What if Céline Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" had been dropped via No Limit Records? Or Puff Daddy really did win the fictitious golf tournament envisioned in Biggie's "Mo Money Mo Problems"? To be fair, 1997 was extra enough already. But the merch sure would be dope, as evidenced by Genius's nostalgic new apparel collection. The conceptual merch line is a tribute to all things 1997, with each piece telling a different story about the year of girl power, Bad Boy, Fiona Apple, and Funkmaster Flex. Only in this time machine, Tiger Woods tees off with Puff Daddy and Biggie fans cop Titanic on box set.
"Music (and art) isn't created in a vacuum — it's informed by its cultural context," Genius's Lila Murphy, one of the creative leads behind the 1997 Collection, tells i-D. "We wanted to shout out some memorable moments in pop culture from the period that also had ties to music." The collection toes the thin line between licensed and bootleg merch. Think fan-made Biggie tribute tees made in the wake of the rapper's death, or the Spice Girls stamping "official" on everything from Polaroid cameras to Impulse body spray. The 1997 collection's "Girl Power" hoodie — utilizing the Spice Girls font and Missy Elliott's rap bars — is a wink to this slick monetization of female empowerment.
"My Heart Will Go Uhh"
In the age of digitization and dwindling album sales, merch has become a bigger business than ever. See Pablo by Kanye West, or Purpose by Justin Bieber, who was recently hawking a $195 Marilyn Manson tee as his own line. So are OTT graphics and gothic fonts winning over music fans 20 years later. "The over-the-top Pen & Pixel style seemingly uses every Photoshop effect imaginable, and it was done at a time where this type of work was so much harder to do," Murphy says. "We really feel that this style has a place today in net art and meme culture." She notes that gothic lettering has been resurfaced on Kanye's Pablo merch and recent Gucci designs. Though Biggie's billowing silk Versace shirt in that 1997 "Hypnotize" visual will always reign supreme.
The 1997 Collection ranges from $8 to $70. Shop it on Genius's e-store.
"This World Is Bullshit"
"World's Greatest DJs"
Text Hannah Ongley
Images courtesy of Genius