From Kangol hats to Starter jackets and shell toe adidas, fashion is as important to hip-hop culture as the music. No one knows that more than the brother and sister team behind Hip Hop Closet, the boutique dedicated to the clothing and accessories that define the genre.
For 25 years, they’ve been a reliable source for the latest in hip-hop style. So I couldn’t wait to catch up with Kyiesha Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Hip Hop Closet and get a sneak peek inside their fresh space.
Born and raised in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, Kelly said the idea for Hip Hop Closet came when her brother, Malik, wanted to find a way for them to sell clothing and accessories online. With a degree in Civil Engineering from Howard University, Kelly didn’t have a fashion background. But she did have a knack for putting a plan in motion.
“I’m more of a logistics person. You give me a task, and I love trying to figure out how to get things done,” she said. “So I did my research and everyone was talking about [e-commerce websites] becoming a billion-dollar industry. So I was like, ‘Let’s get in now!’”
Realizing the economic potential of their idea, Kelly says she got lost in the logistics and made it her mission to find the best way to build a website and get products to their customers.
When it came to deciding what kind of clothing they would sell, Kelly said hip-hop-inspired fashion was the natural choice. And the growing popularity of brands like FUBU and Rocawear provided them with the perfect lane to get their business off the ground.
“We picked hip-hop because it’s who we are. It’s what we know,” she said. “At that time, there was this explosion in hip-hop fashion and we wanted to bring it to the world.”
From there, Kelly and her brother assembled a carefully curated collection of fresh gear – a combination of smaller Brooklyn-based brands, more established lines and T-shirts and sweatshirts made on-site. But some of the most popular items are the handmade sheepskin and leather coats sourced from a local manufacturer.
The stylish selection makes Hip Hop Closet a go-to supplier of fashion for photo shoots, movies, and television series, including Power, which films nearby.
As their popularity grew, Kelly said she knew they would need a space for customers to come and see the clothing up close. Their current home in Suite 607 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard includes a showroom customers can access by appointment, fitting rooms and an event space they use for everything from Instagram Live tapings to karaoke parties.
Kelly says Hip Hop Closet is meant to be safe space where hip hop enthusiasts can network and fellowship with one another in an authentic way. And as hip-hop’s popularity and influence continues to spread around the world, they have no plans of slowing down.
“Our customer is anyone who loves hip-hop culture and expressing themselves through their clothing,” she says.