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BLACK STYLE NOW TO OPEN SEPTEMBER 9;
FIRST AMERICAN EXHIBITION TO EXPLORE BLACK FASHION;
WILL HIGHLIGHT IMPACT OF HIP-HOP ON STYLE
Exhibition dates: September 9, 2006 – February 19, 2007
Press preview: Friday, September 8, 10:00 a.m. – noon
Black Style Now, an exhibition that explores African-American style and highlights the hip-hop revolution and its transformative impact on fashion and design, will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York from September 9, 2006 through February 19, 2007. The exhibition will be a groundbreaking exploration of the contributions of African Americans to contemporary fashion, focusing on such iconic designers and style setters as Sean “Diddy” Combs, Tracy Reese, and Russell Simmons. It will trace the phenomenal ascendance of hip-hop style from an inner-city fringe culture to the mega brands of today—a key American cultural export and influence worldwide.
Commented Susan Henshaw Jones, President and Director of the Museum: “New York City set the perfect stage for street culture to intersect with Seventh Avenue fashion, as hip- hop transcended color barriers to become mainstream—creating styles that typify the urban look but are sold in suburbs and towns in America and throughout the world.”
Black Style Now is generously funded by the Time Warner Foundation; ESSENCE magazine is the primary sponsor.
“Nurturing creativity in all its forms is part of the mandate of Time Warner’s philanthropy,” said Lisa Quiroz, Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility for Time Warner Inc. “The Museum of the City of New York’s Black Style Now promises to be an exciting and groundbreaking exhibition of creativity and talent that has risen from the community level to take center stage in our world today. We are delighted to help shine a deserving spotlight on all that this remarkable showcase has to offer.”
“From the classic look of the Harlem renaissance to the trendsetting styles of hip-hop culture, the global influence of Black America on fashion is undeniable,” commented Michelle Ebanks, President of ESSENCE Communications, Inc. “As a powerful testament to the African-American experience, Black style is highlighted and celebrated on the pages of ESSENCE magazine, and is passionately brought to life for this unique exhibition.”
Black Style Now will feature examples of the attire, accessories, and looks that define contemporary fashion--jeans, gowns, dresses, footwear, handbags, hats, jewelry, and more. The exhibition will reveal how today’s fashion is shaped by African-American style.
Highlights of the exhibition will include:
· More than 50 dressed mannequins that will show evolving hip-hop fashion from the 1970s through today, including examples from Dapper Dan, Cross Colours, FUBU, Rocawear, Enyce, MOJEANS, Phat Farm, and Baby Phat;
· Gowns and outfits worn by Beyonce Knowles, Sean Combs, Lil’ Kim, and LL Cool J;
· Jewelry and accessories designed by Kimora Lee Simmons for Simmons Jewelry Company, including a 14-karat gold Sony Play Station, as well as accessories by Kangol, Louis Vuitton, and Manolo Blahnik;
· Photographs of fashion and music icons by Martine Barrat, Marc Baptiste, Anthony Mandler, Jamel Shabazz, Albert Watson, and Ben Watts;
· Classic footwear by Adidas, Nike, Timberland, Puma, and other brands that have sparked the passion of hip-hop culture;
· A sweeping overview of black style from the 1920s through the 1960s, as seen through photographs, clothing, and accessories that document such legendary figures as Marian Anderson, Cab Calloway, Eartha Kitt, Carmen de Lavallade, Geoffrey Holder, Joe Louis, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson, Bayard Rustin, Bobby Short, and A’Lelia Walker.
An interest in black fashion can be traced back to the period from the 1920s through the 1960s, when pioneering black celebrities became style icons. Predating today's mega-brand culture driven by global media, they succeeded in attracting the spotlight and helped to define black fashion. Black Style Now will document these monumental figures of the pre-hip hop era; it will also feature photographs of such successful early black models as Dorothea Towles Church and Donyale Luna.
The origins of today’s black design world can be dated to the 1970s, when designers like Stephen Burrows, Scott Barrie, Jon Haggins, and Willi Smith broke through the Seventh Avenue color barrier. They were the first to achieve commercial success in the fashion mainstream, attracting media attention and a wide clientele. Their success was fueled by the burgeoning 1970s downtown club scene, one of the city’s fastest growing subcultures, which provided the perfect venue for their fashions. Examples of their work, including a gold chain mail halter top by Burrows, will be on view.
Simultaneously, around the boroughs, a cultural revolution was brewing. Hip hop, which began as a New York City street-infused music subculture, attained mainstream success when The Sugarhill Gang's 1979 "Rapper’s Delight" became the first hip-hop single to make the Top 40. New York teenagers from inner-city neighborhoods originated what would become the hip-hop style by wearing a mix of such existing, sport-based national brands as Kangol hats, Lee jeans, and Adidas footwear, examples of which will be on view in Black Style Now. The key force in turning this style into a national sensation was the advent of the music video and the phenomenal crossover success of Run-DMC’s MTV debut in 1984. This brought Run-DMC worldwide visibility and gave rap music an instantly recognizable fashion identity that inspired fans and followers around the globe.
The 1990s gave birth to new brands that turned urban fashion into big business. Companies like FUBU and Phat Farm—born of the hip-hop community and aesthetic—built on the same marketing and media techniques that had launched the music internationally. The exhibition will reveal, through photographs and garments, that hip-hop style in this era referenced many aspects of urban life, including Afro-centric, prison, pimp, and “player” styles.
The extraordinary popularity of hip-hop styles among people of all classes and races challenged all rules of fashion. What had previously been seen as merely casual soon became the new height of style. This mainstream success sparked a renewed interest in black design in all idioms. By 2003, Stephen Burrows, the celebrated black designer of the 1970s, was back on Seventh Avenue along with top designers Tracy Reese, Edward Wilkerson, B. Michael, and others. At the same time, the evolution of the celebrity-driven brand—Sean John, Phat Farm, and House of Deréon—came to represent the ever-growing popularity of hip-hop style, which continues to define fashion trends around the world. Black Style Now will feature examples of contemporary work by a wide range of today's black designers.
Additional funding has been provided by Altria Group, Inc. Support from Josephine Day Spa, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, and Sharon Y. Bowen is also gratefully acknowledged.
The exhibition is organized by author/historian Michael Henry Adams and fashion designer Michael McCollom and designed by Crystal McKenzie, Inc.
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