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.
Nic Galway may not be a name that’s instantly familiar to you, but his work behind the scenes at adidas is part of the reason the German brand has had not just a successful 12 months, but has stayed ahead of Nike in the fashion stakes for years now, and maybe closing the gap on their arch rival in years to come.
His official title is Vice President of Global Design at adidas Originals, which means those Raf Stan Smiths you’ve been wearing all year? That was him. Or the Y-3 Qasas you’re still fiending after? Also him. And kolor. And Pharrell. In fact, Galway’s ability to bring some of fashion’s biggest names to the table — from Rick Owens to Kanye West — has been the ace up adidas’ Three Striped sleeve in recent years. That, and the brand’s commitment to game-changing new technologies like BOOST and Futurecraft — two things Galway also had a hand in.
Put simply, if it’s cool and it’s by adidas, Nic probably had something to do with it somewhere along the line. He’s a true behind-the-scenes playmaker, and one that has shaped your wardrobe in probably more ways than you realise.
Was 2015 the year creative polymath Virgil Abloh finally cemented his credentials as a fashion designer? There’s no denying his ability to churn out a hyped graphic tee or printed shirt (both of which have been absolutely everywhere this year), but the past twelve months saw a concerted effort from the Chicago native to ingratiate himself with the fashion community and move away from the traditional streetwear tag.
His heavily draped, Raf-esque SS16 menswear preview was a real talking point of Paris Fashion Week Men’s, and his first womanswear runway show later showed Abloh to be a designer who’s becoming increasingly adept in his field, with genuine conceptual spectacle (something you might expect from Kanye West’s creative director).
All that’s without mentioning Abloh’s enduring ability to tap into both the grassroots streetwear scene and its more fringe corners. You might not see him as often in front of a camera these days, but Virgil’s been pulling some power moves from the wings, and is far more than the mere entourage tag along some might have once unfairly labelled him as.
Ian Connor is essentially a millennial Malcolm McLaren — he has no real discernible creative talent, but the model-cum-stylist has an incredible ability to break and make everything from fashion brands to aspiring rappers and wannabe Instagram celebrities simply by virtue of a co-sign.
His CV includes work with the likes of A$AP Rocky, Kanye West, Virgil Abloh and Wiz Khalifa, even if we’re still not quite sure exactly what he does on a day-to-day basis. Nevertheless, this brash young kid typifies today’s young, internet savvy fashion consumer, and has been able to harness his relative fame to help push brands like Midnight Studios and Gosha Rubchinskiy, or rappers like Playboi Carti, into the limelight. In a time where good taste is enough to get you famous, Ian Connor is the ultimate personal brand.
For proof, look no further than his recent appointment as stylist to Kylie Jenner (a member of the ultimate “what do they really do?” personality cult), which will undoubtedly have a knock on effect for streetwear around the world. He’s a divisive figure, certainly, but Connor has an incredible amount of influence on the cultural landscape of youth fashion today, and that can’t be ignored. Plus, he really does have good taste.
Ronnie Fieg is an absolute vanguard leader when it comes to astute sneaker design. His ability to both gauge and shape public opinion is almost unrivalled in the traditional streetwear game, and his name is a very literal stamp of approval on any project he’s involved in. Whether it’s a simple choice of colors, the resurrection of obscure archive models or the development of a new silhouette entirely, if it’s got the RF name on, chances are it’ll be a big success.
The ultimate proof of Ronnie’s ability to form diamonds out of coal can be seen in his fondness for working with those lesser known names in the footwear industry. Starting way back with Saucony, then moving onto brands like ASICS, PUMA, Filling Pieces and Diadora, Fieg has proven time and time again that a shoe doesn’t need to have a Swoosh on it to be sought after — and that kind of pluralism is something the scene could definitely do with more of.
As his own KITH retail and clothing empire continues to expand, it’s hard to argue with Ronnie Fieg’s influence on streetwear today, whether or not his style is one you identify with on a personal level.
The Drake we saw in 2015 was unlike anything we had seen before from the Canadian rapper. Gone was his softer-than-cocoa-butter persona, and in its place was a more menacing, driven and bulked up version of himself, keen to hammer home his street credentials. That is, until Hotline Bling dropped…
What’s most remarkable about Drake is his Teflon-like ability to emerge from almost any situation with the world on his side. From accusations of ghostwriting, to hilarious dad dancing, to the constant stream of memes, gifs and jokes about his effeminate behaviour in the presence of sportsmen, rappers and celebrities of all kinds, there is apparently no scenario that can harm Drake’s irrepressible appeal.
How that translates to personal style is equally fascinating. Following his trip to the UK in the summer, where he spent time acting like the giggly little brother to OG grime don Skepta, Drake managed to boost sales of Stone Island back in North America in a way they had never experienced before. Likewise with Moncler, in the wake of the Hotline Bling video.
While Drake is never going to be on the level of someone like A$AP Rocky or Kanye West when it comes to pushing fashion on the masses, what he has that both those people lack is a unwavering air of honesty about him. If Drake’s wearing something, you get the feeling it’s because he really likes that thing, not because he thinks it’s the next “big thing”. And that just makes us like him more.
