Streetwear is currently at the very forefront of cultural influence. Cutting edge. The skateboarding-meets-hip-hop-inspired aesthetic is beloved by the tastemakers of today and its popularity has garnered the attention of Italian and French fashion houses — where they’ve realized that the most effective place to turn heads isn’t on runways but in city streets. Obviously, for anyone who knows the history of brands like LV and Fendi, this is a pretty serious shift.
There is a downside. Streetwear has become so synonymous with modern fashion that things are starting to look a bit… same-y. The scene needs new blood. That’s not to say the big brands like Supreme, BAPE, The North Face, and Off-White are going to suddenly stop being trendy. Those brands are still at the top of the streetwear game, along with brands like Palace, Stüssy, and Neighborhood. But if you want to start dressing for the fashion of tomorrow, you’re going to have to broaden your scope and think beyond the titans of industry.
We’re entering a new era — the 2020s — and now is a crucial time for you to up your game and elevate your personal wardrobe in anticipation of the coming decade. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the best lesser-known streetwear labels. These are upstarts and renegades who need to be on your radar right away. All of the companies on this list were launched in the mid to later part of the last decade and they represent the next generation of streetwear designers set to dominate the conversation going forward.
In short: If you want to know what’s “next,” keep reading.
Aries is already a pretty well-known brand in the U.K. but it doesn’t get the attention that other U.K. labels like PALACE enjoy here in the states. That needs to change. Aries is a joint effort by fashion duo Sofia Prantera — of Silas fame — and PALACE mastermind Fergus Purcell. While PALACE leans more toward skate culture, Aries takes streetwear to a space that’s a little more high end and fashion-forward, drawing inspiration from U.K. rave culture. Fans of Euphoria will recognize some of the pieces on the site, as Rue rocked some of their designs.
The Aries website categorizes clothing in Women’s and Men’s collections but also includes a refreshing “Don’t Care” category which makes their collection of graphic tees, silk track pants, and androgynous-leaning silhouettes easier and more rewarding to navigate. You never know what you’ll find at Aries, but whatever it is, chances are its dope.
C2H4 is about as high-concept a streetwear brand can be. Headed by designer Yixi Chen, C2H4 gets its name from the molecular formula for Ethylene — a homophone for Yixi in Chinese — and the company refers to its designers as “Chemists” who act as “visionaries and scientists who create future.” Depending on what kind of person you are, you’ll find that either fascinating or obnoxious as hell, but concept aside C2H4 makes some of the most forward-thinking modern streetwear on the market. If you’re going for a whole future vibe, their looks will have you well supplied.
C2H4 is primarily based in Los Angeles, where Yixi lives as a Shanghai transplant. The brand’s less out-there concept is combining Yixi’s love of science-fiction and her interest in garment and textile design for a collection of ultra-modern and forward-thinking men’s streetwear.
Adored by K-Pop singer and rapper G-Dragon and Rihanna alike, Hyein Seo is a fashion label out of Seoul headed by a designer of the same name that merges current women’s athletic wear with a sometimes militarized and always edgy aesthetic. Seo is a young designer who graduated from the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts and started her label of the same name in 2014 to instant adulation.
Hyein Seo’s popularity is on a steady climb and the label has been well represented at Fashion Weeks around the world. Their most recent collection is arguably their best — monochromatic and edgy, while leaning heavy into oversized and loose-fitting silhouettes and cuts. Check out the Hyein Seo webstore to shop their most recent Fall 2019 collection.
Founded in North Hollywood by young designer Mikey Alfred, Illegal Civ — as its often referred — specializes in a laid-back west coast DIY aesthetic beloved by local Southern California skaters. Mikey was once Odd Future’s personal videographer and Illegal Civ’s aesthetic fits comfortably alongside Tyler the Creator’s Golf Wang label, which isn’t a surprise as both Mikey and Tyler are multi-talented visionaries who have set the vibe and look of an entire generation of young Southern California skate kids.
