As has become tradition, the year's end sees Highsnobiety's style squad gather to vent spleen on the fashion world trends and developments that have had them rolling their eyeballs over the past 12 months.
From the eternal bastardization of "sustainability" to collaborations underpinned by seemingly dubious motives, 2019 has offered plenty of tasty (or should that be sour?) morsels for us to sink our teeth into. See our choices below.
Retreading the Retro
Imagine if any other industry was as obsessed with the past as sneaker culture. We wouldn't want innovative new smartphones, we'd be clamoring for the reissue sleeping Garfield telephone that looked just like it did "back in the day." Instead of getting excited about Cybertrucks, heads would be losing their minds over E series Studebakers with the same cherry red hue they possessed back in 1956. Nostalgia is great in doses, but too much can stand in the way of progress.
The Dior x Jordan 1 and Prada x adidas Superstars were supposed to show us the future of fashion and sportswear, but instead of being a compass pointing north, both are mirrors of the present. Great design doesn't show humanity as we are today, but who we want to be tomorrow. That's the spirit that emanates throughout the retro-futuristic halls of JFK's TWA Hotel, where the Eero Saarinen-designed space oozes with a timeless futurism that doesn't allow itself to be so mired to the past, but still remembers it fondly.
It's why I'm absolutely in love with the Yeezy 500 High. It looks like a basketball shoe designed for the Monstars — like if you gave H.R. Giger free rein to reimagine the Air Jordan 1. Part of it feels familiar, but the execution makes it look like a shoe from 2020. I could say the same for the Nike x UNDERCOVER React boot, or Jerry Lorenzo's Air FEAR OF GOD high-tops — which are pretty much the real-life version of the Air Mags that Tinker Hatfield willed into the 21st century thirty years ago.
But on the bright side, it looks like the futurists aren't alone. If you'd have told me even five years ago that Nike's self-lacing ADAPT technology would create shoes you could control with your phone for under $400, I'd have probably balked. Then the HyperAdapt Huaraches came out, embodying Nike's penchant for fusing aesthetics, function, and technology meant to be taken for granted. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go charge my kicks.
- Jian DeLeon, Editorial Director
Cultural Appropriation of Streetwear
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that streetwear is finally being recognized and honored. But streetwear is for the streets and for the kids. If those kids are unable to obtain the products they like because an Air Jordan arrives with a $2,000 price tag all of the sudden — purely on the basis it graces an all-over print of a fashion house on the Swoosh — then something has gone wrong.
Homages and tributes aside, don’t try to convince me that you’re doing something for the "culture," when the "culture" will never be able to see or feel the results of your homage in real life.
Take the recent Louis Vuitton x League of Legends collection. None of the actual gamers, the people who’ve been into the game when everybody called them geeks, are actually able to drop $500 on a T-shirt, let alone anything else from the drop. It bothers me that we still see this as a coming together of two worlds, as "The New Luxury," when it’s truly just cultural appropriation of the youth to create buzz and help high fashion houses to stay relevant.
If you want to make something for the kids, make it attainable for the kids.
- Nigel Minani, Junior Creative
From Dior reviving its Galliano-era oblique, to Alessandro Michele's continual Uber-Guccification of Gucci, to Virgil's postmodern monogram-mania at Louis Vuitton, to Burberry and Calvin Klein suddenly deciding to have monograms, 2019 was the year that monogram prints went so strong that they took the entire world hostage. I've always been a supporter of the monogram, and its check-out-where-I-got-this energy.
Any kind of overly-logoed luxury item says very loudly a truth that must almost be acknowledged in fashion: that being tacky and nouveau riche is simply a form of honesty. But all bubbles must come to a burst, and 2020 will most likely mark the hibernation (or the gloriously gaudy swan song) of brands blasting their initials onto everything.
- Thom Bettridge, Editor in Chief
Gratuitous Clothing Lines
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and your favorite celebrity (or influencer) creating a rubbish clothing line. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but one that feels particularly wearisome in the current climate.
I recently listened to an interview with a sports superstar who revealed how he planned on "giving the whole fashion thing a go" upon retirement. Why?! ALYX’s Matthew Williams once said making clothing is a responsibility, and that those who want to do it should have to take an exam. That take might be a bit draconian, but as the ice caps melt and wealth stratifies, do we really need more rich people getting richer through half-baked, cash-grab clothing lines?
