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The Fashion Geek Podcast

80 | Timeless Swagger Hip-Hop vs Streetwear with Elizabeth Way of F.I.T (Fashion Institute of Technology)

Listen To Timeless Swagger Hip-Hop vs Streetwear with Elizabeth Way of F.I.T (Fashion Institute of Technology)

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In this episode of The Fashion Geek Podcast, Reginald Ferguson and Elizabeth Way of FIT delve into the influence of hip hop fashion on streetwear and sneaker culture in the 21st century, exploring its impact on mainstream fashion and American culture. They discuss the curation process for an exhibition at the Museum at FIT, highlighting the challenges of selecting influential pieces from the world of hip hop fashion. The conversation touches on the evolution of sneakers, the influence of classic menswear on hip hop style, and the significance of individuality in fashion expression. Additionally, they explore the impact of hip hop on luxury fashion, the representation of black designers in American fashion, and the empowering role of fashion for black women. The episode provides a rich exploration of the intersection of hip hop, fashion, and cultural influence.


Elizabeth Way [00:00:00]: We see these kind of pieces of clothing that were developed for sports trickle their way into fashion. And then we see this with sneakers. That's really something that happens, in the later half of the twenty century, and it's definitely evolved revolving around youth cultures, hip hop being one of them. Reginald Ferguson [00:00:16]: Yo. This is Reg Ferguson, fashion geek number 1. How are you? Welcome to the ride. Thank you so much for listening. I am a men's fashion consultant here in New York City, and I help the everyday man achieve his goals and live his best life By taking him from fashion confused to fashion confident. If you ever found yourself staring at the closet not knowing what to wear If the idea of shopping for clothes makes you feel physically ill, then this is the show for you. My goal with every episode to help make looking good feel easy. If you ever want my help, email me at for a consultation. Reg Ferguson [00:00:57]: If you have a friend who's looking to level up his fashion style wardrobe game, please share an episode with them. While you're at it, if you dig the show And haven't already left us a rating and review, please consider doing so now. Your shares, ratings, and reviews help us grow the show And help us get the best possible guest and help more men dress their best. Today, we are going to talk with Elizabeth Way of FIT, Fashion Institute of Technology who is in New York, and we're gonna talk about something the everyday man should have an interest in. Is hip hop style still relevant in the 21st century, and what influence does it have on streetwear? Elizabeth, in the building, how are you? Elizabeth Way [00:01:41]: I'm great. Thank you so much for having me on. Reg Ferguson [00:01:44]: No. I really appreciate it. You know, this is a big coup for me. So so before we go into our topic, please tell us. So what do you do? Elizabeth Way [00:01:55]: So my name is Elizabeth Way, and I'm an associate curator at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I'm a fashion historian, and I've been, curating for about 10 years. I'm also the cocurator of our current exhibition, Fresh, Fly, and Fabulous, 50 years of hip hop style. Reg Ferguson [00:02:12]: Well, you see, I'm just cheesing because, that's what brought us together. And, As everyone knows in my listening audience, I am now doing video, so at FIT. No. I did not g it. This is mine. Had this since back in the day. Put my nickels together. I remember exactly where I bought it. Reg Ferguson [00:02:49]: The place where I bought it up in the Bronx where the people are fresh is now a It's a it's a Walgreens, which broke my heart. This place was the one of the places I can't remember the name. It was two initials. It was on Westchester Avenue, in the Hunts Point section, right there underneath the L tracks at Simpson Street, where I bought a lot of my gear, which reflects the topic that we're discussing today. So so just for everyone, for sure, clarity and transparency. I, I have 2 friends who are professors at FIT. They told me about The 50th anniversary symposium that was occurring there, I had no clue, and I I wrangled my way Miss Wade was very nice in inviting me. And then because I'm a New Yorker, I parlayed that, son, And got her on the pod. Reg Ferguson [00:04:00]: So thank you again. And, again, you know, I'm just teasing because really what I really am excited about pertaining to this conversation is that we have the ability of someone like you to actually Have a scholarship on this topic for something that for me was just part of my growing up. I went to live with my grandparents. I'm from Manhattan. I'm from the West Village. Went to live with my grandparents up in the Soundview section. And if anything knows about Soundview, much less the Bronx, There's a lot going on in terms of the development of the culture of hip hop, particularly through rap music, but also through fashion. So why is this still so relevant, Elizabeth? Elizabeth Way [00:04:45]: Well, hip hop fashion is infinitely relevant to the way we dress today because it amplified and fostered a few key, key movements that have shaped 21st century dress. Streetwear is probably kind of the biggest and the most, kind of of these movements, but we can go down, you know, to specific objects like sneaker culture. Sneakers are everywhere today from runways, you know, to kind of the average office worker being able to level up to a sneaker that kind of fits in with their everyday wardrobe instead of having to change out of it on their walking commute. Was idea of kind of more casual, more comfortable clothing, but also that clothing is elevated to a fashion space. It's not, you know, athletic wear in a separate category. It's fashion. And so hip hop had a lot to do with kind of making that the norm of dressing in 21st century American culture and through that changing international fashion culture. Reg Ferguson [00:05:38]: Well, you're right. I think the fashion reflects the overall art form of rap because, you