Hip-Hop Fashion Architects Discuss Iconic 2001 Looks

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Ambrose, who has designed over 200 music videos, was Missy’s right-hand man, designing costumes for all of Missy Elliott’s major productions, including “Get Ur Freak On,” “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” ” One Minute Man “and” Losing Control. ” She was a go-to designer for R&B / hip-hop heavyweights including Diddy, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey, and currently works as Creative Director for Puma.

“We didn’t have a benchmark before us,” says Ambrose. “We took the risk for the future. The creator of “Rain” referred to the role of creators in the late 90s to early 2000s as pioneers, breaking down barriers between high-end labels and R & B / hip-hop culture. “I bridged haute couture and urban music,” Ambrose says, “What seemed so rebellious to me was taking a haute couture piece, while keeping the same demeanor and style as you wore in your neighborhood. “

Dionne Alexander, the hairstylist behind Lil Kim’s monogrammed wigs and Mary J. Blige’s’ 90s updos, agrees. “Look how free we are here,” says Alexander. “It was very exciting, we were able to be extremely creative and we had to pull that from within. We didn’t have Instagram, we had to go out and buy magazines.

Tre Major, hairstylist for legendary celebrities like Aaliyah, Mary J. Blige, Patti LaBelle and Naomi Campbell, said the early 2000s was “the best” time for fashion and hip-hop. “I was like an architect on the outside,” Major explained. “Create the visuals, arrange and make it beautiful. Major was responsible for introducing the lace-up wig to the R&B / hip-hop world. “[The other stylists] were just geeks because they had never seen anything like it, ”Major says. “Now you can find a lace up wig in every corner, every store, every website. “

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of this iconic and sustainable year of fashion, Billboard met then-architects June Ambrose, Derek Lee, Tre Major and Dionne Alexander to discuss some of 2001 R & B / hip-hop’s most memorable looks and how those moments have shaped culture for decades future.

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Missy Elliott “Get Ur Freak On”

Missy Elliott’s Dazzling “Get Ur Freak On” Denim

In 2001, rhinestones were all the rage, and we have to thank June Ambrose. “It was about making Missy a rock star,” Ambrose explains. “I made her addicted to rhinestones – and once that happens, forget about it.” 200 Times Music Video Stylist Says Missy’s Glittery Look Video directed by Dave Meyers aimed to create a dichotomy between Elvis glamor and sportswear. “The silhouette of the denim jacket was very comfortable and relevant to her, but taking a Bootsy Collins approach over it was what made it really tangible and special.”

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Aaliyah “More than a woman”

Chanel Catsuit “More than a Woman” by Aaliyah

The fake Chanel catsuit designed by Aaliyah’s Dapper Dan from the Video “More than a woman” is one of the late singer’s most iconic moments. “I knew it would be a feature film, that it would be striking, if it was different from anything she’s done before,” Lee said. The decision to choose Chanel was a step away from more daring brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Roberto Cavalli, in which the sweet singer was typically dressed. But why not let Chanel design the piece herself? “[The major brands] I didn’t want to be associated with rap music and this street culture, ”says Lee,“ That’s why we had to create our own stuff or have it knocked down by [Dapper] Dan. “When Aaliyah saw the drawing, Lee said she felt it.” I had decided to turn Aaliyah into almost a cartoon character, “he says. Billboard. “I was going to Little Tokyo and buying all these anime books and I had this whole idea.”

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Lil Kim pictured at the Versace Haute Couture Spring / Summer 2001 show in Paris, France.

Lil Kim’s monogrammed wigs

Monogrammed braids have appeared on the heads of rap’s most iconic first ladies, including Nicki Minaj and Cardi B – but similar to countless other iconic hip-hop trends, it started with Lil Kim as the model and hairstylist Dionne Alexander as the architect. “The inspiration comes totally from [Lil Kim] and who she is, ”says Alexander, the mastermind behind Lil Kim’s Versace wig and Equally iconic blue Chanel wig. “It was such a flow of creative energy, like a passing power.”

Alexander remembers the color of the Chanel wig Lil Kim wore for Manhattan Magazine File late at night, until 5 a.m. “I went to the art store and took some tracing paper and made the logo and then cut it out.” And his secret? Black magic marker. “With the Versace wig,” says Alexander, “She called me and left this message on my machine that I literally kept for years. She went crazy, and it was the same with the Chanel. “

Alexander says the current response to the two wigs is surprising. “It’s more of a buzz now than it used to be. I’m so shocked at the number of people calling me about this now.”

