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As high-end fashion’s popularity with rappers, pop stars, and actors has grown exponentially in recent years, so has its popularity with the youth who idolize these figures. Especially among the fan bases of rappers involving themselves deeply in the fashion industry, more niche designers, aside from your typical Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Prada, have gained significant recognition. Unsurprisingly, many fans moved past simply idolizing the rappers wearing these designers and became fans of the designers themselves. Though several of these designers already had their own cult following, their appeal has grown to be more mainstream as rabid Kanye fans excitedly discussing Colombian designer Haider Ackermann’s latest collection, or millions of A$AP Rocky loving suburban teenagers gleefully replying “Rick Owens, Raf Simons” when asked what they normally dress themselves in.
However, much of this fanbase is within the age range of 15 – 21 and lacks the income for $800 Haider Ackermann sweaters or $1300 Rick Owens Geobasket sneakers. This is where the fast, cheap, and easily accessible solution of fast fashion comes in. Fast fashion aims to bring popular designer aesthetics to the masses for affordable prices ASAP. This allows these income-limited youth to dress somewhat like their favorite rapper or actor without saving for months. It gives options to those who want to dress differently from those around them, but lack the income for actual designer pieces. However, fast fashion takes heavy, heavy “inspiration” from trending designers and will often copy their signature designs so blatantly that fans often refer to the fast fashion pieces by the designer name.
Take the H&M twill ankle-zip pants for example, which are almost exclusively referred to as H&M FoG pants on online fashion forums. FoG stands for Fear of God, a high-end brand focused on high quality basic clothing with small unique details. Fear of God’s iconic ankle-zipped drawstring trousers feature an appearance very similar to the H&M version (which launched soon after FoG was endorsed by Kanye West), only with a skinnier leg and a softer appearance due to cotton as the material of choice instead of twill. Of course, it doesn’t need to be mentioned that the quality in the FoG trousers was astronomically higher. Another strong example would be the overdyed crewneck sweatshirt that H&M produced shortly after Kanye was spotted wearing a similar looking piece. Only, Kanye was wearing the $905 Haider Ackermann version of the sweatshirt, featuring Ackermann’s signature ribbing and oversized fit. Both these traits appeared on the H&M version. In fact, its appearance was so similar to the Ackermann version that many fashion forum browsers mistook it for the actual Ackermann sweatshirt when it first emerged. Of course, the quality difference was still obvious and H&M was not able to replicate the full uniqueness of the Haider Ackermann fit due to cost constraints on material and cut, but overall it was very, very similar to say the least.
Many were of course very excited about being able to own pieces so similar to designer for a fraction of the price, but many fashion purists looked at this heightened accessibility as a tasteless devaluation of valuable creative output. While it is easy to write this off as obvious pretension, the level of blatant copying must be taken into consideration when determining whether this is positive or negative for the fashion industry as a whole. While it does bring a unique and previously inaccessible offering of garments to an entirely new demographic, it damages the uniqueness of the actual designer piece by oversaturating the market with what are essentially cheap knockoffs. Some go so far to argue that it is a personal offense to the designer to “steal” their ideas in such a way purely for profit.
Regardless of whether it is or is not fair to designers, fast fashion has been very successful thus far and is only becoming more and more successful as interest in designer fashion grows among the youth. It is here to stay and it is up to each individual to decide for themselves whether to support or not support fast fashion and all it represents.
Kanye West displayed his first ever collection for his upcoming clothing line with Adidas this past winter. Fittingly named “Yeezy Season 1”, it will be Kanye’s first true venture into fashion, since formerly only collaborating on athletic sneakers with both Nike and Adidas. Many are also aware of Ye’s heavy interest in high end fashion, as he is often seen wearing niche designers such as Haider Ackermann, Saint Laurent Paris, Vetements, and many others. In fact, it flew under the radar with most of his fans that in 2012 he put out two runway shows during Paris Fashion Week.
His first Spring/Summer 2012 collection was seen as uncoordinated and heavy-handed, and his second, Autumn/Winter 2012, although it was more cohesive and showed progress, still failed to impress. In nearly every interview within the last two years, Kanye has heavily emphasized that fashion would be the next area he would break down the walls to, intending to fully enter the industry and to leave his mark. Naturally, fans were excited to see what would finally receiving from the Lord Yeezus after his first two blunders. What was shown was a reflection of Kanye’s own style; distressed oversize sweaters, fur-lined parkas, baggy sweatpants, and lots of camo of course paired with plenty of Yeezy’s signature boost footwear. Everyone agreed that it was about what was expected, it wasn’t revolutionary or incredibly unique, but it was things that Kanye West himself would wear.