know, rap started here in the city. I'm a native New Yorker, so it's one of the things I just passionately claim. And, obviously, it was blacks and browns that really, you know, created this art form and created and developed the culture. And sometimes still as I reflect my time and my age, it totally throws me off that people who do not look like me really can more than hold their own quoting rap lyrics, knowing artists, and articulating about the culture really in a pure in a pure level. It's it's unquestionable, but but yet it throws me off. But you hit on something, And, also, I have to do a big shout out, and I'm hoping this way will will bless me with her the reading of my blog. I literally just I just relaunched my website. Reg Ferguson [00:06:39]: So it's a new website for the business, ny fashion The news site dropped on Tuesday. A blog post also dropped on Tuesday. And the whole premise behind my blog, which originally I was trying to make it a long piece for GQ and got a a polite personal rejection, which I'd been told in the game is is pretty cool. The the point is You mentioned streetwear, and the premise of my blog post is that streetwear didn't just all of a sudden pop out of nowhere. It literally came from hip hop culture. You know, you mentioned sneaker culture. So, you know, care to offer an opinion on that because I just hate that people are like, streetwear. Reg Ferguson [00:07:24]: I'm like, no. It came from us. Elizabeth Way [00:07:26]: Well, I mean, street streetwear can be streetwear is such a big category, and it can be defined in so many different ways. And so the way I kind of think about streetwear is an evolution saying, but, again, elevating very casual, athletic inspired pieces to fashion. And we do have a lot of forces kind of going on in American culture. Hip hop is probably the biggest one of the most, kind of important in pushing this streetwear culture, into kind of the way that we all dress today. We have other subcultural influences, for example, skater culture, punk, a lot of, youth culture for, for sure. We we also have kind of bigger movements in the seventies eighties. We have a big emphasis, especially for women, on exercise, and, you know, dance, movies like Flashdance, things like these are all affecting fashion. But, hip hop took those references as well and made it their own. Elizabeth Way [00:08:19]: But I would definitely say that hip hop, because of the popularity of the music, you talk about, you know, people who look different from you being able to kind of, you know, quote rap lyrics in a very authentic way. Hip hop is American culture. Reg Ferguson [00:08:32]: Absolutely. Elizabeth Way [00:08:33]: 19 nineties. It had just completely permeated youth culture, American culture, Gen X, is now kind of, you know, they're adults. Young millennial old elder millennials are now adults, and they grew up on hip hop. And so it was just such a big part of the culture that the fashion naturally followed that, kind of cultural, kind of saturation. So for sure, hip hop was one of the biggest, if not the biggest force to take street wear and make it mainstream fashion. Good. Reg Ferguson [00:09:02]: Yeah. And you hit on something because now rap music is the popular music. When I was growing up, it was rebel music along with punk rock. And, you know, there's some great parallels there really and occasional intermixing at places like Danceteria. When I was a little kid, as I date myself, having a friend of mine, you know, sneak slash drag me in there and just going, wow. And also that was just cool because I was back in Manhattan Because because I miss Manhattan, you know, going, you know, going to the Bronx from there. So You mentioned sneaker culture. So clearly, one could argue sneaker culture is endemic to America. Reg Ferguson [00:09:51]: But I think that we when we categorize sneaker culture, it really emanates from the eighties on, but, certainly, I would say sneaker culture predates the eighties. Elizabeth Way [00:10:01]: For sure, we see athletic shoes kind of with rubber soles going back to the, you know, the late 19th century, early 20th century used specifically for sports. And over the course of 20th century, we see these kind of pieces of clothing that were developed for sports trickle their way into fashion. I mean, we see this with sneakers. That's really something that happens, in the later half of the twenty century, and it's definitely evolved revolving around youth cultures, hip hop being one of them. But, you know, because, black and brown communities at this time, you know, there were very few kind of cultural resources that they could look to, that they could identify with, that embrace them, so they created their own and hip hop was one of them. But another really important, kind of cultural force was sports because we do see a lot of black and brown, athletes succeeding and being recognized. And so you have people like Michael Jordan. And so when they're releasing a sneaker, it's resonating with black and brown kids, and, of course, a lot of these kids, kind of overlap in the venn diagram of hip hop. Elizabeth Way [00:10:56]: And so you that's one major reason why kind of sneaker culture, just so important in hip hop. But hip hop definitely kind of took it to the next level in terms of connoisseurship, in terms of collecting, in terms of the way they wore sneakers. We have examples in the exhibition of fat lace sneakers worn by b boys in 1980, so customizing those things. Even just the idea of keeping your sneakers flawless, this idea that black and brown people have had for generations about the way they need to present themselves in mainstream society in order to be seriously in order to avoid violence. And, of course, these things don't protect us, but it is still a mindset of dressing showing up in your as your best. And even when kids move towards much more casual clothing, they took those ideas with them. Reg Ferguson [00:11:42]: Yeah. It's funny when you talk about sneakers being pristine again as I continue to date myself. I remember Having a pair of Nike Cortez, and I had what every kid had in New York City, much less the Bronx. I had a corresponding toothbrush and and and white kiwi lotion liquid lotion. Elizabeth