Blige: Queen of Street Couture


It’s official: Mary J. Blige is hip-hop’s greatest style icon. Vibe magazine editor Emil Wilbekin crowned the singer with the urban style bible’s second annual Quincy Jones Achievement Award at a gala dinner celebration at the Supper Club last Wednesday night. “She’s proven that urban music and urban fashion drive couture, as well as what average women really want to wear,” said Wilbekin.

Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley, Jaguar Wright, and Musiq Soulchild sang in tribute to the hip-hop soul queen. Junior diva Beyoncé Knowles, urban music (and now style) mogul Puffy Combs, and stylist Misa Hylton-Brim were present to see their friend get her props.

“I think she’s changed fashion,” said Hylton-Brim, Blige’s longtime friend and stylist, who’s also devised looks for Lil’ Kim and Eve. “Her realness makes her.”

That’s an understatement. Blige was the first to forthrightly proclaim her couture-to-street style as “ghetto fabulous,” consistently appearing in full makeup and outrageous hairstyles that mirrored the looks of inner-city girls.

Despite her new secure demeanor, Blige remains true to her fierce, flamboyant image. Her sleek cropped hair—back to its signature sunny blond—was set off by a short wide-knit caftan and knee-high stiletto boots. Shouting out Beyoncé, she underscored the more sordid side of her reign. “For 10 years I have been what everybody else wanted me to be,” said Blige. “Now I’m finally being what I want to be.”

Miguel Adrover is back. Despite a highly publicized parting of ways with could-have-been-fashion-conglomerate the Pegasus Apparel Group, the Majorcan-born women’s-wear designer is pouring his savings into a September 21 show for fall fashion week. According to Jennifer Hoffmann, a spokesperson from his studio, the cash-strapped label is unsure if it will actually be able to produce what’s shown. “Who knows what will happen?” said Hoffmann. “We’re just moving ahead.”

Lauded as a genius when he debuted two years ago, Adrover’s last two collections were not big hits. The heavy use of Islamic patterns in a collection that showed just before 9-11 was quietly swept under the carpet by the press. A previous collection that referenced such “empowering” Arabic garments as chadors and veils scored even less points. “Just like the fun outfits the women of Afghanistan, who aren’t allowed to hold jobs or go to school, get to wear,” wrote Voice fashion editor Lynn Yaeger.

“People pay more attention to the theme than to the clothes,” said Adrover, who says he was inspired by his travels in Egypt. With his new show—to be dedicated to the city of New York—scheduled less than two weeks after the anniversary of the WTC tragedy, will Adrover return to the center of controversy? “I try to reflect the world and the society that we live in, and a lot of it is controversial, isn’t it?”

Formerly the domain of Channel 13-pledging housewives, old-school tote bags have not only been spotted on the arms of Williamsburg emo rockers but also on the shoulders of DJs like Spencer Product and Ulysses, who sport the staple versions handed out at the Strand bookstore. Predictably, Chelsea queens have caught wind of the trend, rocking upmarket versions hawked at Union and Barneys Co-op.

“You can just pile stuff into them and lug them around,” said Stephen Ellwood, designer of the Brooklyn-based T-shirt label This Is Not a Love Song.

The totes are so basic and practical they might buck the nellyness formerly associated with men who carry bags. Let’s face it: What else is going to hold urban essentials like the Palm, the cellie, and the iPod in one easy-to-access place?

SPOTTED: Soul singer Maxwell jogging on the sun-kissed West Side Highway in sweats and sunglasses, “clearly trying to burn off some fat,” Fly Life’s source reports . . . Sean “P-Diddy” Combs taking in a weekend movie at the ever busy Union Square UA Cinema, you know, just trying to keep it on the d.l. . . . Freaky-deaky designer Claude Sabbah, climbing into a cab and flashing a gold-toothed smile to the legions that were locked out of his party at the old Factory space in Murray Hill . . . Beck, in town for his Lincoln Center gig, at the Apollo Theater checking out Mary J. Blige . . . Party monster Macaulay Culkin, sporting an ironic vintage tee, leaving the Strokes‘ post-gig party at Lit. Oh, how he’s grown into a proper downtown hipster!