Style
Where the runway meets the street

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.

Sales and revenue might be the main goal of any business out there, but in fashion there’s a third currency which is difficult to define, harder to acquire, and almost impossible to retain: relevance.

Of course, in the age of influencers and media darlings, relevance has become a dirty world in some circles, due in part to its difficulty to put into concrete terms. This might be true in the context of individual players in the scene, but when you’re talking about big brands and the sway they hold in the scene, it’s vital.

To be relevant as a brand is to be leading the conversation and defining many of the rules that everyone else will be following over the next 12 months or more. With the heavyweight brands, this always plays out as a tug-of-war between ideals, but then you also have the lesser-known players that seem to appear out of nowhere but just have “something,” whatever it is.

In 2017, a year where many of the rules themselves became irrelevant, it’s not surprising to see our shortlist is assorted with brands on virtually every rung on the ladder. Sure, they’re all selling well and bringing the money in, but which one is truly leading the scene?

Nike

Dominik Schulte / Highsnobiety.com

Though this year might not have been the noisiest in the history of the Swoosh, Nike came through with a number of big releases and news stories that reiterated its status as the world’s most iconic sportswear brand.

As with all of the brand’s breakthroughs in tech, the release of the new VaporMax sole unit proved to be a huge success for the brand, spawning a slew of coveted collaborations with the likes of Marc Newsom, COMME des GARCONS, ACRONYM, and CLOT. Not only that, VaporMax allowed Nike to snatch back a share of the tech conversation that in recent years has been dominated by a certain striped competitor – put another way, they needed the boost. Sorry.

Not only that. Though it released towards the end of 2016, Nike’s groundbreaking self-lacing shoe, the HyperAdapt 1.0, made considerable waves in the sneakerhead community, bringing a science fiction dream to life and making the future possibility of hoverboards a little more feasible. Beyond that, the NikeLab Zoom Fly SP arguably helped to create sporting history when the Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon in just over 2 hours as part of Nike’s Breaking2 project.

Moving from the new to the nostalgic, 2017 was another strong year for Nike retros, most notably the 20th anniversary return of the Air Max 97. The release of the OG “Silver Bullet” colorway, initially a limited release, gradually expanded with successive rounds, and lay the groundwork for a slew of new colorways, collaborative releases, and even an Air Max 97/Air Max Plus hybrid.

2017 also marked the 35th anniversary of one of Nike’s most iconic silhouettes: the Air Force One. Needless to say, this prompted a number of collaborative models and special editions. The “Logo” pack saw the shoe plastered in Nike Air branding, the Zalando-exclusive “Bread & Butter” edition saw the shoe reimagined in a dazzling dairy yellow in soft, appropriately-buttery leather, the women’s Air Force 1 Upstep Low LX saw the basketball icon adorned with sequin floral decals, and the recently-announced “AF100” collection offers up a number of collaborative edition AF1s from the likes of Don C, Errolson Hugh, Travis Scott, and Virgil Abloh. Overall, the Air Force 1’s 35th anniversary celebrations cemented a simple truth – it’s a shoe that’s endured for a good reason. It just works.

Turning attentions to sport, one of Nike’s biggest accomplishments was securing an official partnership with the NBA, producing all of the league’s apparel. Though the deal was actually inked all the way back in 2015, this season marked the partnership’s official debut, and the Swoosh spared no expense announcing its arrival, kicking things off with an extravagant LA launch event back in August. It was a solid victory for Nike in a league where the spotlight has been shed on players like Stephen Curry and Lonzo Ball (and their non-Swoosh affiliations).

And, of course, it would be impossible to talk about Nike’s 2017 without discussing the brand’s monumental collaboration with Virgil Abloh – “The Ten.” Initially teased by Abloh through a number of channels, hype around a potential collaboration had been building since the beginning of the year. When news eventually broke that Abloh would be reinventing 10 of the Swoosh’s most revered silhouettes, hype reached fever pitch and effectively dominated the conversation for the entire final quarter of 2017. If there’s one thing Abloh knows how to do, it’s get people talking, and his mammoth project with Nike didn’t disappoint on that front.

adidas

adidas

Continuing to dominate sportswear in a cultural context, 2017 was a good year for adidas as the brand continued to play to its strengths; particularly in collaboration and pop culture connections. The brand’s YEEZY models made all the noise you’d expect from them, and new releases from mainline series such as Tubular, NMD, and the Iniki Runner successfully adapted elements of YEEZY’s appeal into more accessible releases.

