From L-R: KYE, Hood by Air, Baemin x KYE
On the wings of Supreme and Hood By Air’s global success, a new wave of local brands are fusing contemporary avant-garde design, the underground sensibility of street culture along with aspirations of luxury, to shape the modern fashion landscape.
A term coined in the ‘80s, ‘streetwear’ has grown to encompass elements of surf, sport, skateboarding and hip-hop cultures. But all that may be set to change, with the arrival of a few game changers like Hood By Air’s Shayne Olivier, Off-White’s Virgil Abloh or more recently, Demna Gvasalia, founder of French ‘IT’ label, Vetements, who are throwing a wrench into the street fashion blueprint with experimental sleight of hand.
Lines Blur Between High Fashion and Streetwear
It was not until recently that concepts like ‘luxury streetwear’ or ‘high-low fashion’ bounded onto the fashion radar. Which is to say, we’re seeing a greater crossover between streetwear and high-end fashion. While legacy brands such as Chanel, Gucci and Balenciaga openly flirt with elements of streetwear in their catwalk presentations — Gucci’s SS16 campaign being one such example — luxury streetwear upstarts like Vetements and Pigalle blend ‘90s-style graphics and logomania with conceptual elements borrowed from Raf Simons and Helmut Lang.
The rise of luxury streetwear signals a more enduring shift in how people dress. More fashion celebrities are ditching elaborate ensembles for an easy get-up of sweats, denim and sneakers. Some of the industry’s most influential voices have also started to embrace the growing streetwear phenomenon. Vogue, a publication that most recognise as the world’s premier fashion authority, has been one of the most outspoken proponents of this burgeoning trend. Its placement of Hood by Air, Yeezy, Gypsy Sport and Rag & Bone among the most important shows of New York Fashion Week (NYFW) is a telling sign that we’ll be seeing more of the luxury streetwear aesthetic in the months to come.
Singapore streetwear label, Mash-Up
Seoul Leads The Charge
In Seoul, where streetwear is a huge and extremely profitable industry, laidback urban clothing takes centre stage. Streetwear brands like Steve J and Yoni P, Pushbutton, KYE and Blindness dominate the runways of Seoul Fashion Week. Out on the streets, the mood is youthful and exuberant, and streetwear staples like supersized graphic tees, snapbacks and sneakers are ubiquitous amongst K-pop idols and the cities’ fashion elite.
The Transformation of a Shopping Precinct in KL
The local streetwear scene is similarly abuzz in the cosmopolitan Southeast Asian cities of Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Singapore. Prime shopping strips such as Telawi in Bangsar have been saturated with shops selling contemporary street fashion. One of the major marquee names in the business — Pestle and Mortar Clothing has opened four stores in KL carrying internationally renowned streetwear labels like Billionaire Boys Club, Crooks and Castles and The Hundreds alongside its in-house label. Latching on to the trends of #normcore and #basic fashion, more independent streetwear brands such as Supercrew KL, Wolfgang KL, Fabspy and Hundred%Store have emerged to satisfy the demand for edgy, street fashion.
Lisa Crosswhite, Designer, CHI CHI VON TANG
Challenging Conventions in Singapore
As opposed to the accessibility of brands like Supreme and Stussy, Singapore’s new guard of streetwear labels hinge their brands on exclusivity and fashion-forward design to distinguish themselves. Fashion design collective, Mash-Up, markets itself upon a relaxed lifestyle that is exhibited through irreverent graphic prints and a tongue-in-cheek attitude. The cheeky local label has even teamed up with multi-label store Actually to produce an exciting capsule collection of tees, caps and tote bags in support of Pink Dot SG — Singapore’s annual festival celebrating the freedom to love. Luxe streetwear label, CHI CHI VON TANG meanwhile delivers an empowering message alongside it’s rebel-tinged clothing.
Lisa Crosswhite, Designer of CHI CHI VON TANG shares her reasons for moving into streetwear: “Urban streetwear is the most relevant category to design in for myself and my friends… I’ve always believed this area is the one in which you’ll see the most growth and innovation in fashion! Luxury brands are moving in, making sneakers, converging with diffusion lines. Mass brands are going up. Couture is on its way out, unfortunately. And the Opening Ceremonys of the world are less alternative now.“
A large part of streetwear’s appeal stems from its rejection of conventional standards of beauty. Lisa echoes this thought: “I think the opportunity lies in translating the free-spirited culture of streetwear into elegant and well-crafted pieces that are ultra wearable. Women don’t have to look like proper ladies or sex dolls anymore. Guys don’t need to look all tucked in. We’re entering an era where character, and how you express it through your clothing, trumps stale stereotypical dressing.”
It seems we’re approaching an unrestricted age of fashion where once-established rules are commonly dismantled. The intersection of streetwear and high-end fashion has never been more prominent and the market for streetwear has evolved beyond its subculture roots to infiltrate every inch of the fashion space. As we prepare for more fashion weeks to come (Next up: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia), there’s no doubt that streetwear will make its presence seen and felt. Whether you like it or not, streetwear as it has been reinvented is here to stay.