Virgil was a man that influenced many industries indefinitely! As the world pays tribute to Virgil, Culture Shift looks back at just 10 of the moments from his career.
Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion and Saweetie. Images: Instagram
While women in Hip-Hop have been dominating the global charts (and headlines) for decades, marketable ambassadorship roles have historically been reserved for a different breed of celebrity - mostly white, mostly actresses or pop singers and mostly with a squeaky-clean public record. In the last few years, notable improvements to this lack of inclusive representation have been made (Rihanna for Dior, Beyoncé for Adidas) but 2020 has seen a more palpable shift in the push for brand diversity. This year, three multi-million pound companies tapped some of the most successful women in rap (Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion and Saweetie respectively), to represent their businesses at a global scale. A move that not only celebrates the commercially-successful careers of these female rappers but also openly recognizes the power of their international influence. Scroll down to read more about these game-changing appointments…
Cardi B for Balenciaga A/W20. Image: Balenciaga
“I like those Balenciagas, the ones that look like socks” Cardi B famously rapped in her 2017 hit ‘I Like It’ and fast-forward three years later – the 27-year old is now the first celebrity face of the luxury label in five years. Announced via two giant billboards next to the Louvre museum in Paris, Cardi’s campaign sees her in a form-fitting black dress – true to her own personal style – with a nod to motherhood as she lays down surrounded by children’s toys. Shot during lockdown, the campaign also separately features some of the House’s internal creative team who styled and photographed themselves in the collection, but Cardi’s appointment is by far the most publicized, and headline-worthy imagery.
Megan The Stallion, Revlon's new Global Brand Ambassador. Image: Revlon
2020 may not have been a celebratory year for most but for Megan Thee Stallion, it’s undoubtedly one of her best yet. Boasting a number one hit with her Cardi-collab single ‘WAP,’ the Texas-based artist also won Best Female Hip-Hop Artist at the BETs and was revealed as the newest Global Brand Ambassador for iconic makeup label Revlon. The first female rapper in the brand’s history to ever hold this title, the news was announced on Instagram, where Megan proved she’s more than up for the job by insisting on doing her own makeup for the much-applauded campaign. “I feel proud,” the rapper told Allure magazine shortly after the announcement was revealed. “I’ve loved Revlon products since I was a kid, and the company has a history that’s real close to my heart.”
Saweetie X Pretty Little Thing. Image: Pretty Little Thing
PLT has worked with a notable roster of reality stars and Insta-models over the years but historically, these partnerships have purely centered around a single capsule collaboration. This year, the e-commerce retailers reached out to ‘Icy Girl’ rapper Saweetie for a partnership deal with a more admirable goal in mind – raising money for Black Lives Matter. Launched in June as many BLM protests were taking place worldwide, 100% of all profits from the 48-piece ‘At Home With Saweetie’ collection were directly donated to blacklivesmatter.org. In a statement, the UK-based brand not only acknowledged Saweetie's drive to raise awareness for this cause, but also how the actions of brands during this time needed to be a force for change. “PrettyLittleThing understands how important it is to speak up, step up and take action. We are committed to implementing positive change and giving a voice to our community. Therefore we will be donating all proceeds from the At Home With Saweetie collection to Black Lives Matter. Because we know, we’re always stronger, together.”
Hip-Hop's unquestionable influence on fashion was recognized way before 2020, check out some of the most notable catwalk homage's from the 90s and beyond: https://cultureshiftuk.com/hip-hop-influences-fashion-designers/
Kanye West in Louis Vuitton. Tupac at Versace 1996. Images: @Pinterest
It’s no secret that many of the world’s most famous fashion houses have long been inspired by musical influences. In the 80s, Madonna’s lace gloves and corsets sparked a new direction at Jean Paul Gaultier while Cher’s extravagant costumes and love of all things embellished skyrocketed the careers of Bob Mackie and Halston. In recent years, some of the most prominent faces in the music industry are celebrated Hip-Hop artists and as such, the signature style of this genre has become a permanent reference for many designer brands. While the likes of Gucci, Louis Vuitton and their counterparts may have been slow on the uptake, (apart from Tupac’s infamous runway debut at Versace in 1996), there’s no denying that Hip-Hop as a zeitgeist has actively led the clothing industry into a more casual, streetwear-inspired direction.
