The Highsnobiety 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.
2016’s prize was a $2,000 shopping spree courtesy of luxury shopping destination MATCHESFASHION.COM. Stay posted for more information on the 2017 Crowns later this year.
Winners: The Best Fashion Collaboration of 2016
Bronze – Nike SB x Soulland
In third place, Nike SB and Soulland’s skate-oriented collection of smart menswear staples pays homage to everyone’s favorite day of the week. The FRI.day collection features all-over print short-sleeve shirts, moisture-wicking blazers, and even paneled trousers—all of which can withstand a day’s worth of grinding. Throw in a subtly stylish pair of Zoom Eric Koston QS sneakers, and the result is a uniform actually suited for the rest of week, too.
Silver – OFF-WHITE x Levi’s Made & Crafted
Back a few hundred votes in second place, Virgil Abloh’s collaboration with storied denim company Levi’s channels OFF-WHITE’s experimental street-informed clothing with the timeless subcultural appeal of Levi’s jeans. Under the company’s Made & Crafted label, known for its fashion-forward attitude, Abloh re-engineered the anti-fitting dad jean with a zipper placket and contrast panels, and re-interpreted the classic trucker with patchwork color-blocking and frayed edges. The limited-edition collection only hit select retailers like SSENSE and Barneys, and many pieces flew off the shelves instantly.
Gold – Supreme x Undercover
Our “Best Fashion Collaboration” winner, Supreme x Undercover takes home the first place prize. Drawing on Undercover designer Jun Takahashi’s predilection for punk, and Supreme’s penchant for subversive wearability, this collaboration featured anarchy logo-covered sweatsuits made from thick terry cloth, patched-up topcoats for the smart dresser with a rebel edge, and a covetable Gilapple light from Medicom. The latter was one of the most sought-after pieces, combining Takahashi’s trompe l’oeil collectible—a hyper-real plastic apple with a small light embedded in the middle—with Supreme’s tendency to release branded tchotchkes that everyone wants, from bolt cutters to bricks.
Editor’s Choice – GucciGhost
Gucci’s 2016 degauss included a collaboration with multi-creative Trevor “Trouble” Andrew, affectionately known as GucciGhost. Much in the way that Louis Vuitton tapped artist Stephen Sprouse for a street-savvy, graffiti-inspired range in 2001 and then again in 2008, Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele bravely enlisted the relatively unknown Canadian designer to bring an all-new design language to Gucci.
Most importantly, the outcome of the collaboration itself was quite strong, illustrating a refreshing high-low combination, and creating conversations in fashion.
Raf Simons x David Sims
Designer Raf Simons may only have recently seeped into the street culture zeitgeist with his hype-inducing Fall/Winter 2014 collection with artist Sterling Ruby, but the Belgian legend has long tapped artists to elevate his garments. Hardcore fashion nerds easily recall his previous collections featuring Joy Division album art from Peter Savile to sought-after pieces themed after Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers. The fetishization of youth remains a well many modern brands continue to dip into, but no one does it quite like Raf Simons
His Spring/Summer 2016 “Isolated Heroes” collection features a humble assortment of fishtail parkas, tote bags, and crewneck sweatshirts emblazoned with black and white portraits of young men in their prime—something photographer David Sims has made into a signature. Relatively austere in its execution and stark color story, it’s a great example of what has propelled both creatives to the forefront of their respective fields: Simons’ ability to use art to elevate the simplest garments, and Sims’ ability to communicate youthfully masculine beauty in a visually arresting manner. As the featured designer at Pitti Uomo, Raf Simons debuted one of the most anticipated collaborations for Spring/Summer 2017: a collection done in conjunction with the estate of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, which further makese the case for fashion as wearable art.
Nike SB x Soulland
Soulland designer Silas Adler grew up skateboarding and has always infused a distinct, upscale street appeal in his collections. So when he got the opportunity to team up with the most recognizable sportswear brand on the planet, he zeroed in on their skateboarding division for his collaboration—and tapped Eric Koston, one of the most stylish skaters to ever grace a board, to model the lookbook.
