People describe surf and streetwear icon, Shawn Stüssy as a laid-back Californian, despite being known to the world as the pioneer for a huge fashion and lifestyle movement that’s had massive staying power and appeal over the years. Back in the ’70s as a teenager, one of Stüssy’s first jobs was making surfboards—and as it turned out, 1979 was a seriously memorable year for Stüssy, when he first scrawled his infamous signature scribble.
This “punky scribble” made its debut on surfboards and would later became an iconic symbol printed on T-shirts, hats and shorts. He eventually earned cult status, and became the cornerstone of what we’d argue is the O.G. of all streetwear brands today. Just the fact that Stüssy’s hand-drawn signature is still a relevant logo in fashion, makes it a timeless and immediately recognizable brand. From the beginning, Stüssy has also been synonymous with killer screen prints, which often used overexposed and pixelated images, paired with ironic speech bubbles – also a huge staple of the brand’s graphic tees and ads.
So, how did Stüssy lay the foundation for today’s streetwear scene, culture and designers?
The year of 2020 has definitely been a challenging one on many fronts. But, one thing that’s really stood out, especially since COVID-19 reared its ugly head earlier this year, is how art and creativity have helped carry us through it all. It’s helped us raise money for those in need, keep local businesses afloat, spread powerful messages, celebrate graduations in unique ways, and given us much needed distractions from the seriousness of the times.
Streetwear and decorated apparel, in general, has absolutely been a huge source of this creativity and support. Many in the streetwear community are among those, who, even while struggling, have used their popularity and creativity to put a smile on people’s faces, while trying to stay in business at the same time.
The Social Distancing Club
Take, for example, a new streetwear company “The Social Distancing Club,” out of Los Angeles, CA. They spawned from a desire to turn social distancing into something that felt cool and positive vs something negative, in an effort to encourage people to do it. The two founders also started the line out as a way to help the World Central Kitchen, a group working across the country on safely distributing individually packaged fresh meals to communities in need. For every piece of apparel (which consists of t-shirts, crop tops, hoodies and of course, face masks) that is sold, five dollars will go to the WCK.
Off-White founder Virgil Abloh was born in Chicago in 1980 to Ghanian immigrant parents. After earning an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology, he established a Chicago art gallery and streetwear boutique called RSVP Gallery.
Around this time, Abloh interned at high-fashion label, Fendi, in Rome, where he connected with rap superstar Kanye West. West made Abloh the creative director of his agency Donda, where he designed sets for West’s concert tours and created the artwork for West and Jay-Z’s album Watch the Throne.
In 2009, Abloh and West launched Pyrex Vision, an innovative streetwear design company. According to Highsnobiety, Pyrex Vision’s first garments consisted of Ralph Lauren flannel shirts purchased for $40, screen printed with the word “Pyrex” and the number 23 (a nod to the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan), and resold for $550.
In 2013, Pyrex Vision relaunched as Off-White ℅ Virgil Abloh. The name is a reference to “the gray area between black and white.”
Off-White often uses quotation marks in its designs, with Highsnobiety saying that, “By presenting words as citations, Abloh is taking them out of context, and questioning their seriousness. When he puts “Sculpture” on the side of a handbag, he’s provoking the viewer. What’s the difference between a handbag and a piece of art, really?“
Off-White’s Fashion Aesthetic
A quick look at Off-White’s spring/summer 2020 collection shows how much they’ve expanded their offering over the years. Their line covers everything (Tracksuits; bombers; puffer jackets; sweatshirts for men; jackets, crop tops; dresses and activewear for women). All of these styles use a mixture of both muted and bright hues, so there’s something for everyone. Brand lovers can even extend the style to their living space, with home goods like blankets, towels, pillows and more.
A Rise In Popularity
According to an interview conducted by Business Of Fashion, Federica Levato, a partner at Bain & Company, says:
“Customers are becoming younger, and that is very good for the mid- and longer-term survival of this industry. There is a big market of €2.5 million for luxury T-shirts, for example, that is growing very fast.”
Off-White has merged the worlds of contemporary art, high-fashion and hip hop culture in a way that’s appealed to consumers of all ages, from teenagers on up. With 10.3 million followers on Instagram, the brand has definitely used social media to grab the attention of that young generation of buyers and keep their image fresh. That influence has also demanded the attention of major brands and fashion designers around the world, allowing them to keep creating more collaborative collections that people are continuously lining up for.
In 2014, Abloh debuted collections at Paris Fashion Week and has shown no signs of slowing down, establishing the brand’s first concept store in Tokyo and followed that up by launching a furniture collection called Grey Area in 2016. One year later, he was awarded the British Fashion Award for Urban Luxe Brand. Following a steady rise in popularity, in 2018, Abloh was named artistic director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear division.
One thing is for sure: Off-White isn’t going anywhere. According to HYPEBEAST, during Q3 2019, it beat luxury brand Gucci as “Hottest Brand.” It held on to the top spot for Q4 2019, with Gucci and Balenciaga taking the second and third spots, respectively.
Throughout his career, Abloh has also formed partnerships with a variety of brands, including Nike, Levis, Jimmy Choo, Warby Parker, Sunglass Hut, Converse, Dr. Martens, Timberland and more. He’s even gone as far as collaborating with IKEA, and creating exhibits like the one at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, which launched in 2019.
