Over the years, the relationship between music and fashion is one that’s become inescapably intertwined. Rewarding when done right, it’s also a largely precarious venture and a crossover is not as easy as it seems. There’s been a number of designers who have launched their own clothing line but have never seen it fully take off. The nine designers we’ve handpicked here are those who have made an indelible mark on the merging of these two industries.
Back in the ’90s, combining music and fashion wasn’t much of a thing – then hip-hop legends Wu-Tang Clan and Jay Z made us realize that an entire, new industry could be born out of an already established culture. Musicians who have followed in their footsteps, as explored in this list, are hip-hop collectives Odd Future and A$AP Rocky. Whereas musicians like Pharrell decided to create a whole new fashion brand on top of his already weighty musical CV – see Billionaire Boys Club. On the other end of the fashion spectrum and the global pond, award-winning British designer Liam Gallagher and Paul Weller are creating classic fashion lines that reflect their Britpop musical backgrounds. U.S. urban streetwear and classic British tailoring come together here to explore how the two art forms influence each other and what people are able to achieve if they broaden their horizon.
1. Wu-Tang Clan – Wu Wear
Here we are, right at the start. Behold, it’s the Garment Renaissance. Nowadays it seems that a clothing line is almost a prerequisite for hip-hop stardom but it wasn’t quite the same in the early ’90s. Man who started it all for Wu-Tang Clan was Oli “Power” Grant in 1995. What initially started as a way to make money from the demand of counterfeit Wu-Tang shirts has evolved in a celebrated collection of designer pieces and accessories. Wu’s debut album Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers cemented the lines true potential and lead to four store openings in NYC, LA, Atlanta and Virginia. The line connected fans and the super group in an unprecedented way and was massively influential on hip-hop culture. It paved the way for other musicians and inspired Puff Daddy, Jay Z, Busta Rhymes, Nelly, Ludacris and 50 Cent to launch their own.
Some might call it the world’s most glorified merch store but the launch was a game-changer for both industries. Seen as a reputable voice in fashion, the hip-hoppers have collaborated with Nike, adidas and Alife NYC. Lesson learned here? If you wanna start a fashion line, just hold your own, baby.
Shop the collection here.
2. Jay Z – Rocawear
If you’re one of the most successful men in the music industry, what d’you go and do? Venture into another industry and become widely successful in that one too. Founded in 1999 and much like Wu-Tang’s clothing line, Rocawear created a culture, a scene where there wasn’t one. They took the loyalty of Jay Z’s fans and rewarded them by taking that hip-hop enthusiasm, expanding it and allowing them to be part of something more. Along with its indelible cultural significance, the brand has had annual sales of $700 million and has developed its range to include kids and juniors, big and tall, eyewear, outerwear, handbags, headwear, fragance, intimates and swimwear – more than any other label on this list.
Created by Roc-A-Fella Records by co-founders Damon Dash and Jay Z, the brand notoriously called upon an eclectic celebrity prowess including the unexpected shoot with Victoria Beckham and Naomi Campbell for their Fall/Winter 2003 collection. The fashion-forward campaign placed it into another realm of fashion and enhanced its seriousness and prestige as a brand. In 2007, Jay Z sold the Rocawear rights to Iconix Brand Group – the rapper still oversees the marketing and product development to ensure that Rocawear grows with its fans and remains the number one urban lifestyle brand in the world.
Browse the Rocawear lines here.
3. Odd Future – Odd Future
Instantly recognizable are the clothes, logo and members of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. Loud, colorful and garish, the brand epitomizes the collective’s attitude and has built up a sound connection between the group and their fans. The sticky, gooey donut logo made its way from the group’s first album onto socks, skateboards and everything in between. One thing’s for sure; they’ve got their branding down to a tee.
Before reaching heightened Internet exposure by way of their goofy videos, the LA hip-hop rascals were just a bunch of friends in Cali getting by – Tyler actually interned at LA streetwear shop Reverse – now, they’re setting up shop all over the world selling exclusive and highly sought-after pieces. 2012 saw them traveling the world with their touring pop-up shop to showcase their eclectic collection of shirts, hoodies, socks, boxer shorts and caps adorned with cats, dolphins, cartoon donuts and tacos and their friends’ faces. The graphics are bizarre and even Tyler has voiced his surprise at their fans’ reception: “I make stupid shirts and people like it so I’m grateful.”
Shop the entire collection here.
