Luxury Streetwear: Street Style 2.0
Working in fashion, both as a designer and an educator at a college such as the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, I have to stay on top of what’s new, what’s next and keep abreast of trends or what could be a future trend.
In the last few years, I have kept a very keen investigative eye on the street and especially what “the kids are wearing.” To me, “the kids” are our students at FIDM, and they are the trendsetters. I always advise them with a wink and a nod that they don’t need to look at trend reports to see what is next. Instead, I say to them, “Just look in the mirror and at your friends!”
As a result, I have known for a while that this movement of luxury streetwear would probably become a tectonic style shift that shapes sportswear and, overall, the fashion world. For many who aren’t inside the industry looking out, the question remains, “What is luxury streetwear?”
Let’s begin with the genesis of luxury streetwear. To start, the term “streetwear” has been around for many years in the fashion world. Rooted in skate, punk and hip-hop cultures—think the Beastie Boys meets Missy Elliot meets Venice Beach—the “luxury” addendum to this combines those early streetwear origins with traditional high fashion.
Surfboard designer Shawn Stussy was one of the designers at the forefront of early luxury streetwear. Stussy took the Southern California lifestyle and T-shirt/surfwear look and added the luxury element by making his designs unique, exclusive and not cheap. Present-day streetwear sees brands as diverse as Gucci, Supreme, Moncler, Louis Vuitton, A Bathing Ape, Off-White, MSGM, Vetements, Yeezy and Adidas all embracing the luxury-streetwear style mantra. New streetwear aesthetics are hybridizing with traditional luxury goods and fundamentally reshaping the market for status symbols, resulting in a genetically different luxury world.
While luxury brands have always gained inspiration from the underground, subculture and streetwear style, for the first time top designers and brands are getting a seat at the table. Leading the forefront of this streetwear-ification of luxury are designers like Virgil Abloh, Kanye West and Demna Gvasalia.
Streetwear blends a diverse mix of styles including casual sportswear, military pieces, Americana, hip-hop influences, skate references and workwear, while designers add their own personal touches to these designs. When someone asks me, “What is luxury streetwear?” I direct them to photos of those influencers and fashionistas, caught on the street, racing from fashion show to fashion show during New York, Milan, Paris, Los Angeles or Tokyo fashion weeks. More important than the fashion mavens themselves, the perfect examples of luxury streetwear can be seen through the clothes they are wearing.
The term’s style elements are based on traditional sportswear-and-activewear staples. Hoodies, long T-shirts, puffy coats, bombers, denim and oversized anything are paired with luxury elements such as a pair of $900 dad sneakers from Balenciaga—you can thank, or blame, Demna Gvasalia for that! During a recent trip to that hautest of haute department stores in New York City, Bergdorf Goodman, I knew something significant had happened to the luxury-fashion world upon entering the shoe department.
Lo and behold, there were no 5-inch stilettos nor traditional leather loafers displayed on the front tables. In their place were big, bold and uber-expensive clunky sneakers. From Prada to Gucci and, even, Valentino, everyone was doing luxury-streetwear kicks. The same goes for fashion.
One can see the influence this movement has on even the more high-brow brands that were traditionally favored by ladies who lunch. I witnessed bold shapes, volume, colors and oversize, graffiti-like prints in the Designer Salon section and couldn’t help but wonder if they were serving luxury-streetwear tea. An oversized, bright-yellow Chanel x Pharrell hoodie with Lesage sequin embroidery? Yes, please!
Whether one realizes it or not, we are witnessing this hybridization of streetwear with luxury (I think we here in Southern California have been keener on the trend before anyone else). As the trend continues to expand, there are different elements coming together.
Stylish consumers are driven by the age-old influence of street in fashion trends; the Insta-world we live in for bolder, eye-catching, eye-disrupting imagery; a thirst—especially with the younger generations—to look as if they are customizing their looks; and more bespoke styling that blends thrift-store finds with high-end luxury items. This perfect style storm has created a countermovement to the clothing fast-fashion retail brands have sold for years. Throw all these things into the fashion mix and we have created a perfect style movement created to complement the time in which we live.