The resulting FRI.day collection combines every working stiff’s favorite day of the week with the Danish word for “freedom,” offering casual takes on wear-to-work staples like button-down shirts, patchwork suit trousers, and a blazer made from technical fabric, tempered by street-ready sportswear like hoodies and coaches jackets. The complementary Koston 1 and Koston Hyperfeel 3 sneakers that rounded out the collaboration were icing on the cake.
Rihanna x PUMA Fenty
For German sportswear company PUMA, tapping the creative talents of BadGalRiRi has been good for business—literally. Just last month, PUMA’s earnings rose 98% over three months. According to Puma Chief Executive Bjorn Gulden, Rihanna’s Fenty collaboration “played no small role in boosting the company’s lifestyle products.” Her updated interpretation of the PUMA Suede with a punky creeper sole was recently award with Footwear News’ “Sneaker of the Year” award, and remains a covetable silhouette.
But what about the collection itself? Tapping into ’90s nostalgia (tearaway track pants, anyone?), a confident sense of femininity, and genderless oversized silhouettes that dudes could wear too, Rihanna’s Fenty line bridges the gap between a slouchy Vetements appeal while effectively communicating the Barbadian artist’s penchant for envelope-pushing style. Her recent Fall collection updates sportswear staples with luxe faux fur and velour, while her recent Spring/Summer 2017 show upped the ante with a theme that mixed Victorian inspiration into lounge bondagewear.
The fact that such a mainstream company would take a risk in producing the kind of experimental silhouettes you’d see at a VFILES show speaks to how progressive fashion has become. Men are wearing lace-detailed tank tops, delicate du-rags, and satin onesies, and women are featured in corset-like bodices that emphasize a message of power, not restraint. If the future is indeed female, Fenty is leading the charge, and getting men to embrace a softer side of style as well.
KENZO x H&M
Since taking the helm of Kenzo in 2011, Opening Ceremony founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim have expertly woven in their penchant for bold colours and shocking silhouettes into the fashion house’s legacy. Designer Kenzo Takada established a design language of tiger stripes and the intersection of Japanese silhouettes with European couture construction. He left the house in 1999 to pursue an art career, but Lim and Leon have reinvigorated it with a welcome sense of playfulness.
After making pieces like patterned New Era baseball caps and luxury logo sweatshirts a street style staple, the creative duo achieved a coup in their recent collaboration with Swedish retailer H&M. The staggering collection hit all the classic Kenzo notes—kimono-inspired bomber jackets, tiger logo sweatshirts, and colour-blocked faux fur hoodies, while making it accessible at a commercial level. And judging by its sold-out status, it’s probably safe to say this collaboration was a resounding success.
Justin Bieber x Jerry Lorenzo
One is a post-teen teen heartthrob trying to get his life on track by investing in his faith. The other is an unlikely designer raised in the church who uses his brand as a platform to promote his faith without forcing it down people’s throats. Together, they’ve taken concert merch to a new level of access and meaning. Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour merch riffed on labels like Raf Simons and Vetements, as well as the iconography of subcultural icons like Thrasher magazine (which really, really wants Bieber to stop wearing its clothes).
Lorenzo recently admitted he’s glad he was able to flip a Marilyn Manson tee into a triumphant statement about Bieber being bigger than his personal demons, and is also riding off a hot year that includes his fourth collection and a diffusion line with PacSun. The latter even included a highly-anticipated Vans collaboration inspired by the classic checkerboard slip-ons worn by Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But what he’s most proud of is eschewing the nepotistic practice of seeding free gear to “influencers” in favor of donating clothes and kicks to the homeless of Los Angeles’ Skid Row.
Supreme x Undercover
Supreme and Undercover have a long history of collaborations, both with each other and a myriad of labels. But this time, the anarchy-fueled meeting of the minds feels even more appropriate in a post-Trump geopolitical landscape. Now that America is at a very real risk of living under the kind of totalitarian hegemony that dominated Margaret Thatcher’s London and Ronald Reagan’s United States, punk is going from oft-referenced style trope to especially relevant form of rebellion.
Before the results of the U.S. election, bombers emblazoned with “Generation Fuck You” and anarchic all-over print sweatsuits might have seemed gratuitous, or even crass. Now they’re the ideal garments to armor the young, disenfranchised, and voiceless. Sometimes the best art isn’t really recognized until it becomes relevant in the appropriate context. Scarily, Supreme x Undercover’s time has come.
