ast year, the biggest story in menswear was the unlikely collaboration between Louis Vuitton, a French luxury “maison” with a history that spans three centuries, and Supreme, a New York streetwear brand with origins in the anti-corporate skate culture of the 1990s. This logo-heavy collection would have been impossible to imagine until very recently, but it spoke volumes about the style world’s current taste for streetwear.
What exactly is going on? Since the birth of luxury fashion as we know it, designers have always worked with a vision of exclusivity extrapolated from the lifestyles of elites. Ralph Lauren has made billions from casual clothes that serve up the dream of Ivy League style. Jackets and suits are marketed based on their close – or ideological – links to the old-money tailors of London’s Savile Row, or Naples’ Chiaia district. However, in 2018, casual clothes are inspired by sportswear and vintage knock-offs. Tailoring still exists, of course. But the boxy shapes of the suits from trend-creating brand Balenciaga call to mind formal work outfits worn by real men in dreary offices – in short, the clothes explicitly deny any phony links with old European tailoring traditions. Even cerebral, minimalist label Jil Sander has, in co-creative director Mr Luke Meier, got an ex-Supreme designer calling the shots. Have forthright millennials rejected the fashion business’ traditional sales pitch, which is to offer social advancement through dressing up like one’s “superiors”? Yes, it seems so.