The HS Crowns are an annual awards series celebrating the very best in streetwear and street culture over the past 12 months. All shortlists are chosen by the in-house editorial staff at Highsnobiety, with the final result left up to you, the readers.
For every vote you cast in this year’s HS Crowns you have the chance to win a brand new iPad Pro or an Apple Watch. The full list of results will be published just before Christmas.
Browse all the categories right here, or scroll down to read the entire shortlist.
When you’re done, take a look at last year’s results.
By sheer virtue of turning up, Nike will always be in contention for any prize of this nature. Yet, while the brand wipes the floor with the competition when it comes to profit, sales and market share, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was the most relevant brand to Highsnobiety readers this year.
In fact, while 2015 was undeniably packed with fresh Nike releases (something true of every year), for the most part the company played things safe by re-releasing a string of guaranteed hits like the Air Max 95, Air Presto and Cortez. Even the Sock Dart — arguably one of the most exciting shoes to come out of Camp Beaverton in 2015 — was actually a re-release of a design that originally flopped in 2004.
That said, shoes like the HTM-designed Mercurial Superfly did get the world talking, and the Air Force 1 collaboration with Errolson Hugh’s ACRONYM went some way to following up the fashion credentials of Riccardo Tisci’s effort in 2014. At the end of the day, Nike is simply the biggest name in the business, and even when it throws a small stone in the pond, the ripples are enormous.
adidas has had some strong years in the past (we tipped them as our Editor’s Choice last year), but perhaps none have been more captivating than the one that’s just gone.
2015 was marked by power move after power move by the German sportswear giant — whether it was poaching three of Nike’s top designers, developing groundbreaking new production techniques or signing basketball players like James Harden and Nick Young.
While the Superstar enjoyed (almost) all the success of the Stan Smith a couple of years back, the brand shrugged off criticism that all it had to offer was rehashes of past silhouettes, releasing hugely well-received new designs like the Ultra Boost, Tubular X and (just days ago) the NMD.
However, eclipsing all these achievements has to be the monumental score they achieved by poaching Kanye West from their arch rivals. As we wrote earlier this year, Kanye’s adidas footwear has proven to be enormously more successful than his projects with Nike (more attainable, too), and that alone puts adidas in strong contention for this year’s Gold Crown.
While the frenzied Tri-ferg hype of 2014 was far less prominent among the fashion crowd this year, Palace has still enjoyed an immensely successful 12 months. In fact, its position in the streetwear landscape now feels a lot stronger and more assured than it did at the height of its awkward “front row” phase.
What makes Palace so refreshing is their plain-faced honesty. Lev Tanju and his team have never tried to be anything other than a rag tag bunch of London skateboarders with a penchant for the ’90s, and now the critical spotlight has moved elsewhere they’re freer to do that than ever.
In fact, it’s this no-nonsense approach to both product and marketing that has made Palace feel so fresh, even when it’s essentially doing the same things it always has been. This year saw the very first Palace flagship store open in London (there were, of course, long queues), followed by a pop-up in LA, of all places. How exactly the brand manages to appeal to rainy British street kids and sunkissed Californians is something of a mystery, but it’s hard to remember another recent brand that has become so established in such a short amount of time. Viva Palazzo.
The (perhaps unsurprising) winners of last year’s Gold Crown, Supreme has enjoyed another successful year in 2015, begging the question: “will the big, bad Bogo train ever slow down?”.
Supreme’s continued success is, in many ways, all the more noteworthy given the massive upheaval that has occurred at its heart this year. With Brendan Babenzian — one of the brand’s original staff members — finally exiting after 15 years to focus on his own label, NOAH, Supreme has had to get used to a brand new Creative Director in the shape of Proper Gang’s Max Vanderwoude Gross.
While the full effects of that change are yet to be felt, 2015 brought Supreme some seriously big hits to mark the end of the Babenzian era. There was the long overdue collaboration with UNDERCOVER, the history-making team up with Jordan Brand, and the news that a brand new Paris store is almost certainly opening in 2016. Aside from that, this year saw a lot of Supreme doing what it does every day (and night) — try to take over the world, one red box at a time…
While the murky world of Mr Owens may have retreated back inside its cult-like fanbase somewhat this year (those peepholes were a step too far for some…), few could deny that the enigmatic Californian continues to provide us with some of fashion’s most talked-about runway moments.
Take, for example, his most recent runway show, where models strutted down the catwalk wearing other models as backpacks, or his aforementioned penis-laden menswear show in January (complete with its unintended display of poor-taste political activism) — Rick was well and truly in the spotlight this year, and not always for the fashion.
