No UK MC has made the transition from road to runway quite as seamlessly as Big Smoke. Throughout the last two decades, Skepta’s out of the box thinking and astute entrepreneurial eye have inspired a slew of collaborations that fuse his taste for luxury and high fashion with the immovable connection he shares with the ends that raised him. Whether it be a trailblazing collaboration with Nike or a collaboration rooted in the local London grime scene, each new collaboration surpasses the successes of its predecessor.
From his earliest days dominating Lord of the Mic’s and Risky Roadz DVD’S, Skepta’s reign as hegemon of high fashion can be explained by the enigmatic mystique that surrounds the multi-platinum pioneer. To this day his global audience continues to strain in anticipation to peek behind the kevlar curtain he has constructed in hopes of catching a glimpse of his next trend defining enterprise. Through a combination of curated collections, raw backstreet freestyles, paparazzi sightings, and industry firsts, Skepta has become synonymous with brands like Ed Hardy, Nasir Mazhar, Virgil Abloh, No Fear and many more.
His bountiful brand collaborations can best be explained by his impeccable knack for spotting talent. Much in the same way he assembled the legendary BBK crew, Skepta can decipher greatness in creatives and elevate them to the public forum without corrupting the essence and identity that made them unique. With the release of the SK Tailwind 5 firmly in the rearview mirror, we are looking back on the landmark collaborations that have come to define both Skepta’s career and the aesthetic template of contemporary UK hip-hop.
SKEPTA X ED HARDY
Nothing radiates 2007 nostalgia quite like the Ed Hardy leather bomber jacket Skepta styled out during his debut UK tour. No small part of the success that Ed Hardy enjoyed in Britain was down to the nod of approval given to the California based brand by Skeppy. On the 2009 album Microphone Champion, Skepta and Tinchy Stryder go back to back on the track ‘Ed Hardy Party’, once again tying the raw and unadulterated reputation of BBK with the bad-boy punk rock subculture that Ed Hardy represented. When Skepta dropped the line “My bedrooms looking like an Ed Hardy factory”, you could hear the faint sounds of cheering coming from the Ed Hardy advertising department all the way back in Tottenham. Plus who can forget the classic Ed Hardy dressing gown Skepta adorned on stage alongside Kano at his Indigo show.
SKEPTA X NO FEAR ‘FOREVER’
Skepta’s first taste of streetwear curation came in the form of a limited edition 22 piece series by famed motocross outfitter No Fear. The entire collection drew on a camo print design used by the British Army and adapted it into a neon colour palette that grounded the concept in the raves of London. Similarly to his love of Ed Hardy, No Fear presented Skepta with an opportunity to become synonymous with another rebellious underground label with mainstream appeal. The ‘No Fear Forever’ campaign made the patented No Fear eyes and skull motif an instantly recognizable design that transcended the skateparks and dirtbike tracks.
SKEPTA X NASIR MAZHAR 2015
Skepta’s transition from a bombastic outsider knocking on the doors of high fashion to a fully-fledged leader of Avant-Garde street style came during London Fashion Week back in 2015. It was British streetwear and hat designer Nasir Mazhar that gave Skepta his debut runway walk whilst wearing a custom blackout tracksuit and matching all-black Air Force 1s. In true Skepta fashion, the whole look wove together familiar London-inspired colour palettes and textures in unfamiliar ways. The contrast of sleek luxurious materials with a simplistic and grounded aesthetic embodied Skepta’s life as a man existing in two complex worlds simultaneously.
SKEPTA X NIKE AIR MAX
Without a doubt, the most fruitful cultural crossover between a UK music artist and a corporate entity has been the era-defining evolution of SK Air. It seems the old saying ‘a high tide raises all boats’ still holds weight, as the SK Air has done just as much to help reshape the UK contemporary perception of Nike as the streetwear giant has done to cement Skepta as a boundary-breaking success story. Without Skepta, Nike would be missing a crucial cosign in their quest to be the legitimate epicentre of cultural and artistic ingenuity outside the US. That is why Nike decided to pay homage to Skepta by making him the first non-athlete to design a football boot as part of his recent SK Air Tailwind V ‘Bloody Chrome’ series.
Today, Skepta has continued to dominate the public consciousness with one creative and unsuspecting collaboration after the other. Recently, he partnered with Havana Club to create a limited run of rum inspired by his Nigerian heritage before going on to become the face of brands like Calvin Klein and Bottega. In a time where artists like Little Simz, Lady Leshurr and Aj Tracey are on billboards all over the UK it can be easy to forget that there was a time where corporate companies would do anything they could to dissociate themselves from the boisterous antics of UK youth culture. So next time you hear D Double E on an Ikea advert or see Slowthai modelling in a magazine remember it was Skepta who wrote the blueprint.