might seem. The relentless ferocity of hip-hop beats and strength of its personalities molds hip-hip into a fitting runway soundtrack. Ad campaigns too can hitch a fashion brand to the popularity of a current artist. Music videos can provide some excellent exposure to both brands in the cross-pollination of audiences. Lil’ Kim and Kanye West are the trail blazers of fashion integration, immortalized in Kanye’s super model anthem “Christian Dior Denim Flow,” and the trend has caught fire. Take a look at some recent collaborations.

The pared down androgyny of Rick Owens works well with the subversiveness of Zebra Katz’s shade-throwing anthem “Ima Read”. Owens comments that “I’m gonna read that bitch’ is a gay vogueing-culture term for ‘tell her what’s what.’ It’s ridiculously exaggerated in this song and expressed mostly through the female voice. I liked how it expressed savage impulses in a chilly, controlled way.” The music video for the song is shot in what looks like a gritty middle school, yet its vibe is darkly comedic. In this way, its similar to Owens’s fashion: pushing against gender boundaries by capitalizing on the drama of fashion and rap.

One of the more puzzling match-ups is Azealia Banks and Chanel. The former is a young rapper with a campy sense of sexuality and movement. The latter is something of a humorless brand dependent on name recognition and appealing mostly to women in their late 50s. The merging of the two is an attempt to inject some youthfulness into Chanel but the two identies seem to clash in videos of Banks performing at Chanel banquets. The dissonance in the room is palpable. Banks is better suited for the club.

Die Antwoord is featured in T by Alexander Wang’s spastic Spring 2012 campaign videos. Wang usually channels the aggressive energy of female vocalists like M.I.A., Beth Ditto and Karen O in his shows. The crassness of Die Antwoord makes them a bold choice for the label, but the risk pays off. They add a hard edge to the sporty, athletic toughness of the Wang aesthetic.