Beyond Kanye’s golden touch, a number of collaborations old and new sustained adidas’ status as a cultural authority. In music, Pusha T recently presented the final chapter in his collaborative series with the brand, wrapping up his street-inspired EQT series with a tribute to the iconic bodega brown paper bag, while adidas’ sprawling collaborative work with Pharrell Williams went from strength to strength with the musical polymath’s Hu NMD and Tennis Hu silhouettes, and their associated apparel lines.

Turning to fashion, the Three Stripes continued to flex its sartorial muscles through a number of collaborations. Their popular collaboration with Alexander Wang made a welcome return for a second season, continuing to dismantle and reconstruct adidas icons through the designer’s inimitable lens. Likewise, a series of collaborative drops with Gosha Rubchinskiy allowed the Russian designer to apply his “post-Soviet” chic to a label that defined Russian style in the early ‘90s. The same is true of adidas’s Palace collaborations, applying a similar ethos in a British street and skateboarding context. This year saw adidas Originals x Palace taking out billboard advertisements in the London Underground, demonstrating the homegrown British skate label’s meteoric rise in recent years.

2017 also saw the Three Stripes restating its connection to the sneakerhead world, reinvigorating the brand’s headline Consortium line with the Sneaker Exchange program, bringing two leading sneaker stores from around the world to collaborate on a pair of special edition sneakers every month. Partners included KITH, colette, Sneakersnstuff, and Bodega, who created some of the most interesting collaborative models from the adidas camp this year.

It was also a strong year for tech and innovation from adidas, with firm favorites and new creations alike causing a stir. As you might expect, anything with Boost flew off the shelves, and the headline NMD models continued to dominate the everyday streets. Not only that, the modern-retro Iniki Runner saw adidas bring classic sneaker design into a contemporary context.

But most notable were adidas’s prototypes and pioneering creations. The groundbreaking adidas x Parley for the Oceans project saw the German sportswear brand working to repurpose ocean waste plastics to create eco-conscious footwear, creating environmentally-minded takes on models like the Ultra Boost and EQT Support ADV. The project has been a huge success, leaving promise for further developments from adidas in the future, and hopefully encouraging other brands in the process.

Lastly, adidas presented arguably the most exciting technological innovation in footwear this year when it revealed the Futurecraft 4D, continuing to pioneer 3D-printed footwear manufacturing. Though the shoe only released in highly-limited quantities, its impact sent ripples throughout the sneaker industry, raising questions around what footwear production will look like in the future.

Going even further, the rollout of the adidas Speedfactory marked a huge step forward in production; footwear manufactured entirely by robots in locations around the world, offering greater customization options than ever. Though the initiative is still in its infancy, it demonstrates adidas’s progressive approach to changing landscapes in production and distribution, and lays a firm foundation for work to follow.

Balenciaga

Lola Paprocka & Pani Paul / Highsnobiety.com

With Demna Gvasalia’s takeover as creative director beginning with the brand’s Fall/Winter 2016 collection, 2017 was destined to be a big year for the historic French fashion house, and the rising Georgian designer didn’t disappoint. Followers of the label knew what to expect with its Spring/Summer 2017 runway show early last year, laden with the disruptive cuts and confrontational fits that placed Cristôbal Balenciaga’s historic transformation of the human form into a whole new context. It was arguably the house’s Fall/Winter 2017 presentation, however, where Gvasalia really laid out his vision, laden with the streetwear-esque graphic flips that made his own Vetements label one to watch in the preceding years.

Most notable of these was a graphic which appeared to reference the logo of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Democratic Party nomination campaign, as well as hoodies and T-shirts featuring the logo of Kering, the luxury group which has owned the Balenciaga brand since 2001. As with his own label, it seemed clear that Gvasalia was here to poke behind the curtain of the fashion machine with an uncompromising, irreverent hand. And just as his Vetements DHL T-shirt made waves as the must-have item of 2016, so the Bernie flips became an essential purchase for fashion insiders who liked their politics with a little bit of fashion, and not vice-versa.

The flips went far beyond graphics, however – it was Balenciaga’s “Arena Extra-Large Shopper” bag that garnered the most press earlier this year, bearing more than a passing resemblance to IKEA’s iconic blue Frakta shopping bag. Retailing for over $2,000, the luxury upgrade of a household item created serious buzz, as well as inspiring a number of DIY projects repurposing the IKEA bag for shoes, face masks, apparel, and more.

