At the end of every year we take the time to look back on how the past 12 months have affected the street fashion scene we know and love. Shortlisted by us, but chosen by you, the Highsnobiety Crowns are our way of celebrating the leading forces in our field, and the changing face of our industry.
2015 was an interesting time for streetwear and its culture. This was a year in which the traditional rulers of the scene slipped from their place at the top of the table, and were pushed aside by a mixture of age-old rivals and brand new competition alike, making for some interesting results.
Here’s how you voted in this year’s Highsnobiety Crowns awards, along with one extra Editors’ Choice for each category, chosen by us.
Best Breakthrough Brand
Bronze – Diadora
Let’s be honest, who saw this one coming? While, strictly speaking, Diadora has been around for over 65 years now, few could deny the Italian sneaker-maker pulled off the mother of all comebacks in 2015. What’s more, this was one entirely down to the strength of its ideas, not of its marketing budget.
From a position of almost zero standing among anyone but card-carrying sneakerheads and sporty grandparents, the past 12 months saw Diadora elbow aside the competition with some of the most adventurous, interesting and utterly absurd bits of footwear we’ve seen all year – all of which proved beyond any doubt that the brand has a spirit few can match right now. Forza Diadora.
Silver – Fear Of God
There’s no question Jerry Lorenzo’s label enjoyed a prominent spell in the public eye in 2013/14, but this was surely the year in which the LA brand stepped out from Kanye’s shadow and showed the world it was far more than Yeezy’s outfitter du jour.
In a remarkably short space of time the brand has become the leading archetype of that heavily layered, loosely draped, drop-crotched style that has taken hold of street fashion in recent years, and with its most recent collection the brand has pushed that paradigm yet further, distancing itself from the copycats.
While it has courted its fair share of controversy in the past 12 months — over everything from the high-priced bootlegging of rare vintage metal T-shirts, to its mall-approved PacSun diffusion line, to its unapologetically evangelical campaign video — there is no denying that Fear Of God is crystal clear about its market, its method and its mission, and all three have been bang on the money in 2015.
Gold – Gosha Rubchinskiy
Anyone doubting that 2015 was the year of Gosha Rubchinskiy is either a liar or a hermit. While people weren’t always able to spell it accurately (let alone in his native cyrillic alphabet), his was a name that cropped up in 2015 almost as frequently as his bear-wrestling president’s did.
Perhaps it’s because the post “street-goth” fallout was so emphatic, or perhaps it’s because the world of disaffected Russian youth culture is so alien to Western audiences, but the medley of antiquated post-Soviet sportswear that informs much of Gosha’s work has served as a beguiling and timely antidote to most of what was going on elsewhere this year.
It’s true, not everyone really “gets” the world according to Gosha, but few can deny his presence was felt at almost all levels of street culture this year, and his continued involvement in areas beyond fashion is a reminder that he’s got a lot more to him than hype graphics and fickle celebrity endorsement.
Editors’ Choice – Gosha Rubchinskiy
We've said it above, but for us at Highsnobiety, no designer stood out from the crowd as emphatically as Gosha in 2015. In an age where brand authenticity levels are often so wafer thin you could serve them at communion, his commitment to Soviet counterculture has marked him out as a rare and interesting force indeed.
Yes, his hype levels are on the brink of implosion right now (everyone from Kylie Jenner to 2Chainz having jumped aboard this celebrity brand-wagon), but beneath this fickle zeitgeist is a body of work with a cultural depth rarely exhibited by his peers. And, in a time where designers are ditching simple graphic streetwear in their droves, he has bucked the trend and produced some of the most sought-after pieces of the whole year.
Most Relevant Brand
Bronze — Supreme
While it’s too soon to speculate on whether Supreme’s once-unassailable position at the top has been disrupted for good, the fact that last year’s Gold Crown winner has slipped a full two places down the pecking order is surely a sign of the changing times.
