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Streetwear's need for a new narrative

By Kristopher Fraser

Feb 19, 2020

There comes a time when every trend or moment in fashion has run its course, then we move on to the next best thing. In the late 1940s, formalwear and haute couture aesthetic ruled over popular fashion. These ideas and these looks would dominate the fashion sphere and would lead to the growth of ready-to-wear, as customers would eventually demand more accessible, lower priced, but still luxury fashions. Then of course, would come the trickle down effect. The European fashion houses would do something extravagant, it would make its way to the American boutiques and department stores, and then it would trickle down into the more affordable fashions.

Throughout modern history, contemporary fashion was also reactionary. There was the hippie movement of the sixties, the disco looks of the seventies, the emphasis on expensive clothes of the eighties, then came then '90s, otherwise known as the rise of the streetwear movement. It's particularly difficult to point to the exact origins of the streetwear movement, but it appears to have started more underground. Like many things of cultural influence in the United States, it started off as part of a culture of young, urban minority communities. From Fila sneakers to Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirts, many American brands have these communities to thank for their success.

Streetwear needs to adapt for the next decade

Then came the rise of hip-hop. Hip-hop music videos were known for their blinged out stars, with their apparel ranging from everything from Air Force One's to Gucci sweatshirts. As hip-hop worked its way toward becoming the most listened to genre of music in the world, its influence was felt everywhere from other genres of music to fashion. The streetwear movement had gone from a subculture to being the DNA of brands, like Virgil Abloh's Off-White, which turned him into a household name.

It would also change the aesthetic of luxury brands including Givenchy, Balenciaga, and Fendi. In 2018 when Fendi collaborated with Fila, it was clear that streetwear culture had become the dominant force in fashion's hemisphere from high to low. One of the most shocking moments in fashion of the last decade was when Louis Vuitton selected Virgil Abloh to be their menswear artistic director. Abloh quickly took Louis Vuitton's menswear aesthetic, transforming it from a traditional Parisian luxury brand, to a luxury streetwear brand fit for the next decade. Ironically, It was Abloh who declared that streetwear would die this decade in a statement that sent shockwaves throughout the fashion industry.

While some begged to differ, and others acting like he committed sacrilege, it was clear that it was time for the fashion industry to have a much needed conversation: streetwear needs a new narrative. The likelihood that streetwear would die entirely is absolutely farfetched, but, rather, it needs to adapt. After athleisure and urban influenced fashions, what's the next frontier?

At New York Fashion Week, Dirty Pineapple offered up a new narrative in which they looked back to modern urbanites to create a new streetwear aesthetic for the decade. Suits didn't need ties, gender norms were tossed to the wind without womenswear just looking borrowed from the boys, and color combinations were odd and exciting. It's the job of streetwear to take us into the next frontier, and here was one option for where it could go.

Sustainability is also this decade's frontier for all fashion brands and trends. Brands from fast-fashion labels to furriers are selling the message of sustainability, because as consumers are reminded, we only have so long to save the planet. If streetwear can hop on the sustainability bandwagon, it is sure to continue to thrive.

Then comes the evolution of aesthetic. While athleisure came to rule so much of the streetwear aesthetic this past decade, this current decade looks to be a lot more about vintage. Don't be surprised when you see consumers pairing Alexander Wang joggers with thrifted blazers. The aesthetics of the fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties will be back, but rather than in a refashioned way, in a way that was dropped off at the thrift store and found by a price conscious, style obsessed fashionista.

So for the streetwear aficionados freaking out over the end of an era for their favorite aesthetic, calm down. Streetwear just needs to figure out where it's taking its conversation next. People are always going to want clothes, it's just time to sell them a new dream.

photos 1 and 2: courtesy of Vladimir Weinstein/BFA
photos 3: us.louisvuitton.com
photo 4: Agentry PR
photo 5: courtesy of DKNY