The Death of Streetwear: Fashion’s Next Step
Contemporary fashion oscillates between reaction, revolution, and revelation. It is this current that drives personal-style mavens and the industry at large, from becoming monotonous and oversaturated with one particular derivative. As soon as a
particular style fulfills its life cycle, an aesthetic reaches its peak, the fashion industry is already busy creating new ones. Trends these days tend to have a slow burn. A good thing for fashion lovers and collectors, especially as the industry collectively moves towards a more conscious approach, contrary to the fast fashion mania of the aughts. With that being said, in 2019, we ask the question, what is next? Looking at the runways of Fall 2019, we think we’ve found some answers.
Streetwear in 2018 peaked as the trend du jour. Luxury houses collaborated with streetwear brands, rising to a peak with Louis Vuitton x Supreme, Burberry x Gosha Rubchinsky, the appointment of Virgil Abloh (some would say the king of streetwear) as the creative director of LV Menswear, the cultural ubiquity of Balenciaga, and so on. The luxury market zeroed in on the emergence of hip-hop and grime as the subculture of the moment, and brands began adopting its aesthetics.
Indeed, streetwear has reached its peak, and in its wake, there seems to be a cultural shift occurring. With ready-to-wear brands fully on board with the street-wear craze, luxury brands have been busy scoping the cultural underground for its antithesis. Raf Simons signaled the shift, post-show, at his Spring Summer ’19 collection, when he stated “we need a new outline, a new shape… Of course, I was part of it myself, but there are too many hoodies with prints out there. Something needs to shift.” The runways of 2019 thus far have proven this shift is well underway. Thus, we make a prediction. Streetwear is dead and the culprit that killed it is none other than old fashioned sophistication.
What could be more subversive in a sea of Balenciaga dad sneakers, supreme hats, fanny packs, and puffer jackets than a sharply tailored suit? Just look at the Fall 2019 runways for your answer: Hedi Slimane, recently appointed at the helm of Celine, sent chic tailored suiting in music-cult heritage style down the runway, skinny ties, dress shoes and all.
Over at Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh, usually revered for his streetwear creations, played with nuance, offering an anecdote that spoke to the cultural moment we’re in. “Yeah, you know, they thought it would be streetwear,” But no, the collection, rather, tackled tailoring. “It takes an intense amount of time to do something subtle,” he observed. The collection was demure and sophisticated for Abloh’s standards, a sign that even the man at the helm of streetwear knows that something needs to come next.
Thus, we see the pendulum of fashion succumb to gravity, pulled down by the weight of our collective longing for sophistication and simplicity in a sea of eclecticism, and perhaps this speaks to the cultural climate of our day. An era where an act of cultural transgression and subversion means wearing a fitted suit or a skinny trouser is surely a time of crisis.
Tom Ford, referred to as the master of fabulous excess, recently sent a comparatively pared back collection down the runway. Postshow, he told Vogue the collection was a “search for security” and a response to the culture of negativity in the world around us, especially in the United States. “I’ve never really been a designer who’s talked about a moment in time, how that’s influenced what I design, but you can’t escape the news,” the designer mused. “I feel frustrated and agitated and exhausted. And I don’t want to wear anything particularly challenging or anything particularly aggressive.”
Proenza Schouler’s FW ’19 is perhaps one of the best manifestations of this cultural moment. Robin Givhan of the Washington Post writes of the collection, “Fashion takes the mind down a new path. It forces the eye to adjust its focus, to adapt to an entirely new field of vision. Perhaps people won’t be so keen on fashion the first time they see it… But before they know it, the shape or the color combination starts looking inviting. The idea starts to seem inevitable because fashion anticipates the culture’s next step — perhaps it even nudges us to take that step a little more quickly than we would have without it.”
If the next step is anything like the rock n’ roll tailoring of Hedi Slimane’s Celine, the seductive nuance of Proenza Schouler or the elegant simplicity of Tom Ford right now, colour us pleased. The world needs more sophistication.
Cody Rooney is a Glossi Mag contribnutor.
He is a photography aficionado, masters candidate, fashion enthusiast, avid Ariana Grande fan and lover of all things aesthetically pleasing.