Chin-stroking naysayers have long argued that Supreme’s bulletproof aura of “no fucks given” has waned in recent years, but few can dispute the products themselves are every bit as sought-after today as they ever were. Yet, with the re-sale market having now reached such a ludicrously inflated state, it seems the global demand for Supreme is finally having some unintended consequences among its core fanbase.
Sure, the brand still put out some excellent designs in 2015, but underneath it all you can’t escape the feeling that Supreme now feels more like a commodity than an authentic and conception-challenging fashion label. Does that mean it’s finished? Not a chance. But after so many years leading the pack, that little red box isn’t quite the same cultural weapon it once was.
(And maybe, just maybe, they don't give a fuck.)
Silver — YEEZY
For a fashion label to come literally out of nowhere and shoot straight to the number two spot on our Most Relevant Brand list is unheard of. Yet, the fact that YEEZY’s place here feels anything but surprising just goes to show how strong the “Kanye effect” really is.
In fact, not only has YEEZY proven itself relevant with audiences right across the world in 2015, it appears to have redefined the notion of what relevance really is. Bursting onto the scene last February with a collection that defied all current trends — at a price point that excluded huge parts of the market — YEEZY Season 1 went on to win over critics and cynics alike, becoming one of the defining looks of the year (even if that sometimes meant people were imitating it, rather than actually owning it).
While the impact of Season 2 is still yet to be fully felt, when considered alongside the success of the footwear line it’s hard to argue that any label had the same presence within the industry this year. Unless, of course, it’s the no.1 entry on our list…
Gold — adidas
We rightfully predicted a big year for adidas back in last year’s Crowns, when we gave it our Editors’ Choice award in this very category. Yet, what has made these past 12 months so exciting isn’t so much the degree of its success, but the sheer number of ways it has pushed the market into exciting new territory.
As we’ve mentioned before, in a straight numbers game adidas still trails far behind Nike in terms of its market share. However, when a brand is simultaneously producing scene-igniting collaborations with the world’s top fashion designers, developing industry-changing new production methods, perfecting new ways to reduce its environmental impact and dominating entire corners of the retro market, you begin to realise that “relevance” is about a lot more than simple profit.
In fact, it’s fair to say that adidas is in perhaps its strongest position since the ’80s when it comes to its public image, only this time it appears to be succeeding not as a direct competitor to the hegemony of Nike, but as the discerning alternative. And that's a pretty healthy place to be.
Editor’s Choice — YEEZY
While opinions on the clothing were divided here in the Highsnobiety office, one thing everyone could agree on is how much of an impact YEEZY has had on street style in 2015.
Granted, many of the themes seen across both Seasons 1 and 2 — such as impractically oversized sleeves, heavily washed fabrics, and a dusty tonal color palette — were not new to the world of fashion, but that didn’t seem to matter.
With both YEEZY collections, Kanye managed to distil a selection of the more obscure reference points that have influenced him in recent years, and present them to a global audience as something they could both understand and buy into without feeling uncomfortable. That was a bold move, and for that he deserves welcome recognition.
Bronze – Wood Wood x Reebok
They say lightning never strikes the same spot twice, but if you thought last year’s Crowns win by Wood Wood was sheer fluke, then you can think again. The Copenhagen brand’s recent collaboration with Reebok was stylistically worlds away from its Disney effort in 2014, but one thing unites them both — a total commitment to producing something honest and original.
With this project it’s clear that taking something ready-made and slapping their name on it was not enough for Wood Wood. Extending the Anglo-Danish culture clash far further than a simple meeting of logos, the two brands produced a capsule collection that was equal parts Scandinavia and South London — combining zip-thru track jackets and bucket hats with crisp khaki chinos, quilted outerwear and even an exclusive pair of Ventilators.
