Clothes that speak and move

‘ Fresh Dressed’ doc ex­plores hip- hop fash­ion

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - BOOTH MOORE FASH­ION CRITIC “Fresh Dressed” is open­ing at Laemmle NoHo and is avail­able any time at fresh­dressed­ booth. moore@ latimes. com

Hip- hop makes a state­ment in cloth­ing too. That history is the sub­ject of the doc “Fresh Dressed.”

Long be­fore Jay Z was rap­ping about fash­ion de­signer Tom Ford, Phar­rell Wil­liams was pitch­ing for Chanel or Kanye West was a fron­trow f ix­ture at Givenchy, kids were cus­tomiz­ing jean jack­ets with spray paint and ac­ces­soriz­ing shell- toed Adi­das shoes with starched laces.

Hip- hop fash­ion, born from the mu­sic scene, has evolved into a global busi­ness and pop cul­ture phe­nom­e­non that is ex­plored in “Fresh Dressed,” the new f ilm by Sacha Jenk­ins that opens Fri­day.

The f ilm is a fun, col­or­ful scrapbook with ref­er­ences rang­ing from Lit­tle Richard to “The Fresh Prince of Bel- Air” and in­ter­views with rap artists, de­sign­ers and ex­ec­u­tives in­clud­ing Wil­liams, West, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Kid ‘ n’ Play, Nas ( one of the f ilm’s pro­duc­ers), Damon Dash, Jeff Tweedy, Ric­cardo Tisci and more.

“In the world of hip- hop, fash­ion is a lan­guage,” says Jenk­ins, 43. “But I also wanted peo­ple to un­der­stand the cli­mate and the en­vi­ron­ment that cre­ated hip- hop.”

He traces hip- hop fash­ion’s roots to New York City in the 1970s when, against the back­drop of racial and eco­nomic ten­sions not un­like those mak­ing head­lines to­day, gangs cus­tom­ized their jack­ets and jeans to forge an out­law look.

“The Bronx was burned out, the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem was screwed up and you had all these gangs rum­bling,” says Jenk­ins, a long­time chron­i­cler of hip- hop who cre­ated his first zine ( about graf­fiti art) when he was just a teenager and is cur­rently the cre­ative di­rec­tor of Mass Ap­peal mag­a­zine. “It was an ag­gres­sive world, and the cloth­ing was very ag­gres­sive.”

By the 1980s, beefs were be­ing set­tled at the mi­cro­phone through rap. “Fresh” evolved to mean dress­ing fresh out of the box, brand new and per­fectly creased. “Be­ing fresh is more im­por­tant than hav­ing money,” West says in the film. “The en­tire time I grew up, I only wanted money so I could be fresh.”

“It makes you think about the im­por­tance in the in­ner city for other folks to un­der­stand that what you are wear­ing is brand new,” Jenk­ins says.

The f ilm high­lights hip- hop fash­ion pi­o­neer Dap­per Dan, the Har­lem hab­er­dasher known for mak­ing crazy cus­tom looks with allover lo­gos from Gucci and Louis Vuit­ton. (“Dap­per Dan’s was Tom Ford be­fore Tom Ford,” Nas says.) The Shirt Kings, who air­brushed T- shirt de­signs of Mickey Mouse smok­ing crack, among other things, are also fea­tured.

As rap be­gan to per­me­ate pop cul­ture, artists de­vel­oped a more re­lat­able style, which was broad­cast to the world in mag­a­zines and on MTV. “[ Hip- hop artists] were dress­ing how kids on the street were dress­ing, not like Grand­mas­ter Flash or Par­lia­ment- Funkadelic,” Jenk­ins says. “Run DMC’s ‘ you guys’ style felt com­fort­able and ac­ces­si­ble. And once hip- hop be­came ac­ces­si­ble, the fash­ion be­came ac­ces­si­ble and spread like wild­fire.”

Rap­pers grav­i­tated to­ward old school sta­tus la­bels like Vuit­ton, Gucci, Ralph Lau­ren and Tommy Hil­figer un­til African Amer­i­can en­trepreneurs cre­ated their own lines in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These in­cluded Day­mond John’s FUBU in New York and Carl Jones’ Cross Colours and Carl Wil­liams’ Karl Kani, both in L. A.. Mu­sic moguls Dash, Combs, Rus­sell Sim­mons and Jay Z fol­lowed, and ur­ban fash­ion emerged as a mul­ti­mil­lion- dol­lar brand­ing jug­ger­naut.

Baggy pants and bucket hats went main­stream when LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, Tu­pac Shakur and Big­gie Smalls wore them. “Un­til then, no one was mak­ing clothes for this con­tin­gent,” Jenk­ins says.

Hip- hop fash­ion re­ver­ber­ated on the run­way, too, inf lu­enc­ing count­less high- end de­sign­ers, and spawn­ing its own suc­cesses.

In 2004, Combs’ Sean John line won the top menswear award from the Coun­cil of Fash­ion De­sign­ers of Amer­ica. Public School, de­signed by Sean John alums Dao- Yi Chow and Maxwell Os­borne, won the same award in 2013.

And yet to­day’s rap­pers seem more in­ter­ested in pro­mot­ing lux­ury brands than their own la­bels. In 2013, ASAP Rocky rapped, “Rick Owens, Raf Si­mons usu­ally what I’m dressed in,” and Jay Z is more as­so­ci­ated with Tom Ford than the Ro­cawear la­bel he cre­ated with Dash.

“Kanye, Jay Z, Phar­rell, the worlds they are trav­el­ing in are far away from the hous­ing projects,” Jenk­ins says. “I wanted to make a f ilm that … got peo­ple to think about how many things have changed and how many things have stayed the same. Why is it so im­por­tant for in­ner city kids to wear and own stuff from brands they can’t pro­nounce? Be­cause they feel marginal­ized and there’s a lack of op­por­tu­nity and they feel like some­how cloth­ing can make a dif­fer­ence.”

Jamel Shabazz Sa­muel Gold­wyn Fil ms

Jamel Shabazz Sa­muel Gold­wyn Fil ms

STREET FASH­ION in­cluded sta­tus la­bels in Brook­lyn, N. Y., circa 1986, in a scene in “Fresh Dressed.”

Sa­muel Gold­wyn Fil ms

“I N THE WORLD of hip- hop, fash­ion is a lan­guage,” says “Fresh Dressed” di­rec­tor Sacha Jenk­ins, trac­ing its roots to 1970s New York.

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