The Appropriation of Streetwear

Luxury fashion is moving away from red-bottom stilettos and has become flat sneakers and baggy hoodies.

BY FRANNIE SHEN

As a child, I idolized Audrey Hepburn for her classic and sophisticated style.  I aspired to lavishly splurge on brands like Chanel, Prada, and Burberry in the future. Throughout the years, my style has grown to be more casual and minimal, but I still considered those brands to be definitive of the luxury clothing industry, with clean cuts and beautiful purses as the pinnacle of extravagance. However, this may no longer be the case in mainstream culture. It seems that what is considered to be luxury fashion is moving away from red-bottom stilettos and honey-colored trench coats to flat sneakers and baggy hoodies.

Louis Vuitton, one of the oldest and most recognizable luxury brands, recently announced Virgil Abloh as their newest Menswear designer. Abloh is most notoriously known for Off-White (his own street-wear clothing brand) and his creative collaborations with Kanye West. Though his own taste so clearly clashes with the image of luxury fashion, he has been attempting to enter this sector of the fash industry for quite some time and was finally hired by Louis Vuitton in March 2018.

Recently, streetwear brands like “Stüssy” and “Supreme” have blown up in popularity and stirred up talk in the fashion industry while the HYPEBEAST culture has become increasingly prevalent. Those who frequently shop on Rodeo Drive feel the same validity in an Off-White or Supreme T-shirt.

But what does this mean for the luxury fashion industry as a whole? Abloh’s new affiliation doesn’t just make a statement about where the LV brand is heading, but also indicates where the luxury fashion industry is headed. With the fashion industry struggling to appeal to the younger demographic, Abloh will become one of the fashion industry’s biggest influencers as he continues to bridge the gap between modern and classic luxury fashion.

It wasn’t long ago that streetwear served a very niche market especially since Supreme started as a skater brand. Now, it is being appropriated by high fashion brands and stylists. To Virgil Abloh, Supreme’s collaboration with Louis Vuitton in 2017 was the most modern thing to happen in the luxury fashion industry. Yet, many loyal Supreme customers disagreed. “It solidifies Supreme’s place in fashion, which is so stupid. They started the brand as a fuck you to fashion, and now they’ve become it,” an anonymous skater said. 

When the hype beast culture first emerged, I can’t help but remember me and my friends laughing at the absurdity. A supreme brick not only retailed for over $100, but it sold out online almost instantly.  A brick.  But this year, when my friends spent $300 each on Gucci flip flops, I found myself eyeing the shoes with huge interest.

As Gen X and Z shoppers become more interested in purchasing luxury goods, brands are shifting their mindset to creating things of high-quality, but rather unique pieces that make them stand out. It’s all about a good product. In this case, a product doesn’t necessarily mean a well-crafted sweatshirt (or a brick!) but rather, the entire culture.

It seems that now more than ever, people are buying into a régime rather than an actual item of clothing. After all, you don’t buy a plain white T-shirt from Kanye West for $120 because it’s a high-quality handcrafted garment, you buy it because you’re buying into the West lifestyle. Even when perusing through the Off-White online store, you’ll find mostly casual jackets and hoodies set at over $500.

Millennials have really shifted the fashion and culture industry: with hip-hop surpassing rock as the most dominant music genre in America, the rise of social media, and younger generations being more tolerant of individuality than any other generation. It’s not certain how long the hype beast culture will be popular but one thing is for sure. Now more than ever, individuals are given the opportunity to develop their true sense of self. As we seek our own originality, luxury designers will follow. Maybe hypebeast isn’t the trend, but self-identity and authenticity are.