The 2010s were the decade of streetwear.
While the brands that defined it started in earlier years, the last 10 saw a shadow of the fashion industry eclipse our definitions of dress. Streetwear now touches all parts of fashion: casual wear, athletic wear, and, perhaps most surprising, the world of luxury.
What was once just for street kids now lands on runways. What was once banned at clubs is the new club uniform. “Luxury sneakers” are Exhibit A: from contradiction to conqueror, the past decade has led to a world where Dior x Nike Air Jordan 1s are just exceptional, and not the exception.
While Kanye’s 2009 LV tie-up felt like the start of things to come, it was the past 10 years that truly merged the worlds of luxury and streetwear. Join us as we look back on the moments that defined this new vision of luxury.
Sneaker Brands Codify the Lux Collab
The first luxury sneaker collabs came in the late '90s, when shoes like the Nike x Junya Watanabe Zoom Haven introduced the world to deliberately un-sporting sportswear. But these initial collections were acommercial, limited, and few and far between. Between 2000’s Reebok x Chanel Instapump Fury (just a few pairs were made for the runway show) and 2017’s global Vetements release on the same shoe, sneaker brands codified the luxury collab.
The past decade saw the lion’s share of the action. In 2010, Nike and UNDERCOVER’s Jun Takahashi debuted Gyakusou. In 2013, the first sneak shots of Raf x adidas appeared online. By 2016, every major sportswear brand was collaborating with high fashion designers. Nike had CdG, Undercover, and sacai. adidas had Rick and Raf. Puma x McQueen. Reebok x Vetements.
Even Under Armour – yes, famously-football Under Armour – wrangled LVMH Prize finalist Tim Coppens for a line. Oh, and a rapper you might have heard of by the name of A$AP Rocky.
Luxury Designers Dropping Sneakers Right Back
As sneaker brands moved intentionally towards luxury, luxury was responding right back.
While some famous designer sneakers – Gucci’s Tennis shoes, Rick’s cease-and-desist-worthy “Nike” Dunks – predate the 2010s, this was the decade of rarified rubber. The past 10 years have seen every major luxury brand add sneakers (the staple shoe of streetwear, the bane of “proper” dressing) to their assortment. Saint Laurent and Gucci steal the headlines. To recognize the impact of this, ask yourself about the others.
Couture houses? Check. Givenchy sneakers. Valentino sneakers. Then you have the all-conquering Balenciaga Triple-S.
Suiting brands? Check. Zegna sneakers. Kiton sneakers.
Even heritage dress shoemakers? A sign-of-the-times check, courtesy of Berluti’s “Men’s Shadow Knit.”
At the start of the last decade, sneakers were seen as fundamentally un-lux. A “no sneakers” dress code was a legitimate part of club culture. Now, even the latest of late adapters – brands like Tod’s, Vince, and Church’s – are all making sports shoes. How times have changed.
Riccardo Tisci’s “Rottweiler” Collars Pop Culture
Kanye x LV felt like the start of things to come. Kanye in Givenchy felt like the grand opening.
In 2011, Riccardo Tisci debuted the now-famous “Rottweiler” graphic during Givenchy’s Fall menswear show. Distinct in crowds, popular with celebs – the aggressive, street-inspired print became the first lux graphic to make it.
What OFF-WHITE™’s caution lines are today, the Rottweiler was almost 10 years ago. While often worn by a Watch the Throne Ye, Givenchy’s Rottweiler would be spotted on the likes of Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, Usher, and countless others. The design was even enduring enough to be “retro’d” by Givenchy in 2017.
Most remarkable are the facts around this “first.” Givenchy is a heritage French couture house, famous for elegantly-simple designs like a certain little black dress. Now, 50 years after creating a pared-down dress so notable it has its own Wikipedia page, the house of Givenchy was leading the charge into a supermax era of door-kicking lux streetwear. C’est drole, non?
