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Street Values: Luxury’s Appropriation of Streetwear


Streetwear has definitely taken over—there is no question about it. Balenciaga, 

Gucci, Louis Vuitton and other traditional luxury houses have all been swept into the current of it, but how okay should we all be about that? Streetwear is a notoriously affordable, local style based in hip-hop and skate culture and has been looked down upon by luxury fashion for decades until now. The ‘low’ style of streetwear has officially trickled-up to the point where houses like Balenciaga are selling hoodies and t-shirts for upwards of $1000. How much of this is appropriation of urban life and a quick grab at millennial/GenZ wallets?


The issue for me starts with Dapper Dan. Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day was a notorious designer in the 80s and 90s, dressing rappers, gangsters, and athletic gods. He had his own boutique on 125th Street in Harlem where he produced clothes barring logos of Fendi, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and more on jackets and hoodies and t-shirts. Day did all of this during the height of the War on Drugs, back when a black man wouldn’t even be let inside a 5th avenue store; he created a 

place for luxury streetwear that welcomed all. But it was short lived as the boutique became plagued with lawsuits from Fendi over copyright infringement. Eventually, luxury houses chased the fashion outlaw out of business in 1992.

Then in May of last year, Gucci showed a fur paneled bomber jacket featuring the double G logo (right) that looked painstakingly similar to one of Dapper Dan’s creations (left). The luxury house cited it as an ‘homage’ rather than appropriation but doesn’t it seem unfair that when Gucci steals from Day, it’s a compliment and when Day does it, he is put out of business? Kim Jones did a very similar thing by collabing with Supreme because in the beginning of the 2000s, Louis Vuitton sued Supreme over stealing their logo. How come now streetwear is being allowed in luxury houses when only a decade or two ago, they were snubbed?


The obvious answer is money. Millennials and GenZers have proven to have deep wallets when it comes to luxury fashion and they are only growing in importance; the Business of Fashion states that by 2025, millennials and GenZers will make up 45% of the luxury market. Brands have a clear incentive to build up brand loyalty as soon as possible and the love of the younger generations and streetwear is intense. And it is definitely working—Balenciaga, currently headed by Demna Gvasalia, the founder of the 

streetwear label Vetements, is the fastest growing brand in the luxury conglomerate Kering and has been since 2017. Luxury streetwear clearly has a market and fashion houses are ready to tap into it.

Ana Andjelic, SVP and Global Strategy Director at Havas LuxHub—a luxury fashion consultancy—may have said it best when she spoke to Complex: “It’s like, ‘I’m [luxury fashion designers] going to take references, mix them and make them my own, but I don’t have any appreciation for the street to really understand that it’s an actual mixture of music, of street artists, of the local, interesting people…’ It’s very fashionable to be street.” So Alessandro Michele takes from Dapper Dan; Kim Jones collabs with Supreme, but they do not fully realize what streetwear was built out of. They cheapen the roots of by-word-of-mouth stores that belonged to a subculture of people who knew what Supreme and Thrasher were beyond a cool logo by printing out $1000 sweatshirts.


The rise of streetwear has not been all bad; Gucci collabed with Dapper Dan to open a new appointment-only, hand-crafted store. There has been a rise of bedroom designers producing their own streetwear designs, but alongside the soaring prices of luxury streetwear, luxury houses may be nearing their Icarus moment—if Paris Haute Couture week showed us anything, it’s that streetwear isn’t the only option.


Read more Fashion articles at Cliché Magazine
Street Values: Luxury’s Appropriation of Streetwear; Images Credits: @dapperdan , @balenciaga on Instagram ; Pietro D’Aprano from Getty Images; and @vetements on Instagram

High Fashion’s Coup of “Low Fashion”


Last Spring the internet blew up after Balenciaga released a $2,1245 bag that looked eerily similar to Ikea’s iconic blue bag (99¢). It seemed like everyone had something to say about the luxury brand taking over something so quintessentially lowbrow. However, the blending of low and high fashion has been on the rise over the past few years with companies like Moschino debuting a runway inspired by McDonald’s, Louis Vuitton producing their own version of the classic Chinatown shopping bag, and more. As streetwear rises up from Instagram and reaches the runway, it is getting harder and harder to tell a luxury brand from a streetwear brand.

As digital natives begin to take over more and more of the consumer market, nothing has become so paramount to fashion brands as figuring out what they want. With the growth of social media, it is clear that irony, snark, and a certain graphic-ness is necessary for success—and no style captures those areas as well as streetwear. The traditional, high-gloss, status-defining nature of companies like Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Balenciaga has had to shift into something edgier and newer. Thus, we seem to be entering a new era where the lines between what belongs on the streets and what on the runway blur heavily.

After Balenciaga, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele may have been one of the first to capitalize on the power of streetwear sites like Highsnobiety by partnering with them to create a shoppable lookbook for Gucci’s graffiti-inspired 2017 Cruise collection. So, what once was viewed as a niche site catering to a subculture of fashion has now risen to working alongside the biggest and oldest names in fashion, and this shift has happened over the entire fashion world. Louis Vuitton recently appointed Virgil Abloh, the founder of Off-White™, an Italian streetwear label, to be their new artistic director of their menswear division. The Parisian brand also had one of the most hyped drops of 2017 after collabing with Supreme.

The bringing in of low and high culture not only creates a market that reaches out to the younger generations, but also allows companies like Balenciaga to sell sweatshirts for more than $900 as well as make headlines over $1000 shoes that look like what your dad would wear in the 80’s. However, the trickling up of low-fashion goes even further than inspiration. Saint Laurent faced serious backlash after debuting a $3,490 lipstick dress (right) that looked almost identical to a $23 Forever 21 dress (left). Thus, as they take inspiration from lower, more affordable designers, luxury brands are expecting consumers to pay much higher prices under the gauze of name-brand and higher production standards. While “the higher the price, the higher the quality” is mostly a myth, many customers are still inclined to believe it. These luxury brands take inspiration from working-class, college-age trends, recreate them, and sell them for much more profit.

While this isn’t a new practice—trickle-up fashion lead to Marc Jacobs’ attempt to take over grunge at Perry Ellis—luxury’s incorporation of streetwear has been met with mostly success. And although it is nice to see something exciting and relevant to the younger population walk the runways, one can only wonder how many collabs we can see until we get tired of watching luxury brands try to rise streetwear above where we can reach.


Read more Fashion articles at Cliché Magazine
High Fashion’s Coup of “Low Fashion”; Image credits: @balenciaga on Instagram; @hypebae on Instagram; Stylecaster on GettyImages