Way [00:12:12]: Mhmm. Reg Ferguson [00:12:13]: Because if there was 1 mark on my sneaker, my my life was over. It was a it would be a heartbreaking sight. So I remember my late grandparents just looking at me. Just remember, like, what what is he doing? What is he do? But it was all about keeping it fresh. Elizabeth Way [00:12:32]: Mhmm. Reg Ferguson [00:12:34]: So like you said, again, these are through lines through time that, You know, African American culture about Sunday best. I mean, this is a direct pipeline of that that Elizabeth Way [00:12:45]: Absolutely. Reg Ferguson [00:12:46]: That That the, you know, that the crease should be permanent and should be sharp. Everything is about being as sharp as you can with whatever you have. And we had a previous conversation in which you were really talking about the whole melanger of different items from different cultures and how, Really hip hop remixed it in terms of, you know, for example, You know, a polo shirt here and, you know, a shearling, which we call back then a sheepdog, a sheepdog back then. So Elizabeth Way [00:13:23]: Well, in the exhibition we do, we look at some designers from other spaces but we really do focus on New York City and, you know, it's really about the experience of dressing. You talk about cleaning your sneakers and the rituals around dressing and keeping yourself fresh fly. My co creator, Elena Romero, also grew up in New York. She's from Brooklyn. She talked about going down to Delancey Street and haggling for your sheepskin was a rite of passage. Reg Ferguson [00:13:46]: Yes. Elizabeth Way [00:13:47]: And so there's not it's not just wearing the clothes and putting the clothes together in unique ways, which hip hop kids absolutely did. It was the whole ritual of dressing, acquiring the clothing. You know, it's it's really comparable to, like, 19th century dandies. You think about Beau Brummell tying his Cravat. These kids were just as intense about the details. It is really it's re really an amazing clothing culture that has been, you know, disseminated. A lot of people today don't have the time or the inclination or the understanding to kind of dress in that kind of detailed way, but we certainly take the tropes that these kids developed and work it into our wardrobes. Reg Ferguson [00:14:24]: Absolutely. I often have said on this podcast that really My current fashion sensibility obviously starts from childhood, but in 2 separate schools. Classic menswear Due to my late grandfather and watching him, observing him, and also him literally teaching me, nurturing nurturing me In the ways of being a man and being a gentleman through through your fashion, through your style. Teach me how to tie a tie in The same tie knot I used today, but growing moving from Manhattan to the Bronx, which you could see on my face, was a big thing. Elizabeth Way [00:15:02]: Mhmm. Reg Ferguson [00:15:02]: Like, help. Like, love to live with my grandparents. Love my grandparents, but what? Because back then, New York City was extremely balconized. And literally people knew if you were intruding, so to speak, into their neighborhood much less their borough. Because there were certain tells even through fashion, much less just how you spoke that would let people know, hey. What What are you doing here? And we may have to chase you out. The other but the other school was was hip hop, And that still influences me to this day. You mentioned detail. Reg Ferguson [00:15:40]: I think that's the reason why I get led into the space of men's fashion consultancy because of My eye for detail, which clearly started as a child, but get honed and nurtured over time through my family and then on my own accord in a in a erudite manner. So I think till I die, those 2 schools will always be prevalent. It doesn't mean, like, often you'll see an old school rap concert in which the crew is still rocking the same gear as if they're frozen in time. Meaning, I had to pull this out. I wanna be really clear y'all. First of all, my favorite rap group of all time. But I admittedly, I pulled this out of my my storage loft. This is not in regular rotation. Reg Ferguson [00:16:27]: I actually had to, had to knock off the dust. So One Elizabeth Way [00:16:30]: of the things I wanna point out about what you said, which I really love, is that classic menswear certainly has a huge influence and a place within hip hop style. I think people's understanding of hip hop, style is kind of frozen in in a certain moment. Right? And we and it's it stays relevant because we see constantly references back to the eighties nineties, when it comes to hip hop style. Also we're in a current moment where the younger generation is very interested in fashion from the 19 nineties and the 2000. But in the exhibition, we look at pieces, you know, from Sean John or even the ensemble that Dapper Dan wore to win his CFDA award, and both of these figures are from Harlem. And they have a very specific fashion reference that's all about vintage, 19 twenties, 19 thirties kind of menswear style that is particularly tied to Harlem. And, of course, we have these formal wear, kind of veins all throughout New York and the rest of the country. But formal wear is a really important part of hip hop style. Reg Ferguson [00:17:25]: Well, you hit on something. We had a conversation previously, and I'd like to to bring that back. We mentioned frozen in time or I mentioned frozen in time, and you echoed it. And I certainly don't wanna speak out of both sides of my mouth, but we know that time is fluid. So In the previous conversation, you mentioned how from a current standpoint, how hip hop is going luxe. And, obviously, Sean John, you know, the Sean John brand and DAP clearly reflected that, but they reflected that in a earlier time. So if we look now in the 21st century, back to the initial question, you know, discord on on, you know, luxe in hip hop And, you know, why is this even existed? Elizabeth Way [00:18:14]: Well, I mean, as hip hop celebrities became wealthier. They became more well known. They took some of the same, like, veins of style, the same topics that they were thinking about when they were starting out, like customization, like individualization, and they just put threw