The foray into streetwear models continued this summer when, during its Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2018 presentations, Balenciaga performed a complete takeover of the second floor of colette, decking the store out with the aforementioned Fall/Winter 2017 collection, as well as a number of Balenciaga-branded accessories such as sleeping masks, travel pillows, and cigarette lighters. There was also a special piece by Berlin-based artist Yngve Holen – a Porsche Panamera cut with laser-precision into four quadrants – placed at the center of the space. No big deal.

Rounding things off, the store also hosted an exclusive Balenciaga T-shirt creation event, where customers could design and print their own Balenciaga T-shirt using a range of pre-supplied graphics, live-printed onto a tee before their eyes. Simple and ingenious all at once, it was a massive hit with visitors, and stayed true to Gvasalia’s core mission – exposing the production behind the mystique of fashion.

If the streetwear influences of Gvasalia’s work with Balenciaga weren’t already clear enough, it’s worth turning our attentions to the brand’s recent footwear releases. Big, brash, ugly, and yet strangely fantastic, the Balenciaga Triple S sneaker was the unquestionable hit of the season. Coming with a triple-layered sole unit that’s anything but practical and a fierce $800 price tag, its release was heavily anticipated throughout the summer, and quickly disappeared off the shelves when it finally released this fall.

On the other end of the spectrum, the brand’s recently unveiled high-platformed Crocs, plastered with kitsch rubber badges and jaunty Balenciaga branding, revived the question of whether Gvasalia is celebrating or mocking the fashion world and beyond. The jury’s still out on that one, but there’s one thing you can’t deny: people are talking about it.

Vetements

Liu Song / Highsnobiety

Though it might be true that 2017 was defined by the runaway success of Balenciaga, that didn’t stop Demna Gvasalia’s own label from continuing to make waves. As expected, the brand’s 2017 offer continued in the vein of previous collections, deconstructing fashion tropes and blurring the line between high fashion and low culture.

This kicked off with the label’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection, which featured collaborations with a whopping 18 different brands from Carhartt and Reebok to Juicy Couture and COMME des GARCONS. One runaway hit from the range was the label’s collaboration with Manolo Blahnik on a pair of knee-high satin boots, bolstered thanks to celebrity endorsements from Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, and Kendall Jenner. Overall, however, the collection was a playful exposure of the mechanisms of fashion production. Put another way, the collection asked the question, “If fashion is just about brand names and nothing else, why not just get someone else to do all the manufacturing, and just put a brand name on afterwards?”

If that were true of the Spring/Summer 2017 collection, then Vetements’ Fall/Winter 2017 offer instead turned its attentions to the models. Displaying their men’s and women’s collections simultaneously, the presentation featured street-cast models in all shapes and sizes, styled in (largely) inoffensive, everyday clothing. Familiar figures from daily life made appearances – a well-dressed elderly woman, a black-clad bouncer in a leather jacket, an aging rocker in his patch-adorned leather jacket, and so on. If anything, it was a collection noteworthy in its utter normality; no doubt something Gvasalia was aiming for.

During the Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2018 presentations, Vetements would push this even further with a “no show” presentation, held at the roof of a Parisian car park, displaying photos of street-cast models on the streets of Zurich, allowed to style themselves and choose their own pose.

Ultimately, between Vetements and Balenciaga, 2017 has proven to be a busy year for Demna Gvasalia, and though the latter clearly took the lead in column inches, Vetements held its own and continued to do what it does best – which is mainly asking if any of this fashion stuff is really worth taking seriously at all anyway.

Gucci

Stefano Carloni / Highsnobiety.com

Outside of the Gvasalia camp, one of the other most interesting stories in high fashion this year is without a doubt Gucci. Since Alessandro Michele took over as Creative Director, the house has experienced a meteoric return to vogue, with high fashion aficionados and streetwear heads alike going crazy for one piece or another from the brand’s sprawling collections.

Whereas other corners of the fashion sphere have championed pared-back, industrialist minimalism, the success of Michele’s Gucci has been his unabashed embracing of luxury fashion as pageantry; championing ornate fabrics, elaborate designs, bright, colorful patterns, and pieces that make no mystery of their high quality and higher price tag.

In streetwear circles, the most popular releases were Gucci’s classic white tennis shoes, decorated with the essential green and red stripes, and a range of embroidered details including sequin snakes, tigers, flowers, and much more. Similarly, elaborate pieces such as denim, hoodies, and outerwear adorned with Michele’s trademark kitsch-made-lux designs all became regular stars of street style shots and rap videos – and with the recent release of Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang” video, it’s unlikely that momentum will be slowing anytime soon.

