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 $2,000 shopping spree courtesy of luxury shopping destination MATCHESFASHION.COM. Stay posted for more information on the 2017 Crowns later this year.
Winners: The Most Influential Person of 2016
Bronze – Jerry Lorenzo
Fear of God frontman Jerry Lorenzo took things up a notch in 2016, working with established retailer PacSun to introduce Fear of God diffusion line F.O.G., and aligning with Justin Bieber to provide wardrobe and on-stage styling for Justin’s Purpose tour.
Lorenzo was also the backbone of the vintage metal T-shirt revival, releasing a Chapel of God range featuring a curated selection of rare deadstock T-shirts in partnership with vintage authority Chapel NYC, and a Maxfield LA pop-up that offered yet another range of customized band T-shirts with vintage concert shirt maker Never Gonna Turn Down Again.
Silver – A$AP Rocky
Maintaining a foothold in the world of fashion, Rocky remained one of the most stylish names in hip-hop, landing a spot as one of four faces for French fashion house Dior, collaboration with GUESS, and also creating a co-branded collection with British designer JW Anderson, titled “JWA AWGE.”
Rounding out a strong year, Rocky also became the creative director of MTV, and if there’s one person that might have a chance at rejuvenating the antiquated TV network. Rocky had a massive year, and he didn’t even have to release an album to do so.
Gold – Kanye West
Far and away the winning nominee for “Most Influential Person” of 2016 was Kanye West. Clocking in with more than four-and-a-half votes more than silver medalist A$AP Rocky, Kanye remains to be the most influential person in the Highsnobiety world, bottom line. His pursuits in music and fashion ripple through the news cycle on a daily basis, making Kanye West the top name that Highsnobiety readers love to hate, or hate to love.
Editor’s Choice – Kanye West
Giving this award to anyone else just wouldn’t be real.
Even by Kanye’s standards, 2016 was a huge year, with the tandem release of YEEZY Season 3 and The Life of Pablo at Madison Square Garden, followed by the Saint Pablo tour, and a grip of successful sneaker releases alongside adidas Originals.
Kanye’s outspoken behavior and ability to polarize opinions between the naysayers and the Yeezus disciples maintains a constant conversation that surrounds his every unpredictable move, whether he’s meeting with Donald Trump after being released from hospital, posting a stream of vintage fashion lookbooks on Instagram, or teasing new gear from his ongoing adidas collaboration. All that’s left to do is see how things progress into 2017.
Demna Gvasalia – the name that everyone was dying to know more about in 2016.
After studying at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Demna cut his teeth at renowned fashion houses Maison Margiela and Louis Vuitton, during an incubation period when the young designer made a point to sponge up the environment every bit he could. Later teaming with his older brother Guram the native Georgian started to trickle out products like the irreverent “hoodie” hoodie, in addition to other early pieces that followed, which were partly a response to their perceived frustrations within the antiquated industry. Taking note of his triumphs in fashion, established fashion house Balenciaga appointed Demna as creative director in October of 2015, forcing Gvasalia to literally and figuratively be in two places at once. For Balenciaga’s SS17 show, Gvasalia injected Vetements’ streetwear attitude directly into the runway, also experimenting with proportions and silhouettes like the house’s founder was known to do. Then, continuing to shake up the establishment, Gvasalia unveiled Vetements’ SS17 collection, containing a grand total of 18 collaborations, a move that was heralded by many as a genius departure from convention.
Demna Gvasalia has established himself as one of the most salient designers of the current time, and his self-aware sense of humor remains in spite of being constantly under the microscope – let’s not forget his famous DHL T-shirt. While the hype around Vetements has been certain this year, the realness of Demna’s creations remains clear, and it seems unlikely that Demna will depart from the Vetements any time soon.
In 2016, Barbadian songstress Robyn Rihanna Fenty continued to achieve impressive feats in music and fashion, finally realizing her partnership with PUMA that was inked as far back as December 2014.
In January, Rihanna’s eighth studio album Anti peaked at number one on the Billboard 200, bolstered by anthems like “Bitch Better Have My Money,” and later followed-up by several singles that saw widespread radio success like the Mike Will Made It-assisted “Nothing Is Promised” and “Too Good,” which appeared on Drake’s Views in April. Adding to Rihanna’s already bursting trophy case, Drake presented her with the Video Vanguard Award at the 2015 MTV VMAs, which was previously won by Kanye West and Beyoncé in 2015 and 2014 respectively.
