With the lines between streetwear and high fashion being deeply intertwined over the course of the last 10 years, it is crucial for designers to express a purpose, reason, and story in a collection. These key aspects are part of a more meaningful concept which is crucial for the longevity of a brand. For quite some time there has been a never-ending feedback loop between high fashion and streetwear designers in their early stages would either replicate or reinterpret pieces derived from luxury labels or rebellion against the luxury ideology. In this case, now luxury labels are trying to emulate various streetwear aesthetics to gain creditably and appeal to a younger consumer pool. Both of these practices have cost benefits which can be fruitful or ineffective based on the approach that is taken. You can look at brands like Balenciaga and Gucci which have shifted their efforts in appealing to a younger demographic by designing more entry-level streetwear-focused pieces like t-shirt, hoodies, and accessories as opposed to more atelier crafted garments. But how long will this approach last before consumers get tired of the same tasteless reconstituted products?
So it has become ever more dire to produce something with substance while being sustainably conscious. Numerous brands have sprouted from various functions which have to lend them building stories you can piece together because it is authentic and relatable enough to create a communitas feeling. I can remember brands like Southpole where I had endless pairs of jeans I would skate because of how MTV influenced me at the time. I can recount Daymond John’s Fubu (For us by us) and how it derived from an area of fashion that was being ignored by luxury houses, which happened to be the urban and hip hop community but yet they recouped much of their profits from that one demographic. I remember brands like Babyphat and Phatfarm because it was plastered on the back of every popular kid I can remember. Another one was Marc Ecko’s Ecko unlimited brand which was one of the first streetwear brands that I can associate with using the term “cut and sew” which is a term I see a lot of streetwear brands using today to separate themselves from other streetwear brands.
Only the real ones can remember childhood staples like Akademiks, SeanJohn, and Rocawear which my mom would routinely purchase from Cookies on Jamaica ave( If you know you know). I can easily name more brands but it just shows that growing up the most memorable brands are the ones that I enjoyed with like-minded people or the lines that I was ridiculed for wearing. What I loved the most about each brand is how they each had their own way of telling a story and present a feeling whether it was through a label on a piece or a commercial.
Some of the more notable contemporary designers such as Alexander McQueen and Rei Kawakubo are in the company of the greatest designers because of their ability to tell a story through clothing. For instance, Alexander McQueen’s F/W 1995 show ” Highland Rape” which still to this day is one of the most controversial shows ever conducted. McQueen’s collection consisted of pieces that were quite revealing and were torn and battered in a manner that hinted at sexual assault of some kind.
At a first glance, many people believed that his collection was promoting rape and abuse of women. Instead, it was him telling a story of how the English exploited and had taken so much from the Scottish in the 1800s. In fact, none of the pieces from the show were for sale it was more artistic expression than fashion.
Rei Kawakubo S/S 1997 ” Body meets dress, dress meets body” show not only pushed the boundaries of what the constructional portions of a garment could be, but it also challenged the traditional narrative of an ideal female body type and typical beauty standards for women. The garments from this collection consisted of dresses with tumor-like shapes that were displaced throughout the garment to disfigure the models and appear grotesque.
To get to a point where a designer can fully conceptualize a collection and tell a narrative through clothing is only something that can be developed by experience. You have to continually learn and experience life because it makes it a lot easier to retell bespoke instances in life. Don’t set boundaries, being closed-minded will only hinder you in the long run, you should never be scared to step out of your comfort zone and pull influence from these things because it is your story to tell.