more money at it. So in the exhibition, we have examples of nameplate belts from the eighties nineties in brass, silver plated, and then we can compare that to these beautiful renderings of, these diamond name chains from things that were worn by Cardi B or Drake. And what we see is the same idea. We see a nameplate, and it's all about kind of declaring your visibility. There was so much many forces in mainstream society trying to make black and brown kids invisible in the seventies eighties. Those still exist today. Elizabeth Way [00:18:59]: But so they're taking these old school hip hop ideas and they just take it to the the highest level covered in diamonds dripping. And we see that with the fashion. Right? Track suits, were in fashion. They were in they were Adidas or Fila in the 19 eighties. Now they're made by Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. And so we see these same ideas that these luxury companies have taken from hip hop and they're being worn by the hip hop artists. So there's really much more of a kind of reciprocal dialogue now, but it really is happening on this luxury level. Reg Ferguson [00:19:31]: What's funny you mentioned the reciprocity because certainly back in the seventies eighties, not necessarily kids because kids are kids, but Black and brown adults were being ignored by these European brands. Elizabeth Way [00:19:46]: For sure. We interviewed Dapper Dan for the exhibition, which we were so excited about, and he talked about Reg Ferguson [00:19:52]: We've always wanted him. So lucky. Elizabeth Way [00:19:56]: We talked about he talked about being in his atelier, and he always says that he's he's not about the closer reflection of kind of how he views an individual, and he's always trying to bring out aspects of their personality through his design work. And so he talks about sitting in his atelier, and when someone comes into his store, he gets up and he greets them at the door. He says hello. He has a conversation with them, and this was a marked difference from the way they were treated on Fifth Avenue going into these luxury department stores. He wanted that to be a difference, that he wanted them to feel acted to feel seen and to feel welcome in his store because they were feeling the exact opposite way in, the luxury brands downtown. Reg Ferguson [00:20:38]: Sure, yeah, we would effectually call that end watch back in the day that you had the means, But you're literally being scoped from the moment you walk in to the moment you left. And to your point, You know why, you know, why patronize these brands? When I think of when I think of Run DMC And there's really an irony here based on the lyric because, you know, they're talking about Calvin Klein saying, I don't wanna, you know, anybody's name on my behind. But then they inked a deal with Adidas. 1st Elizabeth Way [00:21:14]: the 1st pop group to have a fashion endorsement, and this was the first time, a company like Adidas, a sporting wear company, had an endorsement with a non athlete. This was a big moment. And it was a $1,000,000 deal in 1986, and and that's a lot of money back then. I mean, it's Reg Ferguson [00:21:30]: Absolutely. It's a Elizabeth Way [00:21:31]: lot of money now, I guess, but it Reg Ferguson [00:21:32]: was a lot. I know what you mean. Yeah. No. No. I literally remember when the deal got inked. This is that sweatshirt, you know, from from that collection. I mean, it I I I never wore shell heads. Reg Ferguson [00:21:45]: I was more of a Nike kid, but Mhmm. But, again, you know, my favorite group, you know, love the song, my Adidas. They get the deal, And this is why I copped this. I went I I have to be a part of this. Yeah. You know, like any kid. Elizabeth Way [00:22:03]: Absolutely we see that same energy when Dapper Dan did his collaboration with the Gap recently, and they had the DAP sweatshirt, so sold out immediately. Yeah. There's still this kind of hunger for, these more accessible pieces. You know, of course, going to Dapper Danse Atelier is out of certainly out of my range, out of the range Reg Ferguson [00:22:19]: that 2. Elizabeth Way [00:22:20]: Or the Gucci collaboration. So when he does a collaboration with Gap, people are excited to get a piece of that style for themselves. Reg Ferguson [00:22:27]: Yeah. Certainly. Because, really, Dap, you know, from a New York standpoint, is mythologized. Mhmm. And he certainly is a legend. I and, you know, and I'm not trying to put you on the spot, but the but the link I gave you to the podcast To try to get into the symposium, wanted to prove that I was down. You know, I mentioned Dapper Dan. I have a episode dedicated to him. Reg Ferguson [00:22:51]: He's kinda my white Will. I've always wanted him on the pod. It hasn't happened. I've come close. But, again, being a native New Yorker, being of that time, you know, I know a lot about him, and I know a lot about that store. And I didn't grow up in Harlem, but you can't be black and not know about Harlem in New York. And I remember walking past that store. And then as in now, still inaccessible for my black ass. Reg Ferguson [00:23:16]: So Elizabeth Way [00:23:19]: but aspiration has also been kind of this constant theme within hip hop fashion. Reg Ferguson [00:23:23]: Yes. Elizabeth Way [00:23:23]: And it's such a it's it's such a force for moving fashion forward in the different ways that it occurs. We can talk about the low lives and the way they acquired, the fashion that they wanted. Literally. Represented an American dream. You know, to hearing people like Thurston Howell talk today, they can really break down kind of their thought process when they were younger and thinking about Ralph Lauren as this Jewish kid from the Bronx who you know, they he wasn't a person who was welcomed into these WASPI American you know, these American circles, but he created it himself and turned into a $1,000,000,000 company, and that was something that they respected. Reg Ferguson [00:24:01]: Yeah. He I mean, first of all, One of the greatest American storytellers. So because like you said, Jewish kid from the Bronx off of Marshallou Parkway, and, You know, he's the go to for the story of the Western way, and he's the story of, You know, the life of the Hamptons. I