Helping PUMA’s Fenty line to become the most-tweeted-about name at New York Fashion Week, Rihanna also lent a massive co-sign to the brand’s iconic Suede sneaker, helping to birth the Creeper silhouette, a design that repeatedly sold out at every release over the last 12 months. Not limiting her reach in the fashion world, RiRi also put pen to paper with Dior for a range of space-age eyewear range that was simply yet effectively titled “Rihanna,” and even tapped boutiques like Paris-based colette when launching her own merch line for the Anti tour.
Rather than losing ground to newcomers in fashion, Muscovite designer Gosha Rubchinskiy proved that his successes in 2015 and before were no flash in the pan.
Continuing to leverage his relationship with distinguished retailer Dover Street Market, Gosha released several exclusive ranges with the highly respected retailer, including a slightly bizarre DoubleCheeseburgerVF collection with Russian skater and artist Valentin Fufaev, and more recently some co-branded FILA, Kappa and Sergio Tacchini items that were previewed at Pitti Uomo as part of Rubchinksiy’s SS17 collection.
Further broadening his horizons, the 32-year-old Russian designer published a book titled The Day of My Death, released footwear collaborations with Vans and Reebok, debuted his very own fragrance, and worked with close friend and skater Tolia Titaev to create a diffusion line dubbed “PACCBET,” More importantly is the fact that others in fashion are taking note of Rubchinskiy’s style references – call them post-Soviet or what you will – and using these allusions as a starting point to create something new.
What can we say about Kanye West that we haven’t before?
2016 was the year of Pablo, as West continued to dominate the music and fashion spheres with his most recent studio album and accompanying Saint Pablo tour, as well as his ongoing collaboration with adidas. Taking over Madison Square Garden in New York, Kanye premiered YEEZY Season 3 to critical acclaim, soundtracked by the soul and gospel-infused The Life of Pablo. Expanding his footwear catalog with adidas, Kanye introduced the 350 V2 silhouette, and proved his merchandise line as highly desirable among young streetwear fans, despite being printed on Gildan blanks. Ever the uncompromising artist, Kanye provoked praise, criticism and even outrage when he debuted a highly controversial music video for “Famous,” directly amidst a very public feud with Taylor Swift. Sidebar, without West, we wouldn’t have Desiigner, so thanks for that, Kanye.
Finally, you can hate her or love her… but Kanye’s beaux Kim Kardashian is undisputedly one of the most powerful names in Hollywood, and together the couple have been snatching headlines all year long. With regards to the Highsnobiety sphere, when you really boil down the word influence, the name Kanye West tends to be at the top of the list, time and time again.
Jerry Lorenzo continued to be the best frontman for his own brand in 2016.
Vintage artist T-shirts were by and large one of the year’s overarching trends, and it’s difficult to say that someone other than Lorenzo was more responsible for plastering groups like Metallica, Guns n’ Roses and Megadeth on the backs of fashionistas around the world. Lorenzo’s Chapel of God range that surfaced in July featured a carefully curated selection of rare deadstock T-shirts, sourced in partnership with vintage authority Chapel NYC. Lorenzo’s Maxfield LA pop-up offered yet another range of customized band T-shirts, created in tandem with vintage concert shirt maker Never Gonna Turn Down Again. The vocal father and husband was regularly seen sporting merch himself over the last 12 months, from 2Pac, Pearl Jam and others.
This trend also leaked into Lorenzo’s consulting work with pop megastar Justin Bieber, who unveiled a line of Purpose apparel that drew obvious inspiration from classic ’80s and ’90s rock’n’roll and metal memorabilia. Not only did he lend a helping hand with Justin’s concert merch, but Lorenzo also lent his eye in creating the on-stage wardrobe for the tour, which spanned over 100 dates across North America and Europe. Naturally, Bieber was spotted wearing a considerable amount of Lorenzo’s Fear of God mainline during the tour stint.
This year, Lorenzo has been quite smart with repositioning his underground cool toward the mainstream, by successfully working with Bieber, gaining co-signs from Instagram cool girls like Kylie Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Hailey Baldwin, as well as successfully pushing his F.O.G. diffusion line into big box retailer PacSun.
Long since emerging from the shadow of friend and colleague Kanye West, Virgil Abloh has cemented himself as one of the foremost ambassadors of streetwear culture and its many appendages.
One of the busiest people in the industry, Virgil makes collecting passport stamps his business, seemingly in a state of perpetual travel between cities. Whether a DJ gig, art and fashion fair, or OFF-WHITE installation, Abloh is never not somewhere cool, establishing his credentials across an array of creative pursuits that spans clothing and architecture design, music curation, and creative consulting as a whole. Abloh himself has worked effortlessly to close the high-low gap, manifesting this idea in OFF-WHITE, a vision is best categorized as an acute mix of fashion and street, rather than prescriptively one or the other.