Aaliyah's 1996 Tommy Hilfiger campaign. Images: @Pinterest
Decorated across streetwear brands like FUBU and Supreme, favoured by Hip-Hop’s finest, bold logos on hats, t-shirts, trousers and bags were a key status symbol. One of the earliest adopters of this trend was Tommy Hilfiger, an all-American brand once known for ‘country club chic’ who quickly got the bold-logo memo and updated the label's aesthetic accordingly. A quick endorsement from Snoop Dogg on SNL later and suddenly Tommy Hilfiger’s mass appeal was cemented. The label even cast one of Hip-Hop’s most notable names at the time, Aaliyah, in their 1996 ad campaign.
Versace SS18, Louis Vuitton AW18, Burberry SS18. Images: @Pinterest
On the modern runways, this lack of subtlety translated to a move from minimalism to maximalism. At Louis Vuitton in the 2010s, LV logos weren’t just saved for a belt buckle or two but instead became almost a wallpaper that covered apparel from head-to-toe. Other designers followed suit and soon if you were wearing Balenciaga, Versace, Burberry or the like, it was more than clear from your clothing.
Tom Ford SS20, Burberry AW19, Marc Jacobs AW17. Images: @Pinterest
Sneakers, hoodies and tracksuits were once marketed as strictly off-duty pieces. Worn on the weekends or in more casual settings, these items weren’t seen as work or formalwear appropriate - a notion that could not be further from the truth now. One of the most high-growth (and high-price) industries within the fashion world, sneakers are no longer resigned to sportswear and instead, are a valuable status symbol many designer labels are taking full advantage of. In the last five years alone, the luxury sneaker market grew threefold and in 2019 was valued at over $55 Billion.
Although accessories have played a leading role in high-fashion’s fondness of streetwear, silhouettes such as sweatshirts and joggers have also enjoyed a resurgence on the catwalks of brands that were once only known for couture. At Marc Jacobs, the designer even cited the documentary ‘Hip-Hop Evolution’ as the inspiration for his Autumn/Winter 2017 collection which celebrated the influence of streetwear on youth culture.
Dapper Dan for Gucci 2018 Image: Gucci
While high-end designers may have taken time to warm up to Hip-Hop’s influence on fashion, Hip-Hop has long celebrated and been inspired by high-end designers. Case in point: Dapper Dan. A fixture on the Hip-Hop fashion scene in the 80s and 90s, NYC’s infamous tailor used fake Gucci prints (among others) in many of his designs for clients including Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J and more. In a full circle moment, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele recognised the creative genius of these designs and reached out Dapper Dan in 2018 to create a collection for the Italian Maison, inspired by the Harlem-based couturier’s 80s archives.
For more fashion inspiration, check out Usher and Ella Mai's colourful 'Don't Waste My Time' video: https://cultureshiftuk.com/usher-and-ella-mai-get-one-last-party-in-before-quarantine-in-dont-waste-my-time-video/
If you like to think of yourself as a fashionista when it comes to the hottest street style and pop culture, you probably already know of Nigo. As a designer with his finger on the pulse, Nigo brings the freshest looks to fashion-conscious shoppers from all four corners of the globe. So naturally, we want to get to know him a little better.
Often dubbed a visionary, a tastemaker or the god of culture, Nigo has carved a legacy for himself through decades of hard work, revolutionary designs and becoming the go-to designer for the most prominent hip-hop artists of the time. Before streetwear was even considered luxury, he was already doing it.
So, where did the inspiration to create brands that became synonymous with streetwear and the culture come from? As a devout hip-hop addict, much of his inspiration came from music. At 16, Nigo would venture into Tokyo to shop for the latest records at a shop called Cisco before saving up enough to buy his first set of turntables. Taking inspiration from the icons on the record sleeves, the aspiring DJ started dressing like his icons, including LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys and Public Enemy.