mean, he he's he's he has that he has that gift, And, I mean, that also is just an amazing New York City story because up you know, immigrant story, you know You know, his parents were from Europe. He comes here, and he makes and paves a way and creates a way of life, again, about Aspiration. Like, he his, you know, his face should be there in Merriam Webster because He has made and continues to make that happen. Elizabeth Way [00:24:57]: Mhmm. Reg Ferguson [00:24:58]: And you you hit on something, the whole lack of accessibility For this type of clothing, particularly when you talk about low lives. Right? So I wouldn't even necessarily claim to be low life adjacent, but I remember that time. So And, you know, and, you know, Thurston Howe keeps it real, and I love him to death, you know, from afar, but, You know, these goods were gotten in nefarious ways. So Elizabeth Way [00:25:24]: But you can also look at it from a historical effective and think about the impact they made in popularizing Ralph Lauren within hip hop Absolutely. And keeping that relevancy for so, so long. I mean, Ralph Lauren has done a lot of different lines and a lot of different things, and, you know, he has high fashion line and, you know, makes gowns. But when we think about kind of the American sportswear that he was creating, the type he was creating in the eighties nineties and the longevity of that those lines, I think, you have to trace it back to low lifes, and that's something that they as a brand have recognized. They've done projects with Thurston Howell Reg Ferguson [00:25:55]: Yeah. Elizabeth Way [00:25:55]: Advertisements. You know? Like, they recognize that as well, and that's a long evolution from kind of the way that relationship started out in the 19 eighties. Reg Ferguson [00:26:04]: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, it's in Ralph's book, I've been told because I I didn't claim to read the book, but I've I've seen a quote. So no. He, you know, he knows and, you know You know? And Tommy Hilfiger, which is, you know, really the, the progeny of someone like Ralph. I mean, the same acknowledgement. And we were both fortunate enough, to hear Andy, you know, make that extremely clear. And then also at the museum, ladies and gentlemen, There's a lovely video of both brothers, and they tell the story. Reg Ferguson [00:26:34]: And I'm I'm I'm here to say that that was really refreshing to hear because We know that as people of color, particularly here in New York City, we're the tastemakers. So Absolutely. Elizabeth Way [00:26:49]: You know, Reg Ferguson [00:26:50]: we take these brands like like Dapper Dan. Like, I'll tell you to this day that Oh, and I literally have a podcast episode of bet that podcast episode. I'm like, no. He took the actual fabric and then made the check. He didn't no. He didn't re No. He took the actual bags, and he made it the fabric. Like, that was because literally, you know, he was creating these items, but, obviously, he had a, you know, he had a printing and the silk and, you know, all that and the machines. Reg Ferguson [00:27:18]: I'm like, no. He took it from each individual bag, and then he he made a coat. That's what he did. But that was just always so fascinating to me, but we have always been fascinating in this culture. And the interesting thing again through time is, you know, things enter from the subculture and then become mainstream culture. And that's why when you were talking about the transition that I kinda nudged you on about, oh my gosh. You know? Okay. The robo music the rebel music is the popular music. Reg Ferguson [00:27:52]: The brands that ignored us now embrace us. And, again, this is this is what time does. Elizabeth Way [00:27:58]: Mhmm. Well, what's interesting about you know, you can look at something like rock and roll that, of course, black people, you know, had a huge hand in creating, Reg Ferguson [00:28:06]: but was, like Yeah. Elizabeth Way [00:28:08]: Largely, but it was largely coated white. And so you have a lot of white artists, and so it moves from this rebel music to something that's much more mainstream. Now it's, like, kind of oldies or whatever. It's not quite as relevant. Reg Ferguson [00:28:18]: Right. Elizabeth Way [00:28:18]: But because black people and hip hop today, you know, we have so many Latinx creators, but hip hop today is so connected to black communities. Black communities never attained main it's to this day, we don't have mainstream status. To this day, we're still, facing all of this marginalization, and so hip hop was able to straddle the line and becoming kind of mainstream, but also keeping this kind of this edge, this outsider status. And, you know, we're taking this legacy of kind of fashion created in black communities, you know, from the 19th century from earlier. And you take all these forces, and it makes hip hop just incredibly powerful as a force within fashion. Reg Ferguson [00:28:55]: Yeah. I don't think there's any question, and and certainly, like, any music form for, you know, For white America to embrace this equally as passionately, It made a start it might have started as voyeurism, but certainly transformed that, I think, for a lot of individuals. I mean, again, talking about the 50th anniversary of hip hop and and this this being the birthplace as a city, You know, I have a friend of mine, and, you know, he's a white Jewish guy from Bayside, Queens, And rap is just as important to him as it is to me. And we went to the Fiska exhibit. Him and his wife beat me to, museum at FIT, Elizabeth Way [00:29:47]: and Reg Ferguson [00:29:48]: I quickly gained ground. So So and, you know, we can talk about that because we're both New Yorkers. And though we did not know each other as kids, We're both New Yorkers. Mhmm. And we're both of that age as you said. So, you know, we're part of the golden era. So to have that type of conversation and just again, just show the immense popularity and how it grows and spreads, It starts from a very indigenous manner, but really indigenous is also just New York City. So, you know, it grows in this way. Reg Ferguson [00:30:24]: And like I said, you know, we can talk about You've said it, but I just want you to say it again, probably just in a