Streetwear has had many moments in the spotlight. From the innovative designs of Dapper Dan to the explosion of baggy fits in the 90s to the rapid growth of urban clothing brands in the early 00s, when it comes to the fusion of fashion and the culture-the looks have been endless. As the fashion world began to take notice of what was fly on the streets, Black women became the architects of styles that became international trends. However, when it came time for those styles to make their runway debut, Black models were often left out of the lineup. It was a tale as old as time: Black women being the creators of all things fly and being erased and replaced by non-Black women when things become popular. But there were still women who stomped the catwalk and became where the hood and high fashion met.
Here are the Black models who helped to make streetwear part of the history of fashion.
Known as one of the original supermodels, Naomi Campbell could have lent her legs to any designer. So, her choice to become the face of Rocawear was one with a much larger impact than just rocking some velour sweats. It was one of fashion’s most revered legends letting the entire industry know that what Black people were wearing on the streets was just as important as anything being made in Europe.
Kimora Lee Simmons
After being one of the most iconic runway models for Chanel from the tender age of 13, Kimora leveraged her beauty, innate style and her relationship with record label mogul, Russell Simmons, to create Baby Phat and make it a major player in the streetwear scene. She didn’t have to look much further than herself and her adorable baby girls to make the brand pop because Baby Phat, at its height, was valued at over $30 million and Kimora was hardly ever not the premiere focus of the brand’s campaigns.
This Dominican born model burst onto the scene in 2001 and quickly became one of the most recognizable faces in all of modeling. Her androgynous look combined with a natural air of being unapologetically herself seemed to effortlessly blend with everything that streetwear is: defiant, unusual and fearless. Mota’s turn as one of the faces of Rocawear was a defining moment in streetwear.
One of the premiere faces and physiques in the modeling world for a decade, Jessica White was one of the most sought after fashion models from urban wear to high fashion. Her appearance in Rocawear, Baby Phat and Tracy Reese ads made her one of the names who most did it for the culture on the runway.
Recognized as the daughter of music pioneer Quincy Jones, Kidada has longtime been the "it girl" for fashion brands like Tommy Hilfiger. Her campaign (which features R&B legend, Aaliyah) was a driving force behind the brand embracing all of what streetwear had to offer to the mainstream fashion world.
With her girl next door charm and that cool breeze aura, Kim Porter was truly the model who felt more like a homegirl. Her beauty graced the likes of Phat Farm, Sean John and others during her career; therefore, no list is complete without her presence. Her effortless beauty and natural style made her one to watch whenever she stepped out and once again proved that what comes naturally to Black women is something to be studied by everyone else.