Kia Warren, one of two frontwomen of the band and brand SUSU, is conscious of the fashion used in her shows and videos, hearkening back to the interest she showed in fashion as an Observer columnist. (COURTESY OF @KIAIFANIWARREN VIA INSTAGRAM)
Kia Warren, one of two frontwomen of the band and brand SUSU, is conscious of the fashion used in her shows and videos, hearkening back to the interest she showed in fashion as an Observer columnist.

COURTESY OF @KIAIFANIWARREN VIA INSTAGRAM

Kiki’s Fashion Korner: A Surprisingly On-Trend Early ’00s Relic

Arts & Culture column offered advice to the fashion-inept with added social commentary

March 29, 2021

40th anniversary stickerIf you picked up a copy of The Observer in 2002, there’s a distinct possibility that you would come across the column Kiki’s Fashion Korner by Kia Warren, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’05. Though there are only seven installments, Kiki had the latest and trendiest style recommendations for her readers in the early aughts. Looking back, it’s fun to read about what was hot or not nearly 20 years ago.

Sure, The Observer has published recent articles on fashion. But Fordham fashion or coverage of New York Fashion Week is a paltry amount compared to what Warren wrote in just one semester. The Observer’s current columns are only in Opinions, but Observers of years past have had columnists in arts and commentary sections as well. Editors depended on Warren for consistent content for nearly every issue, which she did in the spring semester of 2002.

Warren said she started the column because The Observer lacked consistent fashion coverage — most of the arts section focused on dance, film and visual arts. She also “wanted to fully immerse myself in not only the landscape of campus life but also (and perhaps more urgently) New York City.” She wanted to connect her love of fashion “as an art form and a means of expression” to this immersion into the life of New York, so Kiki’s Fashion Korner was born.

“I definitely feel far less precious about following trends or even discussing them for that matter … I care much more about using fashion as a means of expressing your authentic self.” Kia Warren, FCLC ’05

In 2021, Warren is one of two frontwomen in a band and brand called SUSU. Her focus is on music, but she finds a way to incorporate fashion into her shows and videos and thinks carefully over her costumes for each. She now lives in Los Angeles with her partner, Tony Rand, whom she met while they both performed in “Rocktopia,” a classical-meets-rock Broadway production. It is set to return to the stage as “Rock Me Amadeus” when it is safe.

Warren’s first day of classes at Fordham was on Sept. 11, 2001. It “needless to say felt like such a horrible way to begin my college experience!” she said. “Once the dust literally settled and life at Fordham fell into swing I had some of the most memorable times of my life.”

In her first column on Jan. 31, 2002, Kiki introduces herself as the “fashion pedagogue.” Only four months after 9/11, the fashion world of New York was still reeling from the horrific tragedy, and even clothing styles became more patriotic. The early fall fashion had been romantic, full of black lace and dark capes. Suddenly, the fashion must-haves were stars and stripes, and Kiki was on board.

According to Kiki, stripes are “a means of expressing patriotism without wearing those tacky ‘I Love NY’ shirts.” Her recommendation to support the country so soon after 9/11? “WEAR STRIPES!”

Even today, Warren said that she would listen to her 20-year-old self’s fashion recommendations — “I still love a striped ensemble to this day,” she said. 

Comparing her thoughts on fashion today to back then, Warren said, “I definitely feel far less precious about following trends or even discussing them for that matter.” Now, instead of trying to be a “cool kid,” she remarked, “I care much more about using fashion as a means of expressing your authentic self.”

In a May 2002 column on summer trends, Kiki shares her thoughts on Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ clothing line and its improvement from 2001 to 2002. Combs goes from tacky to classy with cashmere and leather, as well as “newly popular newspaper boy caps and fedoras.” Kiki’s Fashion Korner predicted the popularity of fedoras in both men’s and women’s fashion for the next decade, as they went from the runway to everyday streetwear. 

Of course, by the mid-2010s, fedoras were out. Patrick Stump, Johnny Depp or Justin Timberlake wore fedoras, and they have the “worst rap” out of all hats, according to Vox. Perhaps Warren was right to say that women look better in them.

photo of newspaper page with kiki's fashion corner column from 2002
Warren wrote a Wild West-themed installment of her column in 2002, which included advice for how to style denim and fringe. (VIA THE FORDHAM UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES)

Some of Kiki’s Fashion Korner’s modern faux pas include her comments that “Bejewelled anklets = chic” and “Board shorts = flattering for all body types.” Today, board shorts are for surfer dudes or the guy who wants people to know that his dad owns a boat. 

Thankfully, in that same column, she makes the right judgments that “Spray tan or radiation induced = orange” and “Skorts = chronic wedgie.” It’s nice to know that some things haven’t changed in 20 years.

For an April Fool’s issue, Kiki answers fake fashion disasters from writers like Fey Dora and Polly S. Terr, from the wearing of plaids with patchwork to experimenting with pleather. Kiki’s recommendation to wear a little black dress on a date still stands true today: “like a compass, you can never go wrong with it.”

April 2002 also included Kiki’s Fashion Korner: Wild West edition, in which Kiki explains how to style fringe and dirty denim for an everyday look. “Seen everywhere from Ft. Lee to FCLC, the romantic blouse is the western crossover du jour … it’s also comfy and safe for those unwilling to take serious fashion risks,” Warren wrote. Her blouses may be back in style, though leather and fringe are less popular right now.

“And, at the end of the day, no matter what color sneakers we are wearing, we are all in one race: the human one.” Kia Warren in her column from The Observer’s Oct. 23, 2003, issue

In her last installment of the column on Oct. 23, 2003, Kiki came back with a slightly different angle — instead of giving her readers fashion advice, she comments on cultural fashions and the prevalence of clothes with social commentary on it. 

Perhaps Warren did not know that this would be her last column, but her last paragraph is still something to remember today: “And, at the end of the day, no matter what color sneakers we are wearing, we are all in one race: the human one.” Affirming all other peoples and cultures “will always be fashion statements that rock!”

photo of kia warren and liza colby in front of green leaves
Warren (left) with her SUSU co-frontwoman, Liza Colby. Warren does not follow fashion trends as closely as she did in college, but she still believes in the “powerful connection between color and mood/energy” and incorporates it into her musical endeavors. (COURTESY OF @KIAIFANIWARREN VIA INSTAGRAM)

She said that in her time at Fordham, she was able to attend the New York Film Festival and study female filmmakers as a part of the curriculum. Manya Steinkoler, a former Fordham professor, held roundtable discussions that Warren attended on film, psychology and more. These were “Such a brilliant experience especially as a young Black woman with rampant ideas of who I wanted to be and who I could become,” she said.

While Warren has shifted her artistic focus from fashion to music, incorporating the first into her performances, she still believes “there is a powerful connection between color and mood/energy.”

As a Fordham student, Warren took the styles from New York Fashion Week and translated them into wearable outfits. Her insights, though a product of their time, provide a look into college life in New York in the early 2000s, for better or for worse. Some of her jokes don’t land, and many fashion suggestions scream “dated” to us today. But she succeeded in giving advice to people who might see fashion on the runway and not know how to implement styles they like into regular life. However, the subliminal advice found in her column extends beyond fashion tips — they can be used as a lookbook and guide for life ambitions.



About the Contributor
Photo of JILL RICE
JILL RICE, Head Copy Editor

Jill Rice, FCLC ’22, is a copy editor who has edited for The Observer since September 2018. A classics major, she feels passionately about “who” vs. “whom,” a good concern to have for a copy editor. She enjoys figure skating and reading, but not necessarily at the same time.

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