In the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” NORE and DJ EFN teamed up with legendary urban fashion designer April Walker to talk about her career and the current state of streetwear in the fashion industry.
Originally from Brooklyn, Walker was inspired to launch her career after visiting Dapper Dan’s store in Harlem in the 1980s. From there, she launched her own store, Fashion in Effect, in Brooklyn, where she created styles. adapted to the booming hip hop culture. Walker’s work would later attract the attention of hip hop artists such as Audio Two and a young Notorious BIG, who frequented his store regularly. Then in the early 90s, the businesswoman launched her own brand Walker Wear and went on to receive numerous celebrity endorsements including 2pac, BIG, Run-DMC, Mike Tyson, Naughty by Nature and Aaliyah, among others. .
Walker’s iconic brand paved the way for other companies like FUBU, Phat Farm, Sean John and Rocawear to later dominate the hip hop landscape. But despite being a pioneer and the first woman to dominate urban fashion, she has remained unrecognized within the broader fashion industry.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT has compiled a list of nine facts we learned from April Walker’s interview. Take a look below.
1. Be a woman designer of men’s clothing
Walker was a pioneer in hip hop fashion and she was also a pioneer for promising female designers who aspired to be big in the space. On “Drink Champs,” NORE recalled how some hip hop fans thought Walker Wear belonged to Run-DMC or Naughty By Nature because Walker stayed behind the scenes at the time. During the interview, she revealed that she purposely plays background because she is female. “I was intentionally very ambiguous,” she said. “I remember having a conversation with my dad when I first decided I was going to go. I was like, I don’t know if they would take a woman to make men’s clothes. And he said to me, ‘If you have the risk, don’t do it.’ So I just let the product run.
2. On Brooklyn being the Mecca of emerging talents
Walker said that during his ascent in the late ’80s and early’ 90s, his hometown of Brooklyn was the mecca for many other promising artists, actors and musicians like BIG, JAY-Z, Guru, Easy Mo Bee. , Rosie Perez, Spike Lee and Wesley Snipes. “The neighborhood was very creative and we were all in this Voltron movement,” she said. “It was a special moment.
3. On LL Cool J Promote FUBU in a GAP advertisement
In 1997, LL Cool J drew one of the greatest finer points in the history of urban fashion. While appearing in a GAP clothing ad, he artfully wore a FUBU cap to promote the fledgling brand created by his cohorts Queens Daymond John, Keith Perrin and J. Alexander Martin. Walker reflected on the movement and said it was a big win for urban fashion at the time. “The message was so strong,” she said. ” That was all. I remember the first time I saw him. We had to find ways to do something from scratch every time because we didn’t have the same marketing budgets as Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger. So we had to adapt to the culture as we could get it. So, it was so smart because they let it go. And they were so ignorant of the culture. Whoever did this ad, they were probably fired afterwards. “
4. On modern streetwear
Although streetwear is now considered one of the most popular types of clothing in the fashion industry, Walker believes the rise of fast fashion brands like Fashion Nova has disintegrated brand loyalty. “There are a lot more designers and we live in the age of technology,” she said. “And often the last thing you see is what you like. It is [no] more loyalty. I have come in loyalty. I have come to another era with marks meaning something substantial. I think you have Fashion Nova and all these disposable clothes. For me, this ‘For Us By Us’ was real.
5. Move away from the fashion industry
After making her way to success in the late ’80s and into the’ 90s, Walker revealed that she fell in love with fashion at some point in her career. “I started at 21 and it was just me who fell in love with hip hop and knew I didn’t want to work for someone else,” she said. “Now, fast forward, I’ve seen it grow into this multi-million dollar company and seen a lot of designers get screwed. Sometimes if you’re in love with something and you see the inland waterways of it, you can fall in love. And the fashion business mirrored the music business. In the 90s, all divisions of the music label Black started to shut down. And soon after, they started to say that urban fashion was going to disappear.I saw the writing on the wall.
6. On Damon Dash from Rocawear
Walker has served as a mentor to a multitude of musicians and label owners in the hip hop industry who aspired to launch clothing brands. During her interview, she recalled a time when she mentored former Roc-A-Fella Records CEO Damon Dash, who was trying to get Rocawear off the ground. According to Walker, he initially wanted to sew the fledgling brand’s clothes himself, but quickly changed his mind. “He bought like seven [sewing] machines, ”Walker said. “I came to get them. He said to me: “I can’t do this myself”.
7. On his lawsuit against Virgil Abloh
In August, Walker filed a lawsuit against Off-White founder Virgil Abloh and claimed the brand was illegally using the Walker Wear “WW” logo on one of their jackets without his permission. She compared her situation to an incident with Dapper Dan in 2017 when Gucci allegedly lifted one of their ’80s models. After Black Twitter rallied behind Dan, the luxury brand donated to the designer and l ‘appointed to lead a 2017 campaign. While Walker was happy to see Dan’s situation turned around, she said she felt she didn’t receive the same support because she was a woman. “I had to speak to attorneys who contacted to try to settle this out of court,” the designer said. “I also believe that the only thing worse than racism in this country is sexism. I say that because I haven’t had half of this rally. It’s just things that you notice as a woman.
She added that Abloh’s jacket, which is sold at Saks Fifth Avenue, has led fans to think of the design as a partnership. “So many of my clients [are] being confused is clearly the arrogance of another brand that says we can do it and people won’t notice it. How dare you, when we are an established brand like many other iconic brands? “
8. Work with artists who match your brand
When asked by NORE if she’s ever seen artists wearing her designs and looking cheesy in the process, Walker explained that she has afforded herself the luxury of working exclusively with people who are aligned with her brand. “I think… if you’re lucky enough you choose to work with artists who are aligned with your value system,” she said. “Like ‘Pac, Biggie, Naughty By Nature, EPMD, all of these guys were okay with what we stood for. There were times when we had to turn artists away.
9. On New York Fashion Week
The biannual New York Fashion Week is one of the industry’s biggest events of the year. Despite her impressive resume, Walker never attended the event and revealed on “Drink Champs” that she didn’t need it for validation. “I was never a Fashion Week contestant,” she said. “I have never depended on Fashion Week to dictate my success or validate my dope as a brand. If you look at the color of the people on the parade, it’s very different for the designers who are allowed to participate in Fashion Week. So it’s problematic in many ways. I think the world is changing, but not fast enough. Your tribe is your tribe. You don’t need Fashion Week to say you’re hot.