Asri Jasman: It’s time to move on, folks
It was Hedi Slimane’s debut collection for Celine that made me realise the extent to which streetwear has become ingrained in the current fashion zeitgeist. While almost every other fashion designer has been incorporating chunky sneakers, oversized hoodies and a heavy use of logos, Slimane’s controversial collection was a clear rejection of streetwear.
Slimane has always been an elitist in the way he designs. To get into a pair of Slimane-designed jeans requires the physique of a teenager blessed with the genes of a skinny male supermodel.
Streetwear, on the other hand, was born to be inclusive and accessible. It originated as a form of rebellion against a fashion system that was not creating the kinds of clothes that the average person on the street wanted and could afford to wear. Streetwear stemmed from an amalgamation of subcultural influences and had more to do with creatively improvising with what was available and turning it into something that spoke to a person’s individual style. There was no unreasonable need to be of a certain height or weight to be wearing streetwear; they’re relaxed and comfortable clothes meant for everyone.
Yet in its inherently anti-establishment persona, streetwear has evolved into something ironically elitist. It’s in the way that some streetwear brands, such as Supreme and Vetements, operate—supply way below demand and make fans clamour for more—that often results in ridiculous resale prices.
It’s undoubtedly a smart business model (one that some fashion houses have tried to implement), but trying to outbid a horde of other bidders for a cotton T-shirt priced way above the original retail price is silly. There’s also the fact that, usually, the designs require little to no expert craftsmanship, such that there’s absolutely no reason—except to drum up ‘hype’ and increase desirability—why they have to be made in limited quantities.
Think about it: streetwear clothes look good because of the way they’re styled together on models, and have little to do with having a unique design perspective. Pick apart the look and the individual pieces can be as uninspired as avocado ice cream—it’s okay but why though?
I mean, to be honest, I could slap a Supreme logo on a plain white Uniqlo T-shirt and you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. And yes, the same could be said of entry-level T-shirts by Fendi or Gucci. However, T-shirts don’t make up a significant share of luxury fashion brands’ merchandise mix, no matter how interwoven the two worlds have become.
This democratisation of fashion was bound to happen. Dress codes have relaxed and luxury fashion’s influence on the majority is waning. Instead of the traditional top-down approach to design where fashion houses dictate the style of the times, some fashion houses began taking reference from the streets—making luxury versions of everything from sneakers and baseball caps to hoodies and tracksuits.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Hermès has flexed its leather mastery muscle by creating T-shirts and hoodies in crocodile leather, while Fendi interpreted streetwear in all manner of luxurious furs. It’s blindly following streetwear trends that bothers me. Oversized, chunky sneakers designed to look heavily worn-out, exceptionally long belts that resemble a third leg when worn, and the never-ending list of collaborations. What happened to creating beautiful clothes that are aspirational and inspirational?
There have been countless examples of lazy designing. Fashion houses are more focused on outwitting one another with the latest It ugly sneaker than actually redefining new ways of dress. When you think you’ve seen the ugliest yet, out comes another similar version that’s bigger, bolder and designed by a fashion house that’s as far away from the streetwear scene as imaginable.
I can’t blame streetwear for fashion’s sad state. Streetwear has a definite (and categorically separate) place in fashion. But because its experiencing a boom and is now an ongoing trend, the fashion industry is milking it for all it’s worth, just to get a piece of the millennial dollar. And it has worked. According to a survey conducted by UBS Group and published in September, 85 percent of the growth in the luxury fashion market in 2017 was contributed by millennials. The survey included responses by more than 3,000 consumers across China, Europe and the US. Now that they’re hooked, can we move on?
As much as, for the life of me, I can’t quite figure out why I find myself oddly attracted to Off-White’s industrial belt, I’m hopeful that there are signs of fashion moving away from overt streetwear knock-offs. There’s Kim Jones astounding couture-laden men’s collection with Dior that’s peppered with streetwear influences, and brands such as Haider Ackermann, Dries Van Noten and Loewe that are continuously creating clothes that challenge the craftsmanship and limits of design.
There have been parts about fashion’s fascination with streetwear that I’ve liked. But it’s time to say goodbye; the hype has been overhyped for far too long.