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 Most Relevant Brand of 2016
Bronze – Gucci
Alessandro Michele was named Gucci’s creative director near the end of 2015, but the fruits of this decision didn’t become evident until partway through 2016. Freshening the Gucci aesthetic, Michele introduced a new range of visual hallmarks, including embroidered bumblebees, flowers, and snakes for the brand’s visionary runway presentations. Michele also tapped the one and only GucciGhost, aka “Trouble Andrew,” aka Trevor Andrew, who helmed his own collection with graffiti-inspired scrawlings of emoji-like skulls, waves and of course ghosts.
The hip-hop community took notice as well, with support coming from all corners of the genre. Gucci received strong co-signs from Young Thug, 2 Chainz, Rihanna and many others.
Silver – Supreme
Rather than losing traction to newcomers, Supreme maintained a strong handle on its, well…supremacy in streetwear. Fashion’s odd interest in skateboarding names like Thrasher directed many new eyes toward Supreme, which has been at the core of the New York skate community since it was founded in 1994, and today is reputed for selling out quicker than any other brand. While core fans have been there all along, Supreme is now more popular than it has ever been, and there may even be a Louis Vuitton collaboration in the works. But in 2016, new and old fans alike greeted the release of partnerships with Black Sabbath and Nobuyoshi Araki, as well as reprisals of long-term partnerships with The North Face and Nike.
Gold – adidas
It’s not such a huge surprise that adidas took first place in the “Most Relevant Brand” category. Garnering more than twice the votes of the second place winner, and shockingly nearly seven times more votes than its biggest competitor, Nike (slightly more of a surprise), adidas had a big year no matter how you slice it. Thanks to key collaborations with the likes of Palace Skateboards and Kanye West, as well as a maturation of the Originals division, adidas diversified its fashion portfolio more than ever before. The Herzogenaurach-based brand also introduced a number of new and exciting sneaker initiatives, including the ever-poplar NMD and several tech-forward styles that arrived under the Futurecraft banner.
Editor’s Choice – Vetements
Although Vetements was voted into fourth place, just a handful of votes away from cracking the top three, the Paris-based fashion brand was our sure pick for the Editor’s Choice award, a decision that came after we couldn’t deny the fact that Vetements was likely the most-debated brand at our Berlin headquarters, whether over the label’s oversized Snoop Dogg T-shirt to its SS17 collection with 18 collaborations, to its grinder necklace. Largely, if there’s one brand name to remember the 2016 fashion landscape by, many would agree in saying Vetements.
Certain brands have contributed so much to the culture that fill the e-pages of Highsnobiety each day, and Nike is certainly one. Nike’s catalog of game-changing sneakers is largely unmatched, and the cult following around the Beaverton-based brand has filled many a book. The sportswear powerhouse has the clout to tap names in high fashion like Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing or Louis Vuitton menswear art director Kim Jones, both of who were enlisted for collaborative projects in 2016, adding hugely to Nike’s prestige, and bolstering the fairly new NikeLab banner.
Ongoing partnerships with the likes of Undercover’s Jun Takahashi and Italian brand Stone Island were reprised in 2016 as well, while ACRONYM’s long awaited take on the Nike Presto was undoubtedly one of the most anticipated sneaker drops of the year.
Nike also realized auto-lacing technology in 2106 with the MAG and Hyperadapt 1.0, two of the biggest inflections of the year that had sneaker and tech nerds alike freaking out. And let’s not forget about Jordan Brand, which released a string of the best XII (Flu Game, Wings, OVO), and 1 (Banned, Shattered Backboard, Black Toe) retros that we’ve seen from the Jumpman marque in a long while, while other favorites like the “True Blue” IIIs and “Space Jam” XIs also made their triumphant return.
adidas fulfilled many promises in 2016. Many would agree that the German sportswear brand trailed behind its biggest competitor (you know the one) in years past, but thanks to key collaborations and maturation of the Originals division, adidas is giving Swoosh allies and other detractors many reasons to jump on the Three Stripes bandwagon. In many ways, adidas fans have never had more choice, but it’s also easy to lose count of all the collaborations that adidas is working on. Above all, Kanye’s co-sign to the Herzogenaurach camp has triggered a renewed interest in adidas, paving the way for other key co-op arrangements with brands like Palace Skateboards, Alexander Wang and others.