Then again, many would argue it’s this ability to court controversy that actually defines Owens just as much as his wraith-like design aesthetic. Couple this with his stellar business acumen, particularly in Asia, and you get one of the few remaining independent designers who can still compete with the big boys — and do it on his terms entirely.
Hedi Slimane’s polarising perspective on what Saint Laurent should be (après Yves) has seen him come in for much criticism.
His grungy, thrift shop aesthetic has been lambasted by those who see it as a desecration of all that Yves (the literal creator of ready to wear) held to be important about fashion — namely, that it should push boundaries and empower those wearing it. Slimane, meanwhile, has defended his position, claiming he is following the founder’s footsteps by appropring of styles from the street and bringing them to the catwalk.
No matter where you sit on this divide, the numbers don’t lie — and, in this particular case, the numbers beggar belief. With revenue of just over $780 million in 2014, Slimane has more than doubled the house’s business in just three years.
In many ways, Slimane’s introduction of perennial wardrobe staples like leather biker jackets, sweaters, backpacks and sneakers has seen Saint Laurent become more of a super-luxury lifestyle brand than a typical high fashion house — but in the current market, that has proven to be a spectacularly successful decision.
Y-3 gave us some of the most coveted sportswear releases of 2014. In particular, the release of the hyper futuristic (yet super traditional) Qasa piqued interest all over the globe based on the sheer design ingenuity alone.
While 2015 didn’t see any releases of Qasa-level hype (although the Insta Pump-like Kohna gave it a decent shot), the brand still retained a solid place in the wardrobes of the world’s savviest dressers, cropping up time and time again in our Snobshots street style galleries. What’s more, the announcement of the newly christened Y-3 SPORT as adidas’ response to Nike’s immensely successful Gyakosou collaboration signalled a whole new wave for the franchise — one that will see it grow almost into an entire brand of its own (if it’s not there already).
In the same year an entirely new adidas venture with Junichi Abe’s kolor entered its infancy, Yohji took every opportunity to remind us why he’s still the top dog when it comes to high fashion streetwear franchises. Having publicly said he believes his mainline brand will die with him earlier this year, there’s never been a better time to start getting acquainted.
Acne Studios’ winning blend of pastel branding and laidback luxury saw the brand have its most successful year ever in 2015. For so long the go-to label for in-the-know fashion fans looking for edgy wardrobe staples (particularly in Europe), this year saw the Swedish brand well and truly “arrive” on shores right across the globe.
Acne’s assault on the global market has been fascinating to watch. In the past 12 months they’ve opened swanky new flagship stores in Seoul, Berlin and New York, launched an underwear line (shot by the hugely sought-after Ryan McGinley), and released their debut eyewear collection. On top of that, they earned widespread plaudits for their stellar womenswear campaign, which starred the founder’s 11-year-old son in a stroke of boundary crushing brilliance.
Acne is no longer the niche name it once was, yet somehow the brand has managed to scale its leftfield, outsider image in such a way that it has become the everyman’s alternative luxury staple right across the world, all while remaining every bit as awkwardly cool as it always was.
2015 was a tumultuous year for the superstar Belgian, as he executed collection after collection at break-neck speed for both his eponymous label and his day job at Dior. In the end it proved too much, but that didn’t seem to harm his unyielding creativity.
If Raf’s collection alongside Sterling Ruby last year was something of a crossover moment — one that brought in fans from far beyond the traditional fashion audience — 2015 saw him reassert himself with a pair of collections that moved back towards his roots… in one case, quite literally.
Yet, while Raf’s knitwear-heavy, high school-influenced ‘To The Archives’ collection was very much for the serious fashion set, his ongoing footwear collaboration with adidas simply gathered pace like a snowball. Who would’ve thought that a tonal version of a sneaker as ubiquitous as the Stan Smith — and costing around three times the price — would prove so popular? One thing’s for sure, with all his attention now focused on his mainline, the future of the Raf Simons name is looking more interesting than ever.
The fact that a brand celebrating its 35th year, in an industry where relevance rarely lasts more than a couple of seasons, is being mentioned here speaks volumes about Stüssy’s continually stellar output and strength of vision.
What’s more, thanks to its bona fide OG status, it’s able to pull the “heritage” card just as effectively as hit the “on trend” button, both seeming entirely natural and unforced.
Just take a look at Stüssy’s release history this year: one minute it was dropping reverential throwbacks to the Golden Era with A Tribe Called Quest, the next it was re-imagining the face of modern streetwear with young talent Kiko Kostadinov and dropping a collection with Dover Street Market, all while churning out consistently excellent material for its mainline collection.
Despite any latent notions of “The Original Stüssy Tribe”, in 2015 Stüssy is for everyone. Young kids, old heads, fashion followers, mall rats, your dad, your grandma, all over the World. Massive respect for that.