4. A$AP Mob – A$AP Mob
In 2013, Harlem collective A$AP Mob launched their debut clothing line, simultaneously with the opening of their online store. Essential streetwear in their signature black and white colorway is what’s on offer from the East Coast group – particularly from A$AP Bari. He’s one of the only members who isn’t making music, but when it comes to fashion he’s the man of the hour. Celebrated as one of the most stylish New Yorkers, he’s launched three of his own lines and works very closely with A$AP Rocky and the rest of the group – resulting in the line receiving praise for its noticeable collaborative effort. Wearing what others weren’t truly paid off; they stuck to their own vision – in Bari’s own words, “I’m the type of person that makes something wack look good” – and have come out on top.
5. Future – Freebandz apparel
Atlanta’s current hip-hop star Future only dove into the world of fashion recently but he’s surely making a name for himself. Like many in his field, he founded his own record label imprint, Freebandz, in 2011 and subsequently launched a clothing line under the same name. The Astronaut Kid’s online store primarily features branded T-shirts and hoodies at the present time but just like the rapper’s music, his designs will surely evolve over time while maintaining a high level of quality. Hopes to expand into a full-fledged fashion label, the future is his for the taking.
6. Liam Gallagher – Pretty Green
From rock to retail: former Oasis front man launched his own fashion label in 2009. Referencing mod culture, the brand is synonymous with Gallagher’s music and attitude. Dreamed up by Liam and his right-hand man Steve by a pool in LA, the concept behind the line is simple – to design attire that Liam himself would want to wear – polo shirts, paisley prints, tailored jackets, parkas and desert boots, in Liam’s own words: “worn-in smart.”
The line consists of two distinct collections: the casual “Green Label” and “Black Label,” which focuses on fine British tailoring. The first store opened on mod-location Carnaby Street and a number of standalone locations have opened throughout the UK and Japan. Inspiration behind the label’s name was a track by The Jam and in 2011 Gallagher called upon ex-frontman of the band to design a range with him. With a reported turnover of $4 million in its first year, the brand has won a number of British design awards and has become a global hit. In 2012 the label announced they would no longer be using fur in their designs, which was met by much praise from PETA.
Shop the line via the official online store here.
7. Paul Weller – Real Stars Are Rare
After contributing to Pretty Green designs in 2011, Mr. Weller found inspiration to start his own line. Bringing in the expertise of Phil Bickley (owner of London menswear label Tonic), Weller’s brand blends smart with casual boasting quality materials and fine tailoring. Largely mod-influenced, Weller wanted to draw on his past but also look into the future, creating contemporary classic pieces that are, above all, timeless. For the father of Mod, fashion and music for go hand-in-hand, in his own words, “they’ve helped shape who I am.” The brand started simply with shirts and has gone onto include a collection of jumpers, jackets, tailored trousers and more.
8. Victoria Beckham – Victoria
It’s a good thing Mrs. B turned her hand to high-end fashion, otherwise she’d still be primarily known for this. From pop star to one of the most celebrated designers in the industry, this Beckham has certainly done a 180 in the time we’ve known her. Granted, ever since the Spice Girls made their way onto our karaoke lists, Victoria’s been the one inextricably linked to fashion – from those iconic Gucci dresses to that PVC outfit – but who would’ve guessed her fashion accolades would stretch so high.
She debuted her collection, Victoria, at New York Fashion Week in 2008 and won the Designer of the Year Award at the British Fashion Award a mere three years later. Not only is she one of the few to garner positive reviews from fashion editors, in 2012 she was also the most talked about designer on Twitter during New York Fashion Week. Her style icon status has lead to fellow fashionistas and celebrities seeking out her designs and her ready-to-wear, diffusion label launched in 2011 is an exceptional blend of casual meets high-end. Known initially for its dresses, the range has expanded into separates and a range of accessories, with handbags selling in the region of $18,000.
Her Posh Spice persona is long in the past – she’s transitioned from WAG to one of the most celebrated designers in the industry and in 2012, her venture was the star performer of the Beckham’s business interests.
Check out both collections here.
9. Tinie Tempah – Disturbing London
Labeling Britain as the most stylish place in the world, rapper Tinie Tempah brings this list to a close by bringing his urban collection to the streets of Britain. 2012 marked style icon Tinie Tempah’s first foray into fashion. Awarded Britain’s Best Dressed Man accolade by none other than GQ magazine in 2012, it’s a venture that wholly makes sense and was met with much praise from both industries. Tempah’s influence on fashion was further consolidated when the British Fashion Council selected him as a member of the London Collections committee alongside Tom Ford, Christopher Bailey, and Selfridges’ David Walker-Smith.
Cofounded with his cousin Dumi, Disturbing London clothing is distributed via their record label of the same name and was initially launched at London’s high-end department store, Selfridges. The line reflects the singer’s impeccable style and includes fierce graphic tees, Americana-inspired bomber jackets, hoodies and snapbacks – all emblazoned with the brand’s eye-catching regal skull logo.
Shop the collection here.