Pigalle Takes Paris Fashion Off The Runway
While Givenchy preached streetwear-as-fashion from on high, one of the maison’s Parisian neighbors pulled a Margiela and took to the streets.
French designer Stéphane Ashpool began the Pigalle brand as a neighborhood boutique. His first Pigalle products: tees, sweats, and hats bearing a simple box logo. The brand’s first proper fashion collection arrived at Paris Men’s Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2010, but its enduring legacy – and the reason behind such projects as today’s Pigalle Basketball – lies in those artful streetwear staples.
Pigalle’s box logo — along with SSUR Comme Des Fuckdown beanies and Jeremy Scott wing sneakers became a calling card – a sign that its wearer was plugged in. By 2012, the brand was collaborating with Nike to produce videos about the Paris street scene. Two years later, the pair would drop the first of many Pigalle x Nike shoes.
In the background, the rep of Pigalle (both as tee brand and fashion line) grew. One year after his first Nike shoe drop, Ashpool won France’s prestigious ANDAM prize, awarded by the French government to France’s most promising young designers.
Pigalle was one of the first brands to go from street to runway, remaining streetwear the whole way through. It would not be the last.
Hood by Air Makes “Powerwear” High Fashion
In 2014, Shayne Oliver’s lux streetwear line Hood By Air won LVMH’s inaugural Special Jury Prize. One year later, he won the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Swarovski Award for Menswear.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Like Pigalle, Hood by Air was born as a T-shirt brand. Oliver, a double-dropout from both NYU and New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, made clothing under the brand for his friends in the city’s club scene. As a concept, Hood by Air (aka “HBA”) was meant to be elevated streetwear of the type that Oliver deemed “powerwear.”
“It’s about exuding power and fluidity,” the designer told Vogue in 2013. “I’m not really interested in unisex, per se. But if this person wants to give off an energy of power, then Hood by Air is for them.”
Turns out, lots of people did.
The “HBA” logomark became one of the most sought-after graphics of the mid-2010s. Rocky. Rihanna. Kanye. Kendrick. Rocky again, but only kinda. Fashion royalty wore Hood by Air; rap royalty shouted it on stage. The brand seemed destined for immortality, and then… air.
In 2017, HBA went on hiatus, with Oliver decamping his namesake label to become Helmut Lang’s artist in residence. While announcements of a Hood by Air revival keep percolating, no new product has launched yet. Perhaps it’s better to stay as a wisp – after all, the brand is already immortal.
Between 2011 and 2014, HBA was the atmosphere.
Hedi Slimane Leaves The Yves
French designer Hedi Slimane first joined – then left – Yves Saint Laurent over 2o years ago. After a succession of designers left the brand in disarray, Slimane, the prodigal son, was brought back in 2012.
His mandate: breathe new life into the house that Yves built.
His first act: Yves, au revoir.
In his very first show at the house where his career began, Slimane debuted a refreshed ready-to-wear collection, succinctly named “Saint Laurent.” The change was more than just four letters – it was the world.
Hedi Slimane’s revival of the famed maison came entirely through his embrace of streetwear as luxury fashion. His very first collection rooted the brand in Slimane’s adopted home of L.A. Then came the streetwear.
Grunge flannels. Ripped and zipped jeans. Leather moto jackets just like des Garcons. In 2014, Saint Laurent introduced its now-famous SL/10H sneaker, a Jordan-adjacent high top that would send ripples through the worlds of luxury and streetwear alike. And the hits just kept coming.
Over just a few seasons, Hedi Slimane would make the house Yves built into one of the world’s biggest brands. His turnaround was so successful – and his vision of lux streetwear so prescient – that his role reviving Saint Laurent was published in the Harvard Business Review.
By the time Slimane departed Saint Laurent (again) in 2017, the house had changed forever. Leaving Yves was only a part of it. A vision of luxury rendered into streetwear did the rest. Fast forward to the current day, and the Hedi story continues at Celine.