2017 also saw Michele continuing his collaboration with unorthodox artists; following on from the brand’s work with Gucci Ghost last year, for Fall/Winter 2017 the house joined forces with Spanish artist Coco Capitán on a range of pieces adorned with the artist’s off-beat phrases and scrawled, child-like handwriting (a style, as many have noted, not dissimilar to the elusive New York artist Jim Joe).

Overall, Michele’s work at Gucci has been a mixture of respect and irreverence; a demonstration that you can be true to the core philosophy of an historic fashion house and still have a bit of fun with what that represents. 2017 has been a year where fashion has been dominated by the camp and kitsch, but Alessandro Michele’s Gucci is perhaps the one label that has been able to use that with a straight face, and embrace the brand’s original philosophy of unwavering, in-your-face opulence. It’s luxury, baby.

Supreme

Supreme

In some ways, you’ve got to feel for Supreme. Ever since the brand launched back in 1994, they’ve been leading the way in defining and redefining what streetwear means, and it can’t be easy having to reinvent the wheel twice a year. That being said, if there was ever a year that Supreme managed to completely tear up the rule book, 2017 was it.

First up, there was arguably the biggest story of the year; a full collaboration with the historic French fashion house, Louis Vuitton. Comprising leather goods, apparel, accessories, and footwear, the collection combined each label’s most iconic symbols – from monograms to box logos, from jacquard denim to the color red – to set the fashion world on fire.

On the one hand, it was the collaboration that cemented Louis Vuitton style director Kim Jones’s deep roots in the world of British streetwear, and his fascination with style led from the sidewalk upwards. For Supreme, on the other hand, it was arguably just another collaboration in a long history of collaborative releases for a brand that has already worked with fine artists, outdoors brands, musicians, and fashion designers alike.

But there was another level to this particular collaboration. After almost 25 years of creating clothing for the counterculture, Supreme’s working with Louis Vuitton was a double-edged sword. A brand which for years had been one of the fashion world’s best kept secrets – “fashion,” but not “fashion fashion” – had proven itself, working with one of the most revered labels in the world without ever holding a runway show. But how does one square a brand built on rebellion and outsidership with a collaboration and public spectacle that all but cements its place within the structure? There are unquestionably two sides to the debate, and you’re unlikely to change your view, whichever side of the fence you land on. One thing can’t be questioned though – Supreme did that.

And as if that wasn’t enough for one year from the Supreme team, there were plenty more stories to come. First there was the announcement that the brand would be opening its third store in the U.S. and its second in New York, with rumors circulating all summer that a new store would be opening Stateside. Pictures of potential locations arose, word traveled down the grapevine, and the buzz that accompanies any Supreme release grew.

Only that news was then supplanted by an even bigger revelation. In early October, news broke that Supreme had sold a 50% stake of the business to The Carlyle Group, a multinational private equity firm with over $150 billion worth of investments and assets, for $500 million – giving the downtown New York skate brand a cool billion-dollar valuation. If debates about Supreme’s status as a symbol of rebellion had been raging after the Louis Vuitton collaboration, this latest revelation only served to fan the flames. It remains unclear what the future holds for Supreme even today, but the same point has to be made – they did that.

Palace

Palace

Across the pond, another homegrown skate brand has experienced its own good fortunes. This year, Palace Skateboards has continued to go from strength to strength in the UK, the U.S., and beyond, and all with its usual blend of London swagger, British sophistication and, of course, utter piss-takery.

In the first half of this year, the team kicked it off with the opening of their first overseas store – a New York flagship on Howard Street in SoHo. With ornate marble flooring, and a wall-sized velvet Palace flag on the wall. Oh, and a P-shaped fountain with a cherub holding a P, taking a pee right in the middle of the store. Oh yeah, and they did a promo video starring Hollywood star and Four Pins-crowned king of clout Jonah Hill as well as iconic New York native Leo Fitzpatrick. And Tim Westwood was at the store opening, in case you weren’t aware. So, business as usual for the Palace guys, to be honest.

Back to regular programming, Palace continued their popular collaborations with adidas Originals, expanding to adverts on the London Underground (see above), and introducing luxury essentials such as a terry bathrobe. Some days skate, other days cotch.

