While not born there, designer Ryohei Kawanishi creates a collection that showcases the style of the men he sees in Harlem for the menswear brand, Landlord. This is no easy task, many of the styles that originated in Harlem were created by its large black community, and if Kawanishi isn’t careful, his collection, with intentions to show appreciation of his new home, could cross the barrier to appropriation. Luckily, Kawanishi gave us the former rather than the latter.
While many designers often appropriate the iconic style of the people of Harlem, give no credit, and slap the word “urban” over the collection’s title and feature it on mostly white models, Kawanishi wants to make it perfectly clear that he is showcasing the style of Harlem’s community, and giving credit where credit is due. Chunky gold chains, wooden earrings, and oversized tops seemed to be large staples in the collection. Points of style inspiration include that of 90s’ hip hop fashion, and the work of Dapper Dan, the notorious Harlem counterfeiter. Shirts with green and red stripes, and a print that we’re pretty sure Burberry might be familiar with are featured, throughout the collection.
I am obsessed with the way Landlord is able to over exaggerate an already outsized style. The collection takes the many staples of Harlem street fashion and puts them into overdrive. Another thing that the brand gets correctly, is using black models for this collection. We see far too often collections inspired by people of color, but people color are excluded in promotions, or runway shows. Not only does this give the founders of the style the recognition they deserve, but it’s so nice to see more models of color in an industry that is known for harsh standards of beauty.
Landlord, the brand based in Brooklyn has only been around for a few seasons, but they have already nailed so many things that brands that have been around for decades can’t land. Designers can always be inspired by the styles and showcase cultures they come into contact with through their eyes, but there are definately tasteful ways to go about it, and Landlord shows that it’s not extremely complicated. Hopefully, more designers will take a page out of Ryohei Kawanishi’s book and do more research and take extra care in making sure they give credit where credit is due when releasing their collections. Landlord’s collection is not only a look at a classic street style seen through someone else’s point of view, it’s a celebration of the street style itself.