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 reader. Every voter will be automatically entered to win one of two prizes. This year’s grand prize is a $1,500 gift card with two runner-up gift cards valued at $500 each, courtesy of luxury shopping destination LUISAVIAROMA. Stay tuned for the final results on December 21 and see who won last year here.
2017 was an exciting year for fashion retail, both in the physical and digital world. As you’d expect, e-commerce has only gone from strength to strength, but the past year has seen a rapid transformation in the way a lot of people buy and sell their clothes, as some of our nominations below demonstrate.
Back in the world of brick and mortar, a number of leading retailers have carried the torch in creating exciting and compelling physical environments, renovating, revamping, and reinventing, as well as expanding into new spaces or opening new concepts altogether. So we’ve curated a list of our favorite stores of 2017 for you to choose an ultimate champion.
It might seem strange to kick off a “Best Store” shortlist with a place that exists only in the digital sense, but considering the impact Grailed has had on the fashion scene over the past 12 months, it would actually be stranger leaving them out. At its core, Grailed simply took the model of other online resale marketplaces and tailored it to the fashion scene, but in doing so, it unlocked a world of rare and coveted pieces for anyone around the world to have the chance of owning.
As a result, Grailed might be one of the only stores in the world that can boast a “brand roster” of rare pieces from the likes of Helmut Lang, Supreme, Haider Ackerman, Futura, Goyard, and literally hundreds of other designers – a statement that would be hyperbolic if not for the caliber of the product available.
In recent years, however, Grailed has really stepped up in its role as a style authority, expanding its editorial and content offer to create a one-stop shop for fans of fashion. The site’s content arm, playfully-named “Dry Clean Only,” provides all manner of articles to make dressing with style a little bit easier, including cheat sheets for the latest trends and curated lists of the best deals on the site that week, as well as in-depth profiles on some of the best stores around the world, fashion designers and, of course, influencers.
And, of course, it hasn’t hurt having former Four Pins Editor-in-Chief Lawrence Schlossman at the helm as Brand Director, bringing with him the irreverent, down-to-earth approach to menswear that made his brilliant (but ultimately doomed) blog essential reading for guys who didn’t necessarily take their fashion as seriously as fashion takes itself.
Fundamentally, Grailed has made the list because it represents that total deconstruction of the hierarchy that we’ve been seeing in fashion over the past few years. They’ve got the best brands on the planet, but didn’t have to go to a single buying appointment; they’ve got great content that comes from a genuine love of style and fashion; and they’ve got fans rushing through their doors every second of the day, without ever having to open any actual, physical doors. Brave new world.
Another online platform that has shaken up the way we buy and resell our heat, StockX took the auction-style format of sites like eBay, and combined it with the rapid model of the stock market. It’s actually pretty simple in practice; sellers list their item for an asking price; potential buyers list the highest they’re willing to pay for that same item; and if a buyer and a seller’s ideal prices align, StockX processes the transaction almost immediately.
The edge this has given the StockX team is that it has allowed them to get a grasp of the actual going rate for the most coveted grails in the streetwear scene right now. Sure, there might be 20 pairs of a hyped sneaker up on eBay for $2,000 each, but what do they actually end up selling for? That’s the number that really matters, and it’s something StockX has been unpacking with their StockX TV series, tracking the rise and fall of the most coveted drops of the week. Not only that, their blog provides regular updates on which pieces have been performing best that week, giving resellers access to vital information about the pieces they should hold onto, and the ones they need to offload if they want to avoid making a loss. Much like the actual stock market, it’s fast-paced and brutal, but then nobody ever said the hustle was supposed to be easy.
As for the buyers and sellers using the site, StockX’s model has the advantage that it cuts through the back and forth of messages that usually comes with these transactions on other platforms. More than any of the other platforms out there, it’s a site for people concerned about the numbers, and nothing else, and for anyone who’s ever had to spend an afternoon explaining to someone on eBay that it doesn’t matter how much something was in the store, it’s a different price now, StockX just might be an absolute blessing.
