RVA Fashion Week has been a staple event in Richmond, Virginia for the past 14 years. With every year it takes place, it becomes bigger, more influential, inclusive, and diverse. This year was no different; in fact, we got an invite ourselves at theMSQshop to join and represent the Art District. In this article, I will explain our participation and my experience as a designer and contributor.
As some may know, my name is OG ILLA and I am not only the owner of theMSQshop but also the Creative Director. For years, I have worked with numerous indie and major musicians on graphic design, music videos, merch, recording... but I feel my most important contribution has been branding. So, when Jimmy Budd (Owner/Creator of RVAFW) asked for me to participate, I was excited. I have designed numerous pieces for others and myself over these years but this time I really wanted to take it a step further. My main goal was to represent the Hip Hop and R&B (and Pop) culture in RVAFW, finally.
OG ILLA & Devin (from Bandit Brand) at RVA Fashion Week
My first thought was - I am no competition for these designers competing - I've attended RVAFW numerous times over the year and have constantly been blown away by the talent of the designers in the Fashion Show. I quickly shook that off, it's not about who is the best, it's about creating honest fashion that represents your vision, that entails your soul, and displays your ambitions. So I shed my doubt and began to plot.
From the start, I wanted to do something different; something that stood out but wasn't rooted in showing off. I wanted to represent indie musicians first and foremost, while also working together with other creatives for representation. I decided that I wanted to make 8 pieces inspired by RVA Musicians.
My first step was to create my team- so I enlisted the help of designers and creatives I have witnessed working hands-on with artists throughout the city. Devin (Bandit Brand) is an amazing seamster and has unique pieces in The Collective that have always stood out to me and touched every piece in the lineup. J-Will (Blood Lines Apparel) is a young designer that creates hand-drawn clothing. EZPZ Company is an all around clothing merchandiser but specializes in Tye Dye. Alex (InsertName Company) is a staple in RVA Street Wear and has inspired me for years with his innovative designs and representation of Hip Hop culture.
Photo by ElevenSensus Films
The next steps were to choose artists that we felt were representative of the music scene in Richmond, VA, and accurately represent them as well. As you continue to read the article, I will dive into the artists we chose, why we chose them and the vision behind the 1-of-1 pieces we created for RVAFW.
We did set criteria for ourselves as well. We set a limit of $100 total and all clothing had to be repurposed (meaning we thrifted everything besides the OG ILLA outfit due to some learning curves) and we did this to show there is beauty in second chances. Also, fashion doesn't mean spending a lot of money, it's about who has the look to pull it off. This wasn't an easy task and took a few trips to different spots to capture what we were looking for, but we did it!
UV Scutti aka SkiMask Scutti is often on my mind when I think of the current scene in RVA Hip Hop. His care free attitude, aggressive music and often wild takes on life make him one of the most interesting people I've come across. He represents an entire sub genre of rap that is steadily growing city wide. Our vision behind this piece was to represent the contrast of Scutti's uncomplicated appearance against his intrinsic style of music. The plain white tee matched with the dad jeans and the colorful ski mask was pulled off perfectly with Daniel Szabo attitude.
"IRDGAF" took the city by storm a few years ago, landing G Sambo in the spotlight and even a feature from Asian Doll herself. Alex had the privilege of being able to work with Sambo for Creative Direction for his merchandise which left us with some exclusive pieces due to some printing issues with the manufacturing company. We wanted to make something that stood out without duplicating the t-shirt previously designed so we grabbed a canvas bag and made a two-toned tote bag that is also reversible (bandana imprint on the other side). During the model call, we snagged Kennedy who was excited to display the bag matched with an all-black fit that commanded everyone's attention.
