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THE RISE OF STREETWEAR AND HIGH-FASHION COLLABORATIONS

HOW A CONFLUENCE BETWEEN LUXURY MENSWEAR AND LAIDBACK STREETWEAR WAS BORN

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The Rise of Streetwear and High-Fashion Collaborations

How the times have changed. Back in 2000, Louis Vuitton served Supreme with a lawsuit, after the streetwear brand – doing what streetwear brands have done for years – incorporated their instantly recognisable LV monogram onto a skateboarding deck. But, over the past 17 years, Louis Vuitton loosened up, dabbling with graffiti, and collaborating with hip-hop stars, while Supreme earned some high-fashion credibility. Yet, the Louis Vuitton x Supreme collaboration doesn’t necessary mark a turning point in the divide between high-fashion menswear and streetwear and the blurred line in-between, but signifies a confluence between the two realms. It’s a path, too, that’s been carved out by other brands striving for a similar approachable-meets-selective aesthetic.

Lou Dalton x River Island  

As part of its Design Forum effort, River Island has recruited other designers to create one-off collections and approached Lou Dalton for one such collaboration. The result, appearing in 2016, is a 13-piece line of sportswear styles inspired by Perry Ogden’s Pony Kids, as well as films like The Rat Catcher and The Selfish Giant, and further came to life in a short film directed by Fred Rowson. But, while the film focuses more on the working class setting than the apparel, its concept mirrors how Dalton approached her collection. Mainly, the designer who’s been behind her own label since 2005 understands the impact colour and patterns can have on a seemingly ordinary garment, such as a T-shirt or sweatshirt, and infused them with a particular intensity, much like the birds or fire in the film, that emerges through various juxtapositions. Colour-blocking plays orange off staid grey and black, while a similar shade added to a buckle makes a standard leather belt feel less ordinary. However, between the more streetwear-influenced fare and the structured button-down and trousers, River Island’s brand remains a constant, recognisable but veering off for a brief but memorable detour.

Lou Dalton x River Island
Lou Dalton x River Island

Supreme x Comme des Garçons SHIRT 

At what point did Supreme transform from a skater line creating infinite variations on its box logo to a bona fide fashion brand? Many point to this 2012 collaboration, which essentially added Comme des Garcons’ stripe and polka dot prints to Supreme’s quintessentially streetwear pieces, like sweatshirts, tees, Vans, and a five-panel camp cap. A patterned button-down symbolises Supreme’s crossover into high fashion a few years before seriously collaborating with Louis Vuitton. But, how do you tell the lasting effect of a brand collaboration? If it moves beyond a limited-edition, one-off collection. As such, Supreme and Comme des Garcons SHIRT have managed a back-and-forth relationship since. In 2014, Comme des Garcons SHIRT referenced the New York-based brand’s past in a capsule collection, using images of now-deceased skateboarder Harold Hunter, known in pop culture’s cannon for his role in 1995’s Kids. The next year, Supreme introduced a hoodie playing one of the Japanese brand’s plaid prints off solid olive green.

Supreme x Comme des Garçons SHIRT
Supreme x Comme des Garçons SHIRT

Cole Haan x Nike x FRAGMENT 

Would you ever dare wear a sneaker as a dress shoe, or think you could effortlessly move in a pair of your best brogues? Nike and Cole Haan looked at it as a challenge when designing this collection with Hiroshi Fujiwara's FRAGMENT. Although Haan’s line has added Nike Air features to its dress shoes, its inclusion is purely for comfort. At a glance, their styles are the paradigm of a wardrobe basic. However, the trifecta’s contributions reach a point in which the LunarGrand wingtip and chukka boot work both ways. FRAGMENT’s saddle shoe stylings, pebbled leather, and glossy exterior infuse each piece with the boldness and exclusivity that appeals to the sneakerhead as much as it does to the man wanting a quality pair of shoes. Yet, the timeless silhouettes don’t stray too far into impractical territory – it’s not a stretch, then, to pair these with a suit – while Nike’s Lunarlon cushioning and contrasting outsole give it all the sneaker features – mainly, more flexibility and traction – than your typical dress shoes don’t offer.

Cole Haan x Nike x FRAGMENT
Cole Haan x Nike x FRAGMENT

Yohji Yamamoto x Adidas 

It’s safe to say that no brand collaboration has ever been this successful. Back in 2003, Adidas asked the well-known Japanese designer to create a one-off, limited-edition pair of sneakers. The style quickly sold out, and essentially starting off the whole high-end streetwear trend that would later pave the way for Hood By Air and Public School, Y-3 was born, with Yamamoto as its Creative Director. The concept continues on a strong path. Y-3’s collections haven’t lost sight of their athletic influences, sticking to standards like sweatshirts, track pants, and hoodies, but with sharp lines, geometric elements, wider silhouettes, and a stark, minimalist colour palette, they won’t be mistaken for your average gym-wearing clothes any time soon.

Yohji Yamamoto x Adidas
Yohji Yamamoto x Adidas

NikeLab x Olivier Rousteing 

Who knew the visionary behind Balmain was also an avid football fan? Part of NikeLab’s Summer of Sport series, this collaboration highlights Rousteing’s love of the game without losing his glamourous, embellished outlook that’s turned his fashion label into a red-carpet staple. Yet, much could’ve gone wrong, resulting potentially in an uninspired athletic collection or a line of beautiful yet impractical sneakers. Instead, basing the clothes and shoes around the pro footballer’s lifestyle, Rousteing has created something unique yet easily recognisable. Designed in black with several gold accents, a raglan tee, jacket, and various sneakers set the foundation with mesh and luxurious knits, while hardware, patches, and embroidery reflect the designer’s extremely distinctive sensibilities. While you might not wear it on the field, each piece has “athleisure” written all over it.

NikeLab x Olivier Rousteing
NikeLab x Olivier Rousteing

Bee Line by Mark McNairy x Billionaire Boys Club 

Collaborations, at their core, are all about finding the right balance between two aesthetics without creating something derivative. An element of surprise also needs to be there; otherwise, if you can copy and paste a few quintessential attributes together, what’s the point? That outlook could have befallen Bee Line, the 2012 collaboration between Billionaire Boys Club’s Pharrell Williams and designer Mark McNairy. Instead, what began as a partnership solely for one shoe blossomed into a line of everyday basics, partially rooted in workwear influences but infusing it with the swagger and exclusiveness that defines the BBC brand at this point. Featuring outerwear, shirts, trousers, and boots made in the U.S. and Scotland, the line opts for high-quality materials and construction without appearing overly refined; rugged, instead, might be the best adjective, particularly with its cotton duck-like materials and camouflage patterns. But, while the concept references how streetwear in the past has appropriated workwear – think skaters wearing Dickies’ work pants, for instance – it doesn’t stay in this realm for long. Prints, pops of colour, anoraks, snapbacks, and moderate colour-blocking equally appeal to the menswear blogger aspiring to reach McNairy’s level and to the streetwear aficionado obsessed with holding onto that limited-edition find.

Bee Line by Mark McNairy x Billionaire Boys Club
Bee Line by Mark McNairy x Billionaire Boys Club

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