Eighteen years ago, Supreme released a collection filled with an oddly familiar print: a blatant copy of the iconic monogram of Louis Vuitton. A few weeks later, Supreme was hit by a cease and desist letter, demanding the burning of the products. (source)
Last year, the two companies launched they’re first ever collaboration. The collection was extremely successful and marked a new era of streetwear. A small cultural phenomenon of streetwear has not only made it into the mainstream but also on the runway.
Such events are clear indicators of what street fashion has become. Now, Virgil Abloh of Off-White is at the center of Louis Vuitton menswear. Mainstream street fashion brands continue to grow, and new brands are constantly being created. Brand collaborations create lines in front of stores with new trends always emerging. Clearly, streetwear has grown into something more than a style. It has become its own culture.
As streetwear is constantly evolving, it becomes hard to define. Focusing on some important brands, here’s the story of how streetwear came to be:
You can’t tell a streetwear story if it doesn’t include Stussy. Stussy is arguably the original streetwear brand. Shawn Stussy started the brand in the 80’s in Orange County, California. The beginnings of the brand were heavily influenced by the surfing culture in southern California. The brand went from scribbling “Stussy” on surfboards to selling t-shirts, caps, and other apparel. Stussy was later popularized in hip-hop and skater/surfer culture. Some of the more well-known designs from Stussy include their use of scribble letters, the signature logo, and their references to punk and art. (source)
1993- (A Bathing Ape)
While Stussy was spreading the Californian street culture to the world, the Japanese were developing their street fashion label. A Bathing Ape or “Bape” is another brand that cannot be left out of streetwear culture. Nigo, a Japanese fashion student at the time, started the brand out in 1993 in Ura-Harajuku. His influences included The Beatles, Elvis, Beastie Boys, and Run-D.M.C. The name, A Bathing Ape, was referenced after the film Planet of the Apes. Some of the brand’s signature designs include the BAPE logo, the camo design, the shark hoodie, and many more. (source) (source2)
Supreme needs no introduction. Founded by James Jebbia in New York City in 1994, Supreme started as a skateboard clothing brand. (Fun fact: James Jebbia was working for Stussy when he founded Supreme). The first stores were designed to have skaters and related products in the store. Its influences include skateboarding, hip-hop, and rock cultures. (source) The brand was met with success as it progressed on and expanded its locations into multiple cities. Some of the most recognizable designs from Supreme include its box logo, red coloring, and collaborations with different artists.
Off-White marks the new era of streetwear. Founded in 2012 by the well-known creative Virgil Abloh, Off-White’s vision is to incorporate street fashion into high fashion. Virgil Abloh began his career in fashion working with Kanye West as an intern for Fendi. He later had the creative vision to “add an intellectual layer” to streetwear and founded Pyrex, which was an early experimental version of Off-White. He then established Off-White as his brand. Some of the best-known designs of Off-White include their use of quotes, prints, and deconstruction. (source)
VETEMENTS, which translates into “clothing,” is a brand that tests the limits of clothing itself. Like Off-White, Vetements also combines many aspects of street fashion and high fashion. Founded in 2014 by Demna Gvasalia and individuals with much experience in the high fashion industry, Vetements shocked the fashion industry right from the beginning. Since its birth, Vetements has successfully placed itself on the center of street fashion. Their designs are known for deconstructed denim, oversized hoodies, and its collaborations. (source)
(UCLA students in Supreme and Bape)
Other than the few brands I mentioned, there is much more to explore in streetwear or street fashion. Street style is evolving as we constantly look for new ways of expression. We should all be excited for what is next in streetwear.