NEW YORK — Rappers and other musicians are wearing fur like a coat of arms.
Eve, Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Ashanti, Mary J. Blige and Beyoncé Knowles are among the many singers who have taken to fur and as a result are introducing a generation of young people to a look that was once reserved for the wealthy. Their male counterparts, Usher, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Ja Rule, have also been furthering the cause.
Although fur has long been worn for formal occasions, today’s musicians are wearing fur as more casual attire. For a surprise late-night performance at a Boston club last month, Lil’ Kim turned up wearing jeans, a fur coat and sunglasses. Rapper Rah Digga went with a floor-sweeping fur at the Gen Art fashion show in February, Foxy Brown belted out raps in a chinchilla jacket at Fusha Designs and Knowles sported a long mink coat to a Pepsi shoot in London earlier this year.
“These new rappers did not invent wearing a lot of fur and jewelry, but they have definitely made it more casual and that’s the difference,” said Dennis Basso, who has decked out Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle and Natalie Cole in his fur coats over the years. “Those are the divas. They all have been wearing furs since they first could sing a note.”
Knowles, on the other hand, started wearing fur a few years back, according to a spokesman at Hymie’s Fur & Leather store in Houston. That’s where she and her mother take their sketches to be made into one-of-a-kind designs, such as the skimpy fur-trimmed bikini she wore in her “Survivor” video and the white fur stole she donned for her Rockefeller Center performance last year.
“Beyoncé’s more interested in fur from a design perspective than just wearing it,” the spokesman said.
Like Knowles, some celebrities aren’t merely interested in wearing fur — they’re looking to design some pieces of their own. Foxy Brown is reportedly working on a signature fur collection that could be launched later this year, according to her friend, Claudinette Jean, designer of Fusha Designs. Brown could not be reached for comment.
The rapper Ja Rule and his wife, Aisha, are considering adding fur to their forthcoming women’s apparel collection, under their ErvingGeoffrey label. The name is a play on Irv Gotti’s birth name, Irving, and Ja’s real name, Jeffrey. Gotti is the founder of the record label formerly known as Murder Inc.
During the Fusha Design fashion show, Brown performed wearing a short-waist chinchilla jacket designed by Fusha’s Jean.
“Most artists like to be very individual,” Jean said. “For me, it’s a plus because I custom design a lot of my things. A lot of artists are wearing fur. It’s definitely one of the trends with Foxy, Clef [Jean’s husband, Wyclef] and Patti LaBelle.”
Consumers are taking note and trying to copy their style, she said.
“People look on TV and in magazines and say, ‘Oh, Usher is wearing that or Foxy is wearing that,’” Jean said. “That’s a very excellent way of getting free advertising.”
“Jacob the Jeweler” Arabo, owner of Jacob & Co. here, which is known for catering to musicians, has also seen his customers accenting their outfits with fur.
“Fur and jewelry go together,” said Arabo, whose diamonds are seen on Eve, Knowles, Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears. “You can’t wear jewelry with no fur. They complement each other.”
While some trends fade and rekindle, the combination of fur and diamonds has been pretty steadfast.
“It’s security,” Arabo said. “It shows people are self-satisfied and it’s a sign of success. It’s a ‘Look at me now’ kind of thing. Some of them think, ‘Let me show you how successful I am,’ but most of it is for fashion.”
Celebrity stylist Alexander Allen noted that rappers and musicians have raised the bar for “fabulocity” and luxuriousness, by dressing to the nines in music videos and when they make personal appearances.
“It means you have achieved a certain amount of wealth, in addition to being fashionable and topping off a nice outfit” Allen said.
Musicians’ interest in fur registers with consumers who opt for more affordable options like vintage fur coats, fur-trimmed pieces and accessories, he said.
During Fashion Week in February, Allen dressed Eve, who is one of his clients, in fur for the J. Mendel and Carlos Miele shows and the Louis Vuitton store opening. For her “Barbershop II” music video with Blige, Eve wore a Fendi fur with matching boots, but Allen said her fondness for fur is not due to its extravagance.
“For Eve, it’s a little bit different,” Allen said. “It’s not to be fabulous. She’s just a classy girl — polished and more mainstream — and she happens to be a rapper.”
Not one to flaunt floor-length, boxy or brash-colored furs, Eve favors more light-weight, slimming styles that complement her skin tone, he said.
“You’ll never see her wearing fur in the spring weather, either,” Allen added.
Baby Phat, a popular label with musicians, offers fake-fur jackets and coats in a variety of colors. Designer Kimora Lee Simmons didn’t want to use real fur, out of respect to her husband Russell Simmons, who is a vegan.
Whether they wear real or fake fur, musicians are motivating Gen X and Y to find “fun, hip things in vintage shops or accessories,” Basso said.
“They definitely have influence on street fashion and fashion gets motivated by street fashion,” he said. “Clearly, it sets a tone with what’s going on. The residual effect is, ‘It’s OK to look glamorous.’”
Gilles Mendel, the designer behind J. Mendel, agreed: “There are definitely personalities in the music industry who support the [fur] industry as a whole by wearing fur and influencing a new and younger generation. Equally important, however, are the fashion magazines and their editors. By presenting fur in new ways, magazines inspire their readers and show them new ways to incorporate fur into their wardrobes as a statement about style, not trends.”
— Rosemary Feitelberg