“Tap into your magic and own it. Create a legacy, not just for yourself but for your tribe.” – April Walker
Nestled in the corner of 1 Fulton St. lies a quaint and unique store. To the untrained eye, 10 Corso Como appears to be another spacious shop teeming with pricey knick-knacks, but venture farther into the store and you’ll come across a myriad of luxury designer clothes by the likes of Marni, Junya Watanabe, Prada, Sies Marjan, and so on.
Similar to crosstown competitors such as Dover Street Market New York, Totokaelo, Forty-Five Ten, the Webster and Kith, (shout out to Jon Caramanica) 10 Corso Como should be lauded as a one-of-a-kind luxury-retailer. It even has the potential to become a staple of NYC’s niche luxury-retail market.
But that’s another story for another day.
However, 10 Corso Como’s expansive inventory of luxury goods is only a fraction of what makes the Milanese luxury retailer special.
What separates the franchise’s New York flagship from its peers is something uncharacteristic yet simultaneously inclusive and cosmopolitan, particularly for a luxury retailer – an art gallery. An art gallery where they’ve partnered with Getty Images that not only highlights dope photography but also inspiring legacies.
Curated by Getty Images’ very own erudite curator Shawn Waldron, the small and labyrinthine gallery lies in the back of the store and currently houses the Beat Positive New York exhibition- an exhibit dedicated to capturing the pillars of hip-hop.
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When describing the importance of hip-hop and its pillars, Waldron stated in an eloquent and poised manner,
“Hip-hop is built on four foundational pillars: DJ’ing (sound), MC’ing (voice), Breaking (movement), and Graffiti (vision). Bambaataa and Zulu Nation added a fifth: Knowledge, also known as Consciousness (mental). I would argue there is a sixth element to consider, Style (the individual).”
Of course, 10 Corso Como and Getty Images’ Beat Positive Exhibit warrants steady foot traffic on their own and for deservingly good reasons. However, on the crisp and rainy New York City Friday evening of December 13, 2019, a special gathering took place.
This gathering took the form of a discussion panel titled Styles Upon Styles: A Discussion About Fashion’s Role in Hip Hop Culture. Dozens of curious style and hip-hop mavens gathered at 10 Corso Como for the panel discussion.
Moderated by renowned author and culture journalist Vikki Tobak, the panelists were none other than four of hip-hop’s most influential Style icons: the legendary eye of the Culture- Janette Beckman; godlike sartorial craftsman- Dapper Dan; decades-renowned stylist and designer- April Walker; the seemingly-ethereal creative guru- Vashtie.
While the first half of the discussion served as a platform for the panelists to delve into their own respective insights on the intersection of hip-hop and style over the past four decades, the latter half served as an open forum for the public.
An eager audience showed no sign in hesitating to ask the panelists questions. Their questions varied in topic, ranging from the marrying of Western and African textile design practices to maintaining one’s own authenticity in an industry seemingly predicated on appropriation rather than inspiration.
Naturally, such diverse questions resulted in a culmination of diverse responses. However, we at Kulture Hub wanted to do things differently. We like to know why more than what…
So, we probed deeper into the minds of these industry legends and moderator Vikki Tobak to learn more about their respective insights on and contributions to hip-hop and style.
Here’s what they said.
KH: How do you marry your influences on Style and Hip Hop while spreading positivity in youth culture?
Vashtie: I feel like the best way for me to do it is not to push. No one wants to be told what to do but I can only suggest and drop hints of my own creative inspiration in hopes that the newer generations find inspiration or direction from that.
There’s no real way to do it but I hope that my inspiration and path can also help others in finding them.
KH: In terms of Fashion and Hip Hop, where do you see it going? From where it started; where it’s been. Where will we be?
Vashtie: Now it’s at a place where it’s more of a mainstream path and there’s beauty in that. But I think that where it’s headed is cool but we also have room for more subcultures and groups to also start their own style and look for us to (in another 20 or 30 years) embrace it…
It’s nice to see that we’re being embraced, heralded and respected. Now we have space for the newer generations, their style, and their music.
KH: How do you see yourself as a woman helping other women get into the industry? Pushing the conversation forward?
Vashtie: It’s important to be present with other women. Not even if it’s just hanging out or being present as to sharing information. It’s also important even on social media to leave a compliment on someone’s page.