The term “streetwear” means a lot of different things to different people — especially in this pluralistic day and age — but, for one particular group with one particular style, KITH comes about as close to the dictionary definition as you can get.
This holy trinity of snapbacks, sneakers and sportswear is a look you’ll find on street corners all over the world, but Ronnie Fieg’s KITH has managed to own it in a way that few others can compete with. While part of that is down to the brand’s stellar retail presence, this is matched with a consistently solid stream of product that manages to fit the market like a custom woven sock liner.
KITH’s ability to generate intense amounts of interest in brands and silhouettes that previously had little vocal support is testament to Ronnie Fieg’s own Midas touch. What’s more, looking back at 2015, it seems barely a week went by that the KITH team didn’t release something new — be it original designs or a fresh collaboration. Simply put, you can’t knock this kind of steadfast hustle.
Ordinarily any new clothing label would have to graduate through our Best Breakthrough category before it got anywhere close to Most Relevant status, but Kanye West doesn’t do things “ordinarily.” In fact, it’s fair to say that there wasn’t a single clothing collection this year (new or old) that generated as many column inches as Kanye West’s debut YEEZY season.
While there were those quick to point fingers at the apparent overlaps with the likes of Margiela, Helmut Lang, Rick Owens and Haider Ackermann, to simply distil YEEZY down to to such isolated reference points would be to overlook the monumental effect it has had on the streetwear landscape as a whole this year.
What many first viewed with a mixture of curiosity and bemusement has since become the new paradigm to follow, with fast fashion retailers and smaller brands from across the spectrum manoeuvring to accommodate distressed elements or washed out earthy tones into their work.
And as for the “real deal,” despite all the furore over its decidedly un-inclusive price point, YEEZY Season 1 has sold better than expected at retailers around the world, proving just how far outside traditional comfort zones Kanye really can push things and still stay on top.
Stone Island has long been a brand with a conflicted public image. At its very core it is a performance-driven outdoor goods label for people with a fondness for insanely complex production practices, but this has always gone hand-in-hand with a notion of aggressive masculinity, thanks to various violent UK subcultures.
Yet, while Stoney has tried to shake off such unsavoury associations in the past, they were (at least partially) responsible for the brand’s sudden boom this year. As artists like Drake and Travis Scott began adopting the infamous compass badge — both heavily inspired by the “London Roadman” look of British grime artists like Skepta — North American audiences started to pay attention to Stone Island in a way they had never done before.
Ironically, as more stores began stocking the brand, the more it became normalised among a US audience completely unaware of its connotations over in Europe. Meanwhile, the post-hipster, post-normcore, post-streetgoth fallout on UK shores meant new customers were turning to the brand as an icon of classic, no nonsense British-ness (despite it being Italian).
And, just like that, Stone Island pulled off one of its most popular years in decades — albeit in the most unlikely of ways.
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Virgil Abloh’s OFF-WHITE has been making serious waves this past year. For all the talk of brands that balance high-fashion with streetwear, OFF-WHITE seems to be one of the few that can actually command attention at Paris Fashion Week while also collaborating with the likes of Heron Preston, AssPizza and Spaghetti Boys.
Granted, that makes for an unusual mix, but it’s one which seems to be slowly gaining Abloh the respect of his “serious” fashion peers, as you can see from his LMVH prize nomination in March. His recent collections (both mens and womenswear), have received broadly positive reviews, too, while those unmistakable diagonal stripes cropped up time after time in street style galleries at fashion weeks across the world.
Interestingly enough, while OFF-WHITE feels more popular than it has perhaps ever been, its most recent collection exhibited a clear departure from the graphic heavy shirting of old in favour of a more abstract, deconstructed look. Whether that signals a permanent turning point for the future, we shall see, making it even harder to pigeonhole this most conception-defying of fashion brands.
Discounting the frenzied YEEZY hype, if you were to boil down 2015’s footwear trends into a single shoe, that shoe would almost certainly be the Common Projects Achilles Low. In all white, naturally.
The preponderance of plain tonal dress sneakers this year has been absolutely impossible to ignore. From runway houses to run-of-the-mill labels, everyone has tried their hand at the sophisticated man’s “go with everything” sneaker, but the defining example they’re all chasing is those diminutive gold numbers stamped at the heel.
As a brand, Common Projects has always tended to go about their business with relatively little fuss or fanfare, and 2015 was really no different. Yet, while they released a relatively modest selection of new shoes this year, new shoes has never been what defined the brand. Common Projects has always been about doing simple things incredibly well, and this year they showed why they’re miles ahead of the imitators.
- Words:AJ Gwilliam & Calum Gordon