“Soul Train” exploded onto television sets at the top of the 1970s and electrified living rooms across the country. Every Saturday morning, the pioneers of popping, waacking and locking flexed moves, hairstyles, and looks so fresh that legions of fans are still hyped by their swag and paying homage to them on the dance floor.
Red Bull linked up with the show’s creative director and multi-hyphenated 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 most important message you wanted to send with the show?
Marie Poppins: Street dance has been put on the runway before; I didn’t create anything new. If you go to New York Fashion Week, Paris, London, or Milan Fashion Week, there’s been many designers creating phenomenally next-level catwalks that have incorporated poppers, breakers, voguers etc. But I’d 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,” do you get what I’m saying? The biggest part of this project for me was to showcase and bring almost every style of street dance together for one time and create a celebration of dance.
How did you bring everything together?
Marie Poppins: We are 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’d sum up their style in 3 words. All these street styles come with a specific fashion and a rich story behind them, and I wanted to ensure we showcased and told those.
What was the biggest challenge?
Marie Poppins: It hit me that I would be directing this group of dancers who are pioneers and legends of their styles. So I was hoping 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. Then secondly, the show was a live event, so we only had one shot at nailing it.
How did the music come together?
Marie Poppins: For dancers, it’s straight up – if we don’t like the music, we can’t move, we won’t dance. The most meticulous work that went into this project was the music. As a popper, I know to ask for music with a strong snare, but each one of these street dance genres has entirely different sonic desires, counts and accents. Before, I didn’t know what those 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 look at a fashion show, it has the whole story. An introduction, the story, a climax and the finale is the masterpiece. So the challenge was working out the order and maintaining 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 ensuring the transitions were clean.
What was the most surprising element?
Cody: I’ve worked with athletes, mixed martial artists, models and musicians, but this was my first time working with dancers. When the project got pitched 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 very cool. We’ve already been featuring a lot of content from the New Orleans Red Bull Dance Your Style winner, and he’s going to shoot some stuff in the studio. We definitely want to be involved more with the subculture of dance.
Marie 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 do too.
How does New Orlean’s style differ from other places?
Cody: New Orleans has a really unique style, period. I’ve traveled all over America and worked in fashion for 15 years, and there’s nothing else quite like New Orleans. People here are marching to the beat of their own drums. You have super slick and clean looks. I’m talking matching top, matching bottoms. Maybe each piece has the same hit of 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 is this mix of super colloquial and major fades.
What other things are Like Sushi up to in the community?
What was your favorite look?
Cody: I’d never met any of these people before the show, so I was looking at their IG’s and basing their styles off that. For Outrage, initially, I had him in an all-black sweat suit. He was like, “I don’t know what you think krumping is, but I’m not your typical krumper.” I like to collaborate with the people I’m styling because when people feel super fly in something, that’s when people show the clothes off best. I pulled out some other options, and we went in a totally different direction and went with a silk bowling shirt, olive trousers, black derby shoes and a trucker hat. It was easily one of my favorite looks in the show, and I couldn’t have gotten there with him if he hadn’t spoken up.
Marie 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 within yourself with what you’re wearing. For instance, as a popper, you want something a bit loose that flows with your moves. You want to wear something that inspires you and that allows you to move at your best and connect to 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 stylist so that it stays true to the designer’s vision but also plays to the dancer’s strengths. And Cody was unbelievably good at executing that.
What was your proudest takeaway from the show?
Marie Poppins: What excited me and made me proud was that everyone wanted to walk straight after the show. All the dancers from the crowd flooded the runway and started taking videos. Everyone wanted to be celebrated and flex 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?
Marie Poppins: I’ve worked as a model for many brands. Femme Fatale worked with YSL. So many dancers work with big 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’re all only getting started showing what we’re capable of doing. This show was a strong first example but literally a snippet of the future possibilities.
Popin’ Pete could walk on any runway and hit a crazy solo for Louis Vuitton. That needs to happen! On the reverse, I would love it if we were inspiring models like Bella Hadid to start popping after this.