Whether drawn by splendid designs or heartfelt recollections, or the curiosity of what will be the next big thing, streetwear has proudly proven its sustainability in a volatile fashion marketplace. Make no bones about it, streetwear is meant to be enjoyed and experienced in the proper fashion. Rich textures and hues mesmerize the consumers with waves of exotic yet familiar styles. Streetwear is street fashion that saw its humble beginnings take root in California’s surf and skate culture. Since then, it has grown to encompass elements of hip-hop fashion, Japanese street fashion, and lately modern haute couture fashion. Streetwear more than often centers on more relaxed pieces such as jeans, baseball caps, hoodies and sneakers.
Nevertheless, let me be clear; streetwear was born in the USA. Throughout history, the USA has played a significantly creative role in fashion and quite often we don’t give ourselves a good pat on the back for our creative developments on fashions timeline of history. The movement is born out of the Los Angeles surf culture of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Even if we look as legendary surfboard designer Shawn Stussy, you’ll find that he began selling printed T-shirts featuring the same trademark signature he used on his custom surfboards. At first, he was selling the Stussy items from his own car. Soon thereafter he expanded sales to boutiques once popularity has increased and Stussy had become a household name. To be clear, the two most important components of streetwear is T-shirts and exclusivity. Early streetwear brands took inspiration from the DIY aesthetic of punk, new wave, heavy metal and later hip hop cultures. Subsequently. well-known sportswear and fashion brands attached themselves to the emerging early 1980s hip hop scene such as Kangol and Adidas. At this point, the game just got interesting. Nike’s signing of soon-to-be basketball superstar Michael Jordan from their rival Adidas in 1984 changed the game altogether, as Nike now dominated the urban streetwear sneaker market in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Moving forward, we witnessed brand launches by the chief executives of major record companies with then heavyweights Russell Simmons of Def Jam launching his Phat Farm label, Sean Combs of Bad Boy with Sean John, and Jay-Z and Damon Dash of Roc-a-Fella Records launching Rocawear. Years later, even rap superstar 50 Cent launched his G-Unit clothing label, with the sneaker rights given to Reebok. This simply meant that the big fashion companies not only saw a future in streetwear but rather embraced the streetwear culture. So where does this leave streetwear now? Recently, we find an increase in established luxury brands entering into the market. Last year, Louis Vuitton proudly named Virgil Abloh (Off-White brand) as the brand menswear creative director. So then, what really popularized the streetwear trend? In a word, the decline of formal wear led to the rise of streetwear fashion. I recently reviewed a streetwear designer brand that peaked my interest.
Marcelo Burlon was born in Argentinia. His approach to fashion has caught the attention of new generations on his very own rainbow tour of the social-media era. Moving with his parents to Porto Potenza Picena in Italy at 14, he would become a notorious club kid in Rimini. That was until a career organizing events for major fashion houses and DJ-ing relocated him to Milan in 2012 and paved the way for the launch of his streetwear brand Marcelo Burlon County of Milan. Five years on, he has become a fan phenomenon in Italy and beyond, and the poster boy for a new wave of fashion entrepreneurs who are set on challenging the establishment.