Nigo, born Tomoaki Nagao began his fashion career at Tokyo's seminal Bunka Fashion College. While studying at Bunka Fashion College, he swapped his sleepy hometown of Gunma for the neon lights, late-night bars and streets of Tokyo – here he found his real education. As he made connections and formed friendships, he met Jun Takahashi and the so-called "Godfather of Harajuku" Hiroshi Fujiwara.
Nigo later remarked that he learned "zero" from Bunka, crediting meeting Jun as the most important thing he took from his time at the college. With the help of Hiroshi, Nigo and Jun later went on to form NOWHERE.
Adopting a tactic of rarity propelled the brand into success, with production runs only ever fulfilling 10 per cent of demand. A decision that would turn out to be an incredibly shrewd move. Fast forward a couple of years and the likes of Biggie and Mo.Wax's James Lavelle were repping the brand; it became increasingly popular and rightly so. Thanks to revolutionary designs, exclusivity and the support of hip-hop legends, Nigo had truly earned his stripes in the fashion world.
With BAPE growing year on year, Nigo turned his attention to creating the BAPE STA, which would become a must-have for sneakerheads all over the world. While the word iconic is flung around too often in the fashion industry, there's no denying BAPE influenced streetwear products for years to come.
Of course, any sneakerhead will be able to see several similarities between Nigo's BAPE STA and Nike's Air Force 1. The difference? The BAPE STA was ahead of its time in the early '00s. While the Air Force 1 was originally a basketball shoe, Nigo had the foresight to pair the athletic silhouette with vivid colourways and features – something Nike had never done. As a result, Nigo had successfully created a streetwear must-have. So, while some may argue that the BAPE STA was a rip off of the classic Nike sneakers, many believe it was more of a nod of respect.
With the BAPE STA and the entire brand growing in popularity, Nigo would go on to collaborate with the likes of Pepsi and MAC.
In the early '00s, a significant ally was Pharrell Williams. As Pharrell began to shape the face of hip-hop, his love of BAPE helped to grow the brand. As the pair became closer, they went on to launch two new brands, Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream. While these were official partnerships, Pharrell also became an unofficial brand ambassador for BAPE, as a slew of other rappers including Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky and Kayne West followed suit.
As the years went on, despite the interest in the brand, it began to lose money. After selling 90% of the brand to Hong Kong's I.T. in 2011 following nearly 20 years of success in the business, Nigo eventually exited the label in 2014.
Despite Nigo stepping away from BAPE in 2014, fans of his creative eye could still rock his ultra-cool designs. In 2010, not long before he sold BAPE to I.T., Nigo started up a brand he still owns today, Human Made. The new label allowed him to take his designs in a different direction, creating things he wasn't able to do with the revolutionary streetwear brand that was BAPE.
With the help of his long-time collaborator and graphic designer, SK8THING, Human Made ventured into creating quality and authentic designs that reflected the pre-1960’s era. Much like BAPE, Human Made has blossomed into a brand that is much loved by fashion icons, including Nigo’s long-time supporter, Pharrell Williams.
Throughout the past decade, Nigo continued to pave the way, with no signs of slowing down in 2020. After rounding out 2019 with a Human Race x Human Made collection with Pharrell and adidas, a limited-edition t-shirt drop with Futura and the announcement of a Louis Vuitton Fall 2020 capsule collection, Nigo has kept up the work rate in 2020.
January saw the year get off to a good start with a Human Made x adidas Stan Smith drop and a new adidas Originals campaign with Stormzy before Virgil Abloh revealed the LV collab with Nigo in March. Fast forward to today, and Nigo and Virgil have unveiled a second collection, which is of course, painlessly fresh.
2020 was also the year that saw Nigo team up with Victor Victor (ran by Pop's former manager, Steven Victor) to release a Pop Smoke Capsule collection as well as joining forces with over 20 Japanese brands in a show of solidarity to support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
With decades of success under his belt, there's no denying Nigo is one of the most influential streetwear designers of our time. We can't wait to see what he does next.