As the release of the collection draws nearer, people have been becoming interested in prices and what they could realistically buy from the collection. Just a few days ago, prices were published in a Japanese magazine and converted to USD. They were much higher than most people expected. Destroyed sweater: $2,200, shearling coat: $4,000, quilted camo jacket: $1,900, camo t-shirt: $210, just to name a few examples. The prices weren’t unprecedented when compared to houses such as Dior Homme or Saint Laurent, but that was just the issue to many; Kanye West is no Christian Dior, no Yves Saint Laurent. He is no Kriss Van Asche, no Hedi Slimane. He does not have a legacy and history the same way these houses and their creative directors do. He has not proven himself yet in the world of fashion and this collection was not anything that had not been done before. It seems almost like an insult to those who have worked hard to establish themselves in the industry, saying “It doesn’t matter that I’ve never been considered a successful designer, it doesn’t matter that I’ve only sold sneaker collaborations before, I can charge prices that pretend that I am an established name in fashion and because everyone knows I’m Kanye West, they’ll buy it anyways”. I found myself, a huge Kanye West fan, asking; what can I get from this that I can’t get anywhere else for much cheaper? I do not doubt that other people will be asking the same, especially Kanye’s main audience of younger people with limited income, many of which having no interest in high end fashion. It feels like Kanye’s goal was to appeal to an entirely different demographic, similar to Virgil Abloh and his price jumps from Pyrex to Off-White. Though Kanye’s name does hold a lot more weight than Virgil’s, it is hard to imagine that those with the income to spend thousands on an untested and seen-by-many-as-novelty brand will be interested in clothes by a rapper with very limited experience as a designer.
Of course, he does have his reasons for setting prices the way he did. Since Kanye wants to be taken seriously as a high end fashion designer, he needed high end prices to create the exclusivity associated with high end fashion. Additionally, he wished to use high quality materials and to cover the costs of these he did need higher prices. Despite these reasons, he could have maintained relatively high end prices while still staying within a realistic range of most working class people’s budgets, similar to the brand Acne Studios. Acne Studios puts out runway shows, is recognized for its creativity, and is accepted as part of high fashion, yet the label’s outerwear retails for as little as $600, its sweaters as low as $200, and t-shirts around $100. Not only were these the prices when the brand started, they remain this way after Acne Studios has proved themselves season after season. If Kanye had priced similarly, few would be able to complain about prices, while the collection still maintained a higher end image.
In the end, it is understandable, knowing Kanye’s personality, why he set prices in way that seems so unreasonable to us, though to say it is ambitious would be an understatement, but no one will be 100% sure of how fair or unfair the prices are until the collection releases this fall.
In the past couple years, pieces from high fashion have found their way into streetwear and the line has began blur between high fashion and streetwear as two separate styles. It is no secret that hip hop music has had heavy influence in this. Of course, streetwear as a style was initially popularized by rappers. Jordan’s, NBA jerseys, flat brim hats, and baggy clothes were what it started out as in its early stages. In the mid 90’s, brands like Supreme and Bape emerged and would lead the era of streetwear brands, designed with the sole purpose of being streetwear clothing, being the overwhelmingly popular option for dressing in a streetstyle. Loud, flashy designs with the brand’s logo plastered across the clothing were what defined the style. Around 2003, however, Kanye West emerged on the scene. He not only brought a new sound in his music, he wore a pink polo and Louis Vuitton backpack in the public eye as a rapper.
Kanye in the early 2000’s, wearing his trademark pink polo
This was unprecedented, as everyone expected rappers to be tough and street, not to wear something as flamboyant as a pink polo. He achieved major success after this and was the first to send the message that not all rappers had to be macho tough guys, setting up the collision of high fashion and hip hop. Unsurprisingly, Kanye nowadays heavily involves himself with high fashion and following in his steps, many other rappers do as well. Name drops of luxury brands such as Givenchy, Rick Owens, Raf Simons, Balmain, Balenciaga, and even newer brands such as Damir Doma have become commonplace. Despite the fact runway fashion has trickled down to the street level, streetwear has never found its way to the runway. It makes sense too; it is hard to picture elegant flowing dresses, menacing leather outerwear, and delicately patterned shirts next to the blatant branding of a Supreme box logo hoodie. Streetwear simply had no place in its current state on the runway. Enter Virgil Abloh.
