If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you would be aware of my disdain for Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent, and how he has destroyed a reputable Maison in favour of pandering to commercial success by reproducing derivative stereotypes of youth culture. But there is a new zeitgeist that may have trumped Slimane’s laziness. I call it faux luxe-streetwear, i.e., streetwear masquerading as high fashion.
It might have started off with Hood by Air (*shudder*) before it got overshadowed by the rise of Off White. Off White (full name: Off White c/o Virgil Abloh) is the product of Virgil Abloh aka Kanye’s creative director aka glorified stylist. Virgil Abloh began his first foray into fashion manufacturing with Pyrex Vision (often known as Pyrex, confusing many homemakers and baking enthusiasts), whose designs could hardly be differentiated from HBA. Their main shtick was to stick on a tired logo done in a tired typeface onto as many typical streetwear clothing as possible. Pyrex’s game was so strong it was basically screenprinting logos on deadstock Ralph Lauren shirts, which were then marked up to $500. The entitled attitude demanded by the price tag from these mediocre clothes is absolutely revolting. Despite the lack of design merit, Pyrex sold well after influential pop and hip hop artists were given these ‘radical’ streetwear shirts to shill. It’s not about what you make, it’s about whom you know.
At around the same time, Kanye West decided that he would like to be a fashion god. When Antonio Banderas decided to make clothes, he enrolled himself into a fashion school. ‘Ye on the other hand watched a lot of fashion shows and allegedly did some ‘internships’ with Fendi and quietly collaborated with Giuseppe Zanotti. His first proper foray into fashion was a womenswear collection in 2011 that flickered then died abruptly only to be revived in the form of Yeezy – an Adidas collab extravaganza dressed up as a runway show. One would hardly call leotards, bombers and sweatshirts groundbreaking even if they were presented in over-the-top format. While many media outlets slammed Kanye’s fashion attempts, right down to the construction of the clothes, blinded fans were still lapping them up as evidenced by the high price that Yeezy Boosts commands on ebay. Despite the subpar quality of design, especially when compared to other sportswear collaborations from Y3 and Sacai, Kanye insists on being heralded as the next big thing in fashion. And it looks like he has finally made it in the industry because Zara has officially copied Yeezy.
Then there’s Vetements which started off full of promise. Nondescript, logo-less clothes with the off-kilter tailoring style that referenced Margiela’s greatest hits. Unfortunately somewhere along the way, money took over their design philosophy. Cheeky slogans and corny graphics became de rigueur. Eventually Vetements shifted from Margiela-ism to clothing for adults who are stuck in yoof culcha. It is no surprise that Vetements is now known for its highly visible design elements that make a lot of noise but lack imagination nor design merits. The people who were carrying Céline’s Luggage tote are now wearing Vetements’s Polizei raincoat. Sure it might make the wearer feels like he/she is a cool kid who keeps up to date with the upper echelon of the fashion circle. There is nothing inherently wrong with that – humans want validation after all, but it’s ironic that they’ve regressed into a commercial one trick pony doling out statement t-shirts and oversized sleeves season after season. I mourn the energy and talent being wasted on another youth-centric label.
The rising prominence of slogans and loud branding is the reason why the ‘Live Free Die Strong Comme des Garçons‘ jacket has become the hottest, most sought after biker these days. Recent theory suggests that wearing logos and recognisable iconography increase one’s visibility on image-centric social media, subsequently increasing one’s internet clout, which comes with quite a few perks including having one’s ego stroked.