A lot of times I found in the past that people follow each other and don’t publicly show that ‘I love this girl” or “I’m obsessed with her”. Just showing that adoration publicly is so much more powerful than maybe even having the conversation.
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KH: When did you understand that there we be an intersection of Fashion and Hip-Hop and that it would become mainstream?
April: I think possibly when I saw Run DMC and when “Walk This Way” came out. It was rock n’ roll and hip-hop merging; two different worlds coming together and colliding.
I just saw that from a business end, all of these convergences creating a new intersection of business.
KH: To what capacity did you have an impact at that point in time?
April: At that point in time I was styling. I was working with a lot of artists. I was also with my own brand. I have a brand called Walkerwear, one of the original streetwear brands and we were already selling to retail stores and selling internationally. Styling-wise we were working with Tupac and working with a lot of artists like Biggie and Run DMC.
KH: As an OG, what would your legacy teach younger generations now?
April: How to go after your dreams. How to swing with aim. How to carve out your own path and make your way. Tap into your magic and own it. Create a legacy not just for yourself but for your tribe.
Collaboration over the competition. That’s the only way we’ll grow. Each one teaches one. Pass it on, what you know, so that you can make not just you better but “The Block.”
Buy back the block.
KH: How did you develop your “eye” as a photographer?
Janette: In England, you stay in your lane. Middle-class, white kid; you’re this; you’re that. You stay in your little lane. Then I got out of school and said, ‘ I want to go to art school and be an artist’. That opened my whole world up.
When I picked up a camera, it was a way for me to get over my shyness and approach somebody and go, ‘ Hey! you look really interesting.’ Say something nice to somebody and then people open up to you. You meet all these interesting people. That’s what the camera and photography did for me.
KH: What are some things that you’ve given to hip-hop? Your legacy?
Janette: I’m just grateful to hip-hop culture for letting me in and allowing me to document all these incredible things that happened since I got here in 1983. Look where hip-hop has taken the world! Hip-hop is all over the world now. My legacy is these images and recording moments in time.
People see them and they’re looking at back 30, 40 years later and going, ‘Look at that! Look at what Salt-n-Pepa are wearing.’ Here, I’m sitting next to Dapper Dan who made the jackets Salt-n-Pepa are wearing in one of my most iconic pictures. It’s a full circle.
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KH: As the moderator, how do you facilitate a conversation for everyone to have the input they deserve to have?
Vikki: I think given the generations and how accomplished everyone is in photography, fashion, streetwear, I was actually a little worried about that. For me, my job is to make sure they all feel included in the conversation and that they respond to each other’s questions.
KH: How have you seen the evolution from Dapper and Janette, to April, to Vashtie?
Vikki: The times they came up in dictated what they were able to do. When April was coming up it was on the heels of Dap. Dap was deep into creating his own path and also it was a different time for the music. No one was really checking for urban culture from a Fashion perspective so they had to make it up as they went along.
There’s also a kind of beauty to being insular too… I’m excited to see where it goes from here because now people understand what happened and so let’s see what people do with that information going forward and how they control their spending power and their “culture power.” It’s an exciting time!
KH: How did you come about being a historian for this moment in history?
Vikki: I emigrated to Detroit from Kazakhstan. I landed as an immigrant not even knowing what America was in Detroit. My first love was Detroit music which was Black music; the neighborhood, the culture I grew up in was that. When I was in high school, hip-hop was starting to permeate out of New York. This was the late 80s.
I was like, ‘I just want to go to New York and be a part of that.’ I moved to New York in 1990 and got a job at a small record label called PayDay, which was like a startup hip-hop label. We actually put out Jay-Z’s first work, Mos Def’s first work. We were really known for Gang Starr.
During that time you had all these magazines starting because mainstream magazines like Rolling Stone, Spin, and even Ebony didn’t want to write about hip-hop.
Just like in fashion, all these magazine entrepreneurs started that catered to hip-hop. So I started writing for these magazines and that’s how I started to become a writer and journalist.
Despite being unable to get a hold of Dapper Dan, we would like to assure you that he genuinely understands his impact on hip-hop through style and fashion.
More importantly, Dapper makes it a point to emphasize the importance of conscientiousness through his craft, as well as gracefully eulogizing the principles of the African Diaspora through his work over the past three decades.