Vetements SS17 Collection
You can’t help but feel brothers Demna and Guram Gvasalia are pulling a prank on the fashion world. They’ve made oversized hoodies and bombers a part of the modern wardrobe vernacular, and their exorbitant prices certainly aren’t losing them any customers. In Seoul, where counterfeit versions of their gear run rampant, they threw a self-aware sale of “official bootleg” merchandise and launched an instantly-covetable Reebok sneaker.
But perhaps their mastery of the hype game fully manifested in their Spring/Summer 2017 collection, featuring a series of clothes all marked as “collaborations” with other labels like Brioni, Reebok, Levi’s, Schott NYC, and Comme Des Garçons. On the one hand, it pokes fun at the very idea of brand collaborations, while on the other, it reveals the high fashion industry for what it often is—high-priced clothes concepted by a designer then farmed out to multiple factories to produce. Brands are an illusion, and yet, hype remains very real. How’s that for an existential crisis?
Hiroshi Fujiwara x Louis Vuitton
If you needed anymore proof about the legitimation of streetwear in the high-fashion sphere, look no further than this unprecedented collaboration. Louis Vuitton men’s creative director Kim Jones is no stranger to reinterpreting streetwear tropes (like a high-end version of a Patagonia fleece half-zip), and Hiroshi Fujiwara is the de facto leader of street culture-influenced collabs, with his hands in everything from incense to grooming products. But this humble-yet-meaningful capsule of luggage, accessories, and footwear shows just how significant the movement has become.
Streetwear’s origins often tap into the reconciliation of subculture with the elite attitude of luxury fashion. Shawn Stüssy flipped Chanel’s iconic crossed C’s to speak to a younger audience of cross-cultural consumers. In London, Barnzley Armitage screenprinted his own versions of Chanel and Gucci t-shirts while working at the seminal King’s Road boutique BOY. Now, the paths of culturally-informed tastemakers and venerated luxury labels have finally crossed, signaling a passing of the aspirational torch, and a world where a pair of Yeezys or box logo hoodie is as much of a status symbol as a monogrammed Louis Vuitton backpack. Long live the new street kings.
Gucci x GucciGhost
High-fashion’s relationship with counterfeits has always been a tenuous one, but under the tenure of Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s not only achieved success financially, but redefined culture along the way. Michele’s penchant for balancing delicate femininity, androgynous masculinity, and subculture-influenced attitude into his collections have created a discordant but enthralling universe that speaks to the inundated state of fashion.
He reappropriated rampant Gucci bootleg graphics into authentic (and high-priced) t-shirts and hoodies for his latest resort collection, and took things a step further by tapping Trevor “GucciGhost” Andrew to do an official collaboration with the house, inspired by the artist’s own bootleg take on Gucci. GucciGhost’s graffiti-inspired monogram logo and ghost icon became legitimized by the brand, while poking fun at the intricate symbiosis between fans of the brand that resort to bootlegs to show their appreciation, and the diehard customers that are willing to buy into anything marked “REAL” Gucci. Life is Gucci, indeed.
OFF-WHITE x Levi’s Made & Crafted
Virgil Abloh has established himself as the modern era’s ultimate multi-hyphenate creative. In fusing himself with his projects, be it his clothing line OFF-WHITE, his DJ career as FLAT WHITE, or his continued involvement in the DONDA sphere, he’s embodied the ideal of a cohesive “personal brand.” Everything he touches seems to turn to gold—and you can see his fingerprints right on it. While his OFF-WHITE x Moncler collab is definitely worth noting (who else can make deep sea fishing seem cool?), it’s Abloh’s Levi’s Made & Crafted collaboration that best represents his cultural significance.
In a time when the Americana aesthetic is fading, and the old guard of American fashion brands like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger are losing steam (and millions of dollars), this collaboration proves that American fashion is already great. Through embracing intersectional perspectives and melding them with a modern youthful spirit, OFF-WHITE redefines the notion of “classic American style.” Rooted in the very American ideal of believing in yourself and your dreams enough to execute them, Abloh has in a sense become a new Ralph Lauren—the creative engine that not only could, but did.
- Illustrations: Yu Nagaba