by John Russel Jones

The Museum at FIT (MFIT) presents Fresh, Fly, and Fabulous: Fifty Years of Hip Hop Style, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the birth of hip hop. The largest and most comprehensive exhibition to explore this revolutionary and influential style, this also marks the first time that the museum examines fashion exclusively through one musical genre. Over 100 garments and accessories capture the pivotal moments in hip hop fashion’s evolution, ranging from Kangol hats to custom Dapper Dan jackets and the Manolo Blahnik Okla Alta booties inspired by Timberland work boots. The exhibition is curated by Elena Romero, journalist and assistant chair of Marketing Communications at FIT, and Elizabeth Way, associate curator of costume at MFIT. Romero is the author of “Freestylin’: How Hip Hop Changed the Fashion Industry (2012).”

“It was important for The Museum at FIT to organize this exhibition, because hip hop—the most influential music genre of our era—has had such a profound impact on the world of fashion,” notes Dr. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator, MFIT. “Furthermore, hip hop fashion and music are cultural expressions of the African and Hispanic cultural diasporas, which MFIT seeks to amplify as part of our goal to expand the understanding of fashion.”

Kangol, 2022. The Collection of Eileen Costa. © The Museum at FIT

Visitors will see looks worn and made popular by artists Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, LL Cool J, Chuck D, Missy Elliot, Aaliyah, Khaled, and Cardi B, to name just a few. Fresh, Fly and Fabulous will also feature designs by 5001 Flavors, April Walker, Misa Hylton, Cross Colours, Karl Kani, Shirt King Phade of the Shirt Kings, FUBU, Rocawear, Wu Wear, Mecca USA, Baby Phat, Pelle Pelle, and Sean John, as well as Lee, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Versace, among many others.

Beau McCall Black Lives Matter Triple T-shirt, 2021. © The Museum at FIT

A digital guide for Fresh, Fly and Fabulous: 50 Years of Hip Hop Style can be found at Bloomberg Connects, the free arts and cultural app created by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The Bloomberg Connects app, available for download from Google Play or the App Store, makes The Museum at FIT accessible for either onsite or offsite visits through photo, audio, and video features offering insights into the world of fashion and design. The digital guide goes behind the scenes of the museum with exclusive multimedia content about designers, exhibitions, programs, and conservation. Visitors can plan their visit, access helpful insights on site, and dive deeper into favorite works at home—anytime, anywhere. Guide highlights include interviews with hip hop experts, designer spotlights, and details about works from our collection, with new content added regularly.   

WilliWear, Spring 1985. The Museum at FIT, gift of WilliWear, Ltd. © The Museum at FIT

The exhibition is accompanied by a book, Fresh, Fly, and Fabulous: 50 Years of Hip Hop Style, published by Rizzoli with a foreword written by Slick Rick, and a symposium on February 24 that will be free and open to the public. 

Gucci, circa 1975. The Museum at FIT, gift of Mrs. James Levy. © The Museum at FIT

Fresh, Fly, and Fabulous: Fifty Years of Hip Hop Style has been made possible thanks to the generosity of the Couture Council of The Museum at FIT and The Coby Foundation. Special thanks to Barrett Barrera Projects.The museum is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from noon to 8 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is free. All visitors are requested to review the latest safety guidelines and protocols. For more information and the latest MFIT updates, visit fitnyc.edu/museum; register for the MFIT newsletter; and follow the museum on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Adidas, 1998. The Museum at FIT. © The Museum at FIT