Fashion has a color issue. We know that and that color issue is that black designers aren’t capable of designing gowns and lavish suits and sportswear, because well, they’re black and black people only wear hoodies and baggy jeans. Designers like Shayne Oliver, Brett Johnson, Samuel Ross and many more are consistently boxed into the streetwear category when they clearly have much more to offer.
What Are The Makings of A Street Wear Line?
From classic street wear lines to ones that seem to pop up over night, they all have a tie running through them; tees and hoodies. Tees and hoodies are rooted in this fashion style because historically, it’s what most kids from the street could afford and wear often. These pieces are functional and were easy ways to push the ever-changing trends onto the backs of city kids who always found ways (usually because of modest means) to remix their new pieces with their existing pieces and boom…street wear was in it’s own fashion lane. Now, let’s be clear on what streets birthed Street Wear. It definitely wasn’t Melrose Place or Rodeo Drive. Street wear comes from the hood…the black and brown hoods. From either coast, kids in the poorest neighborhoods have been the ones creating styles that big fashion loves to reproduce and push out to the kids from the not-so-brown streets as new, fresh and original ideas.
So What’s The Issue?
The issue is street wear has far surpassed just screen printed tees and logo laden sweats. Urban designers are creating amazing collections that can transcend beyond the streets and onto runways but they aren’t granted access. These designers are often self-taught with an eye for style and the ability to forecast what will be and to the powers that be in fashion, without an apprenticeship at a European fashion house or a really sexy sounding last name, you just don’t have what it takes. Street brands like Bape, Supreme, and 10. Deep have grown a cult following with legions of loyal fans who flock to every new thing these brands release yet still. Vetements, the design collective led by Demna Gvasalia, is a fail proof example. Gvasalia has a long history in powerhouse fashion from designing for Maison Martin Margiela and Louis Vuitton to Creative Director at Balenciaga. Here’s the kicker: Vetements is a line completely inspired by street wear and ahem, the people who wore it first. So why is it that Vetements can show under the bright lights of the world’s major fashion weeks but the designers with their pulse on true street wear designs (you know, from actually living and wearing it before it was a thing) can’t? This drives us back to our original thought, fashion has a color issue. Kanye has long been screaming for the fashion gods to “let him in” and while most people have been turned off by his less than colorful collections, this is the shit he’s pissed off about.
These black designers have built their following not from a group of teenage kids that all want to be apart of the movement but through grown adults who care about quality and fabrics used for the garment. The way a zipper might transform your pants into shorts or how virgin wool pants look incredible but feel like sweatpants is what draws us in. These designers are no different from their peers in Vetements or Robert geller but get categorized differently. Why?
The problem isn’t that these designers aren’t successful. They’ve seen lots of it from boutiques worldwide placing orders to being must-haves for their cult following. The issue is that Pyer Moss for example cannot receive any coverage from top editorials like Vogue and many more under this “streetwear label”. It’s hindering the growth of these brands and creating ceilings for them that shouldn’t exist.
The potential is clearly there. Has anyone seen the HBA sneaker Jordan boot? Classic! How about Off-White’s women’s? Dope! These designers should be categorized based on their work not their background, influence, or color of their skin.
Photo of Shayne Oliver for Vogue