THE RISE OF URBAN LUXURY
by Jeremy Danté
brewing under the surface, the influence of urban lifestyles has gained traction as far as impact in the mainstream market for the past several years. birthing influential figures in the process, the growing popularity of documenting the lifestyles of black americans through reality tv reveals a greater glimpse at this wave of influence. the eruption of programming in the vein of black lifestyles and personalities, began to hit the small screen in 2006 with VH-1’s ‘flavor of love’. though not the best program to represent the culture, people were watching. these were the first glimpses of ratchetivities that we seen on television, and in this vein, many other shows were created in it’s likeness. the evolution of such programming has been a long road that continues to evolve, each year, each season. in the form of the bravo franchise ‘real housewives of atlanta’, this series is among the most popular on television, out of the five variations that the bravo television network has conceptualized and produced. VH-1 seems to continue to hold the torch, having created some of the earlier programs with similar themes, centered around the lives of black celebrities or personalities, with such programs like basketball wives, love and hip-hop new york and atlanta, as well as black ink crew, T.I. & tiny’s: family hustle, and marrying the game. all shows again, are centered around providing a glimpse into the lives of black americans. within these programs, an influence has begun to cultivate even further.
in music, the history of rhythm and blues has been widely regarded as a black sound, representing the anguish and sorrow experienced in the lives of black singers, songwriters and musicians. this history dates back as far as the 1940’s and it’s genre influence still penetrates today. modern contemporary R&B is a combination of rhythm and blues, pop, soul, funk and hip-hop musical genres and is still very much an african-american or otherwise black sound. the influence of R&B and it’s post modern sister genre is among the most influential in music. R&B vocal stylings have long been mimicked by many white artists, historically. artists like elvis presley, had been known to have stolen influence from black musical vocal stylings, and this theme of theft or impersonation still continues with some of the most successful artists in the history of music. more recently, adele, who has been the most successful act in recent years, in music- has sold over 32.9 million albums around the world and has widely regarded black artists like beyoncé and etta james as her influences. other pop musical acts like christina aguilera and justin timberlake, have also taken vocal styling queues from soul legends and R&B vocalists, while pop entertainers like britney spears cite other black acts like janet jackson among their most influential figures. i say all this to say, the influence of black people, through talent and personality are not to be ignored. to understand that our method of communicating and telling stories has had a longstanding influence is to say the least. the musical impact of such talents has allowed such persons to garner opportunities such as tv shows, and though these opportunities may not be in equal number what our influence looks like from a panoramic view, it’s progress.
in july of 2008, who could forget when italian vogue brought forth the most impactful form of black influence in the form of their ‘all black issue’. while industry insiders had cited that showcasing and casting of black models made products ‘unsellable’, this issue combated that perception very directly, becoming the ‘most wanted issue’ and best selling in the history of italian vogue. it ran out of print- twice. furthermore, this single issue, which was centered around the promotion and inclusion of black models became the only issue that was ever reprinted in the history of condé nast publishing. since then, there have been greater glimpses of change, as more and more designers continue to showcase models of color on the runway. also being included in campaign castings, though it has been a long tried, and hard road- progress is visible.
with the greater emergence of suit and sport; the combining of athleticism and upper class form of dress; has become that much more pronounced for the SS14 season in high fashion as well. again, this influence stems from the communities of black people; adapted from the styling often associated with hip-hop. referring back to R&B, rap music is one of the strongest influences of black culture that has been able to affect society. many of the modern influences seen in many other exploits of vision and concept are borrowed from that culture. the point i make, is to allow visibility of the influence of black individuals and to provide you with a greater sense of clarity, as far as our boundaries are concerned. with the content that has been developing here, it’s all for the sake of direction. to understand that our approach to style, or personalization does lead to a greater cultural influence, especially here in america. from influences in television, to our long influential reign in the world of music, many adapt to the sounds and styles that our community of color represent and inspire, every day. the rise of urban luxury represents a greater theme of change and evolution to the ways in which our hybrid sensibility as a group will bring fourth a better view of who we are as people, not as separate individuals but as a culture of one. as an individual of color, understand the ways that you represent a greater level of influence, and allow this knowledge and awareness to inspire you to move to your own beat, create what you know as true and to represent all of those elements with pose and dignity. who we are now, is a glimpse into who we were but does not limit us to where we are headed, not as artists or people with voices.