What can we define as “Streetwear” in 2023?
The answer is not simple, because at one time this type of style was delineated by dress codes and behavior. In the 1990s, streetwear brands drew on youth subcultures such as skate, punk, hip hop, and the graffiti scene. Today, the definition is much more nebulous because of the constant solicitations and contaminations it receives from official fashion and the multibillion-dollar companies that move the threads of trends and, consequently, sales.
We can still define “Streetwear” as fashion that appeals to young cultures, as a Zeitgeist of the present time. It still refers to the subcultural matrix that generated it but the original style, has gradually evolved into something different than in the past. First of all, the consumer base has significantly changed, turning to a decidedly high-spending audience; secondly, dressing Streetwear now means belonging to the scene as an end in itself, without real meaning, no longer tied, that is, to some subcultural community or tribe.
The result is that often, fortunately not always, many designers prefer not to be pigeonholed into such a style, so as not to be perceived by the market as not very “elevated” or luxurious.
Viewing steetwear as a powerful vehicle for storytelling is not something common to everyone. And this is why, groups like LVMH’s-owns Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Kenzo, Dior – are increasingly focusing on influential designers and names from Streetwear. The goal is to align with market demands, through names that resonate not only in fashion but especially in lifestyle: to tie oneself to streetwear is to tie oneself to the cultural currency of the moment. One of the most fitting recent examples comes from LVMH itself, with the acquisition of Pharrell Williams to head Louis Vuitton‘s men’s line. After years of tapping into youth subcultures and their style, luxury fashion has begun to design t-shirts and sweatshirts as well, without any credit or reference, perhaps, but that hasn’t stopped it from being hugely successful, even by those who follow the authentic scene from the early days.
On this list are 20 designers and not – designers, creatives, artists, influencers and musicians who, whether we like it or not, are pulling the strings of streetrwear fashion of the moment, influencing sales and trends based on current relevance/brand desirability.
Angelo Baque founder of Awake
Since launching his brand, Awake NY, in 2012, Angelo Baque has been able to gain a space of his own within the streetwear world. One of the brand’s strengths is building a youthful and inclusive community, but we’re not talking about abstract, impractical concepts; Awake’s communty manifests itself in real life, becoming very present since Baque opened a full-fledged flagship store in his hometown this year.
Anyone who has participated in recent store-related initiatives can confirm that the brand is catalyzing the attention of the entire city. Whether it’s the highly anticipated store opening or the recent launch party for the collaboration with Milk Studios, Awake has managed to spark a unique energy in the New York streetwear world, something not seen in years.
Of course, if we compare Awake to its peers, it is still not a brand with stores all over the world, one example above all: Supreme, where Baque has worked for ten years but at a time when streetwear consumers are increasingly looking for brands that stand out for their diversity and inclusiveness, Awake NY stands as a true leader in this area.
Unlike many other streetwear brands that cater primarily to men, Awake authentically demonstrates a desire to engage female audiences as well, as can be seen in the designs featured in the lookbook and the recent collaboration with Milk Makeup. In addition, Baque has been able to strike strategic partnerships, not only by signing major deals with brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Mercedes-Benz, but also by encouraging its business partners to make meaningful contributions rather than simply selling products.
For example, when Awake NY partnered with UPS last year, it used the opportunity to highlight brands owned by Latina women through a pop-up during New York Fashion Week, and funded educational programs and scholarships at the High School of Fashion Industries, a New York City public school. Philanthropy is a value that goes beyond these collaborations, as evidenced by the T-shirt the brand independently produced last year, managing to raise $87,540 for victims of the Twin Parks fire in the Bronx.
Awake is a growing company, though still small in size, with future plans for larger collaborations, including one with Jordan Brand. The summit has not yet been reached and the tide continues to rise for this constantly evolving brand.
Teddy Santis founder Aimé Leon Dore and creative director of New Balance Made in USA.
Teddy Santis has achieved with Aimé Leon Dore what all streetwear brands are longing for. He has not just created clothes that people want to buy, but forged a community that people want to belong to. The core of this resides in a little-visited corner of Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood.
Since the brand’s flagship store opened in 2019, this area has become a must-see destination for trendy locals and tourists alike. Santis has been able to create a product, tangible and intangible, that people even line up for. The cafe attached to the store is also very popular, providing a great alternative for those who may not be able to afford a $90 T-shirt but still want to be part of the world of ALD.
The customization of Porsche cars and Technohull motorboats has taken this universe to a new level of opulence. Santis has proven to be a trend-setter, such as when he rediscovered the New Balance 550, a basketball shoe from the 1980s that had been forgotten, but thanks to his touch has become one of the most sought-after sneakers on the market. The collaborations between ALD and New Balance were so successful that New Balance itself offered Santis a place on its team. As of April 2021, Teddy Santis is the creative director of New Balance’s Made in USA line.