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Outkast “So fresh, so clean”

Outkast’s “So Fresh” and “So Clean” looks

The evolution of menswear in hip-hop is inextricably linked to the genius duo better known as the Outkast. The couple challenged long-standing tropes about how rappers should present themselves and sent the media into frequent frenzy, with their delightfully shocking red carpet look. In the “So fresh so clean” music video, the eccentric Georgian duo rock a myriad of hairstyles, from a sleek, flipped perm to a combed, asymmetrical afro.

“It’s a Southernplayalistic thing right there,” Lee says, referring to the pair’s 01 look. Alexander says Andre 3000 and Big Boi “revolutionized men’s confidence” through their unabashed expression of creativity. Of André 3000, Major says, “He took a real bet and gave it a go, just being his real artistic self and everyone loved him.”

Frank Micelotta / ImageDirect

Macy Gray arriving at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards at the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center in New York City on September 6, 2001.

Macy Gray’s vocal dress at the MTV Video Music Awards

It was the dress seen (and read) around the world. Macy Gray, an artist known for her unconventional style and music, decided to turn her awards dress into a traveling billboard. “It was totally Macy’s idea, I just had to execute it,” says Ambrose, the creator of Macy’s immortal dress. “Working with Macy Gray was so much fun because she was an anomaly,” Ambrose recalls. “At that point, it was important that she sell albums, and she wanted to capitalize on the moment. It’s like, where’s the payback? I get my hair and makeup done and I spend the money. for a wardrobe. Is that going to help me sell records? We just wanted to make sure that was the case. “

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Destiny’s Child “Survivor”

Destiny’s Child’s coordinating camouflage

There are few things more memorable about the late 90s and early 2000s than DC3’s coordinating looks. Whether it’s awards shows, music videos, or MTV appearances, you’ve surprised the uncoordinated trio. “Tina Knowles strikes again,” said Ambrose, Beyonce’s mother and the group’s resident designer. “The utility was such a celebration of being tough and dominant,” Ambrose explained. “It showed that women in the military can be sexy, that it’s not just a man’s game.” Major drew comparisons to another always coordinated and still influential girl group. “Every time I looked at them, I saw the modern day Supremes,” he said. “Everyone wanted to follow the camouflage trend.

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Nelly pictured on September 7, 2001.

Nelly’s inexplicable facial bandage and double headbands

There are countless rumors circulating the World Wide Web about the explanation behind Nelly’s little white bandage and crossed headbands. But whatever the backstory, Nelly’s creative face accessory was all people could talk about. “He created his own thing, like a kind of left eye moment,” says Major, who recalled considering shaking off a bandage himself. Ambrose says the bandage symbolized a “thug badge of honor,” as iconic to Nelly as the black eye is to football players.

Anthony Barboza / Getty Images

Alicia Keys pictured in New York in 2001.

Alicia Keys pearls and cornrows

Prior to Alicia Keys’ arrival on the scene, cornrows and pearls were rarely seen in mainstream music. Ambrose, who styled Alicia early in her career, says the extraordinary pianist’s team have always kept her identity in mind. “We always wanted to keep a feeling of this New York girl and celebrate all the things that spoke to her blackness,” Ambrose said. Not only was Alicia’s hair aesthetically striking, it also played a role in portraying black women’s natural braids. “Universally this has been said to other young black girls and it’s okay to wear your braids and beads,” Ambrose explained. “That it’s not a Bo Derek moment, it’s an African moment.”

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Mary J. Blige “Family Affair”

The avant-garde “Family Affair” wigs by Mary J. Blige

It is difficult to say which part of the “Family affair” the experience was most unforgettable. Was it the futuristic outfits? Iconic choreographed movements? The fact that Mary basically made up three new words? In the fashion world, it was most definitely wigs. Tre Major, Mary’s longtime hairstylist, says the chart-topping singer was constantly evolving, creating trend after trend along the way.

“I gave her an edge and a femininity,” Major says. “I named this wig Marvin Martian,” Major says of Mary’s avant-garde salt and pepper wig, a nod to the Looney Tunes character. Major says he custom made the R&B diva’s wig because her head was “so small” compared to models. “She was the best muse because she was so daring,” he explains. “She trusted me.



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