But adidas doesn’t necessarily need the collaborative “x” to drum up headlines, as shown by the NMD. Whether the inaugural R1, the more technical XR1, the mid-top CS1 or the recently released R2, kids were fiending after NMDs all year long.
While we were introduced to adidas Futurecraft late last year, the initiative kept up an interesting narrative over the duration of 2016. The Futurecraft M.F.G. was the first sneaker available for purchase from the forward-thinking adidas initiative. A special Parley for the Oceans edition followed, and even a biodegradable sneaker concept, hinting at adidas’ resolution to make environmental awareness a top priority in 2017.
If not the biggest thing to happen in fashion this year, Vetements was certainly the most divisive. In the beginning there was talk of a new label that had some wondering how to pronounce the Francophone equivalent for “clothing,” but these whispers quickly turned to echos within the fashion community. Vetements brought exaggerated fits to the spotlight, and the label’s plus-sized garments were a must-have item for anyone touring the European fashion week circuit, and while examples go on, the Titanic-inspired hoodie from SS16 and bootleg Snoop Dogg T-shirt come to mind, as examples of statement pieces that define the Vetements look.
From day one, it seems Vetements’ mission has been to rally against the fashion establishment, and the brand’s fits, graphics, collaborations and even price points all testify to this. For SS17, a grand total of 18 collaborations were debuted at Paris Fashion Week, including co-branded gear with Carhartt WIP, Levi’s, even Kawasaki and Juicy Couture, as well as Reebok who also worked with Vetements on a Pump Supreme.
More succinctly, if there’s one brand name to remember the 2016 fashion landscape by, many would agree in saying Vetements.
If you consider Pyrex Vision an early incarnation of OFF-WHITE, it’s been a long journey for Virgil Abloh to the Parisian runway, from bootleg Polo flannels to creating jackets with Moncler. This year, the brand’s bread and butter has been small-batch collaborations that only seem to exist on the internet, selling out before you ever have a chance to punch in your credit card info, much less make it to a store to cop. Co-ops with Babylon LA, fragment design, Midnight Studios and Levi’s were all on the bill this year, as well as oddities like the workwear-inspired Industrial belt. In September, Virgil partnered with Singaporean retailer Surrender to open “WINDOWS,” a dedicated brick and mortar space for OFF-WHITE, furthering his offensive into the Asian market.
If you’ve ever glanced at Virgil’s Instagram, you’ll be aware that the trained architect is one of the busiest tastemakers you can name, spinning in nightclubs and participating in fashion panels when he’s not in the design studio, never really existing in just one time zone. It’s Virgil’s work ethic and sleep-when-I-die attitude that has earned OFF-WHITE respect on the street and on the runway.
While it could be said that Gosha Rubchinskiy was the biggest streetwear success story of 2015, this year saw the Muscovite designer proliferate in depth rather than breadth. Gosha’s already substantial fanbase greeted the arrival of many new initiatives and creative projects, as Rubchinskiy added much to his résumé during 2016. Over the last 12 months, we reported on Gosha Rubchinskiy’s new perfume fragrance, his line of Phase One sneakers with Reebok, his new diffusion line PACCBET, and his Dover Street Market-exclusive range. Gosha even brought out a collaboration-heavy SS17 collection that debuted at Pitti Uomo, which featured partnerships with sportswear favorites Kappa, Superga, Sergio Tacchini and more, shown in an abandoned tobacco factory outside of Florence.
Most importantly, Gosha’s particular way of capturing and interpreting the powerful energy of youth hasn’t become any less impactful since we first noticed him and placed him on the cover of Highsnobiety Magazine Issue 10. Today Rubchinskiy’s designs continue to be amongst the coolest signifiers in streetwear.
“Pablo” merch was the answer for many Kanye fans who coveted his collaborative adidas apparel, but simply could not afford it. Building on the successes of Kanye’s Yeezus merch from 2014, Cali Thornhill DeWitt was brought on to assist in designing a range of Chicano-inspired apparel proclaiming The Life of Pablo lyrics such as “THIS IS A GOD’S DREAM” in gothic typography. The gear was sold at first through pop-up spaces in Los Angeles and New York, before West took the initiative global, opening 21 temporary Pablo boutiques around the world, for one weekend only. The response was massive, as supporters lined up around the globe to participate in the Pablo experience.
