When one thinks of Hip Hop in the 90s, they picture figures like Lil Kim, Biggie, Diddy, and Mary J. Blige. One person that is seldom mentioned but has been pivotal in crafting the image of each of these artists is Misa Hylton (also credited as Hylton-Brim).
Hylton is a stylist, or fashion architect, who has worked with the likes of Jodeci, Kimora Lee Simmons, Missy Elliot, Beyoncé, and many more.
In an interview with Billboard Hylton explained that in her youth, on the days where Mr. Magic & Kool DJ Red Alert would play Hip Hop on the radio, she would sit on her purple rug and record the music. While listening she would daydream about wardrobe. She added that there hadn’t been any visuals to accompany the music, so she had to imagine what these rappers looked like and what they should wear.
Nonetheless, “everything about Hip Hop – the words, the beat, the energy – inspired me to think about wardrobe and I would be styling these artists in my head,” she said during the 2019 documentary, The Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion.
At the age of 17, while dating Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, she got her first break. Combs had just been promoted to A&R at Uptown Records and Hylton was tasked with handling Jodeci’s upcoming album. Combs and Hylton envisioned the idea to change the look of the group to appeal to the younger demographic. This meant transitioning from the suits and hard bottom shoes R&B singers usually wore to the combat boots and hoodies rappers were wearing.
After the ‘ok’ from Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell, they moved forward and produced the ‘Gotta Love’ music video. This groundbreaking idea not only changed the look of Jodeci, but other R&B groups followed suit.
At a Glance
In addition to styling Mary J. Blige from her first album up until today, Hylton was also behind the iconic looks of rapper Lil Kim. From the monochromatic looks in Kim’s “Crush On You” video to her one sleeved, purple pasty jumpsuit worn to the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards, working with Kim allowed her to “get into my creative bag,” she said. Their collaboration catapulted both her and Hytlon’s careers.
Her success didn’t come without hardships. In addition to companies being reluctant to use her to execute the look she created with the artists she worked with, Hylton experienced discrimination when it came to pulling looks from showrooms.
“I was young, I was a woman, and I was a woman of color. The luxury brands didn’t see any real value working with us back then and unfortunately, many brands refused to loan out samples,” she told Hypebae. This forced her to design the pieces she needed.
It wasn’t until the premiere of the documentary The Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion that she was truly recognized for her work. The documentary shines light on the stories of Hylton, Dapper Dan, April Walker, and Kerby Jean-Raymond, as well as the history they have all made within the industry.
Through her attention to detail and ability to tell a story with clothes, Hylton brought the “ghetto fabulous” look to people’s televisions, changed the way society sees a Hip Hop and R&B artist, and was the catalyst behind many of the trends we see today. Her work is a timeless depiction of Black culture.
“I see my legacy everywhere,” she said. “I see it on the runways. I see it on the streets. I see it in the magazines…and that speaks to how powerful what I created is.”
The Misa Hylton Fashion Academy
With her personal experiences in mind and after years in the business, Hylton and her co-founder Jai Hudson, decided to open The Misa Hylton Fashion Academy (MHFA) in 2012 to give back to the community. She said doing so provides upcoming creatives the resources and mentorship she didn’t have when she was building her career. With programs such as a Fashion Styling Program, a Streetwear Program, a Fashion Technology Program, and a Business Program Hylton’s goal is to prepare and pass down the knowledge and skill set needed to become a stylist. In addition, the academy provides high school students early exposure to fashion, goal-setting, and personal development through their MHFA Junior Fashion Camp.
In addition to continuing her work as a fashion architect, Hylton is also a life coach, designer and in 2018 she was appointed as a Global Creative Partner of MCM. In an interview with Fashion Week Daily, Hyton said she was hired to create custom pieces for Big Daddy Kane, Rapsody and 9th Wonder which led her to designing a custom piece for Beyoncè in her Ape Sh*t video. Hylton also designed The Remix Shop collection, and continues to create for celebrities, television and advertising opportunities.
Benton, Rashad. “Misa Hylton Championed Hip-Hop Style in the ’90s: Now She’s Got a New Mission.” Billboard. November 16, 2017. https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/lifestyle/8039207/misa-hylton-hip-hop-style-interview.
Mowatt, Robyn. “Fashion Image Architect Misa Hylton Sheds Light on Her Legacy.” HYPEBAE. September 30, 2019. https://hypebae.com/2019/9/misa-hylton-madison-star-brim-fashion-career-stylist-interview.
Roche, Eddie. “Misa Hylton is Ready to Show the Next Generation of Stylists How it’s Done.” FashionWeekDaily. February 9, 2019. https://fashionweekdaily.com/misa-hylton-mcm-stylist/.
The Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion. United States: Tribeca Film Festival, 2019.
Saulsberry, Samjah. “The Fashion Issue: Misa Hylton: From Bad Boy Stylist To Global Creative Partner For MCM.” HelloBeautiful. February 24, 2021. https://hellobeautiful.com/3294531/misa-hylton-mcm-global-creative-partner/.