Lev Tanju founder of Palace
In the late 2000s, Lev Tanju presented himself as a young skater who was cynical about the British skatewear scene. Today, he has become a prominent figure in streetwear, with a booming brand and an incredibly large number of collaborations. Since founding Palace in 2009, Tanju has managed to maintain a steady momentum for his brand. Having no formal training in design or fashion, he has developed Palace through his eccentric point of view, attracting the attention of brands like Gucci, McDonald’s, and even Elton John, who are not normally affiliated with the skateboarding world. Although the brands with which Palace collaborates span sectors not strictly related to skateboarding, the products born from these collaborations are intrinsically part of Palace’s aesthetic and contribute to its global appeal.
From reinterpretations of the New Balance 991 and Salomon XT-Wings 2 shoes to Crocs clogs and Polaroid cameras, Palace has gone far beyond the skate boundary. Although the team behind Palace is solid, the brand mainly reflects Tanju’s relentless intelligence and wry humor.
He himself came up with the iconic Tri-Ferg logo together with Fergus Purcell, a renowned graphic designer, and is also responsible for writing the casual descriptions of the products on the website. Even McDonald‘s has participated in this game of descriptions, including some of Tanju’s words in their collaborative campaign. Although Palace is a British brand, it has a strong global influence, especially through its presence in London, Los Angeles, New York, and Tokyo. In the end, everyone speaks the same language when it comes to cool clothing, right? Tanju has blurred the lines between luxury and skate apparel in surprising ways. That’s why people talk about Palace as the new Supreme, not because he’s copying the style, but because he’s created something unique.
Colm Dillane founder of KidSuper
KidSuper reached the height of its popularity in the fashion scene when Louis Vuitton surprisingly announced that founder Colm Dillane would design its first guest collection, currently available in stores worldwide. Dillane went from being a small Brooklyn Streetwear entrepreneur to becoming an LVMH finalist and launching his own collection in collaboration with Louis Vuitton’s atelier. Although KidSuper is not immediately associated with streetwear, Dillane‘s rise encompasses all the ingredients of a success story.
He went from selling T-shirts, hoodies, and hats in his dorm at New York University to being considered a likely heir to Virgil Abloh by former Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke. From the beginning, KidSuper was built on Dillane’s eccentric art, which initially found a match among local New York rappers such as the Underachievers and Joey Badass, before winning a series of collaborations across the industry. Both Stuart Weitzman, a luxury brand, Jagermesiter, a liquor manufacturer, and Superplastic, a vinyl toy label, have recognized the value of a partnership with KidSuper. And not just Louis Vuitton, other major fashion brands have watched Dillane‘s moves with interest.
Before Jeremy Scott‘s farewell to Moschino this year, he seemed to have taken a direct cue from KidSuper‘s conceptual runway shows and Dillane’s hand-painted aesthetic for recent collections. According to reports from WWD, Moschino is considering Dillane as a potential successor to Scott this year. Although KidSuper‘s most popular items, such as “Kissing Coats” and bags, have yet to achieve the success of a Telfar shopping bag or Supreme logo, Colm Dillane has certainly caught the world’s attention.
Anyone who attended KidSuper’s Fall/Winter 2023 show in Paris can attest to that. Colm Dillane attracted such a large crowd to the show (presented as a stand-up comedy festival) that police intervention was necessary. This event alone shows that KidSuper still has a lot to offer and will remain in the fashion scene for a long time to come.
James Jebbia founder Supreme
Although most streetwear brands disappear or lose relevance after a decade, Supreme has managed to hold on for nearly 30 years under the leadership of its original founder James Jebbia. Even today, its Thursday drops and seasonal lookbooks draw crowds and generate discussion, which is precisely why the brand was sold for $2.1 billion when VF Corp. acquired ownership in 2020. However, the past year has not been easy for Supreme. The brand has come under scrutiny for its poor financial performance and lack of relevance, and more recently, after Tremaine Emory’s resignation, for its corporate culture. Regardless of criticism or celebration, there is no denying that people are connected to the brand and its roots in the heart of New York City.
But for how much longer? There is no shortage of challengers on Supreme‘s throne, from viral new brands like Corteiz to LVMH-backed New Yorkers like Aimé Leon Dore. Meanwhile, VF Corp. is pushing the brand toward rapid expansion, opening stores in new markets such as Chicago, Italy and, recently, Korea. According to reports in GQ, Jebbia remains meticulous, overseeing every last detail, from rivets to the stitching of his creations, and even providing feedback on the distance between the racks of clothes in his latest store in Seoul. It is safe to assume that with James Jebbia at the helm, Supreme will continue to persevere.
