The 15 Streetwear Brands That Changed Luxury Fashion Forever – Robb Report
Streetwear transformed luxury in a way no other force has in the last 20 years. More than a trend or fleeting commercial endeavor, it was a cultural movement from the start. In the early ’90s at skate parks, hip-hop haunts and the underground scenes in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo, a generation of youths created a new style of dressing—one rooted in long and loose silhouettes and graphics that were full of swagger. Think boxy tees, baggy jeans, hoodies, bucket hats and chunky sneakers. Niche brands began to emerge, catering to this conceptual ethos and postmodern approach to fashion, slowly but surely rising in the ranks, eventually becoming the standard. In fact, streetwear has shaped shopping habits at large with the pioneering drop model. It is now a multi-billion dollar industry that has turned luxury on its head.
What were the defining moments that brought this subcultural movement to the forefront? What made streetwear so impactful in the luxury fashion world? It’s hard to nail down a single instance or even a series. But here are a few visible signs of hype and utter obsession: blocks of kids camping out on Spring Street for Supreme’s latest drop; riots outside Virgil Abloh’s early Off-White shows; collections from Nigo’s A Bathing Ape selling out almost instantly, satisfying only 10 percent of his consumer base.
Today, a space that was long considered lesser-than now leads the dialogue in the luxury world. Nigo is at Kenzo. James Jebbia’s Supreme has collaborated with Burberry and Louis Vuitton, and has become the most valuable brand in the luxury resale market. Jun Takahashi’s Undercover is a continually substantive fixture at Paris Fashion Week. The late Virgil Abloh brought his post-streetwear, reference-heavy aesthetic to Louis Vuitton. Balenciaga is without a doubt a streetwear label, grounded in club culture, dark irony and Georgian irreverence. And the statement sneaker has taken over every house. Amidst all the market power and all the noise, however, there are genuine creatives that continue to push the scene, with emerging brands—from Tbilisi to Los Angeles to Kyoto to Lisbon and beyond—exploring and transgressing streetwear language each year.
The are now many players in the field, but there are also leaders, key brands that define and characterize luxury streetwear. Below, our guide to the top streetwear labels, the ones with the greatest influence that go beyond the hype.
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No other streetwear brand has had more of a the meteoric rise and deep fashion influence than Supreme. Founded by James Jebbia in 1994, the company started as a label for real-deal skaters, amassing a devoted fan base. Then in 2017, Supreme shattered the concept of luxury by partnering with Louis Vuitton. The hype was so big and the demand for the collection so strong that it put streetwear at the forefront of fashion, igniting a flame that continues to burn brighter with each passing year.
Virgil Abloh was a man of many talents. Not only did he create one of the biggest brands in streetwear, he was also a DJ, product designer and art curator. With Off-White, which he launched in 2013 after gaining notoriety as one of Ye’s sartorial protégés, Abloh experimented with typography, referenced artists from Dondi to Manet and deconstructed garments to stunning effect—all of which redefined luxury. He was eventually tapped to head Louis Vuitton’s menswear division, cementing streetwear’s dominance in the fashion industry.
Heron Preston—along with Abloh, Matthew Williams (now at Givenchy) and Justin Saunders—formed a fashion and DJ collective called Been Trill, which dominated social media in the 2010s. Preston’s own label grew out of this cultural output and the encouragement of these relationships, along with a come-to-Jesus moment swimming into plastic waste. The result is his cyber-influenced, eco-conscious namesake label, which entered the luxury market with a low-waste collection created in collaboration with the New York Sanitation Department in 2016. Since then, Preston has solidified his place in luxury, collaborating with NASA and developing a strong and original industrial street aesthetic beloved by high-end retailers.
Neighborhood is a Japanese label that launched in 1994 as part of the trio of iconic streetwear brands. Founded by Shinsuke Takizawa, the designs were largely inspired by motorcycle riders, the military, British punk bands and American workwear. It was largely unknown outside of Asia, but gradually gained a cult following in the West for its impeccable quality and unique cuts. Today, Neighborhood continues to have a special place in the streetwear scene, delivering a nuanced, referential collections with a Japanese deconstructionist appeal.
Hood by Air
When Shayne Oliver and Raul Luaz launched Hood by Air in 2006, the brand electrified the industry. It became a high-fashion phenomenon. The collections spoke to the community of individuals that didn’t define themselves by gender tropes, sparking a movement of unisex clothing that continues to grow stronger every year. But back then, the masses weren’t ready, and the brand shuttered. Now, the conceptual streetwear label is back in business, having relaunched in 2020 with a unique model: create one artistic project a year—injecting the duo’s signature aesthetic, marked by deconstructed workwear and utilitarian formalwear with a BDSM tinge—with a theme.