So, what’s next for Abloh and Off-White? Footwear News reports that Off-White and the Jordan brand will release new Off-White x Air Jordan 5 sneakers later this year. Virgil Abloh and Off-White are certainly here to stay.
He may not be from Los Angeles or New York City, but his hometown of Chicago is a booming hub for entrepreneurs, and streetwear designer, Joe Freshgoods, has certainly made a name for himself beyond the third coast. His talent for storytelling, eye for art and passion for his hometown are a big part of why the Freshgoods brand has thrived over the years.
He Started Storytelling Through Apparel
Freshgoods went to the prestigious Lane Tech High School, on the north side of Chicago, and told Black Enterprise that he’d always been into style and unique looks. “In those days, I was trying to look different so I could stand out from the crowd. I had my homegirl sew bandanas on my jeans, and everybody went crazy. I realized that people like something I had only thought of a few days before. That was my ‘aha’ moment.”
We’re taught at an early age to say yes to all opportunities that come our way. But, sometimes there’s more power in saying no. Pinpointing a path to selective yes’s in life is what has made Kith founder, Ronnie Fieg, so successful, with individuality, being the key to his success.
Fieg’s Background to Success
Fieg’s journey to his multimillion-dollar streetwear brand began as a 13-year-old, working as a stock boy for David Z., a New York City-based footwear store founded by his second cousin.
Crewneck sweatshirts — you know them, you love them, you break them out the moment a brisk wind hits your cheek and a leaf falls to the ground. They’re a classic, All-American comfort staple that will never go out of style, and we have Russell Athletic to thank for that.
While there have been many variations over the years, the first crewneck was invented and put into production in 1930 by Benjamin Russell’s son and former Crimson Tide football player: Benjamin Russell Jr. The iconic new sweatshirt swapped the uncomfortable, itchy wool of practice football jerseys of the time for durable cotton, and featured the iconic “Eagle R” logo. In the decades since the first prototype, the brand has become a well-known and trusted name in sportswear and athleisure.
Though, even with such an iconic contribution to apparel, the Russell name eventually fell out of the front pages — until recently.
The once popular logo and brand has traveled from the field to the streets, and we’re all in.
After decades as the go-to for uniforming needs (from local sports teams to the U.S. Navy), Russell Athletic solidified their spot as a sportswear giant when they were tapped by both the NFL and MLB as the favorite to outfit teams in the 1990s. With the nation’s biggest sports stars rocking the brand, business was booming. Little did they know the classic athletic aesthetic they were producing in the ‘90s would set them up to Continue reading “Russell Athletic Is Back and On The Streetwear Scene”→
Promotional, branded apparel has seen a resurgence in pop-culture — with particular influence from the music industry — in recent years. Not only is it a great marketing tool to generate awareness and revenue for the talent, it’s an easy way for fans to feel connected to their favorite artists. While band (or artist) merchandise (merch) fell off a bit, during the early-to-mid 2000s, the trend has seen continual growth rate since 2016.
Slam Jam: It’s the name behind some of the most notable streetwear collaborations and brands in the industry. So much of what the company does is under the radar, working closely with industry powerhouses, such as Stüssy and Carhartt WIP. But, that’s exactly how Slam Jam’s founder — Luca Benini — likes it. Among many things, the Italian native is known for pioneering streetwear culture in Europe.
As Slam Jam celebrates 30 years of success, we’re taking a look at one of the most iconic influences in streetwear, the legendary man behind it all and our takeaways for sustaining a successful business based on Benini’s achievements.
Slam Jam and Luca Benini: Celebrating 30 Years of Success
When Benini was growing up he had two specific dreams: to be a DJ and to sell clothing. In the end, he found a way to do both.
The Birth and Evolution of Slam Jam
Back in the ‘80s, Benini’s main business became DJing, which fueled his passion for clothing. He quit school to work as a shop assistant, where he would print flyers of his gigs on tees — an early intersection of culture and fashion.
The man, the myth, the legend: Bobby Kim, better known as “Bobby Hundreds” in the industry, is one of the most coveted names in streetwear. But it wasn’t a straight shot to success. In fact, in an interview with GQ, Kim said his failures were the greatest lessons that fueled his ambition to think more creatively—and that he did.
To understand how Kim cultivated a successful streetwear brand, just look to his undeniable passion for art.
From Art to Successful Streetwear Brand
“You’ll never make money off your art.”
From an early age, Kim’s obsession with art was impossible to miss. As a child, he could spend hours quietly doodling to keep himself entertained. However, as he grew older, his parents made it clear he should pursue other paths. While they appreciated the arts, they never thought it was a viable career and told him he’d never make money that way.
When it comes to 2019 fashion, streetwear is still king. Brands like Supreme, Stüssy, and even Louis Vuitton, continue to buzz in circles of hype beasts and fashionistas alike. The rise and reign of streetwear is intrinsically tied to social media, with brands like I.AM.GIA proving that overnight success is just one Hadid or Jenner Instagram tag away from blowing up in popularity.
Though breaking into the landscape may seem impossible as a small business, Cherry Los Angeles has shown there’s plenty of room for the small guy to shine in the streetwear scene. While Cherry LA’s re-worked Dickies and bold graphic tees are worthy of praise, their ever-growing success can really be attributed to their bold and brilliant branding. If you’re looking to carve your own path in the streetwear sector, be sure to add Cherry LA to your inspiration board for ideas in creativity.
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