If he only popped up on your radar this year, be aware that Skepta is no flash-in-the-pan artist. For years he has been toiling away at the very heart of the UK grime scene, playing a big part in its first wave as part of Boy Better Know and sticking with it during the bleak creative lull of the late ’00s/early ’10s. While grime has been on the rise again in recent years, even he must have been surprised at just how good his 2015 was.
Ever since he dropped emancipation anthem “That’s Not Me” in 2014, Skepta has been a proud standard bearer for true, urban style, free from all the phoney pretending and showboating associated with brands like Gucci, Versace and Moschino. Confident in the authenticity of his roots, he has since returned to the classic sportswear-heavy look of the UK streets, which he helped push worldwide in 2015.
Beginning in February with his surprise appearance alongside Kanye at the Brit Awards, Skepta enjoyed a further spell in the US limelight thanks to a summer in the company of Drake, yet throughout that he remained largely un-phased, refusing to water down his image either sonically or visually. This is a man who was rocking curved peak caps and Air Max 95s long before they made a comeback this year, and that level of fierce pride in the clothing you feel personally connected to has served as the ultimate antidote to the fickle fashion chasing so many become caught up in.
For the most part, the Western world is only ever really exposed to Hiroshi Fujiwara’s name through his sporadic collabs with Nike, either under his fragment design umbrella, or as the ‘H’ in HTM releases. But what you might not realise is that, over in his native Japan, the man is one of the most influential figures in the whole fashion industry — a “godfather” so to speak, although he reportedly hates that term.
With a trendsetting presence that extends way back to the 1980s, when he was a standout figure in the early Harajuku scene as a DJ and founder of the Goodenough label, Fujiwara’s name is now considered the ultimate badge of honor on any project it is affiliated with. He served as an early mentor to people like NIGO and Jun Takahashi, before they went on to found BAPE and UNDERCOVER respectively, and is one of the most respected names around among anyone who knows anything about streetwear’s history.
For proof, look no further than his retail project, the POOL. Stocked entirely with exclusive releases and collaborations from the world’s top brands, it’s testament to the sway Fujiwara holds in the scene. When Nike wanted to re-launch the Sock Dart and Air Trainer 1 this year, they went straight to him. He’s worked with Apple and Disney, and was even given his own Starbucks collaboration. Put simply, he is the by-word for authentic cool in vast swathes of Asia, and at 51 years of age, shows absolutely no signs of slowing down any time soon.
The fact that we’re still witnessing the after-effects of Rocky rapping those immortal lines “Raf Simons, Rick Owens usually what I’m dressed in,” speaks volumes about the New York rapper’s ability to affect fashion trends across America.
It is absolutely no coincidence that the Raf renaissance of recent seasons can be traced, at least in part, back to him. And, whether or not you believe that Pretty Flacko was genuinely rocking the Belgian designer’s work on the streets of Harlem before he publicised the fact to the world, he certainly introduced the name to millions of previously ignorant fans when he dropped it in “Peso”.
Since that point, Rocky has positioned himself as something of a self-styled fashion maven, and (along with Kanye) can be credited for the relatively recent phenomenon of hip-hop artists actively seeking out a more adventurous look, pushing a more “cultured” level of bragging when it comes to stunting your wardrobe. This new crossover image is the defining style paradigm of the present day, and as one of its leading lights, Rocky is hugely influential in the image stakes.
After all, that’s why we put him on our front cover in September.
Another face largely unheard of outside of Japan until this year, POGGY, AKA Motofumi Kogi, is the buying director for influential menswear chains UNITED ARROWS and UNITED ARROWS & SONS, which might not mean a lot to Western readers, until you learn how many stores UA actually have (the answer is more than 40).
This year, however, saw POGGY’s own personal brand extend far wider than it had ever reached before. As a perennial face and oft-snapped presence on the global Fashion Week street style scene, his dress sense is routinely celebrated from afar, yet 2015 saw POGGY release a handful of celebrated product collaborations under his own name, as well as host an entire eponymous wing of the hugely important US tradeshow Liberty in Las Vegas.
As a figure on the retail circuit, POGGY is responsible for influencing the buying decisions of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. The trickle-down effect of the choices he makes, whether at a buying level or merely through personal endorsement, has long been felt in Asian markets, but this year that effect permeated over to the West as well. And that was definitely no bad thing.
Attempting to compile any list of this nature without a mention of Kanye West would be, at best, disingenuous, and at worst, grossly incompetent. Simultaneously the most highly praised and ruthlessly criticised individual in the whole fashion industry — an industry some are still not convinced he can cut it in, long term — there is simply no denying the fact that Kanye is one of the most influential figures in modern men’s style.
Scrutinised in absolutely everything he does, any year in Kanye Land is a busy one, but by any standards 2015 was busier than most. While the much promised new album never materialised, this was the first year Yeezy’s full fashion vision was realised, and the results speak for themselves. Having now had a whole year to sink in, the washed fabrics, dusty tones, distressed treatments and oversized silhouettes of YEEZY Season 1 have become the defining paradigm to follow, even if the majority of shoppers were left snubbed by the pricing of the actual collection.
While it remains to be seen whether Kanye’s newly crystallised fashion venture will stick around long enough to become a perennial fixture, or whether he will have the commitment to develop his ideas further and define a look that is truly his own, for now there’s no denying the world is very much still buying what he’s selling to them— in one way or other…