For decades, the high-fashion industry has been obsessed with the appeal of the affluent class who have certainly made this world their own. They have dominated the fashion capitals of the world and inspired countless designers to pay homage to their opulent lifestyle. Along with gracing rows of magazine covers, little has seemed to change. Not until recently at least.
Along the storefront windows of Newbury St., an area comparable to New York City’s modish SoHo district, we can see bijou boutiques and mainstream luxury brands taking on a more “modern” facade. With pop-culture influencers tapping in on the once underground fashion community, the modern face of high fashion is creating a generous spot for streetwear to sit besides it.
Away from the mainstream lies a massive culture containing a distinct style: streetwear. They hold anti-corporate sentiments and often go against what the larger brands stand for. Often not receiving much spotlight from the public, this underground community noted for their interest in streetwear fashion has maintained their roots for many decades. They spur revolution and encourage youth to step away from the detriments of capitalism and authority, all the while being a place for free thought to flow without intervention from the control of money. Brands such as Supreme were once small shops that found their roots leading to skate culture, which many believe is where streetwear draws inspiration from.
Ferguson Herivaux, CEO and founder of OneGig, Boston’s skate apparel shop, has felt the true impacts of streetwear on mainstream fashion.
“Streetwear has always ruled fashion and always will,” he said.
For someone like Herivaux who has been in the business for nearly two decades, it is apparent that there are traces of urban style in luxury fashion. While for the rest of us, it is not too clean cut.
In recent years, more attention is being shed on streetwear as celebrities and social influencers who have once been a part of these communities are now rising to fame and bringing these styles with them. A staple of streetwear clothing is: sweatpants. Previously a garment worn for athletics, it can now be seen on teens as they shop along Rodeo Drive.
A trailblazer for this change can be none other than Kanye West. When he launched his Calabasas sweatpant line, they sold out within the first day, attesting to their appeal. Where money goes, the larger corporations follow. These larger brands are picking up on the success of this untouched realm of fashion and are beginning to incorporate it into their looks. A notable example is Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with Supreme, which caused major headlines.
Jayda Dang, a teen who is well-versed in this new fusion of streetwear and luxury brands finds the brand’s intentions to be very one-sided.
“Luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton began dipping their feet into the streetwear culture to satisfy their young and ‘hype’ affluent consumers,” she said.
Connor Morgan who is a stylist and selling supervisor at Gucci acknowledges the rise in attention towards this once unknown community. “Since streetwear doesn’t seem to be on any decline any time soon, Gucci will be keeping up with that specific trend by making its unique streetwear style stamp on the fashion world while it is so popular,” he said.
We continue to see this trend as even Anna Wintour herself has announced the Nike x Vogue AWOK Air Jordans collaboration. Chase Elliott, an advertising sales associate at Vogue believes them tapping in on this new style is “not a matter of staying relevant, but rather, it is about leading the next wave.”
With streetwear lines succumbing to capitalism, their prices rise with their popularity. Athletics brand Champion was once available in Walmart, but as demand for the style grew, it entered pricer shops such as Urban Outfitters.
Some teens find this impractical, such as Legacy Thornton who, “would rather thrift shop then feed into expensive materialism.” Although some teens do hold the same values as Thornton, the truth of the matter is, a majority of teens still feed into this frenzy that is creating a multibillion dollar industry. But this issue goes beyond money and into a discussion of preserving a community that once fostered creativity and comfort from the large corporations.
With these streetwear brands finding a spot within the high fashion industry which is going against their initial sentiments, the question of whether these underground communities will continue to exist, and remain safe havens for anti-capitalists, comes into question. When streetwear rises to becoming a lucrative trend, they lose their authenticity and contradict what they have been preaching for decades.