Zebra Katz and Azealia Banks: Fashion’s Latest Soundtrack

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Karl Lagerfeld is slick and always wears sunglasses and is synonymous with glamour. When he takes a shine to someone, everyone not only notices, but it gets published.  So is the case with 20 year old young artist from Brooklyn, Azaelia Banks.  The headline story of Fashion Week 2012 was of her, his new fashion darling; that he was so enamored after hearing one track at a different show (he is the genius of Chanel), that he invited her to perform her “212” at his home, not a single phrase of which I could post here. Let’s just say the “c-word” is used egregiously (in a sexual way, not a rude way.  Does it matter? He’s 80).

Music and fashion are growing ever closer, most recently with runway show playlists exploding onto Spotify and such, making many immediately turn on Foster the People and fall in love with Lana del Rey.  But that was so 2011.  More recently, we’ve been introduced to a few new players, including this lovely lady (formerly known as Miss Bank$) who, since her private showcase now has over 12 million views on the aforementioned ditty, a deal with Alexander Wang, a new album, and a huge following.   Her coquettish persona has evolved into a more mainstream look, along with her sound.  She has accomplished much in 2011, besides making a ton of music: she topped NME‘s “Cool List”; the BBC crowned her third for the Sound of 2012, and she had hit singles abroad.

She was, however, not on the road to this kind of quick exposure.  Her manager hired Lady Gaga’s stylist, Nicola Formicetti, and she found not only an ally in him, but a direct in to the exclusive, if not somewhat stodgy, world of high fashion.  Nicola put her song, “Bambi” in the Mugler 2013 Spring/Summer show in Paris this past February, and within that month the aforementioned Lagerfeld was giving her Mickey Mouse sweaters as tribute to her look in the “212” video.  Are you kidding me?  Banks has already recorded a track with Gaga called “Ratchet” that will be on Gaga’s upcoming studio album, ARTPOP. She was at the 2012 Met Ball in a dress that Alexander Wang made FOR her! When a U.S. Vogue is opened, she can found in the pages, giving her the kind of highbrow credibility of which an artist can reap the financial benefits, but more importantly, reaching an entire audience that would have never been tapped otherwise.  Managing to penetrate this world is no easy feat, but Ms. Katz did it all during the most visible and important time of the fashion calendar, Paris Fashion week.

Ojay Morgan has a similar story. This Brooklyn based, openly gay 25 year old rapper, aka Zebra Katz, has been given the same golden ticket   At the Rick Owens Fall/Winter ’13 show just recently, his very bare-boned, mantra like track, “Ima Read” played for twelve straight minutes, with provocative lyrics that seemed aggressive to any one who isn’t intimately acquainted with the underground NYC “ball culture” of the late 80’s (I mean, who isn’t?).  Later review was obviously mixed right off the bat, but by the end of the week, “Ima Read” (see above) was considered the soundtrack to the shows, with the most influential attendees tweeting things like “Best.  Soundtrack.  Ever” –Tommy Ton; Soon after, Derek Blasberg named it “the song of #PFW”.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Katz and Banks have since collaborated in the studio, generated a twitter war/put a twitter war to bed, and are going on tour together next year.  It would seem these examples were thoughtfully conceived marketing strategies, quickly executed, heavily documented.  Regardless, they worked.  Both managed to use this thickly populated platform to break out as an actual artist, gaining major individual recognition, not just as a track on some lame playlist that nobody listens to anymore.  Paris Fashion Week establishes trends for an entire year, regardless of how ridiculous they are.  Now factor in the reality that these are two seriously talented, dynamic players who have been doing the hard work since their teens;  it shows that even old man Lagerfeld’s still got an eye for what we want, what we simply must have. And we, as consumers, will always listen to the voice of a  trusted tastemaker.

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