Virgil and Kanye attending a Paris Fashion Week show
The 34 year old former architect and Chicago native is Kanye’s creative director and has been since 2002. And, like Kanye, is a fan of both hip hop and high end fashion. He has been seen wearing high end pieces and attending fashion shows, his interest in runway is more than apparent. It would make sense that being surrounded by all this creative influence, Virgil would want to design clothes. Thus, he founded Pyrex Vision.
Pyrex was, by Virgil’s own description, an art project where he intended to only work with a single graphic. The Pyrex graphic was simply the word “PYREX” in blocky white letters. The graphic was put across the front of blank athletic shorts from the sportswear company Champions, and the shorts were sold for $60.
The quality was on par with all the regular shorts from Champions, which retail for around $15. While many people bought the shorts for the hype behind the graphic, many others (possibly the same people buying the shorts) ranted that it was a ripoff to pay four times the price of normal shorts for a word written across the crotch. The same complaints of been made about all streetwear companies, notably Supreme who’s famous box logo hoodie retails $138. Despite complaints, every time Supreme drops the famous hoodie (once a year), it sells out within literal seconds and often sells on the secondhand market for double or triple the retail price. The same was happening for Pyrex, the shorts sold out with rapidity and were selling for exponentially increased prices on the secondhand market. Perhaps Virgil noticed he wasn’t really creating fashion and was simply marketing hype, or he was bored of the limitations of the Pyrex graphic. Either way, a few years later in 2012, Virgil Abloh founded Off-White ℅ Virgil Abloh.
Off-White ℅ Virgil Abloh
Virgil stated from the start of Off-White that he wished to bridge the gap between high fashion and streetwear. The iconic graphic for Off-White was an image of horizontal hazard stripes and the word “WHITE” in all capital letters. It seemed impossible that the man who had been selling Champions shorts for four times the price to the streetwear and hypebeast crowd would be able to create anything worthy of being deemed “fashion”, let alone make it to the runway while seeming to stick to the same hypebeast-fueled ideas.
Virgil set out to prove his doubters wrong three years ago, and since then has had three seasons of collections shown during various fashion weeks. How did he manage to create a far more serious image of a creator of content for himself after being known as “Mr. Pyrex Shorts” and “Kanye’s dude” for so many years?
The first thing, though it seems superficial and irrelevant, was the pricing. Pyrex hoodies retailed for around $200 and shorts for of course $60. The same kids who were buying Supreme and wearing Nikes were able to buy Pyrex, assuming they bought it before it sold out. The brand Pyrex became associated with the idea of an hype-driven teenager dressed in the latest Jordan release, a Supreme box logo hoodie, a five-panel hat, and Pyrex shorts to complete the look. This was a look considered juvenile and frankly, bad, by anyone involved in the high fashion industry and any active consumer of high end clothes. To create a new image for himself, Virgil needed to do something to that would seem counterintuitive to any business-minded person; he needed to make his product inaccessible to his core demographic, hoping a higher income demographic with more refined taste would take him in. Off-White retails at high end boutiques alongside other designers. Websites such as SSENSE, Antonioli, and Luisa Via Roma carry Off-White, as does high-end department store Barney’s New York. So far, Virgil’s image revamping plan has worked – sort of. While many high end consumers have embraced Off-White and wore it with other designer pieces as Virgil had hoped, others called it tacky and overpriced, seeing it as Pyrex 2.0. Off-White’s critics claim that just like Pyrex, Off-White’s only unique feature is it’s easily recognized graphic, meaning it was still simply overpriced streetwear.
While Off-White does moderately revolve around a single graphic (hazard stripes accompanied by the word “WHITE”), it has managed to free itself from the graphic being the sole reason pieces sold. Unique touches (subtle patterns, patchwork, distressing) as well as higher quality materials (100% wool, high-grade cotton, heavyweight denim) give worth to pieces outside of hype for a logo. And while the relatively heavy use of the graphic is unlike other brands of similar price, it keeps the brand true to its streetwear roots and is part of the reason Off-White is able to bridge the gap between the high end world and the street, not only exist in one or the other.
In fact, in Off-White fashion week collections, the logo is hardly present. Save for a few hints and nods, the focus during collections is the proportions of the silhouettes and the tailoring of the garments. In the latest Off-White S/S 2016 collection, the focus was on playing with proportions in typical workwear, with the collection fittingly named “Blue Collar”.
