Entertainment journalist Sowmya Krishnamurthy’s new book Fashion Killa: How Hip-Hop Revolutionized High Fashion arrives on shelves Tuesday, October 10th, 2023 and BOSSIP chatted with her about the project which was three years in the making!
Sowmya Krishnamurthy Says Her Book ‘Fashion Killa’ Was Inspired By An Article She Wrote
The book is a must read for fans of fashion and hip-hop alike and goes far beyond anything that existed in libraries or museums previously. Truly an incredible reference guide for any student of style who is interested in how the rap genre and its stars have shaped trends over the last five decades, Krishnamurthy revealed the. motivation behind writing the book arose while she was researching an article years ago.
“The origin was an article I had done for XXL a couple years prior and it was maybe 2000 words and as I was doing the research,” Krishamurthy told BOSSIP. “I interviewed A$AP Ferg and stylists who worked with Travis Scott, Misa Hylton and people like that. I was really surprised to see that there was no book on the subject, because I tried to look for it and there wasn’t anything very comprehensive. There were coffee table books, those type of things but no one had really dug into the material. I sort of put that on on the back burner but when it came time to think about what I wanted for my first book project, I really wanted it to be something important showcasing subject matter that maybe hadn’t been, especially within the hip-hop space. So it just made total sense to write this book. It’s pretty great because it’s a 50 year retrospective that starts in 1973 and ends in 2023 so it really is that full 50 years of hip hop encapsulated this book.”
We’re super excited about Fashion Killa, particularly because it arrives at the intersection of Fashion Month and hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, timing that wasn’t lost on Krishnamurthy at all. In fact she tells us she was very intentional about the timing of her book’s debut.
“I was very adamant that I wanted this book to come out during this year because it’s a milestone and as we’ve seen in the concerts and the programming and the artists being celebrated,it’s just been such a great year to uplift hip-hop and to really showcase a lot of the OGs, a lot of the old school, highlighting some of these unsung voices and for me, fashion really fits within that space,” Krishnamurthy said. “You will see a lot of the established names, the superstars, whether it be Pharrell or Kanye, but I also wanted to make sure that we’re highlighting people like Lil Kim who has had such a long contribution in hip-hop and high fashion, but really hasn’t gotten her accolades within the fashion institution as far as I’m concerned. Also just focusing on this idea of hip-hop being so expansive; although the story starts in New York, we go to the West Coast, you know diving into things like swap meet culture, the Mexican American influence on aesthetics, things of that nature; going to the South and highlighting artists like Andre 3000 and Young Thug, who not only took fashion risks but really have pushed forward the conversation about the idea of gender identity and redefining that; and then going overseas we have to talk about Paris and Milan, places like Tokyo as it relates to streetwear, so showing just how global this conversation is was also really important. I think it fits really nicely with Hip-Hop’s 50th because although hip hop is an American art form in American culture, it really has influenced the entire world.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Krishnamurthy told us she conducted over 100 interviews for the book including the likes of Pusha T, Slick Rick, and Raekwon, as well as designers and fashion icons such as Dapper Dan, Tommy Hilfiger and April Walker. We had to inquire whether there was anyone on her wishlist who she didn’t get a chance to talk to and she shared the story of how an interview with Kanye West turned out to not be in the cards.
“I was actually talking to Kanye’s team about about doing something,” Krishnamurthy shared with BOSSIP. “I might have been days later or just around that time he really started his public comments which ended up with him losing his Adidas deal… It was an interesting time because he was still doing some press and I had to take a step back and be very discerning, ‘if I pursue this interview, is there going to be a benefit to this book right ?’ Looking at his interviews at the time, he wanted to speak about what he wanted to speak about and it didn’t matter who he was talking to, whether he was on Drink Champs or he was talking to Chris Cuomo — whe really kind of went in with a certain messaging and to me that didn’t add to the book and it certainly was not relevant to the conversations I wanted to have, so getting that interview just to say you have it, to me felt irresponsible.”
“Also I have personal ethical feelings about people who were interviewing him around that time and for me I just made that decision that if it’s not going to contribute to this story you know there there’s no need to sort of pursue that,” Krishnamurthy added.
While making difficult choices like deciding who not to interview and figuring out how to use material from over 100 sources proved challenging for Krishnamurthy, ultimately the publication of Fashion Killa: How Hip-Hop Revolutionized High Fashion is a dream come true from the journalist turned author.
“Hip-hop anthologies are still very new in the literary world,” Sowmya said. “When people think about hip-hop books, it’s usually either artist memoirs or coffee table books. This idea of you know a comprehensive history looking at a subject matter through that journalistic lens, there’s only a handful of titles… I do hope that my book and others like it reflect the importance, that although hip hop may not be as ubiquitous in the literary world as I would like it to be, titles like this end up moving the needle where it shows that these stories are important and they need to be treated with the same respect and integrity as let’s say rock music has or pop music has.”
“Ever since I was a kid I wanted to work in hip-hop and that was my dream ever since I was a kid in Kalamazoo, MI and to be able to be in this industry for as long as I have, and to move into that sort of OG status especially as a woman of color I’m very thankful,” Krishnamurthy added. “I really want to use my platform and my access to expand upon these these important hip-hop stories, to document them. I think that’s so important. So many of those great magazines that we grew up reading don’t exist anymore. Even some websites, you try to go online to see some of your old interviews and they’ve been taken down and I just want to make sure that when it comes to that that next generation of writers, fans or artists that they have a place where these stories are told and they’re documented.”
Fashion Killa: How Hip-Hop Revolutionized High Fashion is available in bookstores and online now.
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