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Streetwear? How about we just call it fashion...

As the street fashion phenomenon continues to thrive (and Virgil Abloh looks set for world domination), we take a look at the agenda-setting brands that are redefining the meaning of streetwear.

Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh – top and trousers / Faith Connexion – Kappa jersey jacket / Tods – trainers

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In the Designer Studio – the forward-looking space at Selfridges London where £40 Champion T-shirts meet Christopher Kane gowns worth £3,000 – something interesting is happening. This season has seen the introduction of more than 20 new brands to the space (Heron Preston, Fear of God and Amiri among them), with many more joining over the coming months (including A Cold Wall, Ader Error and Rokh). The fact that the majority of these new recruits have a distinctly street-led sensibility (as opposed to high fashion) demonstrates the changing fashion tides. “You just have to look at what’s happening at the major fashion brands such as Burberry and Balenciaga, and at our enormous new sneaker gallery, to see how streetwear is influencing all areas of Selfridges and fashion in general, not just the Designer Studio,” says Sev Halit, the buyer for the space.

Designers used to dictate the fashion agenda, which would eventually trickle down to the man or woman on the street; today it’s all about the ‘trickle-up’ effect. Designers are looking at what’s happening on the street and building from that.

- Heather Gramston, Womenswear Buying Manager 

Designers used to dictate the fashion agenda, which would trickle down to the street; today it’s all about the ‘trickle-up’ effect. 

- Heather Gramston, Womenswear Buying Manager 

3.1 Phillip Lim – blazer / Calvin Klein – bralette (worn underneath) / Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh – trousers and belt / Tods – trainers / Bvlgari – sunglasses / JW Anderson – earrings (rose-gold version available here)

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The fact is, whether you’re somebody who camps out overnight for the latest sneaker release or simply regularly wears trainers to the office (but never thought you would have done so five years ago), the proliferation of streetwear has impacted the way we all shop and dress. Why? “The luxury market is unrecognisable to how it was 10, or even five, years ago,” says Heather Gramston, Womenswear Buying Manager. “Designers used to dictate the fashion agenda, which would eventually trickle down to the man or woman on the street; today it’s all about the ‘trickle-up’ effect. Designers are looking at what’s happening on the street and building from that – it’s a much more consumer-led, democratic approach to fashion.” 

Helmut Lang – bomber jacket and top / Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh – cycling shorts and bag / Palm Angels – socks / Nike – trainers / Dog lead - Dexter's own

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So, with streetwear so entrenched in the current fashion landscape, is the term itself still relevant? “I think ‘streetwear’ is a difficult word now,” continues Heather. “When streetwear first entered the London fashion scene, it was a lot more literal – tracksuits, hoodies and Nikes. Now, if you look at what Virgil is doing [at Off-White], it’s not about trying to recreate what a 15-year-old on the street is wearing, it’s about taking an aesthetic and elevating it.”

It’s not about copying a look or wearing one brand head to toe. It’s about mixing and matching different designers, styles and references, womenswear and menswear, and finding your own distinct, personal style.

- Sev Halit, Designer Studio Buyer

It’s all about mixing and matching different designers, styles and references, and finding your own personal style.

- Sev Halit, Designer Studio Buyer

Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh – blazer, shirt and jeans / Heron Preston Off-White collaboration – tote

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Off-White C/O Virgil Abloh is arguably the leader of this new wave of designers pushing the boundaries of what streetwear means in 2018. The brand’s raw aesthetic combined with luxury fabrication is catnip to a generation of consumers for whom streetwear is just as credible and covetable – if not more so – than traditional luxury brands.

 

When Off-White first launched in 2013, it quickly developed a cult following for its signature diagonal black-and-white stripes on tees and sweats. But as the customer has grown up, so too has the brand. In recent seasons, Abloh’s effortless transition into tailoring (which is now just as in demand as the graphic sweats) has proven that he means business, eschewing categorisation as a ‘streetwear’ designer. The current spring/summer 2018 collection was inspired by a seemingly unlikely icon, Princess Diana, with a hot-pink power suit and fierce leather dress among the most buzzworthy pieces. And Abloh’s recent appointment as lead menswear designer at Louis Vuitton is further proof that the future of streetwear and luxury fashion are inextricably linked.

Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh – leather dress (coming soon) and socks / Helmut Lang – PVC-collar shirt / Jimmy Choo c/o Off-White – heels

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A friend of Abloh’s, and a rising streetwear star himself, is Heron Preston. Preston hit the fashion scene in 2016 with a collaboration with the Department of Sanitation of New York ­­– a sustainable, upcycled collection made with elements of the staff uniforms, to raise awareness of the city’s zero-waste target. Now, with two seasons under his belt and his first womenswear collection launched this season, Preston – a shrewd translator of youth culture – has garnered a huge following for his graphic, utilitarian aesthetic and flashes of construction-worker orange.

 

“Authenticity is key; it has to be more than just plastering a logo everywhere,” says Becki Dyer from the Selfridges’ Creative team. “Social presence is everything; people follow the person behind a brand now, rather than the brand. You have to believe it’s coming from somewhere real – that’s why people like Virgil and Heron have been so successful.” 

Why label it as streetwear and designerwear? You can’t draw neat boxes around these things anymore. Street culture is such a dominant influence on how people dress now; it’s no longer streetwear, it’s just fashion.”

- Becki Dyer, Selfridges' Creative Team

Why label it? Street culture is such a dominant influence on how people dress now; it’s no longer streetwear, it’s just fashion.”

- Becki Dyer, Selfridges' Creative Team

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So, what’s flying in the Designer Studio right now? There’s Off-White’s oversized tailoring, retro sportswear from Champion and Fila, and one-off reworked vintage gems from Ragyard – but the real secret is, anything goes. “It’s not about copying a look or wearing one brand head to toe,” says buyer Sev Halit. “It’s about mixing and matching different designers, styles and references, menswear and womenswear, and finding your own distinct, personal style.”

 

Luxury is no longer about a price tag, and with this melting-pot approach to fashion in mind, the question of nomenclature is an interesting one. “Why label it as streetwear and designerwear?” asks Becki. “You can’t draw neat boxes around these things anymore. Street culture is such a dominant influence on how people dress now; it’s no longer streetwear, it’s just fashion.”

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