The result was something that felt absolutely on point in a year beset with lazy ’90s revivalism. Let’s see if they can make it a hat trick next year…
Silver — Supreme x Jordan
If the world of boxing has taught us anything, it’s that when two super-heavyweights meet in the ring, the process is guaranteed to be big, hard-hitting and incredibly popular — even if the end result isn’t exactly what you had expected.
The same can be said for 2015’s much-feted Supreme x Jordan hookup. Yes, for the most part, it was simply an effort in inserting the Supreme name into a series of Jordan Brand staples (even the footwear was largely off-the-shelf Jordan Vs with a few subtle ‘Preme hits), but the sheer power of the forces involved meant that this simple approach was very, very effective.
Like a well aimed knockout blow, the Supreme x Jordan branding was so forceful that few critics could deny its charms. And, given how unlikely we are to see the two of these players collaborate again in the near future, anyone lucky enough to snag a piece now owns a genuine bit of history.
Gold — Palace x adidas
If you ever needed evidence that Palace has successfully transitioned from “flavour of the month” to “part of the furniture,” just take one look over its year in 2015 — new flagship stores, solid seasonal collections, international pop-up ventures and the continuation of one super solid collaboration with adidas. Three seasons in, it seems the partnership between these two is not only here to stay, but looking better than ever.
There’s something about the no-nonsense, ’90s-driven nostalgia of Palace that fits adidas sportswear like a padded goalkeeper’s glove. Where other brands might struggle to maintain an original string of ideas, chasing lazy stereotypes in a bid to cash in on a look they think is cool right now, Palace pull off that air of “Sunday league football meets inner city council estate” so effortlessly that no other competition stands close.
Make no mistake, these guys found something they can do better than anyone else, and long may they continue.
Editors’ Choice — Kiko Kostadinov x Stüssy
Pairing a student of avant-garde runway fashion with one of the world’s best-known streetwear labels isn’t a move most people would think of (let alone attempt), yet when it happened for the first time this year, it was as if every aspect of Stüssy’s complex brand DNA had been united in one project.
Edgy and fashion-forward, with nods to both Tokyo’s Harajuku scene and the classic designs that first defined the brand back in the Golden Era, Kiko Kostadinov’s collection of one-of-a-kind pieces was a unique and hugely innovative representation of 35 years of streetwear culture.
Stüssy is one of the few brands able to call on authentic OG status at the same time as remaining current in the eyes of markets everywhere — and part of that, no doubt, is down to their willingness to attempt collaborations like this.
Best Retail Concept
Bronze — RSVP Gallery
Having a celebrity backer can go a long way these days, and few stores can come close to the fame credentials of RSVP Gallery. Over the past year it seems more high-profile hip-hop artists have passed through its doors than the BET Awards, with everyone from Pharrell to A$AP Rocky, The Weeknd, Kid Kudi, Vic Mensa and Big Sean having dropped by to shop, perform and meet fans.
Yet the famous faces are just one aspect of Virgil Abloh and Don C’s incredible retail success, and given their respective backgrounds, it’s no surprise to find the brand list reads like a who’s who of what’s hot in the scene right now. Elite runway fashion, classic streetwear heritage, exclusive collabs, bespoke editorials, a chic and modern interior — the store has more boxes ticked than an SAT paper, and the result is one gigantic “PASS”.
Silver — Ne.Sense
Some people have such strong personal taste that it would be a crime for them to keep it to themselves. The brothers Hsieh (that’s Steve, Michael, and Richard) are three such individuals, and in just one year, Ne.Sense has become one of the most talked about shopping destinations in the Asia-Pacific region.
The consistency of the Hsieh’s buying habits — which stay true to their unwavering love of subtle monochrome — creates a sense of harmony across everything they carry, joining the dots between seemingly disparate brands in ways you would never have thought possible.
In fact, so well-balanced and tastefully presented are the goods in-store that a visit there feels like a session with your own personal stylist. Perhaps that’s why it’s almost impossible to leave without a brand new outfit afterwards…
Gold — KITH Brooklyn
When it comes to the retail business, Ronnie Fieg has a real Midas Touch, so it makes perfect sense that he scooped this year’s Gold Crown — just one year after he opened his new Manhattan store.
