Last weekend the BFI rolled out the UK premiere of Fresh Dressed, the first film to focus on the evolution of street style. Director Sacha Jenkins traces the phenomenon from slavery days and gang culture and how it meshed into hip-hop, forming a multi-million dollar industry. The CNN-commissioned movie has already gained a lot of momentum over the pond, premiering at the Sundance Fiilm Festival.
Hip-hop connoisseurs gathered at London's Hackney Picturehouse to see the film, which co-produced by rap icon Nas, which features original interviews with artists from Kanye West to Puffy and Pharrell and designers from Dapper Dan to Damon Dash and Karl Kani. In amongst the oversized chains, jeans and tees, 'Fresh Dressed' offers a reminder of bygone eras mostly seen in old music vids on YouTube - but then it digs deeper.
Opening with historical images of royal figures, from the British Monarchy to Emperor Haile Selassie, the film interweaves shots from the projects of New York, examining how the outfits mutated over the years to underscore the importance of staying "fresh". More than a fashion statement, the presence or absence of freshness became almost like a caste system. "Being fresh is more important than havin' money," Kanye West says early in the film. "The entire time I grew up it was like, 'I only wanted money so I could be fresh.'"
After the screening, graffiti writer and hip hop journalist turned director Sacha Jenkins - who went to the same high school as Nas, in a deprived part of Queens - explained why the film was so important to him. "It's part of my DNA so I had to be authentic and true to the core", he said. "That's why it wasn't just about Kanye and Pharrell. It was about all the people".
"I had to make a film that if you know nothing about hip hop then you would walk away with a different understanding," Jenkins said, recalling an audience member who sought him out after the screening at the Sundance Film Festival. "I had a 72-year-old caucasian woman come up to me and say 'You know I'm not that fresh... I never thought of clothing this way. It's language, it's all these things. Thank you so much'. she told me." That to me was the validation that I made a film and created language that was able to serve the core (of hip-hop) but was approachable and digestible by a broad range of people."
What could be fresher than that?
Visit the official website for info on how to see the movie HERE.
Check the trailer below
Words: Reshma B