Friday, July 14, 2006

Street Wear vs. Fashion

^^"People in the streetwear scene are fake assholes too."

I admire Julie of Almost Girls attempt to sort out the differences between street and fashion in the above video, in which she gets a street style makeover. In the video, Leah, who does the makeover and is one of the crew behind Married to the Mob street label, tells Julie that she doesn't see any difference between streetwear and fashion labels.

I think there is something to be said for that. I look at a lot of street labels, like Married to the Mob, for example, and I do see your basic apparel label, albeit one that is riffing off of current hot trends to make its name. If Leah and her partners don't get bored and they get investors and the right kind of publicity (which, hey, let's not pretend--is a very rare troika), they could easily blow up as a brand.

I started to articulate this difference in an earlier post, but I do think street wear is a commercial step up from a more organically inspired urban style, which truly had its roots on the streets of the hood. Way back in the 80s, before MTV was dissecting hip-hop's every move, cats in the hood were wearing their Superstars sans laces and that was inspired not by any runway or design collaboration or sneaker boutique, but by guys coming out of the prison system. I remember in the early nineties seeing the return of do-rags as a trend, and again, I don't know who inspired that, but it wasn't Complex magazine.

[And on a side note, I do think that streetwear is a description that was cooked up for hat guys who were finally feeling comfortable embracing their inner fashionisto, but needed a more macho descriptive that was set apart from the girl world of fashion. Let's face it folks, while Married to the Mob designs for girls, the vast vast majority of street labels are for the dudes.]

And you can crack on the increasing irrelevance of brands like Rocawear, FUBU and even the now extinct Cross Colours all you want, but the truth is, today's hottest streetwear designers and customers strike me as having much less of a connection to the street than the founders of those now passe labels do.

As for all those kids that wait in line for the latest LE (limited edition) Nike, well, I just I interviewed a bunch of collectors and most of them consider that linewaiter to be somehow not quite authentic, basically a person who's trying to buy cool rather than someone who has an internal instinct for it. Still, despite protests from the OG collectors, I do think that that collector kid, who I like to describe as "urban aspirational," is a good representation of what has happened to hood street fashion--it's become coopted and commercialized.

I also think that because mega-brands like Nike have basically come in and put their heavy hands all over the urban/street category, it's becoming more and more difficult for trends to pop up organically from the street. This occurred to me the other day when I was chatting with a sneaker boutique owner about whether or not trail was starting to make a comeback as a footwear trend. He immediately referred to one of Nike's recent LE lines that touched on trail looks as evidence that perhaps it was returning. And I had to think, okay, so if Nike or New Balance or Adidas doesn't give it the nod with some super special, boutique-only line, can the trend not come up on its own? Is the day of a true-street inspired trend over and done with and the brands are now doing all the dictating?

And to be honest, I don't know the anser to that. I still do see little bits and pieces of authenticity, but the game just aint the same anymore. We are all an effing Nike commercial whether we like it or not, and that change--from a people-inspired, "up from the streets" movement to one that has a top-down structure strikes me as very similar to hierarchy of the traditional fashion industry. You know--the ones that street designers pretend they're rebelling against. (And funnily enough, I read a lot of political blogs, and the same accusation is being made against political bloggers--that they too are being taken up and becoming a part of the mainstream.)

And now I want to bring this back around to Julie because I have a question for her. While photographing kids in the West Village last week, naturally I passed by a lot of windows full of "fashion" brands. And I have to ask Julie, yes you, girl, does "fashion" even exist anymore? Or is it all just stuff and nonsense on the runways so that brands like Channel and Prada can turn around and fill their stores with clothes for the ladies who like to look like professionals (see Times article on fashion labels using socialites as models for details) and then make their real money on the side through licensing deals?

I ask this question seriously because not one single window I passed in Soho struck me as even the slightest bit inspiring. And I wish I hadn't been so exhausted by then cause I would have snapped a shot, but seriously, have you passed by Prada's window lately? Is that fashion?


Anonymous said...

i think that there is a difference between street wear and fashion. in my opinion street wear is a collection of clothes that are supposed to send a certain message. The street wear that i have seen is usualy closley related to graffiti, hip hop culture, or childrens nostaligia. Fashion to me has two parts, high street fashion and cat walk fashion. High street fashion is a more affordable type of catwalk fashion. This type of clothing doesnt really seem to give off a message of identity because it is what is widely worn by most people. Brands like Chanel and and Gucci etc are just a name, to me they dont seem to have anything striking about them except that they are an expensive brand. I think that Nike trainers are different to most kinds of footware that Prada would create because they make alot of varied designs that can portray a part of a persons personality if the person wearing them person wanted too, for example 'nike de la souls' could show that the person wearing them likes hip hop, or is a very colourful person. In my opinion, brands like Gucci etc dont seem to have any sort of personality, they are just an expensive name, and people that wear them most probably arent wearing them because they like the brand, but they want to show that they have money or expensive taste. People that wear brands like married to the mob, or nike etc in my opinion want to show parts of there personality in there clothing.

Haute Concept said...

Streetwear is a part of the larger beast that is fashion. It's just a subset of fashion.
It's seems odd and ironic to consider oneself anti-fashion by wearing streetwear.
The exclusivity sought by Chanel is the same sought by A Bathing Ape.
The limited edition "hot" sneaker is not really different from the limited edition "it" bag, is it?
They both appeal the the wearer for the same reasons albeit in a different context.
Just as with luxury catwalk brands, streetwear brands are selling an image and a lifestyle.
And the INTENDED consumer is readily eatting it up!

Anonymous said...

I feel bad for the interviewer, she was asking really good questions but the designer, founder, rep or whoever is such a dumbass that this interview is hard to watch all the way through. Gives streetwear a really bad name, not everyone that feels passionately about the lifestyle are this poorly spoken or inarticulate. What a shame they couldn't roll someone out that finished high school or at least could finish a sentence without snapping gum or using "like" a thousand times.

Anonymous said...

The first response to this statement was horrible in my opinion. I am also an owner of many pieces from various "Streetwear" labels, but don't find the need to romanticize the subculture or products they put out unlike yourself. Your analysis of high end fashion labels (e.g. Prada, Chanel, Gucci, etc) sounds just like something a typical consumer who is totally sold on the hype of streetwear would regurgitate. I watch tons of runway shows and to say that many of these high end labels show no creativity or personality in there designs is really ignorant of you. My assessment is that people such as yourself like "street" labels so much because unlike appreciators of high end fashion the only creativity that you can digest has to be spelled out to you with Monogram print ,or photoshopped satire conveniently silk screened on a t-shirt, crewneck, hoodie/zip up. That way you can easily couple it with regular fitting to slim fit denim, and complete said look with a pair of nike to match your top. Perhaps you could even cap it off with a fitted New Era baseball cap.

My point is that this style is getting rhetorical just like any other scene that starts off fresh then gets mass marketed and produced. To be honest many of the pieces I see lately are starting to remind me of the trash I used to see in local malls. The same trash this movement was supposed to be in contrast to. It's starting to look like a uniform, so imo designers and consumers need to step their collective games up so to speak.