The collection was based around the colors black and blue and featured very loose-fitting pieces, wide and billowing. The intentionally ill-fitting garments, as well as wide and thick-soled sandals, had models appearing small in their clothing, like a boy in his father’s suit. Denim workshirts, dirty ponchos, and rain ponchos helped show the grittiness of the working class models and the avant-garde tailoring paired with asymmetrical detailing and distressing kept the show interesting. In the midst of all this, the word “WHITE” still peeked out here and there, a patch of hazard stripe every now and then, demonstrating faith to his streetwear roots. The show received positive reception and positively surprised those who expected a generic Pyrex 2.0 logo plastered mess – of which included me.
Viewing “Blue Collar” amidst flipping through a week of collections drew me into the world of Off-White and made me excited to see what Virgil and his team have in store for the future to blur the lines between the runway and the street even further.
When celebrities are away from the red carpet, they are still very much in the public eye. Whether they are out shopping in Beverly Hills, arriving at their favorite bistro, or taking a walk in the park, there is always interest in what they are doing and what they are wearing.
This month’s celebrity couple street style includes actress Vanessa Hudgens and boyfriend Austin Butler, who were spotted at the 2014 Coachella Fashion Festival. Vanessa had adopted golden tresses to replace her long dark hair, which complimented her Bohemian look with her wide brim sun hat, tomato red printed mini-dress, and her short black leather boots with fringe and dangling metal trim. Vanessa’s boyfriend Austin also gets into the Bohemian vibe with his brown fedora, white gauze button-down shirt and blue medallion patterned pants.
Next, is a photo of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, pre-marriage, strolling down the Rue Pierre Charron in Paris. Kim has on this heavily beaded grey and black dress that not only looks like it should weigh a ton, but also looks like it should be hanging off a curtain rod in a museum. The only thing I like about the outfit is her black boots. I am more a fan of Kanye’s more casual choice of his multi-layered grey hoodie with the black two-way zip jacket, baggy blue jeans, and black and white print sneakers.
When celebrities are out of their designer tuxedos and evening gowns, their casual personal style has a chance to show through. What they choose to wear on the street and in their travels might pose as a disguise from the flashes of the paparazzi or as a beacon to attract them.
The first guy on the streets of Paris this month is Kanye West. He is sporting lots of denim with his bleached denim, button-down shirt that has a now-popular yolked shoulder, front chest pockets, a shirt tail hem, an a bit of a tear for a modern look. Kanye’s darker denim washed jeans draped inside of his work boots give him a more rural, as opposed to urban, look.
Next, are Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, who were snapped in the airport in Iowa. Aston is ready for the wintery temperatures with the layered look of his zippered sweatshirt under a black leather baseball-style jacket. Mila is looking stylishly warm in her black overcoat with her long, layered blue scarf and bleached blue jeans. Mila’s outfit is complimented by a snap top black purse and a dark pair of aviator shades.
Last, but certainly not least, is the street stylings of Leonardo DiCaprio, who is getting his geek on with this look! His pinstriped light grey suit is accented with a baby blue button-down shirt and blue bow tie, but the upper thigh length matching shorts makes it look like he left home in his boxers. If that is not bad enough, the red pedi-socks and black shoes just add to the wrongness of it all.
When celebrities are strolling down the red carpet or out in the public eye at an event, they have their designer outfits planned, as well as the perfect accessories. However, when the paparazzi snap a photo of them on the street, it can be flattering or not dependent on what they left the house in that day.
One guy who always seems to look classic is Leonardo DiCaprio, who was photographed out on the street in Australia recently. He has on a great muted plaid suit in a slate blue that has a tailored fit, crisp white shirt, and a matching solid tie. Leonardo made a great color selection to bring out the blue in his eyes.
Another celebrity to be caught on the street is Fashion Designer Rachael Zoe and her son Skyler. She exemplifies the word ‘fashion’ with her flowing black maxi dress, motorcycle-style woven grey and black jacket, and over-sized round shades. She even gets points for coordinating her son Skyler’s cool outfit with his black knit cap, grey and black graphic t-shirt, black trousers and boots.
The next celebrity street style is Kanye West, who was sporting a calf-length fur coat on his arrival to attend the Givenchy Men’s Fall/Winter 2014 fashion show. Fur is one of the hottest trends of the year and Kanye jumps right in with this coat. He manages to keep it casual with the oversized, hooded grey sweatshirt, slim black leather pants, and lace-up boots. Admittedly, the boots miss their mark – Kanye, you should know better and check out a retailer like Cavells for a bit more chic footwear!
The last two fashionable street strollers are Paris and Nicky Hilton. Paris has on a great charcoal woven topper jacket with leopard accents and Nicky’s mixed media Pea Coat, chain detailed purse, and liquid leggings are rocking the streets.