Oftentimes, Black singers automatically get categorized as R&B artists just because of the color of their skin. stayathomedad is a prime example of that and is on a mission to kill that stigma. Although he definitely touches those realms quite often in his music and has the soul in his voice to pull it off, he is proud to be a pop singer. This was one of the biggest reasons we chose him because representation is important and artists who stand behind their art are, timeless. His laid-back demeanor mixed with his eclectic tastes for kimono-esque robes made this a fun task. As displayed above this outfit started with a simple bed sheet (yes, you read that correctly) ice tie-dyed by EZPZ and was shaped and designed using a baseball jersey (yes, again). Only missing the signature beanie due to the stylist's choice of hair we see DejaMone truly embrace the spirit of the artist on the runway.
The sun probably seems like the most obvious representation of Peter $un in our design but for those who know him like me, it's actually the smile. I've witnessed Peter's growth for over a decade and he is one of my biggest inspirations as a creator. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting him knows his smile and energy are infectious. Match that with his love for bucket hats and this outfit was a look made in heaven. When I first sketched this up my biggest concern was to make the suns raised and with the help of J-Will ability to draw and Bandit on the sew we really brought this together perfectly. We even gave Charles a chance to show off his amazing smile on the runway as well. P.S this shirt is much heavier than it seems!
Duality is the key to this design. Jay?Duhhh is young and bold. Her beauty contrasted with her punk edge really set the tone - not to mention the two-toned hair! This is actually a combination of two dresses that aligned beautifully together after we gave them the chop. We wanted to be classy and represent her modeling past while still having that rock n roll lifestyle infused with the spikes and chains. Kathleen fought to have her hair in two buns for us but we were shot down due to her walking for multiple lines. Nonetheless, she kept the energy and represented the artist perfectly!
I won't even lie this piece is as unique as the artist himself. DuctTape Jesus is a one-of-a-kind musician and talented videographer. His outgoing personality with his blithe wardrobe has made him a staple in the alternative rap scene. Devin really embodied every aspect of him in this design with the Flannel/T-Shirt combo and Craig captured the right amount of sauce to pull it off. I honestly had a lot of fun styling this one!
How do I introduce someone who doesn't need an introduction? This RVA legend and Hip Hop heavyweight has been one of the Underground Kings for a long time. From features with Drake to him reigning supreme on 106 & Park freestyle friday's it's safe to say Nickelus F is on everyones radar. Even after all the success, we still find him being vulnerable in his music so when Alex suggested we create something based off his latest opus "Stuck", I was excited. How many designers have used duct tape as part of their creation? Well, even when things got sticky and we had some doubts about the fit, Zelly reassured us why we did it. She really MADE the outfit with her Aaliyah vibes (Deja words, not mine) we knew we couldn't go wrong. Her du rag might've fell off but her intensity never did.
In full transparency, this wasn't part of the plan. Originally, we wanted to have Hannah Grace walking for AIA; a neo-soul singer with a very earthy & vibey presence. Unfortunately, this task went down to literally the last second and hours before the show started, I pulled the plug. We could not get the back of the dress right and although I still think Devin hates me a little bit, we really had to go a different route to maintain the integrity of the line up. But being the talent that she is, Hannah, was never stirred and took the new look in stride (literally). She works with theMSQshop hands on and we call her my protege so she quickly shook the mishap and went full OG ILLA on the runway. We used a design I dropped last year at our launch party and matched it with shorts from Be Happy for this classic Hooligan combo.
All in all, this was an amazing experience and I was extremely grateful for my teammates but also for the models in particular. They seriously brought nothing but positive energy and took on the task of embodying these artists with such class and determination. The stress and the pure skill it takes to pull something like this off is not lost on me and it only makes me appreciate fashion/clothing designers even more. The moments leading up to the walk had my anxiety on full display but the models and Devin backstage really showed me why it is important to have faith in your team.
After years of helping at RVAFW from stacking chairs to ushering people to their seats, it was nice to be able to have my creative side put on full display. The love we received blew me away; I've been advocating to involve Hip Hop in the RVAFW for years now but sometimes you have to create your own lane to accomplish your goals. Innovation is the key to growth and with that being said, this is yet another major moment I get to cross off my bucket list. Blessed is an understatement. Thank you to my team, to the models, to the staff and volunteers at RVAFW, and to the city of Richmond for once again supporting the arts!
Written by OG ILLA
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