But as the brand grows, it will have to acknowledge that more and more people have invested in Supreme than ever before, both literally and metaphorically. Whether facing declining revenues or committing to diversity and inclusion, Jebbia can no longer sit comfortably in his hilltop castle.
Yoon Ahn founder of Ambush
Yoon Ahn has experienced an incredible transformation from designing album covers for her husband Verbal’s rap group Teriyaki Boyz to becoming one of the most influential figures in the history of streetwear. It all started with her comic book-inspired jewelry, called “POW,” which she created in the mid-2000s and which was worn by internationally renowned artists such as Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and many others. Since then, Yoon Ahn has established herself as a pioneer in the industry, founding her contemporary brand AMBUSH in 2008 and collaborating with such prestigious brands as Nike, NIGO and Rimowa.
As soon as she debuted her ready-to-wear collection for AMBUSH, only two years after starting her career as a designer, Yoon Ahn was immediately nominated as an LVMH award nominee. Since then, her work has been supported by celebrities around the world, from G-Dragon to 21 Savage, who recently sported a custom metallic leather set from AMBUSH onstage at Drake’s “It’s All a Blur” tour.
After being nominated by LVMH, Nike chose her for a long-running collaboration involving the design of clothing, sneakers and accessories. She brought a fresh reinterpretation to classic Nike sneakers, such as the Nike Air Max 180, adding an instep height and a zipper, and most recently, created a new version of the Air More Uptempo with a lower profile, a design never seen before.
In 2020, Yoon Ahn made history by becoming the first woman to design a Nike x NBA collection, and her extraordinary work on this project is even on display at Nike’s Portland Campus. Throughout her career, Yoon Ahn has not just followed trends, but instead has played a key role in setting streetwear trends over the past two decades. Her influence is undeniable, and her constant desire for innovation has made her one of the best streetwear designers of the moment.
Chris Gibbs and Beth Birkett Gibbs founder of Union
Union is the benchmark for big brands in search of freshness. Chris Gibbs and Beth Birkett Gibbs, husband and wife, have established themselves as collaborators with brands such as NEIGHBORHOOD, WTAPS, and Visvim, which have quickly made their way into U.S. department stores through sourcing from Union. Their awareness of enduring value beyond fads has kept the store relevant over the past two decades.
The original Union store was founded in 1989 in New York by James Jebbia and Mary Anne Fusco of Supreme. From the beginning, it stood out for selling graphic T-shirts and an eclectic selection of brands from around the world. Beth, who had experience working at Stüssy and Supreme, introduced Chris to James and the vibrant downtown streetwear scene. Thus, in the late 1990s, Chris began working for Union as a salesclerk.
After moving up the ladder, Chris moved to Los Angeles in 2003 to work with Eddie Cruz, who had opened a Union Stüssy store in La Brea in 1991. In 2010, Chris took an even bolder step by buying the store from Cruz, who had focused more on Undefeated. Throughout this time, Beth has been a key partner and co-owner, using her experience as a costume designer to contribute behind the scenes with visuals, marketing, and styling that have given the store a unique perspective, celebrating black culture and identity. Together, they have transformed Union into a trusted destination and platform for streetwear and luxury brands, including the creation of a growing online brand and the opening of additional Union locations in Tokyo and Osaka.
Because of the strength of their brand, Nike relied on Union to connect with the community they built.
This collaboration has led to highly sought-after sneakers, such as the Air Jordan 1 Retro High in 2018 and, more recently, the Air Jordan 1 High Woven and a Jordan 1 platform that tells the story of Beth and Chris meeting in Brooklyn in 1996. Beth has become increasingly prominent through her product line and retail platform called Bephies Beauty Supply. She is also a judge on the HBO streetwear competition program Max the Hype. Chris and Beth can be considered authentic influencers, helping customers understand what is cool and showing the industry how to tell meaningful stories about sneakers and streetwear.
Grace Wales Bonner founder of Wales Bonner
Grace Wales Bonner‘s luxury fashion proposition has revolutionized the way brands approach menswear, including the streetwear trend. Since starting her line in 2015 after graduating from Central Saint Martins, Bonner has been committed to permeating menswear with references to black culture, an aspect often overlooked in high-end fashion. Her mission is to explore black male identity through a sophisticated interpretation of athleisure.
While streetwear often relies on T-shirt graphics, Bonner prefers to create high-end garments that push the boundaries of traditional menswear. This boldness allowed her to win the prestigious LVMH award in 2016, becoming the first menswear designer to achieve it. She manages to make tailored clothing more relaxed and trendier for young consumers, but it is also her ability to bring a special, curated edge to sportswear that makes her a must-have artist. In 2019, she began a collaboration with adidas Originals, presenting a Spring/Summer 2020 collection that included a cream tailored tracksuit and a red knit vest.
