“Icy Girl” has blossomed into way more than just a catchy phrase for Saweetie. The Bay Area rapper took the lyrics from her viral 2017 debut single and flipped it into a mantra that has seeped into her personality, business deals and everyday fashion. Saweetie’s passion for unique looks shimmers just as vibrantly as her love for music, as she rocks outfits that embody her “Icy Girl” spirit: provocative, confident, independent and totally badass.
It all started from inside the home, as she attempted to mimic her mother and aunties’ “fly and fabulous” style. “Growing up with a house full of women and seeing them look good no matter what they put on every morning just inspired me to look good myself,” Saweetie tells Billboard.
The “My Type” star also looked to Kimora Lee Simmons as a fashion icon, admiring the empire she built with Baby Phat — a comtemporary brand that dominated the early ‘00s, and was recently resurrected in partnership with Forever 21 in June. “Being a young black and asian girl, seeing someone who came from the same background start her own fashion trend was inspiring,” she explains. “She made fashion week popping, and had the flyest celebrities wearing [her clothes].”
Now, Saweetie can count on her peers to rock her own clothing, as she launched her collection with Pretty Little Thing on Sept. 9. The line features velvet two-piece sets, raunchy diamante dresses, motocross-inspired prints and latex bottoms — all of which embody her dual-style of girlish tomboy. “The theme of my mood board [for this collection] was bougie and rich housewife,” the rapper, whose first foray in the industry was her “Money Makin’ Mamis” online store in college, explains. “She’s coming back home from shopping, and she’s either ironing, cleaning the pool or casually talking to her girls. And she’s leaving the house in the middle of the day to do lunch.”
The collection’s main throughline sinks deep into early-’00s nostalgia. It’s an ever-reccuring trend, recently evoked by the likes of Normani, Ariana Grande, SZA and Saweetie herself — and partly the reason why Baby Phat was relaunched with so much praise. “The fashion was fun and funky,” Saweetie says of the trend. “And I would love to go back to that. It’s cool to go into the simplicity of fashion, but I’m a very colorful person. I think it’s dope that girls like me and Normani are putting it on for young artists who are bringing that back to the culture.”
Nostalgia has also seeped into Saweetie’s performance looks this year, most of which were birthed by Sankara Xasha Ture. The stylist met the rapper by chance back in May through a photographer friend, who said Saweetie was in dire need of a last-minute outfit for Washington, D.C.’s Midnite BBQ concert. “The dancers were supposed to bring her outfit but they got stuck on the airplane,” Sankara recalls. “She needed something for that evening, and I came through with a bunch of options. They told me to hit them up whenever I come to L.A., but you never really believe that. But when I went, they really wanted me on the team!”
Using her creative arts background (she went to Howard University to study dance), Sankara continued to help Saweetie express her vision through clothing. “Growing up in the ’90s and early ’00s, we had videos that told stories,” she explains. “When we opened CDs, we would see the artists’ whole photo shoot. You may not like a song, but you see the video and may change your mind.”
The pair’s workflow is effortless: Saweetie will send Sankara a description (“I want to be in a furry robe and look like I’m being bougie at a party”) and the latter will create moodboards dotted with throwback images of powerful women like Janet Jackson and the Spice Girls. What makes each look special is found right on the clothing’s tags: The ladies aim to give underground black designers a mainstream platform in an industry that doesn’t always highlight minorities. Saweetie sharing their work with her 3.5 million Instagram followers gifts them instant recognition, reaping more benefits than waiting for a small co-sign in a magazine.
The rapper will continue building her brand, as she’s currently testing her lip gloss line to juicy perfection: “We want to make sure that if it’s sitting in your purse, it’ll look the same when you pull it out three months later.” But her biggest end goal? “I have my Icy brand, so one day when I do have the time I’ll create my own fashion line,” Saweetie reveals. “I always wanted to bring something new to the table, and make clothes for women where they feel beautiful.”
Below, both Saweetie and Sankara break down the inspiration behind some of their dopest outfits of the year (with photos exclusive to Billboard) — and the rising designers who helped bring them to life.