Can streetwear be luxury? Can luxury be streetwear? Perhaps – it’s all just clothes.
Formed in 2014 by a then-unknown Demna Gvasalia, the French fashion collective known as Vetements (“clothing,” en français) was fashion’s first galaxy brain since Margiela. Deconstructed garments and a slew of collabs hit Paris runways. Pure mirth radiated. And somewhere in the middle, an oversized cotton hoodie with the German word for “POLICE” got a $900 price tag.
Vetements was a half-decade sea change – a midpoint in the melding of luxury and streetwear.
Gvasalia would go on to lead Balenciaga’s revival, designing iconic garments like the Triple-S sneaker and Campaign bomber. Vetements would go on to collab with 18 brands during one runway show.
“Just clothes”? In a sense, sure. But from the galaxy-brain view, there was nothing insignificant about it.
New Guards Group Forms the Kering of Daring
In 2015, Claudio Antonioli, Davide De Giglio, and Marcelo Burlon formed New Guards Group, a holding company for luxury fashion brands. Just like Kering (Gucci, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent) and LVMH (everything else), New Guards formed so its designer brands could share resources.
Unlike Kering and LVMH, however, New Guards was all about streetwear.
With a stable of brands including OFF-WHITE™, Heron Preston, Palm Angels, and Burlon’s eponymous label, New Guards brought the codes of the luxury business to edgy, high-end street labels. Sure, some of those labels may have been showing Barney’s-bound ready-to-wear collections during international fashion weeks, but their source code was streetwear in a way that no LVMH or Kering brands could ever claim.
Earlier this year, luxury fashion e-trailer Farfetch bought New Guards Group for $675 million. If hustling for a paycheck isn’t streetwear, what is?
Nike “OFF CAMPUS” hijacks New York Fashion Week
Sneakers had been a presence at Fashion Week since before the start of the decade. But two years ago, they absorbed it.
At New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2018, Nike’s “OFF CAMPUS” installation eclipsed everything not named Raf. Part creative space, part product teaser, the Virgil-aligned pop-up drew waitlist crowds for a first look at OFF-WHITE™ x Nike’s “THE TEN” (plus, some seriously cool merch).
The Abloh show then pond-hopped to London Fashion Week, where it went on to do exactly the same. Just add five hours; swap Simons for Burberry. Sneakers still reigned.
While major brands had used runways to launch new shoe collabs, the year of “OFF CAMPUS” flipped the script. Streetwear was no longer a component of high fashion. It was the biggest story of fashion week.
Brands like Balenciaga, Gucci, and Saint Laurent may have recast streetwear tropes for the world of luxury. But when it came to a matchup between the old ways and the new, streetwear proper could win.
Moncler Genius Makes Streetwear Collabs a Canvas
By 2018, the balance between streetwear and luxury had fully tilted. Forget dress codes. Forget the old ways. Starting with Riccardo – and catalyzed by Vetements – it was now all just clothing.
But where some saw homogeny, others saw a canvas.
Moncler’s Genius Initiative saw the heritage Italian ski brand grant its luxurious catalog to a slew of famous names across fashion and streetwear. Described by the brand as a “Republic of imagination,” the first season of Genius (uncorked June 2018) included the likes of Hiroshi Fujiwara, Pierpaolo Piccioli, Simone Rocha, Craig Green, and Palm Angels.
Each worked from the same palette, cutting and recutting the brand’s iconic luxury puffers in their own distinctive style. Some brought a streetwear touch to jackets designed for French Alp après. Green took his design to the extreme. While Vetements used the lux-streetwear collab to question, Moncler used it to exclaim.
Now in its third season, the Moncler Genius initiative saw the confluence of luxury and streetwear elevated into a place of expression. Forget luxe vs. street. With Genius, it was just about fashion.