Further down the ladder, if you command even a moderate level of attention on social media, parlaying your personal brand into fashion seems to be the done thing. That most of these people — and there are some exceptions — aren’t qualified in this supposedly specialized field is academic. Actual craft and talent have become secondary to online clout.
In 2020, I’d hope that everyone — from the kids printing graphics on cotton blanks in their bedrooms, to the luxury brands with warehouses full of excess inventory, to the editors on this website — takes a step back and asks, "does the world really need this?" before creating or putting their weight behind a new product. Just because you can make something, doesn’t mean you should.
- Graeme Campbell, Style Editor
With the term sustainability having become the fashion industry's new favorite buzz word, it's lost its original meaning and cause. Both luxury houses, fast-fashion giants and any fashion business in between have their priorities twisted if they think that creating a "green" capsule collection justifies the sheer quantity of clothing produced and sold. Many influential fashion companies have favored green-washy circularity and responsible design over the real elephant in the room: speed.
Without dismissing the great efforts and activations some companies are actually putting in place around responsible production and consumption, they can innovate with materials, swap out unsustainable packaging, or plant trees at runway shows all they want, without taking a good hard look in the mirror at the amount they produce, market, and sell clothing at, none have the right to use sustainability as a marketing vehicle to push more product to the end consumer.
- Christopher Morency, Editor-at-Large
My eyeballs rolled as I read about the collab between Vetements – a definitive brand of the 2010s – and Star Wars, which is basically a billion-dollar toy franchise. Does it get any more 2019 than that? Who is this even for? Is there really an overlap of die-hard Star Wars fans who also happen to have a penchant for exorbitantly priced streetwear?
Maybe it’s not so surprising that the Disney owned-franchise would latch on to the dying embers of a luxury streetwear movement. Recently, Star Wars has collaborated with BAPE, Bose, Levi’s, Coca-cola, adidas, Samsung, UNIQLO, and even UNDERCOVER. In the case of UNDERCOVER, I guess there is some integrity on account of Jun Takahashi being a legitimate Star Wars fan.
However, I feel like the most shameless collaboration this year was the Prada x adidas farce. The joyless result was the nail in the coffin for collaborations masquerading as insightful crossovers, when really they were just feckless cash-grabs. Even the campaign imagery – a random metal tool, a ball of string, some tape – felt like someone thought “what screams artisanal!?” and then rushed to the shop to buy some signifiers of luxury construction.
Of course, a Pradidas sneaker is a logical denouement for what’s been brewing over the last 10 years. There was obviously something cool and interesting about two designers developing a product together when it was first being done to that scale. Even today, there are still worthy collaborations such as the Nike x sacai.
It was Kim Jones, a serial collaborator, who arguably started it all when he paired Louis Vuitton and Supreme for FW17. Now, with every artist that Jones has squiggle something on a Dior bucket hat, he further dilutes the value of what it means to wear a hand-made Dior suit.
From the perspective of a fashion editor’s email inbox, 2019’s endless variation of collaborations painted the industry with a sense of meaninglessness; a flattening of taste, and a homogenization of culture, consumerism, and PR communications that made everything feel like one and the same. It’s just brands working with brands, which translates to money working with money to make more money. But hey, at least you can now buy a pair of Air Jordans for $,2000 because they come in Dior grey.
For 2020, I’d like to see designers purify their product and have the integrity to hold their high-end brand to a high-end standard.
- Max Grobe, Associate Style Editor
Brands Trying to Please Everyone
Brands trying to be everybody's darling has to stop. I miss the times when I could rely on a brand and their vision to build my wardrobe. The likes of Marni would show innovative, yet timeless and not trend-driven collections season after season. Whenever you would buy a style you could be sure that it fits the rest of the things you purchased from the brand in the past.
These days, brands try to have a share of every taste level. That, coupled with a fast change of creative directions — predicating on trends — means one can't have a favorite for long.
One must credit brands like Versace who follow their spirit and values — it might not be everybody's taste but at least they aren't in danger of losing their core fans.
Building a wardrobe and focusing on what you really like rather than buying into every trend is not only convenient and will make you look more individual but is also truly sustainable because you won't change your wardrobe every season.
- Herbert Hoffman, Creative Director & Head of Buying Commerce