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It’s been a good month for Cardi B. Last week, her record-breaking debut single, “Bodak Yellow,” took the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, dethroning Taylor Swift and making her the first female rapper to hit No 1. since Lauryn Hill in 1998. Cardi also stole the show at New York Fashion Week, popping up in the front row at Christian Siriano, Fenty x Puma, and Helmut Lang, performing at Alexander Wang’s after-party, and cosplaying Cinderella at Rihanna’s Diamond Ball.
Cardi’s newfound style-star status is as refreshing as her mainstream musical success for several reasons. The “regular degular shmegular girl from the Bronx” is a self-made star; before she was signed to Atlantic Records, she worked as an exotic dancer and was on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop. She gradually gaining notoriety thanks to her unfiltered social media presence and released a pair of mixtapes that kicked off her rap career.
Like any celebrity, what she wears is a huge part of her image (and in Cardi’s case, it’s often things like bejeweled bodysuits and oversized furs). And while her love for labels shines through in both her lyrics and her Instagram presence, you’re just as likely to see her supporting smaller designers and budget-friendly brands as dressing in head-to-toe Gucci or Balenciaga. Below, the scoop on a few of Cardi B’s fashion favorites.
This West Coast designer (and star of Basketball Wives LA) who specializes in bejeweled leggings and bodysuits is also a favorite of stars like Lil’ Kim, Blac Chyna, and Amber Rose. Prices range from around $50 for a strappy swimsuit or lace bodysuit to more than $1,000 for a sequined gown — and in addition to a plus-size collection, Brinks also offers custom sizing upon request.
Pictured: Angel Brinks Pastelli Bodysuit, $395
Out recently dubbed Cowan “fashion’s rising king of camp,” and it’s easy to see why: His spring 2018 show featured pink tweed chaps, “New York Loves Me” crop tops, and a cameo from RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Violet Chachki, among other surprises. A graduate of the London College of Fashion, Cowan was designing costumes for the likes of Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus before even leaving school.
LA-based FashionNova offers everything from bodycon dresses and distressed denim to shoes and activewear, all at seriously affordable prices; nearly everything’s under $50, and about 500 new styles are added every single week. The fast-fashion company works with a network of around 3,000 Instagrammers who help drive sales, posting photos of themselves in FashionNova outfits in exchange for free clothes. In Cardi’s case, however, there’s an additional incentive: The rapper has said that the brand pays her $20,000 per month to promote its clothing.
Pictured: FashionNova Galant Velvet Dress, $32.99
After discovering Cardi — where else? — on Instagram, New York designer Rio Uribe invited her to walk in his spring 2015 show. The two soon became fast friends; Uribe often creates custom pieces for Cardi and has called her his muse. Gypsy Sport has been praised for both its gender-fluid designs and its inclusive runway casting, and it took home the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize two years ago.
This Toronto-based designer focuses on footwear and fur, which she calls “weapons of mass distraction.” You’ll often spot Cardi wearing Le’s heavily embellished stilettos for both performances and press appearances. A selection of the designer’s sandals and boots are available to shop on her e-commerce site; as for the furs, those are reserved for members only.
Pictured: Jennifer Le Axl Boot, $429
Even if you’re not familiar with Kim Shui’s name, you likely know her work — that’s her green tweed set on Cardi’s “Bodak Yellow” single art. A graduate of Parsons and Central Saint Martins, Shui is known for her use of exotic skins and conceptual silhouettes. Kylie Jenner and Solange are fans of her sheer lace jumpsuits, while Cardi’s been spotted in the vinyl snap pants and snakeskin jackets.
Pictured: Kim Shui Wool Mohair Skirt, $300
This self-taught designer (and Racked favorite) got his big break in 2009 when Lady Gaga wore a pair of his signature 3D leggings to an awards show. Since then, the Queens native has dressed just about every A-lister out there, from Kim Kardashian to Serena Williams. Smith got his start as an apprentice for stylist Elizabeth Sulcer and counts André Leon Talley as his mentor.
Pictured: LaQuan Smith Elisa Maxi Dress, $300
Berlin-based designers Nan Li and Emilia Pfohl made headlines with their vagina-themed spring 2018 runway show last month, but Cardi’s been following their work for far longer. Li and Pfohl have decorated their clothes with images of everything from Leonardo DiCaprio’s crying face to Donald Trump in bondage gear — and their signature piece, the very NSFW “Dickini,” hangs proudly in Cardi B’s closet.
Cardi’s often spotted in Philadelphia native Iris Barbee Bonner’s colorfully painted pieces, which the designer hopes will empower women “to embrace their sexuality and wear their confidence as a proclamation of their liberation from labels and stereotypes.” Bonner’s responsible for the anti-slut-shaming outfits Amber Rose and Blac Chyna wore to the 2015 VMAs, and Sex and the City costume designer Patricia Field is also a fan.
Pictured: ThesePinkLips Goal Digger Jumpsuit, $600
Zana Bayne’s “post-fetish” leather designs have popped up in Beyoncé performances, Taylor Swift music videos, and more. Bayne’s most famous for her harnesses, although Cardi’s been known to step out in head-to-toe looks from the line. Not quite ready to wear an all-leather outfit? Start small with one of Bayne’s hardware-adorned handbags or chokers instead.
Pictured: Zana Bayne Bullet Bustier, $550