Streetwear: revolutionising or ruining high fashion?


You be the judge.

 Heron Preston and Virgil Abloh

Heron Preston and Virgil Abloh

 

Streetwear is currently dominating the fashion world. With more people sporting sneakers, emblazoned shirts and hoodies as statement pieces, the merging of luxury and street wear is polarising the fashion world by storm.

With hip-hop’s growth in popularity, artists of this genre such as Kanye West, A$AP Rocky and Odd Future propelled a more casual, sportswear-inspired trend into the mainstream. Mix in some skate influences and this generations’ fixation on sneakers, we present you ‘streetwear’. Nowadays, brands like Vetements, Gosha Rubchinskiy and Off-White are heavily shaping the fashion in the streets. With these brands gaining steadfast momentum, what once was an underground fashion trend has filtered its way into high fashion conglomerates.

One of streetwear’s defining moments in the high fashion industry was Virgil Abloh’s appointment as the menswear creative director at Louis Vuitton. As the founder of famous streetwear brand, Off-White, and a long-time creative director for Kanye West, Abloh has amassed a celebrity-like following of hypebeasts and hip-hop heads. During Off-White’s recent FW2019 show in Paris, fans rioted outside the venue, causing complete chaos. While fashion followers are loyal to fashion houses for their values and traditional aesthetics, more people are drawn to houses for the creative directors themselves.

Abloh’s is a reflection of how fashion is shifting to connect with the younger generation. As a creative director, he understands that changes need to be made for fashion to be relevant across generations. In an interview with GQ, Abloh compared the streetwear to the emergence of ready-to-wear by Yves Saint Laurent. “When you look at it in those terms, ‘streetwear’ is just a modern adaptation to describe the evolution,” he says.

 Kaia Gerber with Virgil Abloh at Off White 2018

Kaia Gerber with Virgil Abloh at Off White 2018

 Virgil Abloh's debut Louis Vuitton Men's collection, Spring 2019

Virgil Abloh's debut Louis Vuitton Men's collection, Spring 2019

 

However, some others in the industry think otherwise. In a GQ interview, Calvin Klein creative director, Raf Simons, says that the “guy from Off-White” neither inspires of excites him. Despite streetwear’s affinity towards Raf Simons, Simons himself says that it’s time to retire streetwear. “Of course I was part of it myself, but there are too many hoodies with prints out there,” he says.

Designer, Ralph Rucci also had some things to say about the appointment of Vetements founder, Demna Gvasialas at Balenciaga.

In a heated Instagram post, he wrote “This is the ultimate in EVERYTHING [Cristóbal Balenciaga] did not strive for. They have taken his name and have conveniently used as a springboard for such mediocrity, such tastelessness, such ugly ideas. Without balance, respect for proportion, without quality, without integrity – just the whorish greed to sell a gym shoe, a t-shirt, a back pack.”

In a hyper-consumerist industry, where spending habits of the young generation are changing, are designers scamming their consumers, or subverting from bourgeoisie ideals of high fashion?

It’s really hard to tell, especially when these designs are prone to looking lacklustre despite the insane price tag. A lot of the times, logos seem to be nonchalantly slapped on hoodies and t-shirts, and then retailed at an absurd price. The below Balenciaga hoodie, retailed at $1005, which is just one example.

 This Balenciaga jumper retails at $1005

This Balenciaga jumper retails at $1005

 Balenciaga used to look a little bit like this

Balenciaga used to look a little bit like this

 

Streetwear is an underground approach to luxury fashion that deviates from the elite. In today’s age, high fashion must cater to everyone, and streetwear is a driving force in high fashion that many just have to accept. Designers such as Abloh and Gvasialas are given seats at the table because they embody what the younger generation want. However, to be valid and respected in the industry, these designers must be more daring to think outside the box and create interesting, original pieces.

Hopefully, with influential fashion conglomerates supporting these developing designers, they are able to produce collections that are equally refreshing, subversive and relatable across generations. So far, Abloh and his debut collection at Louis Vuitton is proving to be far more conceptual than his past designs at Off-White. 


Words by Jenny Qian


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