KITH x Versace Takes Lux Streetwear to Primetime
After Genius, the floodgates were open. 2019's KITH x Versace collection was more than a clothing collab: it was a downtown Manhattan takeover. Billboards and posters popped up around SoHo. Local grocer Dean & DeLuca sported Versace print shopping bags. Two famous neighborhood restaurants, Sadelle's and Carbone, even featured special KITH Medusa menus.
And then, of course, there were the $1,000 hoodies.
Capped off by a KITH edition of the house's street-inspired Chain Reaction sneaker, the collection ticked off a list of luxury-streetwear tropes. Collab? Check. Lux staples? Check. Eye-popping price tag? For those same sneakers, one whole check. KITH expanded the footprint, and in doing so paved the streets with luxury streetwear.
The Godfathers of Streetwear Go Lux
But that's not where the story ends. What, you really thought we'd forget these?
KITH x Versace and Moncler x Everyone brought luxury streetwear to new highs. But they did it by standing on the shoulders of a giant. In 2017 – yes, roll back a bit – Supreme and Louis Vuitton announced a surprise collaboration during Paris Fashion Week.
Supreme x Louis Vuitton was a watershed moment – not just for high-low collabs, but for fashion as a whole. At the world's most famous Fashion Week, here was streetwear as luxury. Lux streetwear was nothing new, but in the past, it had come by way of maisons aping Mercer Street. Now, the world's most famous streetwear brand had lent its name (and its credibility) to the brand at the head of the world's largest luxury group.
Supreme x LV meant legitimacy. On a darker note, it also meant that a once-contradictory segment – once the place of "powerwear" and downtown edge – had gone mainstream. Hype blogs and fashion books covered the collection. Then again, so did the Financial Times. The dam had burst; nothing was sacrosanct. Even the storied Chanel lowered its guard, teaming up with Pharrell for its first-ever collaboration.
So when Kim Jones (the head of menswear at Louis Vuitton who initiated Supreme x LV) again brought a godfather of streetwear to a luxury collab just this month, it was both surprising and no surprise at all. Sure, the Dior x Shawn Stussy show was a massive announcement. The Dior x Jordan 1 unveiled at it, especially.
But it was also, in a cosmic sense, this season's fashions.
Years past saw fashion houses glean show themes from the world and its creatures: "Egypt," "Mastodon," "It's A Jungle Out There." But now, the palette had expanded. In December 2019, with luxury and streetwear one and the same, the brands of the world could be painted with, too.
With streetwear as a tool in the auteur designer's artbox, anything is possible. And with a new decade right around the corner, it will be.
Gucci x Dapper Dan
Finally, an epilogue.
Daniel "Dapper Dan" Day is a Harlem-born tailor who rose to prominence in the '70s and '80s for his high-end recuts of luxury bags. "Dap," as he's known, cut bags from brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton down to their deadstock fabric, then restitched it into seriously ill ready-to-wear for the style-minded in Harlem. His garments are an exercise in vision and invention. Decades before Imran Potato – when the brands whose bags he used had little interest in dressing Dan's black, urban customer base – Dapper Dan of Harlem quite literally broke it down to recast luxury for the street.
Dan gear made it from North Manhattan to the closets of Mike Tyson, LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, and many more. With the media attention his celeb clients were getting, those same disinterested brands became very interested indeed. Cease-and-desist letters began arriving at Dan's Harlem tailor shop. Fendi even pursued a lawsuit in 1988.
Four years after Fendi v. Dap, Dan was forced to close up shop. Both ahead of his time and the victim of a less-than-welcoming luxury scene, the story of Dapper Dan could have ended there.
But it didn't. In 2017, after a Gucci collection by designer Alessandro Michele bit the look of vintage Dan garments, a wave of internet blowback resulted in the announcement of an official Gucci x Dapper Dan collab line. The partnership continues to this day.
The same year that Supreme x Louis Vuitton brought the merger of luxury and streetwear to the mainstream, a scar from their separated past got the healing it seemed due. While the story of luxury streetwear is far from over, one of its earliest chapters now has a happy ending. Happy end of the decade, indeed.