Undercover’s Jun Takahashi was studying at Tokyo’s prestigious Bunka University when he discovered punk. Vivienne Westwood, the Sex Pistols and Seditionaries: he became obsessed. His label grew out of this love and ethos, bridging the dark, subversive energy with an elegant, poetic and often unexpected vision. Today, he shows in Paris. Deconstructed sweats and suiting with twisted touches speak to a house that is respected by hypebeasts, old-school editors and luxury buyers.
A Bathing Ape
Nigo is not just a streetwear legend in Japan, but the entire globe. No list of best streetwear brands would be complete without paying homage to A Bathing Ape (BAPE), the brand he founded in 1993. It started as a cult label for in-the-know style setters, but reached the stratosphere in the early 2000s, when Jay-Z, Pharrel Williams, Lil Wayne and other hip-hop tastemakers started wearing Nigo’s colorful, ’80s-hued styles and signature camouflage toppers. Now, he has become the designer of Japanese heritage label Kenzo—a sign of streetwear’s ascendancy in luxury fashion.
U.K.-based skate brand Palace has an understated cool factor, giving it a relevancy that has stood the test of time since it launched in 2009. The line, founded by Gareth Skewis and Lev Tanju, was named after a dilapidated Waterloo skate house lovingly called “Palace.” The brand is graphically-driven, using motifs that are tongue in cheek, crafted in durable, technical materials. It has also, year after year, moved towards the luxury sphere, most recently with a collection designed by longtime Vivienne Westwood and Marc Jacobs photographer Juergen Teller.
Demna (neé Demna Gvasalia) turned the fashion world on its head with his spring 2019 collection inside a McDonalds, where models transformed into dystopian security guards and office workers outfitted in outsized uniforms the read “My Name is: Capitalism” on them. It was a perfect storm of rebellion and high-end streetwear, leading to the designer’s ascent to Balenciaga. Today, Vetements, now designed by Demna’s brother, Guram, is still a major player in luxury streetwear, delivering darkly ironic pieces that deconstruct common cultural references in new ways each season.
Samuel Ross was a Virgil Abloh mentee before he launched A-Cold-Wall in 2015. In a relatively short time, he developed an unmissable, singular aesthetic, offering collections that explore the British class system through classic tailoring—think pressed trousers and overcoats—that’s transformed with canvas, nylon and other technically-developed materials. The brand has taken both streetwear and high-fashion by storm, getting much-deserved recognition when Ross was nominated for an LVMH Prize in 2018.
Having cut her teeth at Dior Men, heading up the jewelry department under Kim Jones, and being embraced by the likes ofJay-Z, and Pharell Williams, it goes without saying that Yoon Ahn is a harbinger of cool. Her Tokyo-based label Ambush, conceived with her husband, hip-hop producer Verbal, started with directional rings and necklaces before introducing unisex garments in 2018. The line soon became a sought after, authoritative voice in luxury streetwear, integrating military codes, utilitarian references and sly, technical details that make a strong statement—with or without Ambush’s signature silver chains and padlocks.
Before launching Aries, founder Sofia Prantera developed menswear for the renowned English skate shop Slam City Skates. She originally launched with a women’s collection in 2010, but it was men in particular that gravitated toward her psychedelic, subcultural designs. Old Patagonia catalogs, original Detroit techno and early 2000s skate mags are frequent reference points. Collaborations with New Balance, AR Roma and pure luxury labels like the now-shuttered Hillier Bartley prove that Aries is going beyond its cult status and quickly becoming a mainstream name.
There’s a playful irreverence to Colm Dillane’s colorful, whimsically expressive streetwear. The native New Yorker—who started designing in the lunch room before launching his Brooklyn-based brand—is known for his crayola-colored, larger than life vision and performance art installations. He’s fast entering the luxury sphere, having won the Karl Lagerfeld LVMH Prize in 2021.
Former Jil Sander designer Maria Koch has taken the Berlin-based, fashion-insider magazine 032C’s culture and ethos and created dark, rave-inspired streetwear with an elegant, edited eye. Collaborations with Stüssy, Alyx and others have elevated the hype factor, cementing the label’s status as a new luxury streetwear tastemaker.
GMBH is a German fashion collective founded in 2016 by Benjamin Alexander Huseby and Serhat Isik that speaks to Berlin club culture and brown identities. It also is fast becoming one of the most interesting luxury streetwear labels in Europe, delivering styles that blends subtle subversive details with rich textiles.
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