It’s been a hell of a ride for colette, but after 20 years in the business, store founder Sarah Andelman announced that the iconic Parisian store would be closing its doors at the end of 2017. Anyone who’s ever been to Paris (and plenty who haven’t, for that matter) will know just how vital colette has been in not only curating the most cutting edge in style and fashion around the globe, but redefining fashion itself through its inimitable mix of high-end brands, music, literature, and pop culture ephemera.
So with less than one month to go before the store closes for good, it’s no surprise that 2017 has been a jam-packed year for colette on all fronts. They kicked off the year taking part in adidas Consortium’s Sneaker Exchange project alongside Undefeated, and virtually every week has seen the store lending its trademark blue colorway to a range of collaborative releases with the likes of Nike, Dr. Martens, Birkenstock, and Thom Browne, even teaming up with Paris’s Blend burger bar to create a special edition “Farewell” burger in a colette blue bun. Earlier this year, colette even hopped on the fidget spinner craze when it released its own versions, including a premium $60 edition.
Arguably the most talked-about element of colette’s swansong ceremonies, however, has to have been their series of brand takeovers on the store’s second floor. Starting with Balenciaga’s elaborate takeover back in July complete with a dissected Porsche by German artist Yngve Holen, the second half of 2017 has seen colette transformed into an immersive brand environment for the likes of sacai, Thom Browne, Chanel, and Saint Laurent.
Ultimately, the knowledge that the end of this year also means the end of colette means reflecting on the store’s past 12 months was always destined to be a sad one, but it’s also true that 2017 has been a year where colette truly reaffirmed its hard-earned status as one of the world’s leading retailers. It’s not clear what Sarah Andelman has planned for the future, but if there’s any justice in the world, she’ll be back with a new project very soon. Until then, here’s to colette.
Though they might be a relatively small European sneaker franchise, Solebox was a no-brainer for our Best Store Crown this year thanks to their two newest locations, both of which showed a level of ambition and vision that’s becoming increasingly rare in brick-and-mortar retail these days.
Kicking off 2017 with style, Solebox announced the opening of a new flagship store in the Netherlands’ capital city, Amsterdam. Inspired by traditional chemistry laboratories, the store was decked out with grey and green tiles, actual work desks, glassware, and health and safety signage. Not stopping there, they even created an exclusive collaborative line of T-shirts with Daily Paper, all informed by the store’s chemistry theme.
And as if that wasn’t ambitious enough, clearly the Solebox guys were intent on one-upping themselves before the year was through. In September, they announced their second expansion of 2017, entering the Belgian capital of Brussels with a store in an old bank. As the home of the EU as well as being one of Europe’s financial capitals, the store fit perfectly with the narrative of its home city, and had everything from a vault and a ticker-tape LED sign, to a computer designed to look like an ATM, to “those” quilted leather chairs that just scream “finance.”
This level of retail storytelling is truly a rarity, something you hardly ever see outside of Japan. Solebox had to make the shortlist this year for coming through with something unique and exciting, creating two genuine retail destinations that are bound to give their visitors an experience, regardless of whether they leave the store with a shopping bag. Hats off.
As if single-handedly redefining how to design a collaborative sneaker over the past few years wasn’t enough, 2017 saw Ronnie Fieg expand his streetwear empire that little bit further with the opening of a new KITH flagship store smack bang in the middle of NoHo, Manhattan.
As his highly-coveted collaborations demonstrate, Fieg has never been one to do half-measures, and KITH’s latest Manhattan chapter is a testament to that philosophy, decked out in immaculate fluorescent lighting, and all the hottest footwear, apparel, magazines, accessories, and jewelry. Taking things one step further, the store’s 10,000-square-foot space is decorated with dozens of sneaker sculptures by New York artist Daniel Arsham – logical, considering the store was designed and fitted by Arsham’s architecture firm, Snarkitecture.
