The feud between the late Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G (born Christopher Wallace), which came to be known as the East Coast-West Coast hip-hop wars, is perhaps the most widely famous hip-hop rivalry to ever exist. It’s also the inspiration behind Lama Jouni‘s new Fall 2018 collection. “Music is my passion, and one of my favorite genres is hip-hop,” the Lebanese womenswear designer told Vogue Arabia. “So for this collection, I drew my inspiration from the ’90s hip-hop scene, with a focus on Tupac and Biggie, and the entire East Coast versus West Coast conflict,” she explains.
It isn’t the first time a designer has tried to immortalize the legendary late rappers, who both lost their lives in drive-by shootings in 1996 and 1997. Kendall and Kylie Jenner recently debuted a controversial T-shirt collection featuring the likeness of Tupac and Biggie Smalls. However, for her namesake brand’s new offering, Jouni takes a different and not-so literal approach to the clothing.
Before the two New York City-born MCs became sworn enemies, they were trusted friends, thus with her new range of women’s jackets, trousers, and skirts, the 2017 DDFC/Vogue Fashion Prize ready-to-wear design finalist aimed to reconcile the rappers’ friendship by marrying the ’90s-era style of Los Angeles (slouchy chinos and denim jackets) with New York (crisp suiting). “I wanted to celebrate LA and New York, and thought, ‘how can I merge the two distinctive styles into one without compromising my design aesthetic in the process?'” After all, Jouni is known for her minimal, feminine designs and expert cutting skills, no doubt sharpened during a stint at Balmain, which are almost the exact opposite of the “flashy” and “urban” style typically associated with the rappers. However, she made it work.
After much research, which consisted of listening to their albums on repeat, staying up all night to watch hip-hop documentaries that chronicled the feud, and sifting through hundreds of images online, the result was: Straight pants with patched pockets, long-sleeved, turtleneck crop tops, suit jackets with oversized, padded shoulders, skirts with high slits, bomber jackets, bustiers with boning, and body suits aplenty with names that take after popular ’90s artists (the Aaliyah and Diddy jacket). There are also two t-shirts, made in collaboration with Kodak, one cropped with a waistband and another more loose-fitted option, both printed with the photography company’s logo. The black, cropped version has since been sported by Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio.
The t-shirts were directly inspired by an image she stumbled upon during her research, of a beaming Tupac Shakur posing against the backdrop of a Kodak shop. “I was instantly drawn to it,” Jouni recalls. Another t-shirt (and hoodie) comes emblazoned with graphic images of roses, a nod to a posthumous album based on the writing of Tupac entitled “The Rose That Grew From the Concrete”.
Jouni has made a habit of seeking inspiration from her favorite musicians when it comes to her designs, crediting Whitney Houston as the muse behind her Spring 2018 offering.
The complete collection will be out in stores in mid-August, and on lamajouni.com, which officially launches on July 1.