About halfway through Fashion Month, one of my Fashionista colleagues asked me if I'd noticed how one particular magazine editor had been dressing for the shows, where she frequently sits front row. I hadn't, but the way she described the editor's aesthetic this season painted a very clear picture: "She's gone full streetwear."
And she wasn't the only one: For every Gucci loafer and colorful fur we spotted over the past four weeks, we saw twice as many Thrasher hoodies, baggy jeans, MA-1 bomber jackets and Supreme beanies — a far cry from the sartorial "peacocking" that characterized the scene even one year ago.
Of course, this style of dress is nothing new: Since the '80s, elements of surf, skate, sport, art and hip-hop cultures have converged to spawn internationally known labels from Stussy to BAPE to Supreme, and fans of the aesthetic have long occupied their own enthusiastic corners of the Internet, notably on menswear-focused sites like Hypebeast, Complex and Four Pins (RIP). However, high fashion's latest fixation with streetwear is relatively recent, thanks in part to a few key players like Kanye West, Hood by Air's Shayne Oliver, Off-White's Virgil Abloh and Demna Gvasalia, founder of French "It" label Vetements and the new creative director of Balenciaga. The latter is the industry's current golden boy. His edgy, oversized and logo-ed designs for Vetements — many of which look like they could've been unearthed at some hip European thrift shop — aren't only the most exclusive status items around (sweatshirts and jeans swiftly sell out despite their $1,000-plus price tags), but they are helping to shape the modern fashion landscape.
Let's look back to New York Fashion Week, which essentially kicked off with the most massive event of the month: Yeezy Season 3 at Madison Square Garden. West used the occasion as both an album release party and a presentation of his fall collection, which was mainly made up of unisex, tattered knits and sweats in a dusty color palette, with some oversized statement outerwear thrown in. But even more coveted than a ticket to the event was "The Life of Pablo" merchandise sold there — specifically the $90 limited-edition sweatshirts that soon hit eBay for multiple times that price. The rapper is a known fan of Gvasalia: Not only was the designer in attendance at the Yeezy show, but West also tweeted two weeks later that he intends "to steal Demna from Balenciaga."
As the week progressed, West's sister-in-law, noted streetwear enthusiast Kylie Jenner, emerged as the most ubiquitous front row celebrity (often alongside her rapper beau, Tyga), and many of Ye's peers embraced a casual, sporty aesthetic for fall like he did. For instance, Rihanna presented giant hoodies, thigh-high sneaker boots, punky creepers and deconstructed sweatpants at the debut runway show for her Fenty x Puma collection. Alexander Wang offered up skater-friendly box logos; Baja East did "bae" T-shirts and pot leaf earrings; Rag & Bone showed army green bomber jackets and parkas; Hood by Air took its streetwise silhouettes and signature branding to dramatic new heights; and Gypsy Sport's diverse showing included androgynous, athletic separates ranging from logo pullovers to satin tracksuits. Even newly minted DKNY designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osbourne had some fun with the brand's classic acronym, introducing cheeky slogans like "Designers Know Nothing Yet" and "Don't Knock New York."
The proliferation of streetwear followed the fashion set to London, Milan and Paris, although the look was generally more popular outside of the shows than on the runways. Fancy print editors, models off-duty and street style royalty — Miroslava Duma, Chiara Ferragni — opted for sweats, denim and sneakers in surprising numbers. In addition to the aforementioned Vetements pieces, West and Abloh protégé Heron Preston's Cyrillic-embroidered turtlenecks were popular, as were Guess Originals T-shirts designed in collaboration with ASAP Rocky, classic high-waisted Levi's and simple branded items from Calvin Klein, Adidas and Nike.
When the fall Vetements show finally rolled around last Thursday in Paris, the label debuted updates on the looks it's made so trendy: profanity-laden tops, puffy coats, lots of logos and giant hoodies, all of which will likely achieve sell-out status as quickly as those in the spring collection did. Later, on Sunday, Gvasalia's debut at Balenciaga mixed signature house codes (architectural, couture-like shapes, heavy fabrics, sharp tailoring) with his own street-smart sensibilities, showing off-the-shoulder puffer coats, cocoon-like anoraks and unfussy sleeveless evening gowns — versatile pieces that the everywoman could reach for again and again.
Many of the industry's most influential voices have even begun to embrace the growing streetwear phenomenon. In fact, Vogue.com has turned out to be one of the Internet's biggest Gvasalia cheerleaders. Vetements was name-checked as possible inspiration in a surprising amount of show reviews, including those for Jacquemus, MSGM, McQ Alexander McQueen and A.F. Vandevorst. In the past month, the site has run a moving digital editorial dedicated to hoodies, as well as one featuring a handful of Vetements favorites, including the "Titanic" sweatshirt layered overtop one of the brand's dresses, a denim miniskirt and thigh-high leather cowboy boots. Getting the Vogue stamp of approval is no small feat, and its editors' citing of Hood by Air, Eckhaus Latta, Yeezy, Gypsy Sport and Rag & Bone among the most important shows of NYFW — as well as their favorable reviews of both Vetements and Balenciaga — foreshadow the sorts of looks we'll see both in-book and online over the next six months. Yes folks, high-end hoodies are here to stay.
Fashion people have always loved an "It" sweatshirt (Kenzo, Givenchy, Balenciaga) or a trendy sneaker (Stan Smiths, Céline slip-ons, Isabel Marant wedges), but none attained the indisputable "cool" factor of those by Vetements. Much like snagging a pair of Yeezys or a piece from one of Supreme's exclusive collaborations, owning something from the buzzy brand — one that only the most in-the-know fashion fans are privy to — signals to the world that you're clued in, if not well-connected. But, as with most trends that sweep the fashion set, it's only a matter of time before streetwear mania goes mainstream, and with the Kardashians, Jenners, Hadids and major pop stars like Rihanna championing the look, we're betting that will be sooner rather than later.
So if you're on board with the aesthetic, you definitely have some time to experiment and find out which aspects work for you before the new "It" thing comes along. But if you're not so keen on dropping upwards of $500 on a sweatshirt, there's always the good ol' Champion hoodies, university-branded gear or band merch that inspired it. If there's another thing the fall 2016 shows have taught us, it's to never shy away from a mall store like Hot Topic.