If you were lucky enough to witness the rise of hip hop from its genesis *raises hand*, then you know there is a “before,” and an “after.” Specifically, there was hip hop before it met and married the world of fashion, and hip hop after its union, in which the era of Kangols, Adidas, 8-Ball jackets and bamboo earrings quickly evolved into luxury logos and the rise of Black-owned fashion brands, all of which changed the game for the players and spectators alike.
Netflix chronicles this incredible evolution—and a few of its primary architects—in its recently released The Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion, directed by Lisa Cortes, and Farah Khalid. The documentary, a featured pick at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, focuses on three primary luminaries who heavily influenced and have since experienced full-circle moments in fashion: Dapper Dan, Walker Wear founder April Walker, and Misa Hylton—as well as their influence upon current fashion darling Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss.
For the ladies of what we fondly call “the culture,” Misa Hylton’s influence is indelible. The multi-ethnic, New York-born stylist, designer and all-around creative is the visionary who wasn’t afraid to bring the fullness of femininity into a still male-dominated genre (remember Lil’ Kim’s lacy pasty?)—which is especially remarkable when one considers Hylton was only 17 when her career began. Growing her career alongside collaborators like former partner Sean “Puffy” Combs (with whom she shares son Justin), the late, great Andre Harrell, former Vibe editor-in-chief Emil Wilkebin and more, Hylton proved a force, crafting the images of stars like Lil’ Kim, Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, and countless others throughout the ‘90s and early aughts.
Today, Hylton is finally being recognized as an icon in her own right. After years in which her contributions were largely forgotten—or worse, appropriated by the mainstream without attribution or recompense, she is enjoying a well-deserved renaissance as her work is once again brought to the fore. Much like longtime friend Dapper Dan’s partnership with Gucci, Hylton is enjoying luxury label success as the Global Creative Partner of MCM, where, among other projects, she was commissioned to create one of Beyoncé’s many museum-worthy ensembles for The Carters’ “Apeshit” video in 2018.
As we know, we don’t always get to give our architects the flowers they deserve, and as Hylton told The Glow Up, “it feels amazing.” But the style maven is very much still in the game—and training a new generation of talents in the art of both style and business via the Misa Hylton Fashion Academy. And just before we locked down this year, Hylton was celebrated during perhaps our last traditional February Fashion Week, where she, Dan and Walker were honored by Harlem’s Fashion Row.
This Big Beauty Tuesday, it’s The Glow Up’s honor to speak with a true original and one of the architects of the more stylish aspects of hip hop culture—a modern-day matriarch, if you will. Just don’t call it a comeback: Misa Hylton’s been here for years...and has much more to come.
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