He has been called “the Radiant Child,” and in his brief life, amassed a body of work so distinctive that it has placed him among the most iconic names in contemporary art. “I’m not an elitist but an autodidact who would like to be a part of the family of artists,” Jean-Michel Basquiat once said. Currently, Basquiat’s legacy is being interpreted through the lens of legacy luxury brand Coach, via a special collection of apparel and accessories that combines the artist’s signature style with the label’s classic silhouettes and craftsmanship.
“He just loved fashion. He wore it really, really well,” said Basquiat’s sister, Lisane, earlier this year, as her daughter, beauty entrepreneur Jessica Kelly, made her modeling debut in honor of her uncle on Coach’s runway in February. “I think he’d be thrilled about this.”
Appropriate to both the current moment and Basquiat’s rarified status as a Black artist who broke through—or down—the gates of the world of high art (with a graffiti-inspired aesthetic, no less), in his lifetime, Coach’s newest campaign features a series of video tributes to the painter, who was of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, starring an entirely Black and Brown cast.
In the colorful and highly watchable series of vignettes, brand ambassadors Michael B. Jordan and Jennifer Lopez; musician Jon Batiste; model Paloma Elsesser; model-musician Diana Gordon; viral designer Kyemah McIntyre; and Basquiat’s niece, natural beauty entrepreneur Jessica Kelly, all muse on Basquiat’s lasting impact upon their sense of identity, representation and style just in time for New York Fashion Week, which launches Sunday. All were shot by 2020 Glow Up 50 honoree Micaiah Carter.
“In a time when there was a level of whiteness and refinement, he was an individual who went against all of the constraints of what art was supposed to be,” Elsesser notes.
The collection? Well, it’s as enigmatic as the artist himself, and fans of his work won’t be disappointed. Both well-known motifs and less familiar elements of Basquiat’s work are emblazoned across T-shirts, Coach’s signature leather bags and accessories—and even a trench coat. The effect? Stylish, subversive, and, ultimately, both timeless and incredibly timely.
“It’s personal, it’s political,” Michael B. Jordan notes. “Race, power, money...it’s the struggle of the African American experience.”