Bonner’s bond with adidas has strengthened over time, highlighting his talent for bringing his refined vision to the world of sportswear brands. His clothing items and sneakers are highly desired because they offer a familiar yet innovative experience. For example, his silver adidas Samba with a gum sole, three crochet stripes, and fold-over tongue influenced Rihanna’s recent Avanti style for Puma. We also saw hints of his aesthetic in Pharrell’s collection for Louis Vuitton, such as the pearl-embellished tracksuit presented by Bonner and later worn by Lil Uzi. Just as he redefined luxury apparel, Bonner is helping Adidas and the industry in understanding the potential of sportswear and the stories it can tell.
Salehe Bembury founder of Crocs
Since emerging in 2018 as a designer for Versace’s Chain Reaction, Salehe Bembury has never slowed down. The core of his work lies in his passion for hiking and the outdoors. Although he did not lead the movement, his designs further amplified the gorpcore aesthetic in the collective consciousness. His most important collaboration was with New Balance, which began in 2020 with an orange version of the 2002R and was followed by seven more releases. New Balance even gave Bembury the opportunity to completely design his original silhouette, the 574 YURT, showing how much the brand values him as a collaborator. This level of creative freedom has also extended to his work with Crocs.
The brand’s foam clogs have long been regarded as a fashion faux pas, but Bembury’s Pollex clogs played a key role in helping Crocs overcome this stigma. When they were launched in December 2021, they sold out of stock in just 35 seconds. It was one of the fastest sales in Crocs’ history. Bembury’s Pollex clog even came in 10th place in the Lyst Index ranking for the fourth quarter of 2022, which evaluates the most popular products on the market by combining shopping data, social media, and search traffic. As a testament to its value, earlier this year Bembury signed a two-year contract with Crocs as creative director of the Pollex Pod collection.
The goal is to grow Pollex into a standalone category with different silhouettes. Bembury‘s name has become one that generates excitement among people, so much so that his collaborations with Chinese sportswear brand Anta have sold out in the United States. Anything that bears his name seems to generate interest. However, if there is one aspect where Bembury‘s output is still lacking, it is clothing.
With the exception of some interesting capsules with New Balance and sporadic releases of his Spunge brand, launched in 2020, footwear has clearly been his main focus. This year he gave us a collaboration with Moncler Genius, giving us a taste of what he can accomplish in clothing with the right resources. Like many other products, this capsule drew inspiration from nature, with pieces such as a moss green ripstop down jacket and a brown vest overlaid with a utility vest. In a fashion world currently obsessed with the outdoors, Bembury continues to fulfill this need. We look forward to seeing his clothing portfolio grow further in the future.
Joe Freshgoods founder and creative director of New Balance
Joe Freshgoods is an innovative streetwear brand that had one of its first collaborations with McDonald‘s in 2018, before even more great collaborations with brands such as Travis Scott, Cactus Plant Flea Market, and Palace. His collaborations have influenced the way brands work with streetwear fashion. This is due to his ability to tell incredible stories without allowing his brand to be absorbed by other companies.
He manages to create desirable products that engage many people. A striking example is his collaboration with New Balance. Through its well-designed products and the authentic stories that accompany them, it has helped revamp the sneaker brand, making it more interesting. The Don’t Be Mad x 992 “Anatomy of a Heart” sneaker, launched during the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend along with Kawhi Leonard’s New Balance OMN1S sneaker, was one of the successes of this collaboration.
In addition, Leonard wore a very clever “No Emotions Are Emotions” T-shirt designed by Robinson for the collection. This moment led to Robinson‘s appointment as creative director of New Balance’s “Conversations Amongst Us” campaign.
Prior to these important collaborations, Robinson built his fan base in Chicago through his Fat Tiger Workshop store, which opened in Wicker Park with Terrell “Rello” Jones, Des Owusu and Vic Lloyd. He decided to sell his products directly to the public through pop-up stores across the country, instead of distributing them through large boutiques. This choice allowed him to establish direct contact with his audience and build his brand according to his own rules, forcing the industry to take him seriously. Despite getting a lot of attention, Joe Freshgoods has not lost his determination and continues to make significant progress.
Nigo founder of Human Made and creative director of Kenzo
When Nigo was announced as Kenzo‘s new artistic director in September 2021, he became yet another example of how the LVMH group embraced streetwear to green up one of its prestigious fashion houses. The results of his appointment have been extraordinary. Kenzo once again became the center of attention, not only for its sweaters with the famous tiger logo, but because people were curious to find out what Nigo would bring to the brand.
