Happy Birthday to The Architect!
Misa Hylton is a pioneer and Mount Vernon, New York native who got her start in fashion when she was just 17 years old, Billboard reports. Her then-boyfriend, Sean Combs, was working as an A&R for Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records when Hylton got the opportunity to style what would become some of Hip-Hop’s most influential acts. Her flair for “street fashion meets glam” was an instant hit, and she became solely responsible for creating iconic looks that would forever hold a place in the cultural zeitgeist. From Lil Kim’s 1999 MTV VMA performance look to Mary J Blige’s “Not Gon Cry” music video, Hylton’s looks have stood the test of time.
“For me, inspiration comes from everywhere and starts as a daydream. When I was a pre-teen, the radio only played Hip-Hop on Fridays and Saturdays and was hosted by Mr. Magic & Kool DJ Red Alert. I would sit on the floor by the radio with my cassette tapes and record the music and while listening I envisioned wardrobe. There weren’t many visuals out at that time; basically, there were none. So you had to sit and imagine what these rappers looked like, what they should wear, what I would wear, and what my friends would wear,” said Hylton.
Hylton said fashion was always her passion and while she started during a time when it wasn’t considered a viable career choice, she’s grateful to have been able to create a lane for so many others to follow. Despite her massive influence during the 90s, she continues to set the bar high, designing and styling for artists like Beyonce, Jay Z, Nas, Missy Elliott, and more. In honor of her birthday on January 6th, here are 4 Black artists Misa Hylton styled in the 90s:
When Combs was promoted to intern, one of his first responsibilities was working with newly signed group Jodeci on their upcoming album. Combs brought in Hylton to help craft the style and look of the group, Hylton doing away with the classic suits and dress shoes that R&B groups were known for at the time and opting instead for a more rugged look, characterized by combat boots and baseball caps.
“Andre immediately said ‘hell no,’ but after about two hours of going back and forth, we convinced him to give us this opportunity, and after this transformation, Jodeci’s career catapulted,” Hylton told reporters.
Mary J. Blige
That innate sense of style and ability to take risks carried Hylton far and she soon got another opportunity, this time with a female solo artist from Yonkers named Mary J. Blige. Hylton battled getting access to showrooms while building her budding career, noting that many fashion houses were taken aback by how young she was. But once she found her stride, she flourished and Blige’s style became a staple, encapsulating an era of hip-hop glam that young girls around the world would soon emulate.
Soon, Hylton found herself working with up-and-coming rapper Lil Kim. What translated as everyday luxe wear with previous artists quickly got elevated to avant-garde with Kim, Hylton finding herself experimenting creatively more and more. Because of Kim’s small stature, Hylton found it increasingly difficult to find things to fit her 4 ½ size feet or 4’11 frame, which sparked her pension for designing. Kim was the perfect muse for out-of-the-box designs and Hylton took liberties with her work, stretching the limits of what the legendary rapper could look like. Her famous “Crush On You” video, Hylton reveals was actually inspired by The Wiz.
Hylton also took a lead in styling Faith Evans when she first signed to Combs’ bad boy label, the New York Times reports. The two had known each other for years since their cousins were childhood best friends. While Hylton originally went with a more gritty look, the minute Evans became the wife of the Notorious B.I.G., Hylton elevated her look to something that conveyed a bit more status, swapping out boots for pearls.
Hylton’s work has gained a renewed interest in later years, and the icon is continuing to receive her flowers. From a partnership with MCM to her Misa Hylton Fashion Academy, which opens doors for the next generation, Hylton continues to do it all. We salute her contributions to the culture. Because of her, we can!
4 Black artists you never knew Misa Hylton styled in the 90s. Photo Courtesy of MCM