When Street Dance meets fashion

“Soul Train” exploded onto television sets at the peak of the 1970s and electrified living rooms across the country. Every Saturday morning, the pioneers of popping, waacking and locking flexible moves, hairstyles and looks so fresh that legions of fans are still hyped by their swag and hail them on the dance floor.

Opening the show in a tangerine bucket hat, Locker Hurrikane set the bar high for the waking and popping trio Femme Fatale to follow. Acclaimed dancer Angyil lit up the runway in icy white hues after voguers Javier and Dolores from the iconic House or Ninja strutted and posed for the house in Cooper and gold spandex, stilettos, jet black liquid leather and blood red hair. While house dancing ToyinMemphis joker Ladia Yatescrumples RageKrow the god, Rob Wilson and finally a prolific pop legend Popin’ Pete brought the show to a boiling point in a deep green varsity coat, dark-rimmed tinted glasses and flared leg chinos.

Popin’ Pete

© Jesus Presinal

Flash forward to 2022, and 16 top street dancers are nodding to their “Soul Train” brothers and sisters with a new generational spin. Not only are they bringing the all-in party and infectious energy back to screens across the globe, but they’re doing so by hitting the runway in fresh fits styled by New Orleans’ toughest local brands, such as Like Sushi.

Red Bull connected with the show’s creative director and multi-hyphenate dancer from Femme Fatale, Marie Poppins, along with the owner and designer of Like Sushi, Cody, to find out how they reimagined the runway and what it took to bring the world of street dance and fashion together.

What was the main message you wanted to send with the show?

Mary Poppins: Street dance has been put on the runway before; I haven’t made anything new. If you go to New York Fashion Week, Paris, London or Milan Fashion Week, there have been many designers who have created phenomenal next-level catwalks that have incorporated poppers, breakers, voguers, etc. But I had never seen a fashion show with street- dancers created by the culture and for the culture. I’d never seen one where they showcased the culture behind street dance and where you could distinguish and identify “Now this is what poppin looks like. Now, this look is ‘house’.” “Oh, that’s what krump and Memphis Jookin look like,” you know what I’m saying? The biggest part of this project for me was to showcase and bring almost all styles of street dance together for once and create a celebration of dance.

How did you get it all together?

Mary Poppins: We’re all artists at the end of the day, and even though I was directing the show, I really wanted to collaborate. When we started working on the project, I called each dancer to find out what they like to wear. I asked them to tell me how they would sum up their style in three words. All of these street styles come with a specific fashion and rich history behind them and I wanted to make sure we showcased and told them.

Cody/Like Sushi: When Red Bull dance your style came to, they approached us at Like Sushi to style the dancers for this event. I thought about it, and I thought, why don’t we do that, but showcase all these other inspiring designers here who have also made a name for themselves in New Orleans.

What was the biggest challenge?

Mary Poppins: It struck me that I should lead this group of dancers who are pioneers and legends in their styles. So I was hoping that everyone would be down and trust me. I only met the dancers the night before or the day of the event and we put all the pieces of the show together like a puzzle. Second, the show was a live event, so we only had one chance to make it.

Marie Poppins

Marie Poppins

© Jesus Presinal

How did the music come together?

Mary Poppins: For dancers, it’s straight up – if we don’t like the music, we can’t move, we won’t dance. The most painstaking work that went into this project was the music. As a popper, I know to ask for music with a strong snare, but each of these street dance genres has completely different sonic desires, counts and accents. Before, I didn’t know what they were. I really wanted the dancers to be happy, so I asked them all for references. It was so cool to learn so much about other genres.

When you watch a fashion show, it has the whole story. An introduction, the story, a climax and the finale is the masterpiece. So the challenge was to prepare the order and maintain the flow. I wanted to open with locking because it came first, so it’s almost like the grandfather. Then it was about mixing the tempos and styles from one to the other and making sure the transitions were clean.

What was the most surprising element?