At its debut fashion show in January 2022, top names like Pharrell, Kanye West, and Tyler, the Creator were present in the front row. No other testimonial could have been more significant, and arguably, without Nigo‘s involvement, they would not have been there. After spending three seasons working for Kenzo, it seems that Nigo has put the brand on the right track. He has even used his influence to engage his alumni, such as the talented Japanese streetwear designer Verdy, in collaborations with Kenzo.
Not only LVMH is trying to capitalize on Nigo’s influence. It is rumored that the famous Japanese designer will collaborate with Nike to launch a sneaker in 2024, joining forces with other influencers such as Travis Scott and Yoon Ahn (Ambush). This collaboration follows the already established one between Nigo and another sports industry giant, adidas, which ran from 2014 to 2022. Of course, we can’t forget Nigo’s personal label, Human Made, through which he has demonstrated his influential status by engaging highly talented rappers such as ASAP Rocky and Lil Uzi Vert in official collaborations that have thrilled younger fans. His friendships with some of hip hop’s most prominent personalities have even allowed him to release his own music, getting him to perform in a concert at ComplexCon.
On his 2022 album, titled “I Know Nigo,” he recorded tracks with the likes of Lil Uzi Vert, ASAP Rocky, Tyler, the Creator, and Pharrell. And now, considering that his close longtime friend Pharrell is at the helm of Louis Vuitton, it won’t be long before we see Nigo bringing his recognizable streetwear sensibilities to the brand again (he has already collaborated with Virgil Abloh on Louis Vuitton’s LV2 collection in 2019). Nigo is one of the forerunners who helped to establish streetwear as a luxury item back in the 2000s, long before it became commonplace. It is fitting that now he, with his legacy in streetwear, is bringing a fresh touch to luxury fashion. After more than three decades in the business, the General is still at the helm.
Tyler, the Creator founder of Golf
Tyler, the Creator certainly played a key role in revitalizing Supreme in the early 2010s, at a time when the brand needed it most. His cultural impact was evident when he wore a heather gray Supreme logo sweatshirt during his first live television performance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, attracting the interest of a new group of young consumers. We couldn’t have predicted that Tyler would immediately realize his influence and launch his own label, Golf Wang, in 2011. The brand is heavily inspired by Supreme (named after his Wolf Gang collective), but clearly stands out with its vibrant color palette and youthful prints such as flowers and flames.
In late 2017, Golf opened a permanent space on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, where Tyler spent much of his teenage years, becoming an integral part of the city’s streetwear community. Despite the changes on Fairfax over the years, Golf’s store still remains one of the neighborhood’s main attractions, offering collection pieces and the latest from Tyler’s album. Demonstrating Golf’s growth, the brand opened its second flagship store in New York in 2022, officially celebrating its 10th anniversary just a few weeks ago.
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Since 2017, Golf has also collaborated with Converse, bringing to life different versions and materials of the Chuck Taylors, from pink leopard print to purple quilted satin. In 2019, the brand even launched its own silhouette, the rugged Gianno. As Tyler‘s taste has developed over the course of his career, his fans have also grown with him. Although some of his most loyal fans still favor knee-length socks and fluorescent striped T-shirts, others have embraced his penchant for a nice pair of loafers, a mohair cardigan, or a pair of perfectly pleated chino pants. People looked to Tyler, the Creator for fashion advice, highlighting his influence not only in music but also in fashion.
This stylistic evolution has since come to fruition with Golf’s finest clothing line, Golf Le Fleur, which has even launched its own perfume, nail polishes, and sorbet-colored luggage in partnership with Globetrotter, as well as high-quality leather jackets in partnership with Schott, a renowned industry leader. Traditional luxury brands such as Gucci have even chosen Tyler to star in their advertising campaigns (something that would have been hard to imagine in 2011, when he made his mark by eating cockroaches).
It is now commonplace to see him in the front row at fashion shows cheering on some of the world’s biggest designers, from top names like Grace Wales Bonner to Louis Vuitton (let’s not forget that he was one of the first to carry the red Speedy bag designed by Pharrell). Tyler is always on the cutting edge, and his commitment to evolution and willingness to explore new horizons have placed him constantly at the forefront of both music and fashion since his debut in 2011. This mindset will ensure that his influence remains strong in the years to come.
Rhuigi Villaseñor founder of Rhude
The year 2023 has been a year of challenges for Rhuigi Villaseñor. In May, after a brief stint as creative director of Bally, the Swiss luxury brand, he decided to leave the post. Soon after, he was embroiled in a lawsuit accusing him of using funds from his Rhude brand’s revenues to cover his personal expenses. Ironically, his adventures between yacht purchases in the Mediterranean helped increase the appeal of his brand, as people associated Villaseñor and his clothing with an aspirational lifestyle. Moreover, having connections with some of the world’s biggest stars, such as Jay-Z and LeBron James, certainly did not hurt his reputation.