‘90s Ghetto Fabulous (Hot 97 Summer Jam)
Sankara: Stylist Roger Mckenzie is one of my mentors, and June Ambrose is one of his best friends. They styled a lot of videos in the ’90s, and I definitely take huge inspiration from that. The next time Saweetie was on the east coast was for Summer Jam, and she called me for that like two hours before. I mentally grew up in New York, and I made that outfit with the city in mind.
Purple Rain (Minneapolis, MN tour stop)
Saweetie: Sankara made a really good suggestion, once again. My parents both love Prince, so I’m very familiar with his catalogue. So why not pay homage to a legend? We were in Nebraska actually and was heading to Minneapolis for the next show. I don’t even know where Sankara got the materials from but she made the outfit that night. I was super impressed with her work ethic and how quick she was able to pull that off.
Sankara: I had a layover in Minneapolis and I saw a Prince store in the airport, so I thought we should do a Prince concept. So when we landed, I went to Hobby Lobby and got all of these purple feathers to make the outfit that night. I got like 10 feathered boas and a bathing suit from Target and starting gluing everything together. I know the hotel is probably very upset, because there may still be feathers all over the room! You always have to be 10 steps ahead of the artist, and step out the box with your creativity.
Airbrushed Swag (ComplexCon Chicago)
Saweetie: That was all Sankara’s idea, and I decided to put the furry bra underneath as an accent. I wanted to do something that no one else is wearing right now, and also [have it] be comfortable for me to dance in. Because if you ever came to one of my shows, girl, we hit our 1-2 steps! As far as the hair goes, we were running out of time while getting ready. I was supposed to wear my hair down and curly, but I looked in the mirror and thought I’d keep the pin curls as is with the clips in.
Sankara: That was the kickoff for the tour. I’m from Gary, Ind., which is like 30 minutes from Chicago. Back in the day, we always wear clothes with spray paint. Saweetie thought the event was Comic Con, so we almost wore the Sailor Moon costume! But I told her it’s more of an urban sneaker-based event. So I ordered the jumpsuits from Amazon and a designer named Eric Soria spray painted them the night before.
“I’m a Survivor” (Witchta, KS tour stop)
Sankara: I’ve known [designer] Domo Zillionaire for about 7 years, he was one of my first go-to designers. So I wanted to give him a major platform to showcase his work. I told him we wanted to go for a Destiny’s Child vibe. Kendra Jae, one of the main dancers, said they all wanted separate outfits but still be a unit. We wanted to tell a story.
Sailor Moon Gets Naughty (Charlottesville, VA tour stop)
Saweetie: I was actually going to save that one for Halloween. I’m trying to get out of the idea of saving things for later. It was the last day of the tour so I thought, “Let me go up there [on stage] and show out!” I loved Sailor Moon growing up; Sailor Chibi was my favorite character. The girls are fly, powerful and they saved the day. I feel like that’s what an Icy Girl is — we run shit out here. Not only is she cute, but she stands for the greater good. She loves and supports her homegirls while saving the world, so it was perfect!
Sankara: I knew that was her favorite character, so I wanted to use designer Khala Whitney (@fromgrayscale) for this since she uses a lot of PVC leather to make these corset pencil skirts. I wanted to stay true to her brand, but I also needed the skirts to move. So we made Sailor Moon panties with little buttons for the dancers and a skirt for Saweetie. We wanted to stay away for all the bows and make it a sexy Sailor Moon moment. I’ve been wanting to resell everything so the fans can buy these outfits.
Rep Your Set (Real Street Festival)
Saweetie: Of course I’m repping for the West Coast. But a lot of people were attributing [the outfit] to where I’m from and Nipsey Hussle. But I really was repping my daddy; he’s a crip. [Laughs.] So I wanted to save this look for a super west coast event. I showed it to him and he was so excited. I had gotten a lot of slack from people saying, “Why is she trying to gang bang?” Baby, I’m not gang banging, I’m just affiliated. So don’t get it twisted!
Sankara: A Houston designer named Nicolette actually sent me those bandana shoes. Since we were in LA, Saweetie wanted to pay homage to her father. We were doing so many girly moments, so we decided to make this one more tomgirl. I requested for Brittany Ellis to design this really dramatic du-rag that hits the floor. During the festival, Saweetie’s feet were hurting and luckily I had some extra Vans for her to change in.