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Sowmya Krishnamurthy

Fashion Killa: How Hip-Hop Revolutionized High Fashion

Published by Gallery Books

Apr 02, 2024 Bookmark and Share


There are certain things in this life that naturally go together, as if inextricably bound by some unspoken rule. Peanut butter and jelly. Hot dogs and baseball. Midnight and true crime documentaries. And, of course, hip-hop and high fashion.

For decades, the pairing has presented a seemingly effortless fusion of culture, forever linking Adidas to Run-DMC, Tom Ford to Jay-Z, and red-bottomed Louboutins to Cardi B. Even Nicki Minaj’s current and inescapable hit “FTCU’’ immediately adorns its viral hook with Dolce & Gabbana. But there’s a rich tapestry of history that predates lyrical laundry lists of designer drip, one that author Sowmya Krishnamurthy meticulously compiles in her book Fashion Killa: How Hip-Hop Revolutionized High Fashion.

Krishnamurthy’s latest work chronologically examines hip-hop and high fashion’s love affair, documenting the two entities’ mutual admiration and collaboration, without ever glossing over the cultural appropriation that has long plagued their relationship. While Fashion Killa profiles mainstay brands that have been critical to hip-hop’s closet — Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, and Chanel, for instance — the book’s greatest strength is spotlighting equally influential players like Dapper Dan, Karl Kani, and Walker Wear, who have historically received less recognition in the fashion world’s often-whitewashed wardrobe.

While reaching as far back as nineteenth century Harlem, Krishnamurthy is prudent with her choice of details, never allowing Fashion Killa to be bogged down by the weight of the rich textiles portrayed within its pages, yet also leaving space for pivotal pops of color. (These include — but are not limited to — a bulleted timeline of Kanye West’s dismissal from the fashion world, the tale of Jennifer Lopez’s Versace ensemble at the 2000 Grammy Awards spurring on the invention of Google Images, and this gem of a Snoop Dogg quote: “It’s called a manicure, not a bitchicure.”)

Radiant as a statement brooch and sleek as a pair of Cardi’s “bloody shoes,” we’d call it the perfect accessory, but that would imply that the history Krishnamurthy captures here is a mere flourish. Make no mistake; Fashion Killa is a runway-worthy main event. (www.simonandschuster.com)

Author rating: 9/10

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