The growing presence of streetwear in the realm of high fashion has been influencing style trends across the world. While consumers have been mixing designer pieces with streetwear staples for decades, the prominence and popularity of streetwear brands has forced fashion houses to revisit the drawing table. By shifting the focus of new collections towards pieces that will appeal to a younger, style-hungry demographic, fashion labels are looking to more contemporary designers and influences to invoke a new form of affiliation.
Unlike luxury designer labels Chanel and Hermès that have been constructed out of a discourse that concentrates on wealth and status, the streetwear aesthetic is defined by features associated with a unique form of expression. Often a result of rebelling against the status quo or developing new artistic fads, streetwear has proved to be both a reaction to the political and cultural impact of important events and a celebration of individuality and ownership by those who wear it.
In an ode to adapting to change, many luxury labels have made efforts to improve their presence within the fashion world by appointing new creative forces behind their collections. Alessandro Michele, who took over the role as creative director of Gucci in January 2015, has been credited for taking creative risks within the company that have led to increased sales across all regions and product categories.
By combining optimistic and glitzy embellishments on clothing and leather goods, the growing popularity of street-related items like the Gucci Ace sneaker and logo T-shirts have become some of the most sought after statement pieces in the closets of today’s hypebeast consumer. Along with collaborations featuring graffiti artist troubleandrew’s Gucci Ghost and a Coco Capitán collection that includes handwritten signature phrases like ‘What are we going to do with all this future?’, the Italian brand played off popular cues in order to reach a new level of global success.
Gucci is not alone. This growing trend has been replicated across the board, with a list of successful campaigns that come in the form of a Fall ‘17 Balenciaga Presidential Campaign that pays homage to Bernie Sanders, Spring ‘18 Prada collection featuring Cloudbust sneakers and nineties technical jersey rework, and a Spring ‘18 Burberry collection that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community through new takes on the brand’s signature plaid. Presented on the runway to high fashion audiences, the messages portrayed have resonated with critics in a way that has transitioned these once luxury-affiliated brands to a more casual and practical level.
Other fads like the chunky dad sneaker have also been adopted by high fashion labels, incorporating a new element of style and comfort within their diverse collections. Although this trend can be traced back to early nineties sneakers, the Balenciaga Triple S, Gucci Rhyton, and most recently the Louis Vuitton Archlight point toward a new prominence of streetwear items that are becoming the go-to investment when looking to incorporate a high fashion element alongside one’s everyday outfit choices.
One of the most vivid examples of this shift comes in the form of French fashion label, Vetements. This unique design collective borrows popular elements from streetwear brands and incorporates an element of high fashion through branding and manufacturing. Founded in 2009, Vetements blurs this line by combining the influence that brands like Levi’s, Reebok, and Tommy Hilfiger have on the history of vintage and streetwear apparel with the consumer’s desire to affiliate within the high fashion sphere.
The recent appointment of Virgil Abloh as the new artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection is an evident recognition that efforts are being made to adapt to the evolving fashion industry. By enlisting Abloh, whose success story points to a rich history within the fashion community, many speculate how the Ghanaian-American designer will set the tone for the future of the world’s leading fashion house and its competitors.
Initially starting – and later discontinuing – the widely successful PYREX in 2013, only to launch the Milan-based OFF-WHITE brand shortly thereafter, Abloh injects a degree of consistency that many designers envy – and are eager to mirror. Transferring elements from one brand to the other, like re-purposing vintage flannels and athletic wear, the OFF-WHITE brand quickly grew in popularity through Abloh’s ability to rework signature streetwear pieces. With successful collaborations between Nike, KITH and Jimmy Choo under his belt – there is no doubt that he will be greeted at Louis Vuitton with high expectations.
As he follows in the footsteps of Mr. Kim Jones, who recently left Louis Vuitton to carry out the role of artistic director at Dior Homme, Abloh takes the reigns following the widely successful release of the 2017 Supreme x Louis Vuitton collaboration. As he maintains his position as both a designer and style influencer across the streetwear world, Abloh’s use of distinct graphics and bold design approach is expected to play a key role in his first menswear collection set to debut during Men’s fashion week in June 2018.
From graphic tees to reworked sneakers and the obvious influence of streetwear on the current landscape of high fashion, there is no doubt that this is an exciting time for self-expression, the evolution of culture, and a chance for trendsetters to make their mark in an industry that was once reserved for the wealthy and elite.