At 3,000 square feet, KITH Brooklyn is Ronnie’s biggest and boldest venture to date, and it has gone down a storm with the NY steetwear-loving public since it opened last Fall. Decked out in the signature all-white of long-term KITH supporter Daniel Arsham, the Brooklyn store capitalises on everything Ronnie’s legions of fans know and love about his attitude to retail — hype brands, rare sneakers, installation artwork, and one super-clean interior.
It even sports its very own cereal bar, if all the shopping gets a bit much and you need a jumbo-sized injection of sugar to top up those energy levels. Maybe that’s how Ronnie manages to be working on so many huge projects at the same time? Whatever his secret, it seems to be paying off...
Editors’ Choice — Totokaelo New York
The best stores on Earth are places you actively want to spend time in, and we’d be very happy to spend a whole lot of time in Totokaelo New York.
Something about the thoughtful layout and tasteful decor of the retailer’s second store gives the impression of a comfortable family home — not something you usually associate with top tier fashion emporia — and whether you’re stood on the rich Persian rug downstairs, sat in the cosy wicker chairs on the mezzanine, or up on the sun-bathed roof terrace on top, it all feels intensely calm and peaceful.
Where other stores pursue an ideal of austere and exclusive minimalism, Totokaelo feels warm and welcoming (even in its all-black room!), and browsing its wares is like thumbing through books in a well-stocked library. Not many places could pull that off, and for that it has our utmost respect.
Bronze — adidas YEEZY Boost 750
Moon boots. UGGs. Skywalker shoes. The YEEZY Boost 750 has had a lot of names thrown at it this year, but none of them seem to have harmed its popularity with the public. As the very first piece of Kanye-designed footwear to hit the market since he jumped ship to adidas (teased to the public long before his first full YEEZY collection went on show), it’s fair to say that the 750s weren’t what most people were expecting following the Red October.
Still, while the suede, boot-like silhouette definitely wasn’t to everyone’s tastes, it did have one major advantage over most of its Nike-borne predecessors — you could actually get your hands on a pair of these. Granted, it wasn’t easy, and the queues, raffles, limited stocks and ludicrous resale prices of the initial colorway weren’t for the faint-hearted. But, then again, would you have really wanted them otherwise? While we’re not entirely sure the YEEZY Boost 750 will go down as a “classic”, it was certainly the turning point on a whole new sneaker era...
Silver — adidas Ultra Boost “Triple White”
The Ultra Boost has been arguably adidas’ biggest new silhouette in years. While the Pure Boost and Prime Boost were both groundbreaking shoes in their own right, something about them failed to cut through with consumers in the way adidas had hoped. But, as the proverb goes, “if at first you don’t succeed...” So they tried again, and boy did that pay off.
Yet, as popular as this third strike was, it wasn’t until someone at adidas gave a pair of pure-white Ultra Boosts to Kanye West for the Billboard Music Awards that the shoe realised its full potential. This ultimate combination of celebrity endorsement and on-trend colorway turned what was once a stylish, high-performance running sneaker into one of the most in-demand pieces of fashion footwear around.
For those who were having trouble getting on board with Kanye’s new stylistic direction, the “Triple-White” Ultra Boost felt like the spiritual successor to his work with Nike — and with it, adidas scored another massive success for 2015.
Gold — adidas YEEZY Boost 350
It’s hard to think of a shoe in recent memory that has caused as much of a stir as the YEEZY Boost 350, so absolutely no prizes for guessing this one would take the top spot. While the world of sneaker-hype is usually confined to a specific corner of society, this was one shoe that managed to transcend the stereotypes and make noise in everyone’s world, no matter where they were from.