different way. Why is hip hop fashion relevant in the 21st century? Elizabeth Way [00:30:40]: Well, because hip hop fashion is now kind of completely conflated with streetwear. Right. And streetwear is how we dress. That's that's just the way we dress in the 21st century. But just I mean, again, this this idea of taking we're all moving towards more kind of comfort and casual, kind of clothing. That was a movement that started, I mean, in the 19th century, and we've kind of seen it come to fruition, in the late 20th and early 20th century. But hip hop made that fashionable. They made that hip hop made that stylish. Elizabeth Way [00:31:11]: And so it wasn't just a move towards comfort and, you know, unrestriction on your body. People still wanna express their personalities, their creativity, their style, and hip hop transformed casual clothing into a way that we could do that. So it's I mean, it's just it I can't emphasize enough, like, how much it's affected the way all of us dress whether we kind of understand its origin in hip hop or, consider ourselves to be a part of hip hop culture. Hip hop's influence on dress has impacted the way everyone dresses. Reg Ferguson [00:31:45]: Why Is Dapper Dan your most influential designer of the late 20th century? Elizabeth Way [00:31:54]: Dapper Dan opened a dialogue between European luxury through logos, but also through kind of craftsmanship and quality and a couture kind of way of making clothes and American sportswear, which is one of the kind of factors that kind of led to the creation of streetwear. And so taking these these luxury logos and putting them on bomber jackets, but not just a bomber jacket. He's gonna make it double breasted. He's gonna make it 2 colors of leather. Especially menswear, but women's wear as well. We see those ideas. We see this idea of taking pieces of sportswear and merging it with European luxury and creating streetwear from it. It's just absolutely everywhere. Reg Ferguson [00:32:42]: No. I hear you. And and, you know, I mean, I have to smile because I really feel there should be a disclaimer in this conversation that we are preaching to the converted, but I I have to ask tough questions because because I think the the questions are are legitimate. They're valid. What is your favorite piece in your exhibit at the museum at FIT? Elizabeth Way [00:33:08]: Okay. Well, I have many favorites, but I'm gonna talk about a menswear piece because of where I am. We have a tuxedo that was lent to us by Ralph Lauren. It was custom made for the rapper for the Met Gala, I believe, in 2022, and it references it makes a lot of visual reference to the stadium collection in 1992. So we have an original stadium jacket also on loan to us from Ralph Lauren, from 92. This sportswear piece that has become kind of what what it's been dubbed kind of given suicide status within hip hop culture, meaning that it is so coveted. The idea of wearing it on the street is like it's like suicide. You're gonna get boosted. Elizabeth Way [00:33:45]: And so chance the rapper talks about having this tuxedo made for him, and he really described it as his Cinderella moment. He grew up loving polo, loving the stadium collection, perhaps not being able to access it in the way that he wanted to. So to step out at the Met Ball on the red carpet in a custom made tuxedo that was a throwback to the stadium that he loved in 1992. That was a important moment for him. And, you know, red carpet fashion for men, I find to be kinda kinda boring. You see an impeccable you know? You see an impeccable suit and, like, you know it it's beautiful, but, you know, there's there's that's where kind of the conversation ends, right, most of the time, I'll say. Reg Ferguson [00:34:24]: But that Take that. Oh, don't get a shot. Elizabeth Way [00:34:26]: But that text that tuxedo is such an important moment that brings together so many themes within the exhibition and really speaks to this this place in hip hop fashion, in American fashion, and how important it was for people of color, for young kids, and, like you say, not just kids of color, but how important it was in how they shape their own culture and how that culture's had an effect on American culture. It's this generation, generation x taking over from the generation before. And so I think that that is a really important and beloved piece within the exhibition. Reg Ferguson [00:35:01]: How difficult was it to curate pieces? You are the co curator. Elizabeth Way [00:35:09]: Yes. Reg Ferguson [00:35:10]: I don't know how many pieces are there, but you're you're there for over an hour. How difficult process methodology? How does this work? Elizabeth Way [00:35:20]: So I'll tell you a little bit about how we put the exhibition together. We have over a 150 objects, and these came from over 50 different lenders, not including our permanent collection here at MFIT, which we have pieces from that as well. So I co curated this exhibition with Elena Romero, and she is a professor at FIT in, marketing communications, but she's also a working journalist. And she's been working, for the fashion trades like WWD, DNR, which is now defunct since the 19 nineties. And so she really covered the emergence of what was then called urban brands, and that's, you know, a word that, a a loaded word. Yep. You know, she really covered and, you know, advocated for covering the importance of these brands. Brands like FUBU and far more doing multimillion dollars of business, you know, tens of 1,000,000 of dollars of business every year, and the fashion industry wasn't really taking it seriously. Elizabeth Way [00:36:13]: It was kind of shunted off into this other category, young men's category, which wasn't, you know, considered as exciting or relevant as women's wear. So she was really on the ground as this was happening, and she wrote a book in 2012. And so she pitched the idea of doing an exhibition to celebrate the 50 year anniversary to the museum at IT. So she's a guest curator with us. And this was way back in 2018. We started working, and I was brought on board as her cocurator, and we started working on it in 2019. 