Many young streetwear disciples look to Virgil for his shrewd analysis of the culture as a whole. Despite what you may think of him or his brand, the quotable 34-year-old is full of insightful analogies that explain how streetwear and fashion connect. Online education platform Streetwear: Mastered certainly took note of this fact, and in January, Abloh was announced as one of several hosts for the so-called “career accelerator program.” In short, Virgil continues to be one of the biggest mentors in the culture.
He didn’t even have to drop an album this year, but A$AP Mob’s handsome frontman remained glued to our collective conscious.
Rocky kept himself busy with a series of varied projects over the duration of 2016. In the fashion realm, the “Fashion Killa” landed a spot as one of four faces for French fashion house Dior, selected by director Kris Van Assche due to Rocky’s outspoken opinions on fashion. The anointment was certainly am inflection in a string of partnerships for the Harlemite. Previously, we reported on his well-received co-op with GUESS from the beginning of the year, and a collaboration with British designer JW Anderson, titled “JWA AWGE,” which we learned was a nod to Rocky’s art direction team AWGE.
In a surprising turn of events, the 28-year-old was also tapped by MTV to fill the creative director spot of the network’s MTV Lab division, with the aim of reigniting the platform, making it exciting and relevant as it was in its prime. In the studio, Rocky and the Mob briefly brought back #WavyWednesdays this Spring, and finally unveiled the Cozy Tapes volume, honoring the late A$AP Yams with memorable tunes like “Yamborghini High” and “Crazy Brazy.” But Rocky’s collaboration with Mura Masa on “Love$ick” may have been a bigger musical moment overall.
In 2016, Hiroshi Fujiwara once again showed his staying power on the Japanese and international streetwear stages.
For a long while, fragment design flew under the radar of other, louder Japanese brands. But perhaps beginning with the fragment design x Air Jordan 1, the brand started to gain traction in the wider consciousness of the American landscape. While the brand is still not extensively stocked in retailers stateside, its limited run collections and collaborations nonetheless evoke desire among heads.
Partnering OFF-WHITE, Alyx Studio and others, Fujiwara’s status as a Japanese tastemaker reached new heights this year. Loyal fragment partner Nike also unveiled a number of fragment design-branded sneakers, not limited to special editions of the Air Zoom Lauderdale, Tennis Classic, and of course the Air Max LD-Zero H, which debuted in March on Nike’s yearly Air Max Day.
Arguably the most disruptive (yet refreshing) aura in hip-hop at the moment, Young Thug’s outlandish charisma proved irresistible for hip-hop fans in 2016, and the Atlanta rapper continued as one of the biggest champions of unconventional, oddball rap.
Thug never delivered his long awaited album Hy!£UN35, but instead we were treated to JEFFERY, a project that smashed preconceptions of what a hip-hop album cover should be, and reminded us that Young Thug is in no way afraid of simply being himself, something that remains his strongest asset. Shot by Garfield Lamond, the cover of JEFFERY depicted Young Thug, real name Jeffery Lamar Williams, wearing a ruffled blue dress designed by VFILES-approved designer Alessandro Trincone. The Highsnobiety Magazine Issue 13 cover star also appeared in Calvin Klein’s Fall 2016 fashion campaign, next to faces like Frank Ocean and others. In an advertisement for the campaign, Thug was quoted as saying “In my world, you can be a gangsta with a dress or you can be a gangsta with baggy pants.”
Rewind about a year or a year-and-a-half ago, and Justin Bieber’s influence on the Highsnobiety landscape was still very much up for discussion.
With one foot placed firmly in the world of Billboard charts and stadium tours, and toes of the other dipping into tastemaker circles, Bieber has deployed key partnerships in music and fashion to gain himself more cool points than we ever would have expected. Starting by tapping artists like Diplo and Post Malone, as well as RETNA who added his signature hieroglyphic-stile typograhy to the Purpose album cover, Bieber’s new interests started to show him in a different light.
Recently, Justin has adopted labels like Supreme and Gosha Rubchinskiy into his wardrobe, and might as well be signed to adidas, given the amount we’ve seen him rocking YEEZYs and Ultra Boost, particularly the all-white version of the latter. But more than anything else, it was arguably Jerry Lorenzo that lofted Biebs’ image and made him a talking point in streetwear, when the Fear of God designer lent his keen eye to the Purpose tour’s on-stage wardrobe and tour merchandise. Boldly elevating the idea of concert merch to new levels, the 22-year-old Canadian even partnered with American department store Barney’s for an exclusive clothing range that included a short-sleeved plaid overcoat priced at $2,100.
- Illustrations: Yu Nagaba