A Q&A with Hip-Hop Stylist Misa Hylton
Stylist Misa Hylton has created looks for Lil' Kim, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, even Beyoncé. Now the MCM Global Creative Partner features in a new hip-hop film.
By Britt Burritt
The inseparable union of hip-hop and fashion is well established by now. Kanye has a clothing line. Now Rihanna does too. A$AP Rocky served as the face of Dior Homme. And designers clamor to clothe Cardi B. But the connection goes back past even Run-DMC and "My Adidas."
Misa Hylton is somewhat of a living archive of this legacy. A stylist since the age of 17—when her then boyfriend Sean Combs introduced her to emerging artists—Hylton first put Jodeci in combat boots and baseball caps. Lil' Kim's legendary lavender pasty and catsuit for the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards was a Hylton look. Elle magazine called her "the stylist who is the reason people let their pants sag and their Calvins show," in an article accompanying a shoot she styled with Missy Elliott, a longtime collaborator and friend.
Hylton is now a Global Creative Partner with German luxury leather goods brand MCM and a subject of a new film, The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion. Codirected by Lisa Cortés (producer of Precious and The Apollo) and Farah X, the documentary examines the interplay of hip-hop and fashion, and some of the people—many of them women—who quietly influenced the movement behind the scenes.
"We never anticipated that the story would evolve into this women's empowerment story. It kind of happened all on its own," says Hylton about the film. "It's a story that needs to be heard, and it's a story that will inspire and empower young women, but I think every person."
How is it for you to be celebrated in this new film?
I'm a true hip-hop girl to the core. So, for this culture to be celebrated in this way, for me to be a part of it, it means a lot to me to share my story and my journey through hip-hop. Although I'm a fashion stylist, I've had a lot of success in the hip-hop community.
Who are some of the people in the film we'll be excited to learn more about?
I think [entrepreneur and designer] April Walker is someone that, if you're in the industry, you know her, but she's someone that I feel is a hidden champion and a hidden figure.
I feel like there's a story that Mary J. Blige has not shared yet about her journey to becoming Mary J. Blige, who's now performing at the Oscars and who's now an actress that has achieved a lot of success. There was a journey and there was a struggle that happened early on because of what she stood for.
She was a game changer. She wanted to wear combat boots. She wanted to wear a tennis skirt. She wanted to wear a baseball cap, sometimes to the back. A female singer did not do that at that time. It was inappropriate—and now look. She paved the way for women to show up the way that they want to and to dress the way that they want to. And she didn't let anyone put boundaries on her or her music. She's so soulful. She can dance her butt off, and that's what I love about her. She is badass.
Who are some up-and-coming artists that you'd want to work with?
I love Billie Eilish. Rapsody is amazing. I love Lana Del Rey. I love Teyana Taylor.
What is it that you admire in people's style?
Confidence and a unique sense of style.
And what does a unique sense of style mean to you?
A unique sense of style doesn't mean that you come in the room and you're perfectly dressed and you're screaming fashion. It's something that's inside. It's something that you can feel through an artist's music or whatever their art is, you know? It's just something that comes from inside out, and you feel it. It's an energy, and so, for me, everyone that I just named has something unique about the way that they present their selves and their art, and you can feel it.
How do you help artists develop their style?
By getting in tune with their energy, by getting in tune with the person. Because authenticity is what we connect with, right? You can tell if someone has on clothes and they're not comfortable or they have this image and it doesn't really resonate. So it's always a co-creation. And then what their goals are, and then understanding the business side of what needs to happen. So you have to take all this information and then come up with an image that's sellable.
What are some of your favorite vintage MCM looks?
My favorite is the MCM drawstring bag. That's my number one favorite, and also the custom pieces that Dapper [Dan] did. The drawstring bag was really special for me because you could put so many things in it. It was a staple with all of my looks.
What about MCM attracted you and the hip-hop community at large?
When you see MCM, the cognac Visetos, the legacy, the heritage, the styles and that they embrace the hip-hop community and all musicians, and the rock star lifestyle, it's very one of a kind. It's very boutique. When you have something from MCM, you have a special piece, and everyone is not going to have it. It makes a statement. Another thing that I love about MCM is they're not in this race to try to be anything other than what they are, and that's strength, and that's power, and that's confidence. That resonates with me as a woman and a creator.
You're working on a collection with MCM. What can we expect from it?
It'll have some Visetos and it may have some dope earrings. And color, and some lavender. Beautiful color.
I love Visetos. I could never get tired of Visetos. It's such a statement for me. It says to me that you are a unique, fashion-forward person that understands culture, that understands emotion, and that knows how to tell a good fashion story. You need MCM in every fashion story as far as I'm concerned.