“ When asked what will happen to streetwear in the 2020s, he said, “I would definitely say it is gonna die, you know? In my mind, how many more T-shirts can we own, how many more hoodies, how many sneakers?” According to Abloh, the next decade will be all about vintage fashion: “There are so many clothes that are cool that are in vintage shops and it’s just about wearing them.” Dazed and Confused Interview 17th December 2019
It’s been a funny old… 18 years. Running a ‘fashion’ store in a small seaside town on the south coast of England has definitely taken its twists and turns.
I can’t remember if ‘streetwear’ even existed as a genre in 2002 when we opened but now I’m really sad to read that its going to die next year.
You could argue that mass market Streetwear Version 1. died around 2014 if I’m being completely honest. It’s definitely the time when after a few years of selling a lot of The Hundreds caps, Obey logo t-shirts and Huf Weed Leaf socks the brakes definitely came on. Don’t get me wrong we worked up to it over 10 years and funnelled ourselves down that line. You could argue that these brands were also a version of streetwear but they definitely became the unfortunate ones left holding the baby that was being sneered at as ‘streetwear.’ When we started out with those brands they were definitely limited, harder to get hold of and in way less stores. We all got a little carried away, I guess…
They haven’t gone away though and today they are still there, adapting and changing. Obey for instance regularly partners with the guys behind Brain Dead for t-shirt designs and of course the whole brand is based around the iconic artwork of Shepard Fairey. They are still staying true to their version of streetwear and Urban Industry hasn’t missed a season with them since we stocked the brand.
Urban Industry always was (is still partly?) what I’d begrudgingly have to call a ‘Streetwear Store’ atleast with my concept of what the term means to me. When we opened I shopped around trying to stock brands that I myself had been buying or were closely associated with my tastes. My own personal route to streetwear was through being a BMX’er hanging out with Skaters, a Mountain Biker, heavily into the Beastie Boys, Grunge, 90’s hip hop, Mo Wax, etc etc. It was clothing that I would see fewer people wearing, associated yourself with some or all parts of a perceived counterculture, the brands weren’t available readily on the high street. Above all they were generally affordable. Apart from the very early hype brands like A Bathing Ape or small limited run brands like Silas you could definitely wear these brands and have a bit of spare cash left. The only thing you really had to put in was time and effort. You might have to read a certain magazine, follow a certain band and you would most definitely have to travel a bit further to find a shop selling it.
Cut forward to 2020 and Virgil is hopefully talking about his version of Streetwear, it seems a long way from my version. For the last few years the adoption of ‘Streetwear’ for high fashion, runway shows, ridiculously expensive collaborations have seen the term move well away from its roots to something altogether different. Yes, Louis Vuitton might have joined with Supreme, Balenciaga has made some crazy sneakers and Virgil’s own Off White has become the new darling of this new streetwear world, but to me none of it is really streetwear.
Yes, it looks like streetwear, lots of t-shirts, sweats and big logos but is it? Wearing something from Stussy meant originally that you were probably a surfer then probably enjoyed underground dance music in the late 80’s early 90’s, they you associated yourself with skateboarding in the late 90’s early 2000’s, underground art, music etc etc. Wearing a £30 Stussy logo tee said so much more about who you were and what you were about. The brand resonates with different generations over its 35+ years of existence.
What does a £250 Off White T-Shirt say about you?
I’m not trashing anyone that buys Off White, there’s a reason you did buy it and that’s totally up to you, but for Virgil to say that Streetwear is about to die is a bit hard to swallow.
For me it’s just sounds like Virgil is running out new ideas with the muse that Streetwear has been for him. He also needs to make sure he’s not left looking irrelevant and holding his own ugly streetwear baby. Working at Louis Vuitton with access to untold amounts of cash and printing yet another t-shirt or hooded sweatshirt for Off White must seem a bit redundant even to him.
Streetwear however is ever evolving and in a way never changes. Right now, if I turn the spotlight on to our own business, it does mean something different but also still very similar to 18 years ago. We still stock brands with a background, a history, a built up reason of the what’s and whys. If they’re new brands it’s because we feel they are interesting, creative, well made and are worth backing. Urban Industry has definitely done more than its fair share of trying new brands from around the world with no expectation of making ourselves rich from it. We stock them because something resonates with us. Yes there is ebb and flow of course, brands come and go for many different reasons.
Outdoor tech has really come to the fore too. Yes there is a trend presently for Outdoors but also its something we were wearing right back when. The reason for stocking these brands is their utilitarian nature, their quality for protection and doing a job whether you’re up in the hills or on the street. The brands we stock, I think, mix and blend together well and generally you’ll be wearing them day to day for years to come. This also brings in the imperative to be more environmentally conscious across the board. It’s definitely not fast fashion on one side and its definitely hype priced high fashion on the other.
I can only speak for Urban Industry and it’s been my 3rd child for 18 years but I definitely feel we have a good balance in 2020. It is streetwear amongst other things and streetwear still feels pretty healthy to me.
Daniel King | Urban Industry - Director