4 years of work of going to people's archives, contacting people. We drew a lot on Elena's network to get into the archives of people like Sala Vitiello, who owned disco fever, of Ralph McDaniels, of designers like April Walker and 5,000 and one flavors. Elizabeth Way [00:36:53]: We you know, the museum has contacts with places like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, who we borrowed things from, Moschino, Terry Mugler. So it was really a combined effort of kind of the what Elena knew, what I knew and bringing it all together. So just kinda beating the pavement and figuring out all the objects was that were out there, that was difficult. But getting it into the museum and trying to whittle it down was so difficult. It was so difficult because, you know, we do focus on New York City, although we we definitely look at important West Coast brands like Cross Colors and Carl Kurai. You know, there can be 500 exhibitions on hip hop fashion specifically. So narrowing it down was a huge, huge challenge, and it's still one of the largest shows we've done at FIT. Reg Ferguson [00:37:45]: Yeah. I I loved it. It just it just took me back. I looked at pieces that I couldn't afford back then, That were unattainable. And, yeah, it just it blew my mind. I just realized I'm not trying to be a jerk. So I know I know the Tommy Boy Carhartt jacket is there, and that was, like, the must have item. And I know Monica Lynch literally said that, so she's a little biased. Reg Ferguson [00:38:15]: But if I recall correctly and if I'm totally wrong, then blast me. I don't recall the Def Jam jacket being in the exhibit because I'm here to tell you as a native New Yorker. Sorry, miss Lynch. That was the jacket that you wanted to have. Elizabeth Way [00:38:35]: So that was something that was on our board that we didn't end up being able to put in their exhibition. Many, many reasons why certain things couldn't come, but, we do have a piece from Def Jam University talking about how Def Jam went into the fashion the fashion business, creating kind of their own fashion line. But, again, there's just you we can have a 100 other exhibitions to explore all these really influential items. So, we did, because we were able to partner with Monica Lynch, she wrote a little thing for the book and, like, you know, lent us these lanyards from her personal collection. It was really fun to have that collection there, but there are so many things that we could have put there to kinda think about, the record companies and, you know, these influential pieces. Reg Ferguson [00:39:15]: Understood. Do you wanna talk a little bit about the coffee table book that you and miss Romero coedited? Elizabeth Way [00:39:24]: So this book was part of our 4 year process, and we draw so much on it's really an anthology. It's the neither the exhibition nor the book are is a chronological all kind of history of the 50 years of hip hop. There's really too too much. It would have to be 3 times the size to be able to do that. But we really drew on a number of different authors, journalists like, Kim Massario and Emil Wille begin who were at the source and vibe, Elizabeth Wellington who was at, the Philadelphia Inquirer. So so not only are these journalists covering kind of hip hop culture, they grew up in it, and they were very much a part of it. And then we also turn to people like Sala Botello, Ralph McDaniels, Dapper Dan, Monica Lynch, to kind of have all of these different perspectives. So it really was, kind of almost a grab bag of the people that we knew we needed to hear from, people we, who at the time we could get in touch with, but everyone has these really unique stories, on that go through the history of hip hop. Elizabeth Way [00:40:17]: They were there when it happened. They helped shape the culture. And so I think that's really what makes the book so unique. Reg Ferguson [00:40:24]: Yeah. I'm gonna have to cop 1. I'm gonna ask for my FIT discount. That was only. So, Miss Wei, why is fashion important? Elizabeth Way [00:40:39]: Fashion is important because everybody engages with it. Whether you think you dress in a fashionable way or not. You're engaging with fashion because what you put on expresses something about yourself. Even if you're actively trying not to express something, that's an expression. Fashion. Reg Ferguson [00:40:51]: Right. Elizabeth Way [00:40:51]: It does so much to tell people who you are, what you believe in, you know, not to mention the aesthetic art of fashion, not to mention the huge impact it has as a business in the world, has as a force on our environment. There's so there's a 1000000 different ways to look fashion and think about how it impacts everyone from the largest level to the smallest level. For me, fashion is all about culture. Fashion is a reflection of your community. It's a reflection of and whether that community is, you know, a community of 1, is if it's your family, if it's your neighborhood, your city, your country, it's a reflection of that. And there's so much about body politics when we think about people of color or women and how our bodies have been policed, how we use fashion, how, you know, we've been people have there have been forces trying to tell us how to dress and how we've pushed back against that, and there's so many aspects in fashion that, express, rebellion, that express, kind of pushing against these, oppressive forces. We can say those things through our clothes. So, I mean, I could go on forever about why fashion is important. Reg Ferguson [00:41:56]: What difference has fashion made in your life? Elizabeth Way [00:41:58]: Well, I'm a fashion historian, so it gave me it gave me my career. I went to college to study fashion design. I wanted to be a designer. 