When you’ve outfitted, designed for and been the creative director for practically every hip-hop legend in the game, what do you do next? For Misa Hylton, the answer is simple: Pay it forward.

The celebrity stylist’s self-named fashion academy has been grooming the next generation of young artists since 2012. She also serves as global creative partner for MCM. “My senses are always absorbing beauty around me,” she says. ESSENCE sat down with Hylton to get the story behind some of the most iconic looks she birthed with one of her most famous muses—Lil’ Kim.

“We were unapologetic about what we wanted to create.”

-Misa Hylton

THE “CRUSH ON YOU” VIDEO: “The idea came from Lance Rivera, who was Biggie Smalls’s partner. For ‘Crush on You,’ his inspiration was The Wiz, with each scene changing colors. I thought it was dope to have everyone wear all blue, yellow, red and green with matching hair. It made a huge impact on our culture that you still see today.”

THAT BLUE CHANEL WIG: “Colored hair and designer brands were really a part of Kim’s DNA, so this was a natural progression of combining those two elements. It was the manifestation of our work together from a place of authenticity and intuition.”

HER 1999 SOURCE AWARDS LOOK: “You couldn’t help but be inspired by Nija Battle’s furs. I saw this freshly dyed tan-colored fur and envisioned a nude bodysuit on Kim. I embellished the bodysuit with Swarovski crystals to give this effect of being showered in diamonds. A platinum wig and tan and cream cuffs pulled the look together flawlessly.”

KIM’S WHITE FEATHER AND MINK LOOK FOR VIBE’S 1999 COVER: “Vibe contacted me about a pair of mink-embellished jeans I’d made for Kim and Mary J. Blige. I created it with the late, great Nija Battle. But it was summer, and we wanted something new. I trimmed the sides of the jeans with feathers and added a beaded fringe. We kept the mink bikini top because we love fur.”

THE 1999 VMA LOOK: “I was with Missy Elliott, and we were talking fashion and music, and she was like, ‘If I was Kim, I would just have one boob out, like f–k it. I wouldn’t care, because Kim can do that.’ Missy got my imagination working. The next big event was the 1999 VMAs, and I brought that idea to life. It was risqué, so I made it really pretty with Indian bridal fabric to soften it.”

KIM’S FUR FAUSTO PUGLISI LOOK: “For the MAC dinner for Kim’s Viva Glam campaign at Philippe Chow, Fausto Puglisi made an animal-skin dress with huge diamond crystals— the most luxe, edgy Italian yet hip-hop piece I’d ever seen.”

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