Fieg and Arsham’s professional bromance continued throughout the year, with the KITH Manhattan store playing host to a special installation for Arsham’s highly-coveted adidas Originals collaboration, while later in the year it was announced that the second floor of the store would open as the Arsham/Fieg Gallery (AFG), seemingly bringing the two figures’ distinctive worlds into total unison.
Ultimately, 2017 and the opening of the new KITH Manhattan store was another exciting step in Ronnie Fieg’s inimitable vision for streetwear and footwear retail. On the one hand, the move could be simply seen as more of the same from a trusted figure in the scene, but on the other, it’s an impressive step forward for an independent retailer at a time when brick and mortar business has become an increasingly challenging prospect.
Since opening in 2009, the Kuznetsky Most 20 (KM20) concept store has played a pivotal role in leading and redefining style in the burgeoning Moscow fashion scene. A proud champion of a number of homegrown Russian designers, as well as a stockist of many of the biggest names in fashion right now, KM20, like many trailblazing stores like it around the world, has in its own way challenged understandings of what fashion retail could be.
Needless to say, with figures like Gosha Rubchinskiy, Lotta Volkova, and the notorious Gvasalia brothers shifting the spotlight onto Russia and its surrounding regions, KM20 has become an increasingly important voice both in its own country and internationally. Just as audiences have been turning to Russian and Eastern European designers and stylists for a fresh perspective, Russian stores have been taking the lead in defining what fashion retail could be. KM20 has been well-poised to answer that question.
And in 2017, the store’s potential grew much bigger with the opening of a new three-story location on Stoleshnikov Lane. As you might expect, it’s a brilliantly ambitious affair, decked out with weird and wonderful installations for brands like Vetements, Off-White, and Heron Preston (the store’s former location actually played host to a pop-up launch event for Preston’s “World Tour” back in May), and even features an in-store café serving all manner of diverse and healthy foods for people looking to take a break from all the visual stimulation. Much in the same vein as Dover Street Market in London, 10 Corso Como in Milan and Andreas Murkudis in Berlin, KM20 successfully presents a localized reinterpretation of pioneering fashion commerce, and their place on this year’s shortlist is hard-earned, and well-deserved.
Round Two Hollywood + NYC
In 2013, three friends in Richmond, Virginia opened a small boutique store where they could sell their stockpiles of vintage streetwear from brands like Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, The North Face, Supreme, and more. So successful was the operation, that just two years later they were opening another location in Hollywood, California, followed by a New York location in October of this year.
Having had the opportunity to visit Round Two’s New York store shortly after it opened in October, it’s not hard to see how the team’s concept has flourished. The store’s simple, no-frills interior, decked out wall-to-wall with sneakers, T-shirts, jackets, accessories, and other assorted grails, seemed to bring the thrifting experience to the streetwear world – a scene that has become more and more characterized by vacuum-sealed sneakers, display cabinets for $30 tees, and resale prices with an eye-popping number of zeros.
To be fair, Round Two isn’t completely free of that part of the experience, as one might expect when you’re selling streetwear grails from years, sometimes even decades ago. But the store’s bare-bones aesthetic, with rammed clothes rails and every inch of space taken up by product gives you the closest you’ll ever get to that thrift-store rush of flicking through row after row of T-shirts, only to stumble across that piece from so many years ago that you’d all but given up on ever finding.
Online marketplaces and reselling sites might have everything laid out perfectly with every last detail just a click away, but they rarely offer the rush that a store like Round Two can – where it’s not about finding what you were looking for, but finding something you hadn’t even thought of.
For many outsiders, Tokyo is already a world from the future, scattered with neon lights, style tribes, and technology straight out of a sci-fi novel. So when we say the team over at GR8 are pioneers of futuristic fashion, you should understand the gravity of the statement.
Nonetheless, it bears repeating. Situated in the bustling Laforet Harajuku department store, for the past 12 years GR8 has been leading the way in curating fashion-forward brands. Put another way, when people talk about cutting-edge fashion, GR8 is the blade, championing upcoming labels like Astrid Andersen, Sam Ross’s A-COLD-WALL*, Xander Zhou, and D.TT.K long before the mainstream fashion press picked up on them.
