The tale of Black creators influencing the fashion industry yet being shut out of business deals seems like it’s not ending in 2020. The work that we do in fashion by consistently innovating while dealing with systematic challenges and lack-there-of resources is something that Black fashion architects consistently prevail from.
“This co-opting of a Black creative’s work is such a problem in many industries and it’s very frustrating,” Ty Hunter, Beyoncé’s longtime stylist and the creator of the first-ever publicized Bape Heel, recently told ESSENCE.
Last week, the popular streetwear conglomerate, Bape, announced that the brand would be releasing and “exclusive style” titled the LADY BABE STA, which is a rendition of its popular sneakers. This didn’t sit well with the internet as fashion enthusiasts pointed out that the first Bape heel was worn on Beyoncé in her 2005 “Check On It” music video in which the singer sported a custom creation by Hunter.
In an interview with ESSENCE, Hunter confirmed that Beyoncé was the only entertainer with the shoe back then. “She was the only artist with BAPE heels at the time. The brand did not partner with us,” Hunter explainded. “Over two days, I researched how to make a shoe and stayed overnight before the video shoot to finish. I deconstructed a BAPE sneaker and added heels to create the look. My hand glued and stitched designs ended up being a highlight of the complete look.”
“We creatives put [our] heart in every move, brushstroke, stitch and hem. It hurts to see that ignored or taken over by someone else.” – Ty Hunter
The originality that creatives of color produce is derived from generational ingenuity. This is something that can not be taught, yet we see many attempts to co-opt the taste we naturally embody for monetization. Prior to current day, there was no call out when a brand would steal from minorities, however social media has changed the trajectory of a brand’s carelessness. In 2017, when Gucci allegedly stole from Dapper Dan, the internet’s call out propelled the Harlem legend to finally reap the fruits of his labor.
Hunter agreed. “Dapper Dan, Jalaiah Harmon, Tangerine Jones–the list goes on and on. We creatives put [our] heart in every move, brushstroke, stitch and hem. It hurts to see that ignored or taken over by someone else,” he said.
Late last year, a viral video brought attention to the custom Bape heel, which sparked a Complex interview with the stylist where he details how he made them. Almost six months later, the brand released an identical replica without his consolation.
“I saw the announcement on social media along with you. Friends and fans started tagging and messaging me,” Hunter detailed. “I’m grateful it made such an impact and that people I don’t even know care enough to make sure I’m credited. I would have loved the opportunity to consult with BAPE on the 2020 shoe. Together we could have created something sexy and iconic,” he concluded.
ESSENCE reached out to BAPE for comment, but hasn’t heard back yet.