Kanye didn’t miss the opportunity to set up a merchandise booth at his outdoor YEEZY Season 4 performance, where branded longsleeve shirts and more were on sale to commemorate the occasion. Specialized graphic apparel was also available for those who attended US stops of Kanye’s Saint Pablo tour.
When you’re in a position like Supreme is, – essentially at the top of the streetwear food chain – there is so much more ground to lose than there is to gain, and we’ve seen many first-mover streetwear brands falter over the years years, failing to stay relevant in changing times. But this year the iconic New York City skate brand showed no signs of loosening its grip. Perhaps most interesting of all are the legions of teenaged Supreme fans that eagerly refresh their browsers and queue up at flagship stores every Thursday, an army of kids younger than the brand itself, who are nonetheless infatuated, without needing to understand every subtle reference or grasping every minutiae of Supreme’s legacy.
Supreme maintained an acute balance by ushering in some surprise collaborations (as they’re known to do), and simultaneously reinforcing the longstanding partnerships that Supreme heads know and love. While eyebrows were raised at Black Sabbath and Slayer drops, we were simply reminded that Supreme isn’t happy with simply keeping status quo, and the fact that kids were still spending $40 on a Supreme brick attested to the label being more popular than ever.
Following the likes of Saint Laurent Paris and Givenchy, Gucci was the latest of the old-guard fashion houses to receive a facelift in 2016, courtesy of creative director Alessandro Michele. Gucci’s overhaul was a long time coming, and while the long-established interlocked G logo still demands a certain amount of prestige, a set of new bohemian hallmarks were introduced this year, namely snakes and embroidered flowers.
On behalf of the Italian marque, Alessandro enlisted a new team of creatives to aid in refreshing the Gucci aesthetic, including Berlin-based filmmaker Matt Lambert and model/actress/writer Hari Nef who brought new ideas for Gucci’s runway presentations. But perhaps most interesting for Highsnobiety readers, Michele also tapped the one and only GucciGhost, aka “Trouble Andrew,” aka Trevor Andrew, who helmed his own collection with graffiti-inspired scrawlings of emoji-like skulls, waves and of course ghosts.
The hip-hop community took notice as well, with support coming from all corners of the genre. Gucci received strong co-signs from Young Thug, 2 Chainz, Rihanna and others, even Tyga and Desiigner worked together on a track named “Gucci Snakes,” a perfect follow-up to 2015’s Gucci flip flop craze.
Fear of God
By now, Fear of God is on its fourth collection; the most comprehensive offerings we’ve seen from designer and founder Jerry Lorenzo. Since its debut range, the Los Angeles-based brand has tacked on a strong denim program, expanded into footwear, and partnered with mega-retailer PacSun to bring Lorenzo’s designs to the masses.
If you’re a follower of our site, you’ll already know that Jerry debuted the Italian made Military sneaker this year, which has been treated to a number of different releases and colorways. Lorenzo also kept things interesting via special projects, namely one with Japanese brand Ready Made on a highly limited military backpack, and pop-up installations like his recent event with Maxfield LA. For school-age kids, PacSun also stocks the F.O.G. diffusion line, which offers a taste of Fear of God’s mainline at an affordable price, and the label even included a limited Vans collaboration featuring special Sk8-Hi and Era makeups.
Most interesting however, is Fear of God’s effect on the general fashion landscape, as the brand has spawned countless plagiarizers who attempt to recreate Lorenzo’s eye for styling, as well as his affinity for elevated basics, neutral tones and distressing. Just take a quick thumb through Instagram and you’re bound to spot them.
For the third time, London’s own Palace Skateboards lands in our “Most Relevant Brand” category. Just as we expected, the brand continued its upward trajectory this year, issuing strong collaborations and delivering seasonal collections that had kids lining up like a Supreme drop. It’s clear to see that Palace has been staying in its lane since day one, championing retro ’90s graphics and sportswear silhouettes, partnering with like-minded brands, and mostly importantly – never losing its sense of humor.
To announce a footwear collaboration with Reebok featuring renditions of the Classic and Club C, Palace tapped Hollywood funnyman Jonah Hill, who provided a strong co-sign for what Hill solemnly swore were “…some of the most beautiful shoes I’ve seen with my eyes.” While Reebok was the first to collaborate with the London brand, Palace’s co-op with adidas is perhaps more celebrated amongst streetwear fans, and the result brought a range of new sneakers and apparel this year, including the Palace Indoor silhouette and a Primeknit EQT.
- Illustrations: Yu Nagaba