Hip hop style is hugely familiar to the masses but the origins of this unique fashion are a bit mysterious. We generally connect the look and its influence to celebrity hip hop culture but a new documentary titled Fresh Dressed directed by Sacha Jenkins explains the foundation of this identifiable fashion with the help of industry icons such as Ricardo Tissci, Andre Leon Talley and Dapper Dan. Inside The Archive caught up with Director Sacha Jenkins to learn more about the inspiration behind his debut film.
There are so many fashion documentaries (primarily focused on luxury designers) circulating lately but Fresh Dressed really stands on its own because of the subject matter. What inspired you to explore and share the story of this fashion phenomenon with the masses
Growing up in Queens, New York really inspired me to make Fresh Dressed. When I was a kid, hip hop was brand new. So brand new, as a matter of fact, that we didn’t necessarily think about it. We were doing it. Living it. Fashion was just a part of our “lifestyle”, but more importantly, fashion was language to us. It was the way inner city kids communicated to each other back then. We didn’t have distractions like the internet. We had a football, the park, two turntables and a microphone.
You’ve rallied dozens of hip hop icons and celebrities to speak to the significance of fashion in hip hop and one common theme shared throughout the film was freedom and how style represented freedom within the hip hop community- Can you share more about your point of view on this
When people are disenfranchised, there is this massive sense of…lack of control. And when you feel like you have no power in the world that you’re living in, you turn to the small things that you can control. How we dress is one of those things. Because it is an extension of who we are—how we identify ourselves. Pride is also important. Pride is sometimes all that people have. Pride is powerful. It’s a powerful survival tool. Fashion in the inner city is about survival. Often A reflection of how people adapt the environment they’re in. It’s a weapon: some people want to feel rich, even though they’re dirt poor. For some, that Louis Vutton bag is like a shield that repels the stench of financial frailty.
Fashion is constantly changing but there are elements of hip hop style that have remained and seem to define the hip hop aesthetic since its inception. Why do you think certain clothing brands, sneakers, jewelry styles and silhouettes have endured decades of ever-changing fashion within hip hop culture
Certain styles and particular brands are closely associated with periods wherein the music is extraordinary. Run DMC, for instance. What they did for Adidas will probably never be matched. Their song “My Adidas” is burned into the minds of millions. If the music was weak, the clothing probably wouldn’t have had the same impact. I think the same can be said for the music/fashions that came to be in the 1960s.
We know Dapper Dan was hugely responsible for making high-end fashion accessible and relatable through his custom Gucci and Louis Vuitton creations but how and why do you think mainstream designers like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger were so coveted by this community
Brands like Hilfiger and Lauren represent a so called aspirational lifestyle, and folks with not-so-much money want to go to the places that rich people go to. Ralph is big on horses…who doesn’t like horses?! In Queens, the only horse I had access to was the RR train—the iron horse.
What are you hoping the fashion community takes away from watching Fresh Dressed
I hope people have a better understanding of the climate that created hip hop—where the culture has come from, and where it’s headed, and where it would ultimately like to be
What key traits, according to you, define someone as being “Fresh Dressed”
To me, being fresh is just feeling good about who you are—fashion is just the amplification of that good feeling.
What are the most significant differences in what hip hop style represented then (1980s and 90s) and now
I think hip hop fashion—at least to inner city kids—represents the same things: hope, pride, identity, aspirations and the various bi-products and reactions to white supremacy.
Do you have a favorite moment or interview from the film that you’d like to share
Kanye was great. We flew to Mexico to interview him. Fashion talk makes him light up. He showed our crew early renderings of his new Adidas shoe. He was just so excited to get those babies out there…he was also interested in our feedback on the design. He was both excited and humble, which to me is probably the truest reflection of who he is. You strip away the lights and the mics and he’s still that kid from Chicago who wants to stay fresh by any means necessary.