Young kids, fashion hounds, well-dressed professionals — somehow, everyone wanted a pair of 350s in 2015. Which is just as well, because by the end of the year they had dropped in four different colorways, and were being produced in quantaties that meant pretty much anyone could get hold of them if they tried hard enough.
While you might have expected that kind of dilution to impact their appeal, what set the Yeezy Boost 350 apart from almost all other shoes this year was just how well it was marketed. As more and more faces popped up on Instagram sporting a pair, these became the year’s ultimate showboating accessory (and it just so happened they were insanely comfortable to wear, too).
Editors’ Choice — Nike x ACRONYM Lunar Force 1
A lot has already been written about this shoe, none of which we need to repeat here. Suffice to say, this was one of the bravest and most divisive pieces of footwear of the whole year, and if you “got it” then you understand why people feel so strongly about it.
Yes, it’s clunky. Yes, the zip sticks out at the front. Yes, it looks like it has been taken apart and then hastily put back together again — all of that is entirely the point. This was never going to be the shoe for people who like sleek, futuristic runners or hype sneakerhead colorways. This was a shoe for people who appreciate that great design should disrupt the status quo, and disrupt people’s thinking. And, for that, Errolson Hugh deserves the highest praise in our book.
Most Influential Person
Bronze — Drake
Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t look like your typical fashion influencer, or maybe it’s because he designs and wears clothing that he actually would wear himself. Either way, while other rappers are busy trying to convince the world just how fashion forward, avant-garde and highbrow they are, Drake is dressing like normal people (normal Canadian people, that is), and that is a huge breath of fresh air.
After all, not everyone wants to have to learn an encyclopedia of obscure runway designers to fit in with what’s cool. Sometimes you just want a decent turtleneck, some washed denim and a puffer jacket, so let’s give thanks that there’s someone fighting the good fight for sensible fashion in 2015.
Silver — A$AP Rocky
You could argue that A$AP Rocky did more for hip-hop style with one song than many emcees have done in their entire careers. But that was way back in 2011, so it’s testament to his enduring presence that he’s still considered one of the most influential forces in street fashion today.
As one of the leading figures in bringing elitist runway fashion down to the sidewalk, Rocky has placed himself at the head of a whole different outlook on the way inner city kids dress themselves — a style that’s both rugged and refined all at once, and shows the world that no area is off-limits. That kind of daring with your wardrobe can only be applauded.
Gold — Kanye West
Was there really anyone else in the running? One look at the breakdown of votes cast, and it’s pretty clear no one came close. While sometimes it seems like every year is “Kanye Year” in our world, 2015 was more so than any in recent memory, thanks to the launch of his YEEZY fashion line and industry-dominating footwear range.
We’ve talked about him so much here already that there doesn’t feel like there’s much else we can say about the past 12 months in Kanye’s world. Put simply, the man has a tastemaking presence on another level entirely, and when it comes to stylistic influence, he is in a different league, playing a different sport, on another planet to all others who might swing at him.
Editors’ Choice — Nic Galway
Behind every major success story there are always a few unsung heroes working behind the scenes. And, if that success story came from adidas, chances are that hero is Nic Galway.
You might not know his name at first, but we’d be willing to bet you know his work. As Vice President of Global Design at adidas, Nic has played a major part in securing partnerships with Yohji Yamamoto, Stella McCartney, Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Juun J, Kolor, White Mountaineering, Pharrell Williams and Opening Ceremony. Oh, and some guy named Kanye West.
He’s played a pivotal part in the development of almost every high-profile release they’ve had in recent years — including the Y-3 Qasa, Tubular, Pure Boost, EQT, NMD and the full YEEZY range — and he’s taken an active role in developing the company’s new Futurecraft technologies. All of which means he’s probably had more influence on your footwear collection than any other name out there.
While it’s easy to point fingers at the celebrities in the limelight, very few people take a moment to high-five the people who brought them there. After all, who knows what we’d be wearing had they not been involved...