Streetwear and couture: blurring lines in the fashion industry



One of the only bad things about fashion week season is how quickly each one comes and goes! With the main shows still to come, the haute couture preview catwalks in Paris are now in full swing. Anyone expecting a more sedate atmosphere than the traditionally more avant-garde shows in London will have had some surprises in store, though. Some of the greatest couture houses, such as Chanel, have taken more influences from street style than ever before. I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the trends and designers that are mixing the luxury and street worlds, and where the movement could go over the next year.

Chanel’s Paris show, under the directorship of Karl Lagerfeld, is always one of the marquee moments of the week. The house is known for its unshakeable conviction in classic luxury, but this year was slightly different – each Chanel model was decked out in a pair of trainers! Of course, they were highly customised and decorated with jewels and embroidery, but they were trainers nevertheless. This was just the latest, and highest-profile, example of the blending of couture and streetwear that has been picking up momentum for a while now. Just look at the appointment of Belgian designer Raf Simons, known for his luxe streetwear and collaborations with brands like Eastpak, to the top job at Dior in 2012.

But it would be wrong to say that this is a movement originating at the top fashion houses and extending downwards. There is just as much energy coming from streetwear brands that are moving more and more towards the luxury end of the market themselves. Two of the most renowned are A Bathing Ape and Billionaire Boys Club, which has attracted backers including Pharrell Williams and Jay-Z. A Bathing Ape founder Nigo, whose lines invariably retail at premium prices, said in a recent Guardian interview, “when I first started out, it was almost shocking that the fashion world would pay any attention to street clothing. Now that’s normal.” This demonstrates that the two worlds are beginning to collide, with each noticing and taking trends or ideas from the other to create a style that increasingly integrates these once disparate styles.

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A Bathing Ape

There are a number of reasons for this development, particularly the influence of models like Cara Delevingne, who appeared in Chanel’s Paris show and is equally comfortable in couture or in a hoodie. Bearing in mind the cross-cultural appeal of streetwear, the next logical step would appear to be a move to more traditional retailers. And, indeed, Nigo has recently signed a deal with Japanese fast fashion business Uniqlo to bring his take on streetwear to the high street. Will we see elements of the trend expanding to firms like Reiss and Whistles before long? Only time will tell, but we can be sure that jewelled trainers will be a feature of 2014’s fashion landscape!

The growing blend between streetwear and high fashion that has been taking place over the last couple of years is interesting because of its function as a democratising tool within the industry, making the catwalk more relatable and encouraging smaller streetwear brands to push for a more premium standing. Can you think of any other streetwear brands or designers who are going to grow in influence over the next 12 months? Let me know at moira@thembsgroup.co.uk, and have a lovely weekend!