Cody: I have worked with athletes, mixed martial artists, models and musicians, but this was my first time working with dancers. When the project was presented to me, I had no idea how it would turn out, so this was my biggest revelation. When I met the dancers and saw them at work, it was really cool. We’ve already featured a lot of content from the New Orleans Red Bull Dance Your Style winner, and he’ll be filming some stuff in the studio. We definitely want to get more involved in the dance subculture.

Mary Poppins: What was cool about this project in terms of fashion was showcasing local brands from New Orleans so people could see the amazing talent there. It was about New Orleans designers who have something to say, showcased by dancers who also have something to say.

Toyin

How does New Orleans style differ from other places?

Cody: New Orleans has a truly unique style, period. I have traveled all over America working in fashion for 15 years and there is nothing like New Orleans. People here march to the beat of their own drums. You have a super happy and clean look. I’m talking matching top, matching bottoms. Maybe each piece has the same green, or the whole look is different shades of green. When 90s hip-hop emerged from New Orleans, they used the term “soldier” a lot. You had iconic rappers coming out like Soulja Slim, so camouflage is big here; it never feels out of place or out of style. It’s very eccentric down here. As designers and even someone who loves fashion, you know we’re not a fashion capital, so a lot of our style comes from each other and what we saw people flexing in our neighborhoods growing up or watching on TV. It’s this mix of super calls and big fades.

What other things does Like Sushi do in the community?

Cody: As Sushi turns 10 next year. The best way I can put it is it’s my partner and I’m Daft Punk. One of the things we’re working on next year is putting out an 8-minute short film and a bunch of other stuff. Our primary focus is selling clothes, but it’s also our creative platform to do all these other things we wanted to do growing up. Outside of the book, things we work with are one of the prominent charities in the city called Son of a saint which helps young men who do not have a positive influence in their lives by being role models. We help with a number of cleaning and relief work after the hurricanes.

What was your favorite look?

Cody: I had never met any of these people before the show, so I looked at their IGs and based their styles off of that. For Outrage, I first had him in an all-black sweatsuit. He said: “I don’t know what you think krumping is, but I’m not your typical krumper.” I like to collaborate with the people I style, because when people feel super-fly in something, that’s when people show off the clothes the best. I pulled out some other options and we went in a completely different direction and went with a silk bowling shirt, olive pants, black derby shoes and a trucker hat. It was easily one of my favorite looks on the show and I couldn’t have gotten there with him if he hadn’t spoken up.

Dassy

Mary Poppins: I loved all the looks. The way you look is a big part of how you dance. You want to be comfortable and feel good about yourself in what you wear. For example, as a popper, you want something a little loose that flows with your movements. You want to wear something that inspires you and allows you to move at your best and connect with that thing that makes you stand out from the crowd. Street dancers already come with such a unique style, so for me it works better as a collaboration between the dancer and the stylist so that it stays true to the designer’s vision but also plays to the dancer’s strengths. And Cody was incredibly good at executing it.

What was your proudest takeaway from the show?

Mary Poppins: What excited me and made me proud was that everyone wanted to leave right after the show. All the dancers from the crowd flooded the runway and started taking videos. Everyone wanted to be celebrated and use their own unique style. The runway is the best place to celebrate your individuality and shine your best.

Where do street dancers fit into the fashion industry in the future?

Mary Poppins: I have worked as a model for many brands. Femme Fatale worked with YSL. So many dancers work with major fashion brands, partnerships, campaigns and shows. This is the trend now. Designers have clocked how dancers walk, pose and carry themselves and our uniqueness/magnetism. We are trailblazers and we are all just starting to show what we are capable of. This show was a strong first example, but literally a snippet of future possibilities.

Popin’ Pete could walk on any runway and belt out a crazy solo for Louis Vuitton. It has to happen! On the flip side, I would love if we were inspiring models like Bella Hadid to start popping after this.

As if it wasn’t obvious that dance and fashion have historically gone well together, Marie Poppins and Like Sushi have shown us how it’s done. Together they set their visions of what street dance and runway fashion could look like and brought it to life. Runway re-imagined was part of Red Bull dance your style Weekend USA 2022 in New Orleans.

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