This notoriety has allowed Rhude to make his way into the luxury industry. Now, when you walk into a Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus, you will find yourself in front of Rhude’s streetwear-inspired logo sweatshirts and vintage-washed graphic T-shirts alongside some of the world’s most famous designers.
In addition to his success, Rhue has also given Villaseñor more opportunities to offer his fans his aesthetic at more affordable prices.
Since 2019, he has collaborated with Puma to create several sneaker and apparel collections. In 2022, he was named creative strategist of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes team, seeking to bring a cultural touch to professional field hockey. In the same year, fast-fashion giant Zara chose Villaseñor as designer for its “Redesigning Human Uniform” line. Although it is common for fast-fashion companies to copy brands like Rhude, Villaseñor working directly with a major brand like Zara, which has a presence in more than 3,000 stores in 96 countries, gives him an even higher position of commercial success. Don’t be fooled by the negative headlines, Villaseñor‘s career has not died down; in fact, it shines brighter and brighter.
Martine Rose founder of Martine Rose
Martine Rose‘s influence in men’s fashion has brought about a real revolution. While many designers have created logos that have become ubiquitous, Rose, a British designer with Jamaican roots, has literally revolutionized the shape and look of men’s clothing. Since launching her line in 2005, Rose has presented collections that are more fashion-oriented in style than streetwear, but still embody the ethos of streetwear itself: her work feeds on subcultures, from soccer to rave scenes, and then dissects and reinterprets their uniforms. It is clear that the designer respects the streetwear category-in 2015 she collaborated with the BeenTrill collective on a capsule collection-and that her work is influenced by it.
However, we need to return to the form. If we were to describe Martine Rose’s aesthetic, it would come to mention slightly narrow high-waisted pants paired with short jackets and imposing-looking square-toed shoes. When Rose began working as a consultant for Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga men’s line, this look was amplified and adopted globally in the fashion world. Influential designers such as Rihanna and Kanye West chose to wear her garments. Nike showed great insight in capturing Rose’s vision and strengths: transforming familiar items into slightly quirky but extremely cool pieces.
They gave Rose the rare opportunity to create a new silhouette with the Air Monarch 4, a voluminously shaped shoe launched in 2019, and more recently with the Nike Shox MRF, featuring a wedge heel. It’s no wonder Kendrick Lamar sported them in an entire Martine Rose signature outfit at the Grammys earlier this year and that they have collaborated closely to create custom looks for his tour. The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team also wore custom designs by Martine Rose ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Other brands, including Tommy Hilfiger, Stüssy, and Clarks – which even named her guest creative director-understood the power of aligning with her vision. At one point it was rumored that Martine Rose was in the running to become Louis Vuitton‘s men’s creative director after Virgil Abloh‘s tragic death in 2021. Although it was exciting to imagine Rose with access to LVMH’s resources, when you are a visionary like her, nothing can stop the impact of her influence.
Travis Scott founder Cactus Jack
Among musicians and artists, few have achieved such a level of global influence as Travis Scott. His brand, Cactus Jack, has become a veritable symbol for his devoted fans, who wear it with pride. While there are other equally famous rappers, such as Drake or J. Cole, none of them have had the same impact in the world of merchandising and products.
Before the tragedy at the Astroworld Festival, Travis worked with so many companies that he was described by Forbes as “the man who inspires big American corporate brands.” He promoted a special meal at McDonald‘s, causing long lines in drive-throughs, appeared on Reese’s Puffs cereal boxes, held a virtual concert on Fortnite, and even launched his own line of alcoholic seltzers, Cacti, in partnership with Anheuser-Busch. Did you ever imagine that a J.
Cole at McDonald‘s could generate so much excitement? This is partly because Travis Scott has created a viable clothing brand that goes beyond just merchandise. His attention to unique graphics and details such as studs and utility backpacks has helped make his garments highly desired. In addition to brand collaborations, Travis Scott‘s personal wardrobe has a great influence on trends.
For example, he is said to be the one who brought Nike SB Dunks back into the spotlight in 2018 and 2019. The Stüssy SB Dunk Low, for example, had a resale value of about $500, but after Travis wore them, the price jumped to over $3000. In addition, the rapper has continued to collaborate with the world’s top sneaker brands, Nike and Jordan Brand, making limited editions that sell out within minutes on launch day.
You don’t get the opportunity to create nearly two dozen shoe designs with a brand like Nike without genuine influence. Travis is not just limited to sneakers; he has also expanded his collaborations into apparel. In Tokyo, for example, he recently debuted a collection of women’s clothing inspired by racing, in collaboration with Jordan Brand. And it seems he doesn’t want to stop there: he is reportedly working on new models of original shoes, designed by himself, to be launched in 2024.
