Street Dreams
How Hiphop took over Fashion

June 15, 2019 – Sept. 15, 2019
In collaboration with the HipHopHuis and guest curator Lee Stuart, the Kunsthal Rotterdam presents an exhibition about hip-hop and its influence on fashion and lifestyle. Streetwear is dictating the speed and aesthetics of the fashion industry and changing how that industry is developing itself. Hip-hop is THE youth culture of choice, dominating the charts as well as the world-wide street scene – from a source of inspiration for high fashion brands to making sportswear more accepted for everyday attire.

The Bronx is the birthplace of hip-hop culture. In a literal as well as a figurative sense, this New York borough has been on fire since the 1970s. Violence, poverty and discrimination are everyday realities. This place gave rise to a ‘do-it-yourself’ culture in which originality and credibility are key. Creativity is the essence of hip-hop, and fashion serves as a connecting element. Even though you may have been born a pauper, you can still look like a million bucks. In different rooms, the exhibition ‘Street Dreams. How Hiphop took over Fashion’ shows the looks, the codes and the creative energy of hip-hop. The pioneers inspiring the fashion houses, the hypebeasts camping outside stores for days, and the artists in the front row seats at fashion shows. 

The Mixtape

The first room, entitled ‘The Mixtape’, depicts the evolution of hip-hop style. From the wild 1970s in the Bronx, with the origins of different gangs whose streetwear consisted of a leather biker jacket combined with a denim jacket with cut-off sleeves, to the 1980s during which the hip-hop style was influenced by breakdancers. This b-boy style was characterised by Kangol hats, fat shoelaces and large gold chains. The video shows the baggy clothes of the 1990s, the development of specific hip-hop fashion labels and famous rappers starting their own fashion lines in the decade that followed.

The Gallery

With major pieces by contemporary artists, ‘The Gallery’ represents the hip-hop dream: being very successful, earning loads of money and having attitude. It features work by the artists Nick Cave, Thomas J. Price and Kehinde Wiley. The latter is known for his colourful and embellished variations on classical paintings in which he places black men centre stage. Images by photographers such as Jamal Shabazz, Janette Beckman and Dana Lixenberg show the early years of hip-hop fashion and are enriched by samples highlighted in a museum setting. Also shown is the extraordinary 2006 video artwork ‘Winter in America’ by the artists Hank Willis Thomas and Kambui Olujimi, telling the story of the coldblooded murder of Willis Thomas’s cousin. And an iconic photograph by Djamilla Rosa Cochran shows rapper Cam’Ron in the pink mink coat he appeared in during the 2002 New York Fashion Week. 

The Masters

In this room, pioneers and key figures from hip-hop fashion industry are talking to the public in a larger than life-sized, immersive spatial installation especially developed for the exhibition. Heroes like April Walker, David Fischer and Virgil Abloh* share their own personal stories about their role in hip-hop history and their influence on the current fashion industry. At the start of their careers they encountered many obstacles, but now the doors of renowned fashion houses are wide open to them. The Netherlands produced some major gamechangers too. One of them is Edson Sabajo, co-founder of the fashion brand Patta, who also shares his story in ‘The Masters’. 

The Streets

Hip-hop started in The Bronx, but is now a world-wide phenomenon! Young people will stand in line for hours for product launches of unique collaborations such as Nike x Patta. It is now quite normal to wear sneakers to the office or sportswear outside the gym. New hip-hop talents are emerging and picking up the baton from their predecessors. ‘The Street’ represents the current street scene and offers a change to reflect on the next step. 


6. Earlie Hudnall, Gucci Brothers, 3rd Ward, Houston, TX, 1990  Courtesy PDNB Gallery, Dallas, Texas.jpg
Earlie Hudnall, Gucci Brothers, 3rd Ward, Houston, TX, 1990 © foto Earlie Hudnall. Courtesy PDNB Gallery, Dallas, Texas