In 1999, the year after he launched Sean John, Puff Daddy became the first public face for how hip-hop could be haute couture. The rap mogul appeared opposite supermodel Kate Moss in Vogue, resplendent in furs and billowing overcoats, conquering Paris as Kanye West has in recent years. “I think the whole fashion culture changed with that Puff Daddy moment. I think Kim and Kanye are at the other end of that chain,” said Grace Coddington, creative director at large, to The Washington Post. Yet if Puff established how a rapper-producer, too, can appear so editorial, West, thanks to Yeezy Season, is more so proof of how high fashion’s relationship with streetwear is cozier than ever.
Call brands like Hood by Air, Off-White and Vetements whatever you want — streetwear, or, if you find that as constricting as the term “urban” — luxury sportswear. Either way, long gone are the days where high fashion merely appropriated trends, like when brands try their hand at baggy “hip-hop” trousers. Now, high fashion is catering specifically to hip-hop tastes, making everyday items with extreme craftsmanship. (Perhaps designers are, at last, listening to ‘Ye. “Sweatshirts are fucking important,” he said to Vanity Fair after Yeezy Season 2’s runway debut.) Fashion houses, not to mention Bergdorf Goodman, are now attempting to become one-stop shops for luxury streetwear outfits.
Such behavior is only further closing the gap between two worlds, as shown by five streetwear trends it co-signed this year.
In recent years, FILA has been re-releasing vintage sneaker models like the Cage, the classic basketball high-top, along with throwback track jackets. Last fall, in the spirit of collaborations with Calvin Klein and Adidas, Urban Outfitters tried to further make people nostalgic for FILA’s ’90s heyday with an exclusive retro-inspired collection. But by and large in the United States, FILA is a sportswear brand largely taken for granted — unless you’re Andre 3000, living in a city where ‘FILA’ also stands for “Forever I Love Atlanta.”
Such isn’t the case for Moscow, at least according to Commes des Garcons-backed designer and Vetements member Gosha Rubchinskiy. For his spring/summer 2017 runway show, he thought back to the aftermath after the fall of Communism, when the local skater boys were listening to music from abroad. Along with a host of other labels, including Levi’s, Rubchinskiy’s teenaged models wore FILA sweatshirts and socks, as if they weren’t newborns during the designer’s own adolescence. “FILA, Gosha. For me, it’s very punk,” Rubchinskiy said to W. For fashion critics, FILA provided yet another effective glimpse into this rising designer’s past, as well as our own.
MA-1 bomber jackets have been a streetwear staple since punks appropriated it from skinheads during the mid-1970s. Mainstay brands like Stussy and Supreme have also long churned out their own reinterpretations, by the time Kanye West bought a hundred bombers to outfit himself and his Yeezus tour crew. (To some controversy, his olive green jackets were customized with Confederate flag patches, a good two years before South Carolina removed its own battle flag from outside its Statehouse after 50 years.)
Around the same time, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton released their own reinterpretations over the past few years. Brands toyed with the bomber silhouette — making it sleeker, or even more oversized like Raf Simons with his Pyramid version — to where its military origins were barely recognizable. But this year was when the bomber seemed to have replaced the classic trench completely, at least by high fashion standards.
All over the runways were bombers with floral embroidery and space-age metallics. Their designers could well have been inspired by Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, as they were by ‘Ye. Starting in late 2015, the runway darlings had been spotted wearing matching bombers from Alpha Industries, turning the $135 menswear staple into an It girl item more accessible than Kylie Jenner’s lip kits.
In 2009, streetwear king Supreme announced one of its most unexpected collaborations yet: a three-pack of t-shirts with Hanes. The only key difference between a Hanes t-shirt from Supreme and another from, say, Walmart — at least, as far as hypebeasts could tell —–was a tiny box logo. Yet at $24, Supreme’s three-pack cost more than twice as much. This release was at once baffling yet subversive, at least compared to Supreme’s brand new Slayer collaboration, which, compared to Justin Bieber’s Purpose tour merch, feels about three years too late. “When this [Supreme and Hanes] shirt came out in the late 2000s, it sort of made a statement like, ‘We’re not going to do what you would expect us to do,’” said Jeff Staple, the beloved streetwear expert behind Staple Pigeon, to Complex.
Years later, fashion houses are using the Hanes model as Supreme has before, though to greater extremes. Prada and Maison Margiela all began carrying their own three-packs this year, each pack costing upwards of a few Benjamins. Balmain’s three-pack of shirts in white, heather gray and black —featuring “subtle distressing at the trim” and two tags, one printed and one embroidered — costs $495. “The higher-end brands want to give the idea that these are basic essentials, like Calvin Klein boxers or whatever,” said Mario Ortelli, Bernstein senior research analyst of luxury goods, to Racked earlier this year. But we all know what the true inspiration must have been.
It made for one of the biggest fashion stories of 2016: During Haute Couture Week in Paris this past summer, Vetements — a brand credited for blurring the lines between streetwear and high fashion, perhaps to no return — sent Champion-inspired hoodies down its runway. Thanks to a early Black Friday online special, Champion is currently offering two sweatshirts for $35. Meanwhile, one of Vetements’ creations retail for close to a grand.
There was no mistaking the source material of its refashioned Vetements logo, with its blue script and red accents. Meanwhile, streetwear had long used Champion as a reference point. But this, under the creative direction of Demna Gvasalia of Maison Margiela, marked the first time Champion’s influence went haute couture. Even better, this collection turned into an official collaboration: After Champion caught wind of Vetements’ “unauthorized” product, the mass-market brand reached out. “They’ve turned the iconic hoodie and iconic tee into their own,” Ned Munroe, Champion’s creative director, said to GQ.
Backpacks have never been regarded as a streetwear trend, as much as it has been a no-brainer essential. (Briefcases? Not an option, never.) But fashion houses have increasingly incorporated backpacks into their lines over the past few years. Creative director (and close Kimye pal) Riccardo Tisci has re-imagined the Givenchy man to be pairing a backpack — albeit $2,500 in black leather — with combat boots. (His own, made by Supreme, probably costs closer to $150.)
Meanwhile, luxury sportswear brand Hood by Air released a knapsack that appears, straight on, like a black velvet pillow. Rihanna’s debut Fenty Puma line featured several, including one in charcoal fur. Another is a bomber jacket backpack, complete with faux sleeves dangling in the air (retail price: $450). The latter especially was a sign, at least before her opulent second collection (“if Marie Antoinette went to the gym”), that RiRi had high fashion ambitions that Puma had never had before.