“So long as there’s people with appreciation for the art and history of it, streetwear is here to stay and much like any other form of fashion or maybe even more so, it’s a living, breathing thing because of the community that represents it.”
Streetwear – not to be mistaken for streetstyle – is a form of expression through fashion that’s been around for decades. Evolving in the streets, streetwear represents the identity of a community. It’s influenced by politics, art, music and history crafted by people for people. It’s what’s happening on the streets. It means different things, to different people, in different settings and varies across the globe, but the baseline remains the same: it’s a culture.
Over time, with the technological revolution and evolution, fashion has become one of the biggest industries in the world. As we hit the 21st century, it’s becoming boundless, seeping into all cracks and crevices of our lives. Gender norms are a thing of the past and fashion, much like its daring consumers, is becoming a fluid thing as its leading voices either become more open-minded and forward-thinking or are inevitably replaced by someone younger and fresher. The lines within the industry are blurring. Runways are taking on different forms, menswear shows feature female models, and streetwear is seeping into high fashion, where there used to be no place for it at the high tea table. The clothes that once divided fashion, are now considered mainstream and basically categorised as only graphic t-shirts and hoodies. Because that’s what people want to buy and in order to succeed as a street brand in the mainstream area, you have to follow the rules of supply and demand. If those who wear the clothes don’t demand more from the retailer, t-shirts and hoodies is what they’ll get. It was through massive retailers that some streetwear brands lost the essence of streetwear: making art that you can wear and not just making clothes to sell massively (thus contributing to the mass consumption problem).
At some point in the hot pot of fashion, streetwear was stamped with the trend label. Luxury brands have always been inspired by it just as they’re inspired by other scenes and communities that aren’t the ‘picture-perfect societal norm’ that sells Vogue magazine to middle aged housewives, such as the LGBTQI+ and drag communities. It’s no secret that the culture of drag often serves as inspiration for many Avant Garde and couture designers. They simply have more character and soul than plain old clean-cut high fashion. Designers look to ballrooms and streets for inspiration. Luxury brands are reaching out to the community and its artists for collaborations in order to appeal to a newer demographic or to simply appear as more ‘progressive’. Sneakers made their runway debuts, hip-hop artists became the faces of major fashion names and it’s no wonder why; they have a connection with their community, something runway often lacks but clearly wants. You can appreciate runway from afar, but you might not feel close to it. Yet the street culture is a part of the people who wear it and pass it on. Whereas streetwear brands can be described as lifestyle brands, reaching past the clothes, luxury is often formal and limited. With the rise of social media, luxury is now looking for relatability and they find it on the streets, where it’s easier to gauge what the potential customers want and appreciate, what sells and what flops.
Streetwear, however much the runway wants you to believe it is, isn’t a trend. It’s about heritage and culture and what you create through streetwear is something that’s meant to be timeless and not worn just that season. There’s no Spring/Summer, Autumn/Winter or Resort in streetwear. The logic behind that is simple: we all like having something that’s just ours, something no one else owns, something that gives character to style, so in order to make a lasting impact you need to dive into your creative side and make something that’s timeless and not disposable. Something that’s not just a trend but will last for generations and you can’t do that without the cultural impact and legacy that a streetwear brand has. There is no ‘after streetwear’ because streetwear isn’t going anywhere. So long as there’s people with appreciation for the art and history of it, streetwear is here to stay and much like any other form of fashion or maybe even more so, it’s a living, breathing thing because of the community that represents it. The question we should be asking ourselves instead is: what’s next for streetwear and what direction is it going to evolve in? And how can you, as a consumer, impact that by demanding more than just the mainstream?