This week, we discussed whether streetwear was actually dead, primarily through the lens of visionary creative Virgil Abloh’s career and influence on the scene. Responding to his original comment in 2019 that ‘Streetwear is Dead’ which was both controversial and iconic, we looked at the rise and fall of Pyrex Vision, how Off-White brought streetwear to the high fashion runways in Paris, and how his comment was mostly taken out of context.
So, ICYMI – no, streetwear is not dead, fashion just engulfed it. Luxury houses have seen the success that streetwear enjoyed, due to its authenticity, fostering of community and culture, and relatability – aiming to tap that energy with appointments like Kenzo at Nigo last year, and Virgil at Louis Vuitton back in 2018. Even if creative directors are not originally ‘streetwear’ designers now, there is a shared understanding that to be at the helm of a brand in today’s age is to understand streetwear and its integration into the wider fashion scene – and an expectation that elements of streetwear will work their way into collections consciously or not.
Weighing in on the discussion, the CULTED community had some valid points to add.
“Streetwear has just been gentrified unfortunately to out-price the community which created it in the first place – but it will never be dead. These designer brands can try but they will always come back to these people for inspiration and future trends”.
Sandy hit the nail on the head with this one, really. With the amalgamation of streetwear into the luxury sphere, there is also an important recognition that the same tropes that houses were desperate to tap, end up becoming something else entirely when slapped with a luxury price tag. Although many leaders of the streetwear field continue to pump efforts into their own, original brands, there’s no denying that a Louis Vuitton drop-shouldered suit just won’t be accessible to the people who pioneered that style of oversized tailoring before it hit the catwalk. Elaborating further to us, Sandy added that “as much as designer brands try and keep it out of reach making it something of ‘luxury’ and ‘status’, they will always come back to the same community for inspiration”. In essence – it can’t be dead as it will always prevail.
“But if street style is now in high fashion, doesn’t this mean it’s not street style anymore? Like, by definition…”
Building on the sentiment above, Natalia also raises a valid point. Here, she hints at the central contradiction in this whole debate: is streetwear as we know it dead, has it just been renamed, or are we making a fuss about nothing? Plus, she’s right – it’s all in the name. Somehow ‘catwalk-wear’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.
“It’s not dead it’s just mainstream, it’s harder to be an individual if we are all wearing the same thing and if your into your fashion and paying £400 for a babe t shirt you don’t want to see a new collection with a luxury brand and bape dropping an exact version of your new vintage top?”
Coming down firmly on the same side of the argument, @girlinawardrobe__ acknowledged the erasure of individuality that comes with streetwear being amalgamated into ‘mainstream’ fashion. Then comes the frustration – if you’ve done the work in selecting the perfect archival piece, brands looking to the same archives to reproduce and re-popularise a once sacred design just won’t hit the same. It’s like the reboot of Gossip Girl – interesting enough to pique your interest, but leaving you with a lingering sense of frustration and nostalgia for ‘the original’.
“Surprised I didn’t see anything about shayne in there. If anyone brought the streets to high fashion he’s definitely in the conversation imo!”
Femi also hit the mark with this one. Whilst we were looking at the topic primarily through the lens of Virgil, it’s important to recognise that he wasn’t the only one engineering this shift! Pioneers like Shayne Oliver with Hood By Air were instrumental in streetwear’s eventual amalgamation into the high fashion space – you only have to look at Riri’s full Hood By Air fit at the 2016 VMAs (and resulting spike in popularity) to see it. Thanks, Femi.
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