ESSENCE Fashion House: 50 Years Of Hip Hop Fashion



President and Chief Executive Officer of Essence Ventures Caroline Wanga moderated We’ve Been Here Before: 50 Years of Hip-Hop Fashion. Here, she, Tony Shellman, and Mike B. discussed the influence of hip-hop and the Black community on fashion over the past 50 years.

Black culture is undoubtedly the blueprint. However, Black trends often begin with a negative undertone.

“We continue to intertwine culture, plus what we deserve economically, plus what the narrative is of how Black people continue to be minimized for the sake of those that don’t want to give us credit for our work,” Wanga said. “Part of the thing that happens when we influence culture is somebody will try to make it bad so we don’t get all of our credit. Somebody will try to create our narrative or stir our pot.”

Mike B. agreed. “Black culture pretty much influences everything,” he said. “Hip-hop and street culture keeps the culture of the youth; its creativity.” 

Shellman is the co-founder of sportswear brands Enyce, Mecca, and Parish Clothing. He is also the principal and founder of Blue Deluxe Group Consulting, where he’s promoted brands’ marketing, growth, and branding strategies for over 20 years. Mike B. is a stylist and founder of the brand Bogard, a brand influenced by his Jamaican and Cuban roots growing up in Harlem from the ‘70s to the ‘90s.

Mike B. and Shellman have known each other and collaborated together since 1996, having both been involved with entities such as Bad Boy Records.

“Mike B. has been a style icon for me – a cultural revolution, an icon revolution,” Shellman said. “I’ll say it because I know everybody’s afraid to say it, but he’s a hustler, a mover, a shaker, and a creator. He’s a guy for me, who has been an influencer.”

Besides discussing the impact of hip-hop and Black culture on society, they highlighted cherished symbols of growing up Black, such as preserving the condition of white Air Force Ones or acquiring a Starter jacket. Shellman not only spoke about the Starter jacket, but also presented Wanga and Mike B. with New York Starter jackets bearing the words “Hip-Hop 50.”

Like many families, Wanga emphasized how Starter jackets were a staple in the Black community, but weren’t always accessible or affordable. Her parents, and many others, said if you have clothes on your back and any type of jacket to stay warm, you’re good. Consequently, her reaction upon receiving her first Starter jacket was priceless.

The conversation wrapped up on a high note when a member of the audience asked how Shellman and Mike B. began their fashion careers. They credited the likes of Dapper Dan, April Walker, their upbringings, and all Black women for constantly inspiring them.


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