FROM LOUIS VUITTON TO BURBERRY, EVEN THE MOST VENERABLE HOUSES ARE TAKING TO THE STREETS.
Since the birth of luxury fashion as we know it, designers have always worked with a vision of exclusivity extrapolated from the lifestyles of elites.
Ralph Lauren has made billions from casual clothes that serve up the dream of Ivy League style, while jackets and suits are marketed based on their close, or ideological, links to the old-money tailors of London’s Savile Row.
However, last year the biggest story in menswear was the unlikely collaboration between luxury French Maison Louis Vuitton, which has a history that spans three centuries, and Supreme, a New York streetwear brand with origins in the anti-corporate skate culture of the 1990s. This logo-heavy collection would have been impossible to imagine until very recently, but it spoke volumes about the style world’s current taste for streetwear. If fashion labels have become too slick and luxurious, perhaps streetwear is the antidote, seeping its way into not just mainstream fashion, but the highest echelons of it.
Leading the forefront of this streetwear-ification of luxury are designers like Abloh, Kanye West and Demna Gvasalia, whose designs for both Vetements and Balenciaga can be so mundane, yet so expensive. But when you buy luxury streetwear, you’re not paying for the most handcrafted, highest quality piece of garment, you’re buying into a subculture. It’s something you either are a part of or want to be a part of, and when you think about it, that’s what any luxury brand has always been about.
While luxury brands have always gained inspiration from underground, subculture, and streetwear style, the window of social media has brought this trend from the streets of Soho to the mainstream catwalk. That taste explains why Burberry’s latest two collections have featured many casual pieces, including baseball caps, sweatpants and Harrington jackets bearing the brand’s famous check, together with simultaneously producing other heavily branded items in collaboration with Mr Gosha Rubchinskiy, the Russian designer who is currently among the hottest names in fashion thanks to his interpretations of the kind of proudly unsophisticated streetwear that was popular when Russia first embraced capitalism in the 1990s. Most recently, Burberry hired Riccardo Tisci to help steer the brand’s turnaround efforts by lending his street-inspired style.
For luxury fashion houses, there’s a new ultimatum as they look to win over a younger set of customers. Thanks to the growth of Instagram, streetwear has had an explosion and democratised fashion for many. However, unfortunately you can’t democratise taste, resulting in casual clothes inspired by sportswear and vintage knock-offs, together with an explosion of logos. People aren’t into design right now, they’re into impact.