Essen­tials of style

Esquire (Singapore) - - Front Page -

As much as, for the life of me, I can’t quite fig­ure out why I find my­self oddly at­tracted to Off-White’s in­dus­trial belt, I’m hope­ful that there are signs of fash­ion mov­ing away from overt streetwear knock-offs. There’s Kim Jones as­tound­ing cou­ture-laden men’s col­lec­tion with Dior that’s pep­pered with streetwear in­flu­ences, and brands such as Haider Ack­er­mann, Dries Van Noten and Loewe that are con­tin­u­ously cre­at­ing clothes that chal­lenge the crafts­man­ship and lim­its of de­sign.

There have been parts about fash­ion’s fas­ci­na­tion with streetwear that I’ve liked. But it’s time to say good­bye; the hype has been over­hyped for far too long.

E U GENE: I T WAS T HE B E ST OF T I MES, I T WAS T HE WORST OF T I MES. I work in the me­dia but my true love and pas­sion will al­ways be bas­ket­ball. I re­mem­ber be­ing a teenager, dis­cov­er­ing the peer-topeer shar­ing client, LimeWire and the trea­sure trove of Na­tional Bas­ket­ball League mix­tapes on them. For the unini­ti­ated, th­ese mix­tapes are edited video clips, show­cas­ing high­lights of NBA play­ers, set against old-school hip-hop tracks. It was in the early noughties, the land be­fore YouTube. Like a fat kid who’d been given free McDon­ald’s meals, I de­voured ev­ery mix­tape I could get my hands on, watch­ing them re­li­giously over and over again.

While my bas­ket­ball ca­reer is rel­e­gated to oc­ca­sional pick-up matches at the lo­cal com­mu­nity cen­tre, th­ese mix­tapes fu­elled my love for the sport and helped spark my sec­ond pas­sion in life: a love of hip-hop cul­ture and streetwear. Why the long walk for a short drink of wa­ter, de­scrib­ing my love for streetwear? Be­cause when I say I love ev­ery sec­ond of this wave of streetwear that has taken over the fash­ion in­dus­try, I truly mean it.

It’s not ac­cu­rate to de­scribe streetwear as a new phe­nom­e­non. Like all trends in fash­ion, it rides this huge wave of be­ing rein­tro­duced into main­stream con­scious­ness when the zeit­geist calls for it, fad­ing away when we get tired of it. Many cred­ited the rise of streetwear to the seis­mic col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween lux­ury gi­ant, Louis Vuit­ton and cult streetwear leg­end, Supreme. If this jour­nal­ist may de­fer on that pop­u­lar opin­ion, the com­ing of streetwear was the in­tro­duc­tion of ath­leisure.

It be­gan with the pair­ing of sneak­ers with suits, then tra­di­tional trousers were swapped out for jog­gers. The ties be­gan to go, with shirts fol­low­ing suit, re­placed with a T-shirt. Suit jack­ets were slowly be­ing re­placed with bomber and leather jack­ets. On hind­sight, and hind­sight be­ing 20/20, the com­ing of the streetwear age started with the call for the ca­su­al­i­sa­tion of the wardrobe, a de­sire to evolve from the cur­rent era.

That call was an­swered by Demna Gvasalia and the dis­rup­tive fash­ion la­bel Vete­ments, which he founded with his brother Gu­ram. Demna took ca­sual sta­ples like denim jeans, graphic T-shirts and hood­ies, re­worked and el­e­vated them. His ef­fect was pro­lific. Vete­ments would come to de­fine the aes­thetic of the era and help shat­ter the glass ceil­ings.

Propos­ing a new pro­por­tion and fit, mak­ing over­sized cloth­ing cool again. He didn’t sub­vert gen­der bound­aries, but rather pro­posed cloth­ing that would fit and look great on any gen­der, one that did not dis­crim­i­nate against body types.

Demna cham­pi­oned the cut-and-sew aes­thetic when he gave new life to mul­ti­ple pairs of vin­tage Levi’s jeans and sewed them back to­gether. He weaponised lo­gos with a healthy dose of irony and hu­mour, us­ing T-shirts and hood­ies as a can­vas for his prints.

He made col­lab­o­ra­tions great again. The Vete­ments spring/ sum­mer 2017 show fea­tured a to­tal of 18 col­lab­o­ra­tors, from lux­ury tai­lor­ing house Bri­oni to Ja­panese de­signer Comme des Garçons, to win­ter­wear sta­ple, Canada Goose.

Demna de­con­structed the idea of how we de­fine lux­ury, turn­ing to the streets for in­spi­ra­tion. It made Vete­ments a lot of money, got Demna hired at Ba­len­ci­aga, and opened doors for other streetwear de­sign­ers, like Vir­gil Abloh to be ap­pointed at Louis Vuit­ton. He has un­know­ingly democra­tised fash­ion and in­tro­duced a new lan­guage in how to ap­proach dress­ing.

The rise of streetwear is also boosted by the ad­vance­ment in tech­nol­ogy. With the help of sites like High­sno­bi­ety and Hype­beast, other un­der­ground streetwear la­bels have been de­mys­ti­fied. No longer do you have to be an in­sider to con­sume streetwear.

Add the rel­a­tively low retail cost of the streetwear, if you can get your hands on them. Re­sale sites like StockX, Grailed and Goat cre­ated a healthy re­sale market, mean­ing that any­body can get into the game. Get­ting your hands on a sneaker or a Supreme T-shirt is just as easy as a tai­lored suit from Dior Homme.

Cou­pled with the way we are con­sum­ing mu­sic, where rock is be­ing re­placed by hip-hop as the most lis­tened genre of mu­sic, hip-hop artists and their favoured streetwear have be­come driv­ers of cul­ture.

Like all things in life, all good things must come to an end. Streetwear has hit the point of over­sat­u­ra­tion, and like when McDon­ald’s re­leased its Hello Kitty toys, hype has man­i­fested in the worst way pos­si­ble. There is a de­sire to feed the de­mand, where mar­ket­ing and name as­so­ci­a­tions are more valu­able than de­sign. Col­lab­o­ra­tions that make zero sense take place on a daily ba­sis (Un­de­feated x BAPE x Tim­ber­land—pos­si­bly the worst). Lux­ury brands are start­ing to jump on the band­wagon and pro­duc­ing high­priced ver­sions of sim­i­lar-look­ing prod­ucts. Re­sellers are buy­ing all the stock and pric­ing them at an in­ac­ces­si­ble price point. The au­then­tic­ity is gone. Cul­ture has been re­placed by prod­ucts.

It’s not all ter­ri­ble, but it’s time for streetwear to evolve. To quote an in­ter­view Kim Jones gave to High­sno­bi­ety: “It’s time to re­tire the term streetwear.” He goes on to elab­o­rate: “You wear clothes in the street, so ev­ery­thing’s streetwear. You can wear a cou­ture gown down the street and that turns it into streetwear.” Streetwear and tai­lor­ing are just clothes, putting them into trends just makes it eas­ier to market and sell. If you were to ask me, this era was great. It helped me to find a com­mu­nity of peo­ple who en­joyed the same things I did growing up, and that’s what streetwear re­ally is.

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