Illegal Civ is quickly spreading from the label’s Hollywood roots so our advice is to check out the label sooner than later — they might already be sitting on soon-to-be-legendary pieces. The label has collaborated with Converse, has an upcoming collection inspired by Doritos and some of their clothes can be found at Zumiez. For the good stuff, head to the Illegal Civ site which is only active during a drop.
LIV goes hard on the currently en vogue 90’s aesthetic and is a one-stop-shop for all of your athleisure needs. Headed by designer Olivia Anthony, LIV’s aesthetic is varied and mixes laid back surfwear, contemporary street style, and high fashion for a logo-heavy and loud look. With bold fonts and liberal use of color blocking, LIV is bright and fun and wearing the label demands attention and grabs eyes.
As of now, LIV specializes in women’s wear, but the label is branching out with some unisex items. LIV is one of the more under the radar brands on this list, and a lot of their current collection is sold out on their website, so be sure to follow the label for the quickest updates so you don’t miss out on the next drop.
Melody Ehsani specializes mostly in streetwear influenced jewelry and accessories, but over the years the brand has moved into the apparel game, with a growing collection of large-logo graphic tees and women’s athleisure staples with Melody Ehsani’s soon to be iconic ME. branding.
The Melody Ehsani store on Fairfax Ave in Los Angeles is a rare bright spot on a block heavily saturated by men’s streetwear labels and the staff has a local reputation for being some of the friendliest in the neighborhood. If you aren’t in the LA area, their website has an abundance of jewelry, accessories, and streetwear. Be sure to check out Melody Ehsani’s past Reebok collaborations if you’re into wild sneaker designs!
MISBHV is exploding. This label is one of the hottest of the year and has been most recently rocked by the likes of Kylie Jenner and A$AP Rocky. Expect contemporary and comfortable with a luxurious yet futuristic edge when shopping at MISBHV. The label’s origins come from the street and club culture of Warsaw, where Polish law student Natalia Maczek started to make fake-designer clothing for her friends in her free time. A few years later, Maczek was taking showing her latest designs in Paris Fashion Week.
If you’re looking for a club-ready set of fashion-forward streetwear then MISBHV is your label. Expect 2019 to be the last year this label belongs on any “Under-the-Radar” lists though. This brand is popping off in a hurry.
Another label out of California — sorry New York but Cali, Japan, and Europe are dominating the game right now — Palm Angels makes skate-inspired streetwear that leans on the upscale side and is filtered through head designer Francesco Ragazzi’s unique cinematic art direction. Palm Angels has one of the more unique origin stories, beginning as a coffee table book of black-and-white photography of the LA skate scene shot by Ragazzi himself. The buzz behind the book was so big that an apparel collection inspired by the laid back vibes of Ragazzi’s photos quickly followed.
The Pleasures bread and butter is graphic-heavy apparel and an insatiable love of fonts. Seriously, this Los Angeles label is obsessed with typefaces — it’s a constant in all of their pieces, but they nail it. Pleasures is living proof that the type of rigid consistency of Supreme is out, as people grow tired of minimalism in favor of something a little bit more fun.
Started by Alex James in 2015, Pleasures has collaborated with ROKIT, Adidas, and JSP for some highly hyped limited collections and is a favorite brand of Kyle Jenner, G-Dragon, and Wiz Khalifa. Their aesthetic can best be described as contemporary streetwear meets punk rock and has a reputation for producing sometimes controversial prints.
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You Don’t Want This Life is a streetwear brand out of London that carries a great mix of men and women’s styles for an affordable price. Great streetwear gets more expensive every year, especially when it comes from small boutique brands, but You Don’t Want This Life’s pieces rarely cost above $100 — giving you that unique unsaturated streetwear look that telegraphs that you don’t buy your clothes where everybody else does.
You Don’t Want This Life currently has stores in London, Los Angeles, and Tokyo, and their online store is currently adequately stocked, so now is the time to jump in if you dig on their look.