After the tragedy that occurred at the Astroworld Festival, many wondered if Travis would still be able to maintain his selling power. But he has been able to bounce back, once again demonstrating the immense impact he has on the market. Ever since he released his latest album, Utopia, many have started comparing him to Kanye West, not only for the music, but also for the success of his brand. In fact, the brand Travis has built is one of the most influential in the art and music scene, second only to that of his mentor, Ye.
David Sinatra CEO Stüssy
David Sinatra may not be one of the most well-known names in the business, but as CEO of one of the most important streetwear brands in history, his impact cannot be underestimated. Since 2009, Sinatra has led Stüssy, an OG streetwear brand that has gone through ups and downs over the years. However, in 2023, Stüssy is experiencing arguably its most successful period ever.
This success can be attributed in part to a strategy that has seen the brand eliminate large wholesale partners like Macy‘s, focusing instead on wholesale accounts with online retailers like SSENSE and streetwear boutiques like Bodega.
At the same time, Stüssy has continued to expand globally, opening as many as 29 stores on four continents. As a family-owned company, Stüssy was able to restructure its business without the pressures of shareholders and high sales expectations. Under Sinatra’s leadership, the brand has returned to its roots, focusing on what originally made it a success. The result is a brand that succeeds in attracting customers from different generations.
Gen Z consumers are fascinated by the latest trends offered by Stüssy, while older consumers continue to turn to the brand for high-quality clothing year after year. In addition, Stüssy’s list of frequent collaborations demonstrates that the brand’s involvement continues to carry great weight in the marketplace. Each year, Stüssy launches several collaborative projects with prestige brands such as Nike, Comme des Garçons, and Our Legacy, a favorite in online menswear. In 2022, when Dries Van Noten decided to enter the world of streetwear, he chose to collaborate with Stüssy.
Thanks to the re-positioning of the Sinatra-led brand, Stüssy is not only a brand that lives off its past successes, but continues to define the concept of streetwear in 2023. While a few years ago Stüssy might have seemed destined to become just another unfashionable brand, thanks to the Sinatra-led team this possibility seems far away.
Ronnie Fieg founder Kith and creative director of Clarks
Over the past decade, Ronnie Fieg has transformed Kith into a streetwear empire. What was once a hidden corner in the back of the Atrium store in New York has now become a global brand with 15 outposts spread across major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, and Tokyo. Each Kith flagship can be seen as an immense emporium of streetwear, reflecting how this culture manages to appeal to the masses through different forms of expression. To cite a few examples, Kith has expanded its reach to the culinary world, with Kith Treats ice cream and cereal bars and Sadelle’s restaurants.
It also won over pop culture fans with X-Men-inspired Asics Gel-Lyte III sneakers and an ad campaign involving Jerry Seinfeld. Not to be outdone are sports collaborations with the New York Knicks and New York Giants.
Through all of these projects, Kith embodies the essence of streetwear, drawing on various elements of culture according to Fieg’s perspective of drawing inspiration from the urban environment. But it does so on a much larger scale. Brands have always been attracted to Kith, but recently Fieg has gained even more power and influence. In 2022, he was named the first creative director of the New York Knicks, and Clarks gave him the opportunity to create his own sub-label, 8th Street.
Of course, there are critics who might argue that most of Kith’s collaborations lack originality, simply exploiting big franchises. Some might even view Kith as the embodiment of commercialized streetwear. However, it is undeniable that Fieg has helped shape the attractive global appeal of streetwear through the creation of something as great as Kith. This has given Fieg unquestionable power and influence.
Pharrell Williams founder Human Race and creative director Louis Vuitton
After exerting a profound influence on the way we wear and conceive of clothing for decades, Pharrell has taken on the role of creative director at Louis Vuitton. Contrary to the choice of a classically trained designer for this position, LVMH has set its sights on streetwear by tasking Pharrell with filling the void left by the tragic death of Virgil Abloh.
Despite rumors that the luxury fashion industry has abandoned streetwear, LVMH still understands the importance of this style and recognizes Pharrell’s reputation in this area. And judging by Pharrell’s spectacular runway debut during Paris Fashion Week with Louis Vuitton, it certainly looks like the fashion giant made the right choice. To celebrate this moment, there was a parade of celebrities including Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Rihanna (who was featured in Pharrell’s first campaign for LV), Zendaya, and LeBron James.