4 years of college let me know that I was not gonna be a fashion minor, which was fine. And, I studied pattern making. I was doing a little theater costuming before I went to grad school to study, fashion history. And it was really, I took an internship. I was at NYU, and I took an internship at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Elizabeth Way [00:42:23]: And I took this internship for two reasons. It was close to my parents' house, and it paid. Reg Ferguson [00:42:30]: But Good reasons. Elizabeth Way [00:42:32]: But my research focused on the Black Fashion Museum collection, which is a collection that was started in Harlem in 1979 as a museum, and, it was transferred and acquired, by the Smithsonian, and I did some of the initial research on it on black dressmakers. So people like Elizabeth Keckley who sewed for Mary Todd Lincoln, and Anne Lowe who made Jacqueline Kennedy's wedding dress. Black women who have shaped American culture in terms of fashion, who've made dresses that have been copied by people that have, you know, helped shape the course of American fashion culture that no one knew anything about. I had never learned about them in my classes. And so it's really from, my masters that, I became interested in black fashion makers and the impact, they've had on American culture and how fashion as a vehicle for black people, and my studies black women, has been so empowering. These were ways where women could shoot. I I mean, Elizabeth Keckley literally used dressmaking to buy freedom for herself and her son, but, you know, they have been able to start businesses. They've been able to trained and employ other black women. Elizabeth Way [00:43:30]: They've been able to kind of create a visibility for black people that was, you know, that was hard to attain. We see black people making themselves visible in the arena of sports and politics, and fashion is another space where it's really important to have representation, and that's still an issue that the fashion industry has today. So I've been I mean, again, infinitely kind of interesting to me. Reg Ferguson [00:43:52]: And if I call recall correctly, the fashion museum that started in Harlem That was started by miss Alexander. Am I correct? Elizabeth Way [00:43:59]: Lois k Alexander Lane. Yeah. Reg Ferguson [00:44:00]: Lois Alexander. Yeah. I met her, dated myself. Elizabeth Way [00:44:04]: Oh my god. That's amazing. Absolutely. That's amazing. And, you know, she started the Harlem Institute of Fashion. She was really interested in educating people and creating pipelines for designers of color. Reg Ferguson [00:44:14]: Yeah. When I went to NYU Stern School of Business, she, yeah, I met her Because I used to coproduce a fashion show, at the u as I've actually Elizabeth Way [00:44:28]: That's amazing. Reg Ferguson [00:44:28]: Yeah. Elizabeth Way [00:44:30]: My book I wrote a I edited a book called Black Designers in American Fashion, and I start and end with her work and, you know, the work to preserve the fashion design legacy of black America. Reg Ferguson [00:44:40]: Yeah. And that book of yours is about to come out. Elizabeth Way [00:44:43]: Correct? Oh, Reg Ferguson [00:44:44]: because you have an antelope. I'm not trying to play myself. So Elizabeth Way [00:44:48]: I have a book called Black Designers in American Fashion, which came out in 2021. Reg Ferguson [00:44:52]: Okay. Elizabeth Way [00:44:52]: But I'm currently curating an exhibition at the Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, Delaware, on the designer, Anne Lowe. Right. So that will open September 2023, and its accompanying book will also come out then. Reg Ferguson [00:45:02]: Right. Also by Rizzoli. So clearly you have Rizzoli on lock. Yeah. I'm gonna be asking for comps. That's all I'm saying. So think I'm jiving. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sending an email. Reg Ferguson [00:45:15]: Believe he did that. No. I meant it. So they have publisher copies. I know this. What's the top fashion tip you would give the everyday man So he could look his best. Elizabeth Way [00:45:26]: I think you have to be comfortable in what you're wearing and like what you're wearing. That trans that translates into your attitude all day. Everyone's had that day where you throw something on. You're like, oh, this isn't quite right, but you don't have time. And you get out the door, and you regret it all day. So be comfortable in what you're wearing. And, you know, we talk about this in as a concept in the 19th century. Comfort is a mental state more than a physical state because one of the things, you know, in women's fashion, people like, oh, well, how could people wear corsets? People wore corsets because you were correctly dressed when you wore a corset and being correctly dressed makes you comfortable. Elizabeth Way [00:45:59]: So whatever that means to you and your body being comfortable with what you're wearing, it's really a mental state. It gives you confidence, and, you know, when it's off, you feel it. Reg Ferguson [00:46:09]: Yeah. I totally agree. That's that's my lane when I'm talking to potential clients. So I asked this of all my guests. So what does always be fly mean to you? Elizabeth Way [00:46:24]: I think it's presenting yourself best, and that means projecting your personality, the aesthetics that you want to present. So whether you know, it's fashion does so much to communicate about what you believe in, where you see yourself in society and your community. So being fresh, being fly is about just projecting your truest self. And it doesn't have to be it doesn't have to be eye catching and ostentatious. It can be really subtle. There's so much beauty and subtlety, especially in menswear. So I think it's just really thinking deeply about what your clothes say about you. Reg Ferguson [00:46:58]: Agreed. I think your lenses are fly. We already know this is fly. Absolutely. I'm terrible. That was shameless. Thank you so much. I'm so glad we made this happen. Elizabeth Way [00:47:11]: Absolutely. Reg Ferguson [00:47:12]: I am so dogged. Got in the symposium of sold out. Elizabeth Way [00:47:16]: I got you in the pot. As a journalist. Reg Ferguson [00:47:20]: Yeah. Well, I'm just a native New Yorker. Gotta, You know, we dig. I'm like, I'm a I'll make this happen, and, can't wait for those freebies. I'll be sending you an email. Elizabeth Way [00:47:31]: Send me an Reg Ferguson [00:47:32]: email. Thank you for everything. Who you see, I totally bumbled it. I was trying to be really smooth, But I just never thought hip hop would take it this far. So thank you. Elizabeth Way [00:47:46]: You're welcome. You're very welcome. Thank you for being a part of the culture and also for supporting the exhibition. Reg Ferguson [00:47:51]: Absolutely. It's the only way I could get an

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