StreetWear: A Guerrilla Movement
In my younger years, I used to find refuge in the pages of Vogue. I’d spend hours on end bonding with the beautiful strangers that lived in its glossy pages, the gorgeous clothes that the models would wear and the scenes that they’d live out in print. For me, it was quite simply amazing, unattainable, impractical but amazing nonetheless.
Despite my love for magazines and fashion as a whole I would always find myself feeling slightly disheartened by the disconnect that high fashion and the major editors had with the everyday fashion lover. You see, Jackie from Angel could never walk down the street in 15 inch platforms and a 3D printed haute couture dress. She needed something more practical, something that offered her the opportunity to express her love for clothes but didn’t directly align her with great Grace Jones. For years some content creators and major influencers in the industry appeared to ignore these pleas until sites like ‘tumblr’ and style.com in collaboration with world renowned street photographer Tommy Ton, shone a flattering light on practical fashions, some of which are affectionately known as ‘street wear’.
In the last 6 years or so, the ‘street wear’ movement has blossomed and stuck a middle finger up to the gate keepers of the industry (word to Kanye West). Beginning with a cult-like following amongst influential celebrities, ‘cool’ millennials and those that appreciate effortless chic, brands like Supreme, Billionaire Boys Club and Adidas have made their names synonymous with the in crowds that haunt infamous spots across London, New York, Tokyo, Seoul and Paris. Streetwear brands bypassed the runway and began to affirm their position based on its undeniable familiarity. These brands forced soldiers of art like Raf Simon et al to tear pages out the style bibles of civilians and repackage ‘urban’ trends into high fashion.
Today, the fashion industry (the Kering group to be specific) has created its own beast ‘Vetements’ – the ultimate high fashion ‘street wear’ designer of the moment – to lead the way, cashing in on seemingly basic trends; whether they be ‘Justin4ever’ logo embossed merchandise priced at £730 or ‘ear to the street’ items from collaborations with comeback brands like ‘Champion’ and ‘Juicy Couture’.
With basic t-shirts being priced at £525 and above, the price at first appears to be startling but it is important to always remember that fashion is a business, driven by the sense of ‘luxury’ and ‘scarcity’ and so prices will always be ‘seemingly excessive’. Why? Because the market for these items is partially fuelled by those at the final stage Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, luxury retail provides the opportunity for wealthy and for those with something to say to cover up insecurities about their higher status and scream about their apparent wealth. But perhaps the most ironic part of this growing luxury streetwear trend is “that which is ‘popularised’ is directly influencing that which is priced for its ‘rarity’”.
Luxury brands are learning lessons from the Guerrilla style come up of street wear brands but there is for me a growing concern that urban trends are being milked too hard. The ultimate test of streetwear brands will be whether or not they will be able to retain their authenticity. I personally think that they won’t. Authenticity isn’t profitable in the long run, globalisation today requires the exportation and exploitation of treasured cultures as a blood sacrifice for success. Street wear is next in line to be called up to the alter.