This year, the GR8 store received a massive makeover, and was transformed into a traditional Japanese bonsai garden with hyper-futuristic lights, glass display units, monitor displays, and stark marble elements. At its core, it was a redesign that totally spoke to GR8’s boundary-pushing position within Japanese culture and the country’s mile-a-minute fashion scene, and captured their spirit of reinvention and adaptation perfectly.
Needless to say, GR8’s immaculate new layout has proved a popular spot for collaborative events and pop-up projects, hosting a FENTY PUMA by Rihanna space soon after their reopening and again for their most recent collection. As the year draws to a close, it’s clear that GR8’s status as a leading store in contemporary style is well-deserved, and the revamped shop’s unique blend of tradition, disruption, and pure Tokyo cool is a testament to that.
Yet another online retailer that has been redefining the fashion retail landscape over the past few years, Montreal-based SSENSE continued to lead the way this year. Like Grailed, part of SSENSE’s success has been down to its careful balance of commerce and content, creating a holistic fashion environment for its customers that doesn’t just sell expensive clothes, but informs and educates as well.
On the editorial front, SSENSE has arguably been holding its own against even some of the best online fashion magazines, interviewing the likes of Juliana Huxtable, Janet Mock, Alex Olson of Bianca Chandôn, and Jun Takahashi in the past month alone. Considering their editor-in-chief is the founder of pivotal Berlin fashion mag 032c, Joerg Koch, the store’s keen eye for a compelling story comes as no surprise. For most other online retailers, to dedicate their entire landing page to interviews and articles without a single product in sight would be an insane gambit, but not for SSENSE.
That’s not to say that SSENSE has been slacking on the product, however. The store’s brand roster reads like a who’s-who of fashion right now, featuring hot labels such as Alyx Studios, Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, Wales Bonner, Noah and, unsurprisingly, 032c’s in-house clothing brand.
The store has also been coming through with a number of exclusive capsules and collaborative releases with many of its favorite brands, reinforcing a number of these releases with a deeper cultural backstory, such as the store’s cross-cultural collaborative hoodies with Études. Other collaborations have included classic Italian sportswear brand Kappa and J.W.Anderson as well as exclusive pieces from Alyx Studios and, most recently, a colorway of Balenciaga’s viral Triple S sneaker.
Ultimately, SSENSE made our shortlist this year because of how comprehensive its command of contemporary fashion is right now, curating both its product and editorial offer with a confidence that can only come from having your finger on the pulse of the scene.
Whether we’re talking about sneakers, streetwear, high fashion, or even homewares, collaboration has become an increasingly vital element of the scene. The same is increasingly true of retail, and it’s for this reason that we’ve been paying extra attention to Maxfield LA and its series of pop-up spaces.
With its stark, brutalist concrete architecture and unassuming aesthetic, it’s no surprise that Maxfield would be an attractive space for labels to hold special presentations and installations. Toward the end of 2016, the store hosted a pop-up space for Virgil Abloh’s Off-White label, and kept up the pace throughout 2017 by hosting spaces for labels like READYMADE, Maison Margiela, and Jerry Lorenzo’s Fear of God. Most notable was Vetements’ “Dry Cleaning” installation, in which the store was transformed into a typical dry cleaning business, complete with plastic-wrapped garments and a revolving laundry rack.
Also of note is the number of Maxfield events that brought music and culture into the mix with fashion. Earlier this year the store played host to iconic dance duo Daft Punk’s first ever pop-up store, offering a range of exclusive merchandise as well as collaborations with Off-White, Medicom Toy, and others. In August, the store brought that same magic to ’80s hair rockers Guns N’ Roses, decking out the store with strippers, graffiti, a vandalized cop car, and all manner of collaborative merch. When it comes down to it, 2017 was the year Maxfield firmly demonstrated its command of cool in all its forms.
The Highsnobiety Crowns are an annual awards series celebrating the very best in streetwear and street culture over the past 12 months. See all of this year’s nominees here.
- Illustrations: Stephen Cheetham