Lyrics like, “You, you remind me of a love that I once knew. Is it a dream or is it déjà vu I just had to let you know, so I had to sing it, ‘cause for you boy I don't know...” makes music lovers like me reminisce about the super chill mood of the ‘90’s. Contrasting the soothing grooves of the Isley Brothers in the 1970’s and Anita Baker in the 1980’s, the 90’s rhythm and blues was influenced by the rough, around the way vibe of the Hip Hop culture. New artist, Mary J. Blige and the quartet group, Jodeci, would need creative direction from someone with adoration for the new sound and a keen eye for innovative fashion. Fortunately, seventeen year old Misa Hylton had already spent a lot of time sitting on her bedroom floor in Mount Vernon, NY listening to the radio on Friday and Saturday nights, envisioning how she’d style herself and the latest rapper. Even so, her well accomplished family members didn’t consider fashion as a worthy career choice at the time, but Misa Hylton prevailed and is celebrated as the official style icon and curator of the 1990’s R&B and Hip Hop era.
Fellow resident of Mount Vernon, Sean Combs, met young Misa at a concert at the Apollo Theatre and discovering a mutual sense of style and ambition, bonded with her over love and hip hop. His recent promotion from an intern to A&R at Uptown Records made Combs responsible for both the grooming and image development of the new group, Jodeci. So, he consulted with his then girlfriend, Misa, and they created a fresh, innovative style that was made up of hoodies and hats turned backwards, and baggy jeans with leather, combat boots. After two hours of pitching the creative direction to Andre’ Harrell, the founder of Uptown Records, he approved it under the one condition that it had to be a success.
Harrell entrusted Misa to style his next, new artist from Yonkers, NY, Mary J. Blige. Always insightful, Misa used Mary’s authentic persona as her muse while engineering a style that would be desirable for fans, as well as, produce musical longevity. Even though her cash allowance for styling was abundant, the luxury fashion houses were reluctant to affiliate with Misa and her clients. “Sometimes they would act funny when they didn’t want to sell us stuff. I would be in Chanel with Mary J. Blige and they would be saying that her card declined and it wouldn’t be declined. It used to be crazy,” said Misa. Never one to shy away from prejudices, Misa’s creativity evolved and she pulled fur coats from her personal wardrobe to style Lil’ Kim in her 1996 No Time music video. “My styling is always an extension of who that person is, who my client is; it’s not like a whole makeover, unless they ask for it,” she stated.
In an effort to strengthen her legacy, the Misa Hylton Fashion Academy was founded in 2012 as a platform to equip the next generation of aspiring fashion stylist with the accoutrements and business acumen that will guarantee success in the fast paced fashion industry. After hearing Misa Hylton speak as a panelist at Harlem’s Fashion Row’s 10 Year Anniversary in Memphis, TN, my interest in fashion styling as a viable career was ignited. Ironically, she vehemently testified that the same fashion houses that rejected her in the ‘90’s, now welcome her presence and her client, Mary J. Blige on the front row of their fashion shows in which she has observed models wearing what she donned while sitting on the front row the previous year.
Annick Tyler resides in South Carolina.