On Friday July 17 I had the opportunity to catch The Afrikana Independent Film Festival’s showing of the Sacha Jenkins Documentary Fresh Dressed at Tredegar Island. In the same fashion as Cocaine Cowboys it gives the visuals and rare footage that gives you the feel of each era that is being covered. The theme of the documentary takes you on a journey, first giving you a short history lesson on Black culture and being well dressed to the early stages of hip hop and being “fresh.” The film highlights the fashion of the hip hop culture ranging from the early 1980s; when rappers would dress up in 3-piece suits like The Cold Crush Brothers or dressing in rock star fashion like Melle Mel in the early days of being MC’s; to the B-boy style (fat laces, Adidas, sweat suits) of what the party-goers were wearing in New York City which became the dominant style of the 1980s and the b-boy and drug dealer look which influenced what the rappers would wear in the mid to late 1980s. In the film Big Daddy Kane talks about how rappers “dumbed it down” to the more comfortable style that the crowd was wearing. Hip hop fashion pioneer Dapper Dan’s shop in Harlem which gave brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and MCM the hip hop flavor that those companies were not creating is featured and interviewed in the documentary, telling first hand stories of how he got his boutique started and how he was later shut down rather than being hired by fashion brands as a designer.
A fascinating chronicle of hip-hop and urban fashion, Fresh Dressed goes inside the hustle that brought oversized pants and graffiti-drenched jackets from the street to high fashion’s catwalks and Middle America shopping malls. Director Sacha Jenkins’ music-drenched history draws from a rich mix of archival materials and in-depth interviews with rappers, designers, and others including Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Damon Dash, Karl Kani, Nasir Jones, and André Leon Talley. The result is a passionate telling of how the reach for freedom of expression would, through sheer originality and swagger, take over the mainstream.
The movie shows a good portrayal of the ties between high fashion and hip hop and the influence and eventual capitalization of hip hop artists for companies like Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren in the 1990s. Showing companies gaining free advertisement and popularity from rappers and the lack of acceptance of “hip hop designers” in the fashion industry. Which led to brands like Cross Colours, Karl Kani, FUBU & Walker Wear being received by the high fashion audience and commercial success; growing to 100 million dollar corporations.
The film is a comprehensive look at the ties between hip hop and fashion from its origins in the Bronx to its influence worldwide today and how over the decades looking good is always important in the culture. From just looking “fresh” to street-wear brands to acceptance in the high fashion industry. With commentary from stars such as: Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, and Sean “Puffy” Combs to designers like FUBU’s Daymond John & April Walker. The documentary gives you faces to the brands that were dominant over the past 25 years along with the rise and fall of such popular brands as Cross Colours, FUBU, and Karl Kani. From the 1970s to today’s fashion, from baggy jeans to skinny jeans to the importance of your sneakers, the documentary Fresh Dressed is definitely a documentary to add to the collection for the hip hop aficionado.
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