As staggering a lyricist as he was, The Notorious B.I.G. wasn’t only celebrated for his skills on the mic; the oversized Brooklyn MC was also known for his distinct taste in fashion.
Two of Biggie’s preferred brands were Australian clothing company Coogi (“However livin' better now / Coogi sweater now,” he raps on “Big Poppa”) and his darling Versace, the Italian makers behind the famed sunglasses with the medusa logo he rocked for his 1995 “One More Chance/Stay With Me (Remix)” video and the white tailor-made, silk shirt he wore in 1997’s “Hypnotize.”
In his short life in the limelight, the Black Frank White built a great rapport with both fashion bigwigs, popularizing the high-end corporations in the hood and becoming an urban fashion icon himself along the way… even if it meant having them make garments for him from scratch.
“They didn’t make Coogi sweaters his size,” says Daymond John, founder of FUBU and owner of Coogi. “It was two or three sweaters that he would get pieced together, and because the pattern[s] [were] so abstract it never looked like it.”
Shortly after Biggie’s death in 1997, Coogi’s demand in hip-hop declined. But lately celebrities have been sporadically sporting the colorful tops reminiscent of Big Poppa. In 2008, Flavor Flav was spotted outside MTV’s New York studios sporting a brown Coogi suit. In 2009, Jadakiss rocked a Coogi sweater the video for his tribute to Biggie, "Letter to Big" off the Notorious soundtrack. A year later, he once again relived Big’s style through a tribute photo shoot wearing a Coogi sweater and posing with a stack of money in hand.
Unlike Coogi, hip-hop maintained its devotion to Versace through the years. In 2000, Lil’ Kim sported a Versace-print wig to the line’s 2001 Spring/Summer fashion show and in 2004 Ghostface Killah wore a gold, Versace medallion for his Pretty Toney Album cover. Rick Ross rocked an unbuttoned Versace shirt during Hot 97’s Summer Jam last year, while Kanye West and Swizz Beatz, among others, were separately photographed wearing the Velvet Bomber Jacket from the Versace for H&M men's collection that dropped late last year.
In a recent interview with FADER magazine, Donatella Versace, sister to the late, great Gianni Versace and founder of the label, spoke on Big’s influence on the brand. “I loved what he was doing and how he was giving people a way to know about Versace,” she said. “I do think a lot of people started to know about Versace because of him.”
“It was right on time [to see Biggie rocking Versace],” adds Ben Wills, celebrity stylist and Editor of men’s fashion website thewelldressedman.com. “It [was] the idea of what urban luxury look[ed] like and what it [stood] for.” Big pimping.—Mariel Concepcion, reporting Amber McKenzie