The Magnificent Marketability Of Music & Fashion

TThrough several years of study from an academic, professional, as well as a personal perspective, I’ve come to gain an understanding of the history surrounding both the music and fashion industries, respectively. I’ve come to learn how these two trades have intertwined over the years and furthermore, how the correlation between the two industries has differed as time has gone on.

In the early days of the realisation that music and fashion could work seamlessly together to make a lot of money for both parties, clothing labels would sponsor music events (festivals, gigs etc) as opposed to working with the artists themselves, in order to create the link between a specific clothing trend and musical genre. Hip-hop however, was the first genre to put two and two together and cut out the middleman, linking label and artist without the need of an event. Hip hop-storian Nelson George described the genre as:


Image credit: Deejo on Flickr

an incredibly flexible tool of communication, quite adaptable to any number of messages,” which is “why it has been so easy to turn every element of the culture associated with [it] into a product.

Run DMC were one of the earliest examples of direct collaboration with a label, in their case Adidas, running numerous lines from sneakers to jackets in outlets worldwide. This worked extremely well on the most part due to the previous success and popularity of the group, but also due to the marketing by the label and the marketability of the genre.

It’s precisely this marketability which paved the way for further co-operation between artist and label. In the world we live in today, almost every genre of music is completely marketable to the everyday consumer, hence the boom in sponsorship and collaboration of late. Make no mistake, hip-hop is still the frontrunner in this respect (see Professor Green and Puma‘s latest work, as well as collective Odd Future‘s partnership with Supreme), however genres such as electronic, house and indie have all made their inroads into the business. An example can be seen in the form of electronic DJ Tiesto, and his sponsorship by well-known high fashion label Emporio Armani.


Image credit: julia.linford on Flickr

Despite this profitable partnership between musician and label, it is once again hip-hop which is pushing boundaries and looking to cut out the middleman. In recent times, there has been an influx of artists cutting out the label and designing clothes in their own name. This can be achieved through two possible methods. An artist can strike up a partnership with a label and design specifically with the intention of selling through the non-branded retailer, see Rihanna and her latest self-designed line running through high street retailer River Island. On the other hand, an artist can go it themselves and set up a brand in their own name, selling online, in branded retailers and if they are particularly successful (or brave), in specific outlets purchased to do just that. Rapper Jay Z (Shawn Carter) is one of the most high profile musicians to do just this, with the unveiling of his distinctly hip-hop flavoured line “Rockawear“. Liam Gallagher formerly of Oasis (in a rather unorthodox move for a man of his genre) also unveiled “Pretty Green” in July of 2010, a largely exclusive collection which hints back to the mid ’60s, to the days of the Mods, in terms of styling.

This all begs the question of where the much exploited relationship of music and fashion will go in years to come. Perhaps we are set up for store beside store set up in the name of the latest marketable musician… A future which isn’t all that hard to imagine.

By Marc Vasmant