Ever since Off-White founder Virgil Abloh became the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear, every fashion article
about streetwear’s infiltration of luxury fashion. The DJ, Kanye collaborator, and general hypewear beast has been credited with much of the shake up, but streetwear’s Trojan Horse was placed much earlier than that. From Marc Jacobs and Dapper Dan in the 90s, luxury and streetwear have been dipping their toes into each other. And yet, Marc Jacobs received checkered reviews; Fendi and other luxury houses sued Dapper Dan out of business. So what’s changed?
Kim Jones opened the Louis Vuitton streetwear door when he was appointed artistic designer of their men’s streetwear clothing department in 2011.
In his tenure, Jones did something totally unprecedented in the house’s history and collabed with Supreme. To this day, LV x Supreme is still one of the most hyped up collabs in recent fashion history, drove a 23% increase in brand searches, and brought Louis Vuitton to a more diverse audience. After that, Demna Gvasalia, the founder of Vetements–a streetwear label known for exorbitant prices and massively oversized jackets–became the artistic director of Balenciaga. Under him, Balenciaga is now the fastest growing brand in Kering. And with Kim Jones now at Dior and Virgil Abloh taking the menswear reins at Louis Vuitton, the infiltration of streetwear into luxury houses continues.
In part, this success comes from the shared ethos of luxury and streetwear. In the past, luxury was defined in its exclusivity. However, now anyone can walk into pretty much any mall and find their way to a Gucci belt, but when someone wants the new Off-White, they have to wait for the drop, and there’s no way to know how long they can get it for. It becomes a club. Beyond that, drops bring more excitement to a brand; where fashion weeks are filled with brands all showing their collections, drop allow a single brand to create hype and quickly release something without the competition or dilution.
Streetwear also captures the social media generation. In the words of Gvasalia: “The emphasis has gone from quality and craftsmanship into the uniqueness of the product. The younger generation are looking for something that stands out and makes them special rather than necessarily an amazing finish that you would find with some traditional brands.” By taking up streetwear, luxury has made itself relevant to young people. This total shake-up of the tradition luxury houses by streetwear has been rapid and excited. It’s hard to say how long the lovefest between streetwear and luxury will last, but there is no doubt that there will be lasting effects on fashion.
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Streetwear’s Infiltration of Luxury; Image Credits: @louisvuitton ; @virgilabloh ; @vetements ; @dapperdanharlem on Instagram