Fashion

The Talked-About Streetwear Brands

Because we’re living in the age of athleisure
Reading time 5 minutes

Here’s a familiar scenario: non-fashion folk scratching their heads over the triple-figure price tags of tracksuits and T-shirts, with the same bewilderment normally reserved for ill-fated scientists in aliens-are-out-there-and-they’re-reaching-out-to-us movies. The “why” of streetwear may be a bit tricky to unpack (shifting attitudes to class, race, age etc.) but what's undeniable is the very fact that atheleisure is the new norm – or even, dare we say it, mainstream.

For your infotainment, we’ve rounded up the five most talked-about labels in the streetwear scene right now.

PALACE

Who + when: Founded by Lev Tanju, a former pro skater in 2009

What: VICE once dubbed Palace the "scrappy London sibling of Supreme" although since its inception, it has become much more. Offering classic skate gear with 90s flavour, Tanju’s nostalgic touch permeates the brand’s every aspect; even its videos are filmed in gloriously grainy VHS. Born from his desire to sponsor his professional skater friends (Tanju doesn’t care if non-skateboarders wear his products), Palace has lent its hard-earned street cred to collaborators like Reebok and Adidas, and is coveted by young skaters and hip-hop royalty alike, who happily brave long queues at the brand’s Soho store.

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KITH

Who + when: Founded by Ronnie Fieg, a sneaker enthusiast and former head buyer for the David Z footwear chain in 2011. Fieg’s design career started when one of his clients, Asics, offered him the opportunity to update and relaunch their archival styles, which were a surprise hit.

What: The king of collaborations and pop-ups, Fieg has worked with virtually every significant player in the footwear pantheon, as well as some eyebrow-raising names like Coca-Cola and the Power Rangers. In addition to its in-house clothing and accessories lines, Kith boutiques stock a wide range of brands such as Yeezy, Nike, Timberland and Canada Goose, contributing to Fieg’s taste-making reputation. While he honed his eye by observing the street culture of New York during his formative years, Fieg now rejects the label, claiming that today’s trends originate and spread online instead.

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PUBLIC SCHOOL

Who + when: Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow in 2008. The two met when the former was an intern and the latter was VP of marketing at Sean Jean (Diddy’s clothing line). When Chow left to open a menswear boutique, he brought Osborne on board to create an in-house label.

What: The brainchild of two born-and-bred New Yorkers, Public School began life as a menswear brand, offering womenswear for the first time in 2014. With generous support from the CFDA, the broad appeal of Public School’s street-savvy aesthetic was cemented by partnerships with J. Crew and Nike, and ultimately led to Donna Karan hand-picking the duo to revive DKNY (their stint was unfortunately short-lived). Public School also bagged the International Woolmark Prize in 2015. In a stroke of PR genius, the full proceeds of the brand’s viral “Make America New York” protest caps went to the ACLU.

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SUPREME

Who + when: Founded by James Jebbia in 1994

What: An institution of New York’s 90s skate scene, and one of the few streetwear brands operating today which pre-dates fashion’s athleisure moment. Supreme is famous for its limited production runs, which ensure that its weekly product drops inspire the same frenzy as a drop of blood in a shark tank – commanding an eye-wateringly high resale value. More so than any of its competitors, the brand has polarised opinion; long-time fans decried the a tie-up with Louis Vuitton as being a step too far from its skate roots, while they lauded its Mike Hill-designed decks and T-shirts and snapped up every USD$30 Supreme brick (literally a brick with a stamped logo) within minutes. Whether you think it’s overhyped or the best thing since sliced bread, Supreme’s cult status is undeniable.

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OFF-WHITE

Who + when: Founded by Virgil Abloh –son of a seamstress, double degree holder in engineering and architecture, and designer who was instrumental in the early success of Yeezy – in 2013.

What: Within just two years of OFF-WHITE’s buzzy debut, Virgil Abloh became the only American finalist in 2015’s LVMH Prize. His following has steadily grown since, and following projects with Levi’s and Moncler, he is due to release an anticipated line with Nike later this year. In past interviews, Abloh has credited Yves Saint Laurent as one of the earliest designers to look to people in the street for ideas. The work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Rem Koolhaas are also eternal inspirations, given Abloh’s architects’ training. The designer cites Martin Margiela and Raf Simons as major influences; Simons, for his part, has denounced him as a copycat.

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