“I wanna bring back your brand. I wanna be like Biggie and Tupac.”
– Quavo, Migos
In a decade defined by streetwear and its breakthrough into the luxury fashion market, Karl Kani is the Godfather. Paving the way for Sean John, Phat Farm and FUBU, a google search for 90s hip-hop icons will undoubtedly lead you to an array of images of the legends, all sporting distinct and often oversized attire, with the Karl Kani logo. Signifying a golden era of hip-hop, these cultural benchmarks continue to influence music and fashion today. PAUSE sat down with the man himself.
Streetwear, once a sub-culture, is now firmly entrenched in mainstream fashion. As a pioneer in the industry, what do you think has been the driving forces behind this?
I feel like 90s street culture was such an important time for fashion. It was the first time that the kids from the streets were really able to identify themselves by wearing clothing that they could put together for themselves and by designers that represented the streets as well, and with a fit and cut that they could relate to. So these things were monumental for fashion, and it’s always going to be tried to be replicated again because it can never be done again- it was something so new and exciting.
How does it feel to see a new generation of millennials embracing the Kani brand now?
It’s the ultimate feeling, you know. Honestly, I thought I was cheating the game when I started bringing back the stuff from the vaults in 2015 because I felt like, ‘man, I did this already, why would anyone want this?!’ I’m always talking about moving forward and moving ahead, but then I realised this generation, this new young generation never experienced this. They just probably see pictures of it, which is probably why it’s so much cooler to them, they don’t know how it felt to be in the 90s, the fit of the clothing, the colours, the bright and boldness of it- this is all new to them, so it makes me feel really good that we were able to recreate that collection and bring it back to the forefront.
And I can tell you; it was also Quavo from Migos, he kinda helped a lot with that. He came to in 2015, he DM’d me saying “Yo, I’m tryna get at you”, so of course it was Quavo, I was like wondering ‘what’s up, like, I wanna get at you too..’ and he’s like “Yo, I wanna bring back your brand. I wanna be like Biggie and Tupac. I wanna bring it back.”
And I felt these artists connect to Biggie and Tupac so hard and the fact that they wore the clothing, they wanna feel like I got the power to bring something back just like they did. And they did an excellent job of doing it because there’s nothing better than having modern-day hip-hop artists that are very influential to start rocking a brand that has heritage to it and that’s why it’s been very successful for us.