If you are interested in listening to the audio interview, click here
The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion Documentary recently had its debut on Netflix on July 22nd. This documentary profiles Black visionaries in fashion who rewrote narratives on the runway and turned hip-hop style into a global phenomenon. The documentary features interviews with hip-hop fashion pioneers Misa Hylton, April Walker, Kerby Jean-Raymond and Dapper Dan. We had the exceptional opportunity to sit down with both directors (Lisa Cortés & Farah Z. Khalid) and talk about the film, social justice, and the social, positive impact of the genre of hip-hop.
PositiveVibesMag: How did you both end up directing this film? How did you end up getting involved in this project?
Lisa Cortés: This project came to us through Tribeca Studios and MCM. They were looking for storytellers to submit ideas about fashion and women. We pitched them this story on how these women who have had such a tremendous impact who were very well known in some circles, but really did not have the complete recognition based on the significance of their contributions.
Farah Z. Khalid: How I got involved is our amazing co-producer Hilary Cutter and Lisa were working together. Lisa was looking for an editor-director, so Hillary brought me on and introduced me to Lisa. She told me about the story, and I was hooked. It sounded like an amazing opportunity to tell a story of unsung heroes.
PositiveVibesMag: What was your experience like directing the movie? What was your favorite part? What was, maybe, the most challenging?
Farah Z. Khalid: In documentaries, what is always challenging is when you come into it with a story that you want to tell that is based on real life. The story that you can tell is not always the same and it is about changing and opening your mind to see that this is what we have. We went into it with an idea on how we wanted to tell this story about Misa Hylton. As we were going along interviewing other people, we learned about impacting individuals like April Walker and Dapper Dan. We learned about all these other stories that kept coming up, allowing us to expand the one narrative we had into a whole experience. It was an entire generation that had these amazing stories that people today do not know.
Lisa Cortés: You know, without giving a spoiler alert, there are some things that happened that were not scripted but allowed us to have a beautiful summation of one of our character’s journey. I think for that to unfold for us in real time was a really great experience. Being able to shoot internationally like in Korea and the United Kingdom showed us how long the reach is of the culture of music and fashion; of the intersection by people whose first language is not English. But they have found a voice and representation through the creativity and legacy of the people that are featured in the film.
PositiveVibesMag: When you were first brought on the project, did you know you were going to travel to these places or was that a surprise?
Lisa Cortés: I think there was a desire to travel because it’s important in telling the history not only to frame what’s happening now, but to show that these seeds that have been planted always have a long reach. They are not just three blocks that had an impact. The impact goes from 125th Street to Tokyo, Seoul, Brixton, and Moscow – if we wanted to go there. I think it is also a story that is very universal for creative people, and represents what it means to have a dream and be committed to it. That story is something that is not limited to just the United States. To truly think literally and figuratively on showing the universal reach and component of creativity was important.
PositiveVibesMag: What do you think you learned through the whole experience directing the film?
Farah Z. Khalid: Oh, so much! Me, personally, I was not too aware of any of these stories. I do not come from a hip-hop background. As we were going through the process of filming and interviewing, I kind of watched it as an outsider as the process was unfolding. I was learning so much about people like Misa Hylton, who are so relevant to everything we see today which is mainstream culture. Hip-hop culture is mainstream culture, and for me who did not know someone like Misa Hylton existed, it just made me want to explore more. Everyone we interviewed was just another retelling of all these stories that have not been told. They are so relevant to everything we see outside on the streets today. Besides that, I think a documentary is just such an amazing art form because you are learning as you go along. Like I said earlier how the story evolves, you are constantly learning new things, and thinking of where you could take it to the next level.
Lisa Cortés: I would just add to Farah’s comment on how one of the joys of this project was what I knew about some of these characters. I knew the exterior, but I was delighted that they allowed us access to the richness of their interior lives; candid, vulnerable moments that just increased our respect and empathy for them.
PositiveVibesMag: Awesome, that’s great! So, what were your feelings when Netflix decided to feature the film? How did that feel?
Both: Great. It was wonderful!
PositiveVibesMag: Did you imagine it getting on Netflix or a big platform like that?
Farah Z. Khalid: I think that is always the hope, right? I mean you make a film; you just want to make it the best film that it can possibly be. In the back of my mind, there was always, “Well I hope it gets out.” Initially, maybe my head was not theatrical, but with the current state of things, I do not think there would have been a better platform for it. Netflix has just been amazing, especially with the unfortunate situation we are in now. It is like people just need content and a story that is inspiring that speaks to what is going on in society right now. it all came together as it was meant to be.