Next up, the Palace guys revealed they would be releasing a tribute to the adidas O’Reardon silhouette, a 1996 skateboarding model notable for its extra-thick stripes and rarely seen since its original debut. If nothing else, it’s certainly a testament to the brand’s command of culture and tastemaking that it can release a scarcely-heard of adidas model and still generate more hype than many brands would dream of.

But the real highlight of the year for Palace has to be the opening of the “MWADLANDS” skatepark in Peckham, an indoor skate park, open for all members of the public to skate for free, decorated with plentiful Palace graphics. Considering the brand’s humble roots as a means for brand founder Lev Tanju to support his friends’ skating careers, the opening of a Palace-branded skate park – particularly at a time in the UK when public services, especially for young people, are being slashed heavily – must surely be an incredible feeling.

At the park’s opening, the brand also premiered its new “Palasonic” video. Overall, it was an event that proved Palace’s commitment to skateboarding culture in a strictly British context, and one that is unquestionably the brand’s greatest achievement to date. Wait, I just remembered Westwood DJ’d the opening as well. Okay. Second greatest achievement.

Stone Island

Stefano Carloni / Highsnobiety.com

As a Brit, if you’d told me a few years ago that Stone Island would be one of the biggest streetwear brands in the U.S., I wouldn’t have known if you were crazy, joking, or just trying to wind me up. And yet, the past few years have been incredibly busy for the Italian luxury menswear label founded by Massimo Osti 35 years ago. And the majority of that has been down to the brand’s incredible growth in the U.S.

Unquestionably, central to this Stateside success has been the brand’s ongoing collaborations with Supreme. The New York skate brand has long been known as a gatekeeper of cool to America’s youth, and just as their Miles Davis collaboration turned a number of young people onto jazz, or their artist decks introduced many teens to Robert Longo and the Chapman brothers, their premium collaborations with Stone Island was, for many American teens, their first contact with a brand that has been raising the bar in Europe for over three decades.

So for 2017, Stone Island continued to share its rich history with a whole new audience, and explore new ways of unpacking its mystery to the world. They kicked off the year well with a collaborative Nike sneaker, applying their razor-sharp design philosophy to the appropriately-technical Sock Dart silhouette, reimagining the shoe with premium leathers, a water-resistant silicone print, and appropriately militaristic colorways.

Always a core element of the Stone Island brand, their super technical outerwear pieces were strong as ever, with reflective jackets, garment-dyed pieces, paper textile, nylon metal, and “frost corrosion” pieces all making a welcome appearance. The rise in popularity of video content over the past 12 months has also been a positive development for the Italian brand, and they’ve leapt at the opportunity to demonstrate their highly-technical and visually-stunning garments in new and exciting ways, showcasing the tech behind their aforementioned frost finish, as well as a new heat-sensitive grid camouflage. Never a dull moment.

Culturally, the brand’s biggest boost probably came earlier this year, hot on the release of Drake’s More Life mixtape. In anticipation for the rapper’s Boy Meets World tour, LA-based celebrity jeweler Ben Baller unveiled a specially-made chain for Drake, modeled on Stone Island’s iconic green and yellow compass logo. Drake’s recent infatuation with all things Stoney has been well-documented for some time now, but this latest expression of love definitely tipped the scales from “fan of the brand” to “committed ambassador,” and cemented the brand’s clout in the States for good.

Returning to New York, however, Stone Island’s collaboration with Supreme for Fall/Winter 2017 was arguably their most ostentatious yet, touting big quilted jackets donned in floral prints, polyurethane pullovers, hooded sweats and track pants, Marina-esque jersey pieces, and floral caps. With its heavy puffer jackets and sweat pieces, it was the collaboration that saw Stone Island fully embrace its Stateside streetwear status, and with considerable swagger, at that.

Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh

Eva Al Desnudo / Highsnobiety.com

As each year goes by, Virgil Abloh continues to go from strength to strength, both as a designer in his own right, and as the leader of his own label, Off-White. Ever one to lead the conversation and capture the public’s attention, 2017 was business as usual for the American designer, who continued to turn heads with his inimitable mix of modern design, social media savvy, and penchant for public spectacle.

Of course, the big story from the Off-White camp has to be the brand’s mammoth “The Ten” collaborative project with Nike. Teased by Virgil ever since his presentation at Columbia University back in February, the project’s slow and steady unveiling, preview and launch over the course of almost the entire year was a demonstration of Abloh’s unparalleled command of social media, internet culture and, of course, hype.