However, Pharrell’s impact was not limited to this event. Lil Uzi Vert surprised everyone by wearing a pearl-embroidered track jacket and a green Speedy bag at the 2023 BET Awards. And photos of Pharrell with a $1 million yellow crocodile leather Speedy bag, taken the day after the LV fashion show, attracted as much attention as the looks presented on the runway. It is clear that Pharrell’s influence has not waned at all. Even with his new assignment, Pharrell is not just catering to his celebrity friends. Although LV is not a streetwear brand, it is clear that Pharrell intends to use his position to enhance this subculture.
For example, Pharrell chose prominent streetwear personalities, such as Awake NY brand director and former Stüssy consultant Hugo Mendoza, to appear on the runway. In addition, Pharrell continues to own Billionaire Boys Club, the celebrated streetwear brand that is celebrating its 20th anniversary and of which he bought back a majority stake in 2016. Moreover, since the beginning of his partnership in 2014 with Adidas, it is evident how influential his name is when it comes to selling products. With the resources of a major fashion house at his disposal, Pharrell’s power is amplified and his legacy can only grow further.
Read Also: adidas and Pharrell: A partnership born out of a true friendship.
Jerry Lorenzo founder Fear of God
Jerry Lorenzo is the founder of Fear of God, a brand that perfectly embodies the union of streetwear and luxury fashion. This year, the brand reached a new height with its first runway show at the Hollywood Bowl, an epic event that featured surprise performances by the likes of Sampha and Pusha T. This atypical choice demonstrates Lorenzo’s power and reputation in the fashion industry. While many of his peers have chosen to join big fashion houses to increase their visibility, Lorenzo has decided to keep Fear of God a modern luxury titanodel.
When he collaborates with other brands, Lorenzo does not just seek easy profits, but creates products that respect Fear of God‘s established stylistic principles. A great example of this approach is his collaboration with Birkenstock and Zegna, which has produced contemporary sandals and clothing that perfectly complement FOG’s distinctive elements.
Although Fear of God is becoming one of America’s leading luxury brands, the widespread Essentials line is equally significant for the company. This collection of earth-tone casual wear has become very popular and is distributed worldwide, from luxury stores like SSENSE to fashion chains like PacSun. You can meet people wearing Essentials garments on the street in any city, demonstrating the wide reach and appeal this line has beyond the traditional streetwear audience. We could compare it to historical brands like Champion or Russell Athletic, but with a modern twist.
The enormous influence Essentials has had on the market cannot be ignored, even though its very name suggests essential simplicity. Many brands today sell oversized, sand-colored hoodies, or create collections of minimalist sweatpants. Lorenzo turned the sweatshirt into a symbol of aspiration and proved that his style can shape trends.
In addition, it is important to mention that Lorenzo is also working on the Fear of God Athletics line in collaboration with adidas. Consistency is the key word for this designer, and his success is proof that focusing on one’s skills is the best way to stand out, rather than following every passing trend.
Cynthia Lu founder Cactus Plant Flea Market
In the past, it has been extremely difficult for women to establish themselves in the traditionally male-dominated streetwear industry. But with her brand Cactus Plant, a woman has made a triumphant entry into the streetwear world since its founding in 2015. Incredibly, this has been accomplished without many words or showing her face to the public.
Cactus Plant’s psychedelic, do-it-yourself aesthetic has inspired many imitators, leaving a noticeable imprint on the growing amount of “good vibes” streetwear hitting the market. However, Cactus Plant’s puffy graphics and two-eyed smiling mascot don’t just serve a devoted fanbase. The brand continues to collaborate in unique ways, drawing everyone’s attention. As of 2019, CPFM’s work with Nike has pushed the boundaries: CPFM x Nike sneakers, such as the Dunk Low “Overgrown” and the upcoming Air Flea 2, are unmatched by anything Nike has produced before.
And Cactus Plant‘s playful vision has also caught the attention of partners outside the fashion world, such as McDonald’s and Los Angeles luxury marketplace Erewhon. According to a McDonald’s press release, 50 percent of Cactus Plant’s “Adult Happy Meal” merchandise was sold in the first four days of its launch last fall, setting new records for weekly digital transactions in the U.S. industry. Of course, part of Cactus Plant’s early success is due to its close personal connection with Pharrell, who has supported the brand from its earliest stages, hiring the founder as his assistant and stylist. (True, CPFM’s popularity was amplified by collaborations with celebrities such as Kid Cudi, Ye, Lil Uzi Vert and others. However, CPFM is much more than just a vanity fashion brand.
It is quite the case that the founder calls herself Cactus Plant. Like a real cactus in nature, it is a simple but distinctive element in the wilderness, and she moves modestly despite the recognition her brand has gained. Another characteristic of cacti is their longevity, and Cactus Plant lives up to the name it bears. What is the next step for her? Being the creative director of ComplexCon 2023, which will be held in Long Beach this November.