The recent news of Louis Vuitton artistic director Kim Jones departure, sparked some to question weather the Italian fasion house will now swerve back into their own lane and out of that of Streetwear.
The grand unveiling of Supreme x Louis Vuitton was a watershead moment~ that signified the end of an era, well kinda so to speak. Now, the only difference between streetwear and luxury fashion is in the fine print: ie where it’s made, where it’s sold, what it costs. If you want a cotton sweatshirt with a graphic on it, you can find one from Stussy ($70) or Givenchy ($790). Plain white sneaker? Reebok's got you covered for ($75), but so does Saint Laurent for ($595). On the surface, it was a great business idea. Lines wrapped around the blocks of many a boutique stocking the pieces and items flew off of shelves. But dispute the visible success, many hardcore streetwear fans actually HATE the overall idea and practice.
From dad hats by Balenciaga, fanny packs by Hermes and hoodies and track jackets form Givenchy, luxury brands have flocked to vie for the streetwear consumers dollar. Laughably so in some cases, Givenchy went so far in stating "it’s important for Givenchy to produce these sorts of pieces, because streetwear is “part of the house’s DNA.”
Sorry but really, a 65-year-old Parisian couture house, has streetwear in the DNA now? But it's statements like these that make true streetwear fans cringe in disgust. I'm Nate the Great from Flight 214 and I would like to consider myself pretty hardcore streetwear fan, but I'm also a fan of generally fly shit. So I can appreciate when things are done right, but like many others what I don't appreciate is half ass attempts launched sole in the pursuit of cashing in. And I'm sure many of you would agree that a large part of what luxury brands have done, is just that.
Before we get too carried away, lets take a step back and explore exactly how streetwear started, and ultimately we'll break down exactly why the core ideals of streetwear and luxury brands clash so much.
For those that may not know, streetwear is generally believed to have spawned from LA surf, skateboard, and punk rock culture in late 70s and early 80s. As lore goes, Local surfboard designer Shawn Stussy began selling printed T-shirts featuring the same trademark signature he placed on his custom surfboards. Initially selling the items from his own car, and expanded sales to boutiques once his buzz picked up.
Stüssy's move into exclusive sales help shape the definition of streetwear: taking "a multi-faceted, sub culturally diverse, Southern California lifestyle-based T-shirt brand and [mimicking] the limited feel of a high-end luxury brand....and to this day those are the two most important components of what makes a brand streetwear: T-shirts and exclusivity.
Early streetwear brands took inspiration from the DIY aesthetic of punk, new wave, metal and hip hop cultures. Echoing the anti culture and ‘rough around the edges’ style of the punk rock genre itself, artists would produce their own music mixtapes, and eventually went on to produce their own T-shirts and merchandise to sell to their fans, much like Stussy himself.
Established sportswear and fashion brands attached themselves to the emerging early 80s hip hop scene, Kangol and Adidas for the first time became household names for hip hop fans thanks to artist like LL Cool J and Run DMC.
When Nike snatched up soon-to-be basketball superstar Michael Jordan from rival Adidas in 1984, this proved to be a huge turning point. It marked the start of a dominating run for the Organ based company in the urban streetwear sneaker market.
Other clothing brands like Champion, Carhartt and Timberland were also closely associated with the lifestyle, particularly on the East coast with hip hop acts like Wu-Tang Clan and Gang Starr becoming sanonamus with the look. In the mid to late 90's sports teams joined the party, lead by the popularity of teams such as the Los Angeles Raiders and Chicago Bulls to name a few. Through all this, streetwear was looked at as part of the counter culture as it were. High fashion was always the pretentious buttoned up older sibling, who was seemingly ashamed of their more care free younger brother. It's not like streetwear brands haven't tried to reach out and bridge the gap in the past, but the extended hand was always spit on and then smacked away. Dapper Dan tries to bring Gucci to the lifestyle, he gets sueded out of business, Supreme tries to incorporate the LV logo, and they too are meet with legal action.
But Streetwear persevered, rather than wallow and cry because it was not invited to the party, streetwear trew it's own proverbial party. It was through this that street-luxe was born. Brands like Vetements and Hood by Air lead the charge releasing pieces that still fit the casual/comfortable criteria of streetwear, but with a more runway inspired feel.
It was around this time that luxury brands began to take notice. After all, it's hard to ignore products selling out instantly apone release and being resold successfully for up to a 300% markup. High fashion began to spin their wheels, pondering ways to capitalize on the culture of the youth.
All of a sudden you began seeing bomber jackets, jerseys, and various sportswear being styled by classic fashion houses. Suddenly almost every luxry brand wanted to release sneaker models now as well. Then news broke of the full on official collaboration between Supreme and Louis Vuitton and open season had began.
Large logo branding was now fully embraced by luxury houses, before they preferred to use their logos in a more, understated way. Aside from accessories, most mainline offerings from luxury mainstays bear little obvious sign of the brand from which they came, aside from the label stitched into the garment's collar or waistband. Now high fashion suffers from "Logomaina", finding no qualms what so ever in making it obvious.
This brings us back to why hardcore streetwear fans take issue with high fashion hype. Remember I used the big brother little brother analogy? Well imagine a little brother who for years wanted nothing more than to run with the big bro he so idolized, but as the little brother came of age, he realized wait a min. I'm way cooler than my brother is, why do I want to kick it with him? You should pay me.
And that's the thing, big bro now needs little bro because big bro didn't become 100+ year old fashion houses without change, evolution, adaptation and accusation. Big bro now wants to capitalize on little bros large and loyal consumer base, and continue their legacy for one more generation by going after malinniels.
But for years high fashion has been sononumos with pretentious, snottiness. In the past and even now in some places, you would be auspiciously scrutinized and passive aggressively followed while shopping at best, and flat out asked to leave at worst for entering many a luxury brand store wearing streetwear apparel. It was almost as if they bluntly did not respect streetwear as a fashion genre.
Now that they see the impact that it has on the youth, they want to take notice and stake clam. For me, streetwear has always been about expression and innovation. A bold way of displaying a small piece of ones personality to the world. But with a lot of the stuff coming from some of the lux brands, it feels like it's just for profit.
Don't even get me started on the outragous price tags. I mean, it's one thing if exclusivity drives hype to a point that people are willing to pay a 3 or 400% mark up on the resell market (although that's another story for another day), but it's completely different for a hoodie to be slapped with a $795 Retail tag, simply because of the name screen printed on it. Talking to you Givencey, talking to you.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a hater some of the pieces from the old school fashion houses I actually like, and I have 0 problem with luxury streetwear brands. Brands like Fear of God, Vetements, and 424 on Fairfax pass the snuff because they actually did their homework. Not only are they able to create truly stylish clothing with high end flair, but their work feels more authentic in a way, its almost as if you can see that they have a passion for the lifestyle. Where as With the older fashion houses, it feels like it's just the next fad for them, the latest thing that the kids are into.
Overall, the fact that streetwear is now receiving tons of attention, and branching off into directions that many never could have foreseen, is a good thing. The genre is finally getting the respect it deserves, and all the additions and colabs if anything shows that it can evolve in ways necessary to continue thriving in the future.