The past few years have witnessed a significant rise in streetwear. Actually, more than just significant — it has been a colossal wave that hit the fashion industry and does not show any intentions of stopping. This style is often characterized by casual clothing and bright colors, inspired from skatewear, and has its roots in various parts of the world, from Japan to Britain to California. It is undeniable that streetwear has evolved over generations, and what started as something that was equated with cheap and easily accessible clothing for everyone; however, society’s youth is now morphing into the exact opposite. The single underlying reason for this transformation is the unfortunate integration of street style with luxury brands and high fashion.
The integration between the two seemingly polar concepts begin with the collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Supreme, along with the sudden surge in the popularity of names like Vetements and Balenciaga. Brands such as Louis Vuitton have for the longest time been known as symbols of not only wealth, but also markers to distinguish and elevate the meaning of “couture.” These names represent decades of the history of fashion and have always taken pride in the fact that they do not seem to follow the herd. However, I believe their recent work with streetwear screams the contrary.
I do not deny that the style has become so much more than just a trend — it has transformed into a culture that is ubiquitous, but eccentric at the same time. But the fact that a culture is shared by a massive group of people reflects an ideology that is larger than a single person or trend. More importantly, fashion has always helped bind communities and help translate that sentiment of belonging into an appearance, but the injection of luxury into this culture is creating an increasingly wide gap. There is now a group that partakes in the propagation of the style, not because they are emotionally attached to it, but because it has become the new cool thing. The division is a crack that soon will not be able to be filled and will radically change both worlds.
Names like Burberry and Chanel that are now visibly shifting to a more trendy image have always been associated with pieces of fashion that are in fact pieces of art on the runway. More importantly, these brands are synonymous with classy dressing that reflects the rich heritage of the brand. By merging with streetwear, they are no longer doing justice to either of the sides. At the end of the day, the streetwear domain should be dominated by those firms that share its culture and history, and luxury names do not fall in those categories. On the other hand, I also fear that companies like Burberry could end up losing their essence and it factor, the sense of elusiveness projected by their designs, shows and retail experience. If luxury names continue to merge and expand into numerous styles and areas, this sense of exclusivity would eventually fade.
Don’t get me wrong — I have no problem with streetwear as a style. There have been times where I too engage and advocate for it, but I don’t want to advocate for the mixing of ideas that do not share a common story. Fashion is more than just clothing: It is the expression of a sentiment. It is the telling of a tale, and to do so without truly belonging to that sub domain is diminishing the importance of the human and societal aspect to fashion.
Yes, the Chanel high tops sneakers and Gucci hoodies that spell “I am trendy but I can also afford the apparently finer things of life” are enticing. There has been a point in most of our lives where we want to wear the branded, yet common clothes. However, isn’t the very point of streetwear to be something that can be shared by everyone? Luxury clothing isn’t meant to echo these ideas. It’s time that we stop trying to mix oil and water.