Lisa Cortés: We are getting notes from people all over the world who are reaching out to us. That speaks to the power of the story and platform that allows for that interaction to happen. As a producer on the project, it has always been my dream to get to as many people as possible and inspire them. Hearing from people all over the world like Africa, Australia, and New Zealand really means a lot – especially for all the hard work that everybody on the team put into it.
PositiveVibesMag: How do you think that this movie has positively impacted the hip-hop community?
Lisa Cortés: Well, I think when you see yourself as a community with the tremendous impact of your contributions, I have been hearing this from people sending me messages. It just is very affirming to the power of hip-hop as a community, an art force, and validated recognition. Validation is legitimacy. These are all things that contribute to the progress for people of color, and if the work can aid in that, then you have what it is like to have a great positive vibe* aha.
Farah Z. Khalid: I do not really have anything to add to that, but that response was so perfect.
PositiveVibesMag: Where do you see these hip-hop designers and the genre of hip-hop moving forward? Do you see a wave or a movement of more designers of color and women surfacing?
Farah Z. Khalid: I mean one can hope, right? I feel like that has always been the hope in any industry for more diversity. We have had a single voice for too long and it is time for changes to be made. Hopefully with what is going on right now in society, people are waking up. People are demanding for more people of color to have their voices heard. I hope that slowly and surely, just even something like having our film on Netflix can help be a small part in that step of diversifying voices.
Lisa Cortés: I think what is great is that Misa Hylton is the global creative ambassador with MCM, and I think we’re all staying tuned for some really exciting things to come out of that collaboration; that mutual recognition of what each of them can contribute to the product that is out there.
PositiveVibesMag: What are your next projects right now?
Farah Z. Khalid: I am currently working on editing a documentary. I am not at liberty speak about the project yet. I also have a couple of side things here and there. Things have been really put on hold because of production being slowed down but now things are starting to pick back up. Hopefully, I can speak about it more later.
Lisa Cortés: I am co-directing a documentary called, “All in the Fight for Democracy.” It is going to be released in the Fall on Amazon Studios with Liz Garbas. I am producing alongside with her and Stacey Abrams. It is about the story of voter suppression and the fight for our right to vote.
PositiveVibesMag: What are some helpful suggestions you can give for aspiring directors or people wanting to go into the entertainment industry?
Farah Z. Khalid: I think it is important to have your vision, hold true to it, and keep working at pursuing your goals. I started directing in my 20s. I was directing music videos and live concerts. I then took a sidestep to focus on editing at the time when the music industry was crashing and budgets were not there anymore. It took me quite some time to get back. I never was one that wanted to direct scripted narrative. I was always into documentaries and had always told myself that one day I would go back into directing. I wanted it to be a music or fashion-based documentary and then lo and behold, so many years later, here we go! It is about persistence and the people you know. It is about your network, being true to yourself, and building a community around you because every opportunity that comes your way, could be the next opportunity to lead you to the goal that you want.
Lisa Cortés: I would just say be forever curious. Be a student. There is always something new to learn. There is always a great new documentary to check out. The journey is not finite; it is continuously evolving. I think you should not be afraid to embrace your passion and really advocate for it, even when you feel like you are the only one who has. When things are going south, and things might disappear, do whatever you can to keep something alive, so it can come to fruition. Sometimes, I have to carry out and not alarm everyone like, “Oh it’s falling apart.,” But that is when you lean into the passion to make certain that everything that you have done has not been done for naught.
Misa Hylton, one of the most influential fashion designers in the hip-hop movement.
PositiveVibesMag: Thank you for your responses! Are there any last thoughts that we did not get to talk about that you want to bring up about the film or anything?
Lisa Cortés: I want to emphasize the incredible team it takes to realize this. Our co-producer Hillary Cutter, our writers and, other co-producers like Emil Wilbecken, Andrew Murr, and Mary Natolo at the studio. I am forever grateful. Of course, the wonderful folks in MCM, and Tribeca studios and I am probably forgetting a bunch of other people because it really took a very large village that grew to get to this place. When you look at the credits, you know there is an interaction with every single person there. Many people just really embrace this project because they resonated with the importance of the message. They did not charge their full rate – they did not charge their half rate. They just really made tremendous contributions of their creativity and of their hearts. It really helped us birth this project.
The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion Documentary is streaming on Netflix, and we encourage you to watch the film to learn about hip-hop fashion, culture, and how hip-hop has significantly impacted the music industry.
Click here if you are interested in more information about the film.
By Zane Landin