Breaking the boundary between streetwear and luxury.
Streetwear is a very specific part of the fashion community that has always attracted a certain group of people, but throughout the past decade we have seen brands taking on the challenge of bridging the gap between streetwear and what you would consider “luxury”. Since the 1990’s when streetwear peaked, we have seen a higher demand by consumers for streetwear clothing, sometimes more-so than these luxury fashion houses which have always been at the forefront of the fashion industry. But now, it seems like these streetwear brands are turning in to super-brands, lining up right next to brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton in places such as Selfridges and Harrods. So, the question is, how much are these new streetwear-turned-superbrands changing the fashion industry?
It is said that streetwear was formed from several different cultures, with Californian skaters and New York high-hop being the two main elements coming together to create what we now define ‘streetwear’ as. Casual clothing, oversized t-shirts, baggy jeans, colourful trainers – there are so many trends that have come back in to the fashion industry, all deriving from the massive influence of these streetwear brands. Looking at brands that were massive between the 80’s and 90’s within the community, such as Billabong, Oakley and Airwalk to name a few, these brands are still around today, but are nothing compared to modern streetwear brands.
This is because these modern streetwear brands know how to make the most out of their tools given to them. The increase in popularity of social media means that brands are able to provide non-stop advertising towards their consumers, and with the technology advancing like there’s no tomorrow, brands know exactly who their customers are and how to target each one of them individually. This means that any brand can be up there with the luxury fashion houses if they know how to do it right, and especially if their releases are exclusive.
Brands releasing a limited number of stock is a trend that has aced not only the streetwear market, but the fashion market as a whole. Streetwear brands such as Supreme and Palace have always been known for “dropping” their latest set of clothing, having an exclusive number released, which drives sales as their clothes are in high-demand. It’s a simple marketing strategy which these streetwear brands are doing right, gaining attention from a bigger audience of people, and it has encouraged many other brands to do the exact same. Even brands in which you wouldn’t expect, such as Nike and Adidas, are starting to join in with this trend within the streetwear industry, as they are seeing how successful it is making these brands.
These modern streetwear brands are now on-par with the luxury fashion houses which we are so used to being at the forefront of the fashion industry, as people follow the crowds, and people want to look the best. And looking the best is defined with having exclusive pieces of clothing which a lot of people can only dream of having, according to today’s society. Nowadays you are probably more likely going to see someone wearing a rare Supreme t-shirt than a “luxury” Rick Owens t-shirt which costs the same price, for example. This is because these brands, such as Supreme, are now seen within the fashion industry as more of a luxury than these brands which have been around for some time now. Even these brands such as Stüssy, Billionaire Boys Club and A Bathing Ape are what the younger generation of the fashion industry are wanting to wear, with this also through several celebrity endorsements on social media.
One of the main brands changing the way we dress would have to be Off-White, with founder Virgil Abloh proving that streetwear is the new luxury. Founded in 2012 and with its headquarters in Milan, Italy, Off-White has skyrocketed straight to the top of the fashion industry, so much so that since March 2018 Abloh has been the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection. Louis Vuitton was a brand that needed revamping as it had fierce competition from other major brands such as Gucci, and so their number one target was a streetwear designer. Virgil Abloh has been able make the brand his own, with this showing that even the biggest of the biggest brands are looking at incorporating streetwear to boost their sales.
These streetwear-turned-superbrands are changing the fashion industry so much so that they are the ones going straight to the top of the fashion hierarchy, competing with various other luxury brands. This being said, what actually defines a luxury brand nowadays?
Written by Matthew Nicoll