State of Menswear: How Is Streetwear Changing The Way Luxury Fashion Works?



We skip threshing through the trends and instead, dissect the state of menswear through the sartorial and the street, two ends of the spectrum that are now seeing a blurring of the lines in luxury.

Related: Time Travel Into The Future And Back With A New Kind Of Normal For Menswear

Okay, unpopular opinion: I am not a fan of the much-hyped and celebrated first outing of Virgil Abloh as Men’s Artistic Director for Louis Vuitton.

Now, before you start throwing stones (or fine, Supreme-stamped bricks) or casting side-eyes at me, know that I was one of those who looked forward to what he had to offer for the men’s segment of the revered Parisian luxury house, especially since he was following the footsteps of Kim Jones. (His storied tenure is one for the books, truly.) From industry and internet whispers to the actual announcement, I felt that it was not only a brilliant choice, but a necessary precursor for the LVMH-owned brand in this day and age of the streetwear-obsessed.

Abloh, with his firm grip on the pulse of the ruling generation, proved, proves and will prove to be lucrative for the brand, what with the relenting of the typically snooty and snobbish luxury to include sneakers, hoodies and left-field accessories to their portfolio of polished products. Actually, for the most part, despite it being a cumbersome show of one too many similar looks, the collection was cohesive and current, which is definitely a good thing. Now, this isn’t a pivot by any means, but a leveling of strengths and giving credit where it is due.

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The spring 2019 offering doesn’t depart uncharacteristically far from the template of Jones, himself a prophet of modern streetwear. Perhaps it was the introduction of the ceramic chain links, the abrasive geometric protrusions from the bomber vests that make it off the cuff, of course drawing from the house’s menswear past. Most importantly, it feels like the state of luxury has become a hairline too close to pedestrian.

Or maybe I was expecting too much of hallelujah moment. Unfortunately, again at least for me, there was no angelic chorus singing to the slow opening up of the heavens. It was just that, another collection from the ever-constant rotation of designers in high-up fashion. This time, it was the most specific and street it has ever been.

MAKE IT RIGHT

This isn’t meant to antagonize streetwear in luxury fashion, because if not scrupulously, it will surely resonate to more than just a specific set.

Case in point, the Dior Homme debut of former Louis Vuitton menswear designer Kim Jones was a critical and mainstream success. A unique coming together of sartorial suiting and sprinkles of streetwear, it was a successful coalition of two bookends in fashion. Seamless, believable and elegant, this was a walk through that told a sound journey from beginning to end—no alienation, just an unadulterated discovery of the sense anew.

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Make no mistake about it; this was no stuffy, stuck up display of typical tailoring. This was irreverent done right—think: reimagined silhouettes, reinstated romance, and restraint in nostalgia. From the light as air pastels, to the feathered flowers pressed underneath a swathe of vinyl, the expertly cut oblique jackets, and even a subtle nod to streetwear with sneakers aplenty and the Kaws-reinterpreted Dior bee, this was both an homage to the codes of Monsieur Dior, and an appropriation for the future loyalists of the brand. Even the Yoon Anh designed accessories were distinctly off-kilter, but still well within the realm of what the house stands for. (The belt with industrial fasteners, bike chain chokers and brass knuckles were definite standouts.)

Clearly, the element of underground counterculture wasn’t lost for Kim Jones and Dior Homme. On this account, the interspersing was done so carefully and cerebrally that it felt unified, necessary even.

A SHIFT

The tug of war of streetwear and the sartorial wasn’t just exclusive to Abloh for Louis Vuitton and Jones for Dior Homme. Ripples of this undercurrent reverberated in the collections of John Galliano for Maison Margiela and Raf Simons, both for his namesake brand and Calvin Klein. “We need a new outline, a new shape,” Simons boldly declares. “Of course I was part of it myself, but there are too many hoodies with prints out there. Something needs to shift.”

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This means infusing (read: educating) the current culture of nonchalance with the rigors of tailoring. It isn’t a defiance of the overruling paradigm for something very painfully precise, but rather it’s more of nipping the impending irreversible dominance of indifference for standards. Look, kids, it isn’t just all about graphic tees, oversized sweatpants and statement caps worn backwards. Yes, they are invariably cool, but there should be a time and place for that.

Recently, Birkenstocks revealed that it turned down collaborations with Supreme and Vetements, putting to light the fatigue that the ruling streetwear has slowly crippled fashion with. “There’s no benefit for us except prostitution, because this is just prostitution,” says Birkenstock CEO, Oliver Reichert, off the would be partnership. He then continues to prod and ask, “What is fashion?”

STATE OF FASHION

What is fashion, really? Is it the pomp and circumstance of streetwear, the unusual merging of both (as is the strange case of a Louis Vuitton-suited Kanye West wearing socks-and-sliders to a wedding), or is it the crisp and often constricting tailoring?

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We’ve long championed that fashion and consequently, style is what you make of it. The rules are for you to dispel and write on your own accord. It is through this dynamism that new energy gets passed on to the status quo and comfort zones. Change, a strong currency in fashion, is only going to continue to gain new ground—and so be it. Perhaps there is just a thread of fear seaming through that with the rise of the insouciant new normal, there will be an eventual disregard for the codes that have built menswear to what it is today. We all know how much of a struggle and stride it took, and still is taking to gain the same leverage as our female counterparts.

The point is simple: streetwear shouldn’t be used as a crutch to be blasé, cryptically cool and downright lazy. Fashion, style and clothes, they serve a purpose more than just caving in to aesthetic, hype and double-taps. These tenets are more than just statuses but crafts of communication. They are visual vessels of expression, diversity and individuality, allowing us the luxury to be able to wear what we want, when we want and how we want. That is the true state of fashion. Now, where do we go from here? Your guess is just as good as mine.