Art Beat: Fashion Killa
Kalamazoo native and University of Michigan graduate Sowmya Krishnamurthy now lives in New York City. She’s a widely known music journalist and pop culture expert. Krishnamurthy is also the author of the new book Fashion Killa: How Hip-Hop has Revolutionized High Fashion (Simon & Schuster, 2023). Fifty years have passed since hip-hop first appeared on the music scene. Krishnamurthy traces that history and how it changed not only music, but the culture that grew around it.
Krishnamurthy begins her story by taking the reader back to August 11, 1973. “That was, a lot of people would agree, the beginnings of hip-hop,” she says. “That party in DJ Kool Herp’s rec room was when this idea of what the origins of what we know as hip-hop started. Now, what a lot of people don’t know is that party was for his sister Cindy, and she was throwing it as a way to fundraise for her back-to-school wardrobe. So, this idea of hip-hop and fashion being this perfect marriage was there since day one.”
Krishnamurthy tells the story of that marriage and its risk takers and rebels: the artists, designers, stylists, models, and tastemakers who challenged a systemic power structure and reinvented haute couture.
“In the beginning, hip-hop commercially could not afford a lot of this high fashion clothing,” Krishnamurthy says. “Rappers just weren’t making a lot of money in that way. Now it seems strange. We look at artists like Drake or Kendrick Lamar or Travis Scott—these guys are reaching multi-millionaire status. But in the beginning, it was just kids having fun.”
Krishnamurthy says she appreciates hometown support for her and her book in Kalamazoo. “Because for me, my writing career began at the Kalamazoo Gazette and then later, in college, at the Michigan Daily, so I think there’s just so much connection and so much good feeling going back home.”
Sowmya is a music journalist whose work can be found in Rolling Stone, Billboard, XXL, Playboy, Highsnobiety, Complex, New York Magazine, the Village Voice, and Time. She has appeared as a host and pop culture expert on MTV, MSNBC, E!, BET, CNN, NPR, BBC, and elsewhere.
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