Beyond the shoes themselves, Off-White took part in a number of different projects to support “The Ten” which provided a deeper insight into the collaborative process and Abloh’s approach to design. Multiple “Off Campus” events at Nike locations around the globe invited members of the public to meet Abloh, create their own custom Nike sneakers, and get shoes signed by the man himself, while panel talks with the likes of Kim Jones of Louis Vuitton gave him a platform to discuss his process further.

Elsewhere, Abloh kept busy with a slew of other collaborations. The brand created a number of exclusive collaborative pieces for Daft Punk’s pop-up shop at the beginning of the year. Moncler released a new collection with Abloh for their “Moncler O” project, and other collaborations throughout the year included Boys Noize, KITH, Dover Street Market Ginza, Travis Scott, Takashi Murakami, and even Snapchat. As demonstrated by his work with Kanye West’s DONDA agency, and the number of designers who have come out and started their own projects after working at Off-White, Abloh is a designer who understands the power of collaboration, and he put this to great use in 2017.

Elsewhere, 2017 also saw the opening of two new Off-White flagships; one in Toronto, and one in Hong Kong. As with all the brand’s locations, each store adopts a particular theme expressed through Abloh’s oft-esoteric lens. For their second Hong Kong flagship, the Off-White “Permanent Store” adopted a heavy, industrial aesthetic laden with concrete, glass panels, grey curtains, and harsh lighting, while the Toronto store, named “Land,” took inspiration from a North American desert in the form of light wooden flooring, dried plants, sand, and limestone blocks.

Speaking of spectacle, it’s difficult not to mention Off-White’s elaborate presentation for Pitti Uomo Spring/Summer 2018, complete with large-scale projections from artist Jenny Holzer. In recent years, Pitti has worked with different designers each season creating a special presentation for the show, and Abloh had no trouble creating something unique for his outing. The project spanned topics as diverse as the ongoing conflict in Syria, poetry by refugee Omid Shans and the uneasy political climate around the globe today. It was an undoubtedly ambitious presentation by Abloh, and garnered a mixed reception for its attempt to blend complex political issues with men’s fashion, but nonetheless demonstrated the designer’s ambitious nature.

Vans

Vans x Alltimers

A longtime staple of streetwear and skateboarding culture, a year rarely goes by these days without Vans finding some place in the conversation. 2017 was an exceptionally good year for the brand, however, thanks to a number of factors.

First up, due to a number of celebrity cosigns from the likes of Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky, Kendall Jenner, and even North West, 2017 was the year the Vans Old Skool really hit the big time, becoming a de facto “mall shoe” for everyone from Atlanta rappers to teenage schoolgirls. This very well might be the year that a Vans model became truly as perennial as an adidas Superstar, Converse Chuck Taylor, or a Nike Roshe. Well deserved.

With only a handful of silhouettes in their key roster, collaborations have always been a vital element of Vans’s business, flaunting their cultural connections and bolstering the appeal of their simple, straightforward shoes. This year definitely didn’t disappoint on that front, and we were fortunate to see a number of solid collabs out of the Vans camp throughout 2017.

On the hyped-up, trend-chaser end of the spectrum, a number of collabs were destined to strike up a conversation. After all, there are some people on the internet whom the conversation simply seems to follow wherever they go, and Vans managed to lock down virtually every one of them, creating collaborative releases with Jerry Lorenzo’s label Fear of God, Karl Lagerfeld, Brain Dead and, of course, multiple Supreme releases. 2017 was also the year that Anti Social Social Club applied one of their three graphics to a duo of Vans models, ensuring the pioneering brand a few more months of column inches.

In the world of fashion proper, Vans also stepped forward with a few high-end collaborations that got the public’s attention. Most noteworthy were probably the brand’s flamboyant series of releases with Opening Ceremony, upcoming New York fashion label Alyx Studios, British high-end streetwear brand Aries, and luxury streetwear icons mastermind JAPAN.

Lastly, there were the number of dependable co-branded efforts that put a fun and interesting twist on Vans’s tried and tested formula. Their collaboration with Peanuts earlier in the year saw popular Vans silhouettes adorned with graphics of Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the gang. Elusive design team DEFCON returned with their ultra-technical, mil-spec-inspired take on the Sk8-Hi Notchback Pro, and internet sensation JJJJound came through with a trio of ultra-understated takes on the Old Skool model, bringing it back to its roots in clean, accessible colorways straight out of a late-’90s skate shop catalog. Most recently, we were fortunate to see a new collaboration between Vans and The North Face, applying the latter’s weather-ready, hard-wearing philosophy to Vans’s perennial cool, to great results.

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.

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