For the last decade it seemed that the balance of power had perhaps permanently shifted. Rockers, for so long the designers’ muse, and influencers of the common man’s taste, had taken a back seat to Rappers as culture’s tastemakers.
Indeed, as rap and pop music have become one in the same, the image of a rapper in a quadruple XL T-shirt has been supplanted by a more fashion forward mainstream style icon. It’s impossible to write this piece without mentioning Kanye West, who shot to fame wearing Polo Ralph Lauren at a time when pastels and polos were still the strict domain of the Northeast elite. Few people look more at home in haute couture than ASAP Rocky, a man who can seamlessly blend gold grills and du-rags with Rick Owens and Raf Simons. No mean feat. Even Jay-Z, a man who rapped “I don’t wear skinny jeans / ‘cause my knots won’t fit” has been stepping out in some trim black denim over the last couple of years.
And if Jigga wearing skinny jeans wasn’t enough to cement the fact that Hip Hop, popular culture, and couture were in the midst of a happy union, Ricardo Tisci, designer at Givenchy, was a guest of honor at the wedding of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, having designed tour outfits for “Watch The Throne” in addition to Kim Kardashian’s wedding dress.
Hip Hop’s influence on fashion, trends, and popular culture certainly isn’t going away anytime soon. And yet, a return towards a rock and grunge aesthetic is steadily picking up steam. With Hedi Slimane at the helm, it can be argued that Saint Laurent Paris is reinterpreting classic Rock n’ Roll style and bringing it back towards the center of our cultural zeitgeist.
Prior to his appointment at Yves Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane was best known for his stint at Dior Homme in the mid 2000s. His time at Dior was marked by a tightened silhouette. Dior Homme was one of the originators of skinny jeans for men. Slimane is unapologetic about his love affair with Rock n’ Roll, relocating YSL’s creative headquarters to Los Angeles, where he has made his home. Slimane’s photography from the last five years is on display now in Paris at the Foundation Pierre-Berges. The subject matter, shots of rock icons like Lou Reed, Amy Winehouse, and Pete Doherty leave the viewer with little doubt over what inspires Slimane’s aesthetic. This is clearly seen in his collections for Saint Laurent Paris, with cigarette jeans featuring rips, tears, and other distressing providing the platform for perfecto and varsity styled jackets, plaid shirts, chelsea and cowboy influenced boots, and Vans style sneakers to complete the look.
Other designers, notably Ovadia & Sons from Brooklyn, have begun to move in a markedly more Rock centric direction as well. Not long ago, the brothers Ovadia were tapped to design York Street, J. Press’ diffusion line. From designing for J. Press, the originator in Ivy League trad, the most recent Ovadia & Sons collection shows mashed- up plaid Frankenstein flannel shirts, as well as a red plaid suit, the model wearing it with shoulder length blonde locks.
Popular music may be becoming more and more influenced by Hip Hop and electronic, but it would appear that designers are beginning to look back towards the rockstar for their own inspiration. It will be interesting to see whether this trend pushes music in a similar direction towards the frenetic energy and instrumentation championed by the original punks and rockers. Rappers may be the modern rockstars, but for a growing number of designers, it seems that nothing beats the original.