Streetwear may not even be a thing anymore.
Rules, categories, genres, "looks" have all just been replaced by this hotly gelling energy that knows no categories. If art is a reflection of the times, than the same must be said of fashion. Like the boxes, metrics, meters, and borders in a rapidly converging world, whatever one's representation of streetwear is, erase it.
Where we're going we don't need roads.
While nothing ever really dies, per se - things do evolve. The iteration that existed at your introduction will never be the same again. Maybe we all, to a point, can, (and should) disagree on "what is" and "what wasn't" streetwear, or whether it's an fine art or cash grab, or who really started what ironic font's overuse for a season, but we all can agree that it's kind of the new Hiphop. It's just what we listen to, and it's just how we dress. That's when you know it's arrived. It just becomes a truthful thread in the fabric of the culture. Say less.
The truth is, streetwear was surely its own realm prior to say, 2015, when "streetwear adjacent" brands started adopting the its collaborative principals, subculture-y aesthetics, and "drop" centric release style. Streetwear almost got too big for what it intended to be by the second wave.
Secondarily, it kick started a-lot of really successful careers, especially for those of color who weren't necessarily amongst fashion's most rewarded, heard, or counted. It was a point of access to move beyond the blocks and into the board rooms.
We wanted to pick 15 of these visionaries of color that came up from the roots of streetwear's tree, and in turn, then planted new seeds. While most "in the culture" cats will tell you streetwear as you thought you knew it is dead, I'd argue that the people who came from it just did the most streetwear thing ever, and told exactly the new story they wanted to tell with out exception or apology.
Let's get into the list.
Tremaine Emory’s Denim Tears label has acted as personal outlet for the creative aside from his No Vacancy Inn project. Some of Tear’s most notable work to date has been a Levi’s collaboration covered in cotton wreaths inspired by the legacy of slavery in America that Kanye West frequently wears. Black culture is highly important to Emory, who has proven to be thoughtful to the enth degree time after time in all of his works, despite what canvas they’re on.
Bianca Saunders work explores the nuances of black masculinity through classic pieces. She received her BA in fashion design from Kingston University and MA from the Royal College of Art. The British Fashion Council selected her line, sold, SSENSE, as "One to Watch." Saunders, although not of “streetwear’s ilk” has had such an elevated vantage point that it would be criminal not to list her massive contribution. While she is a much more "traditional" designer (as in did not come from rapping, crimes of some sort, skating or tagging walls and such) her work is surely a haute take on it.
Carlton Yaito, who works with his partner Tulie Yaito, started out customizing denim in his Queens, NY pad. He customized a pair of jeans for jeweler Mr. Flawless, and from there went on to make pieces for Kareem “Biggs” Burke and more. He’s since expanded to create stand out pieces including cropped jackets pieced together from varying fabrics, faux fur, homegoods, and an oversized faux fur bag with Louis Vuitton insignias. Yaito is a bit of Dapper Dan, a bit of post-mod expressionism and a bit of street-savvy dope ass customization deployed perfectly for this current era.
Carrots By Anwar Carrots
Anwar Carrots launched his first brand, “Peas & Carrots” after taking to and immersing himself in Fairfax’s booming streetwear scene during the early part of the 2000s. In 2014, he dropped the “peas” and ran with Carrots as his moniker. The rest was history. Carrots has established itself as one of the West Coast’s quintessential street brands, and has made Anwar himself as much a part of Fairfax as the pavement. His use of juxtaposed themes and playful settings really established a tone.
SCOTT SASSO (Founder, 10Deep)
Founded by visionary Scott Sasso in 1995, 10.Deep was a wave 1 streetwear pioneer. The New York City brand that is thriving today, which is a testament to Sasso’s work ethic and foresight. Sasso’s eye for ideal collabs and narrative messaging is the reason behind the line’s longevity. Without his work in the 90’s, many of the hypebeast brands wouldn’t even exist right now. Don’t ever take the respect off OG Scott Sasso’s name.
The Watkins Twins of Brownstone NY
Meet fraternal twins Warner and Waverly Watkins. While their line Brownstone is still a relative newcomer to the space, its impact can not be brushed aside. Since launching in 2016, the brand has continued to expand its line of elevated essentials including pieces like custom-dyed shirt jackets and mohair hoodies that converge lofi urban hipster DIY, and New England earth tones on heritage staple pieces like letterman jackets and tweed pants.
Jeremy Sallee (Puma, Freeman Plat)
Ohio Native Sallee had hoop dreams as a young baller at University of Akron. Injuries took them away, but when God closes one door, you know how that goes. Sallee is now the Head Of Footwear Design for PUMA’s Basketball empire. Prior to that, he designed the Kendrick Lamar kicks and the John Wall collection for Reebok, as well as footwear for the iconic Polo Ralph Lauren, so mans don’t miss the open look much still, hardwood or not. In 2015, Sallee created the brilliant Freeman Plat, an absolutely world class footwear line that elevated what a sneaker could be. Inspired by classic dress silos of yesteryear but made with a super modern, cloudstep comfort, his line bridged the gap between all settings. If Obama needed a shoe that would work at a state dinner and shooting fouls, Freeman Plat had it on deck. Oh yeah, there was a FP kick named “The Obama.”
Saeed Ferguson (Founder, AllCAPS)
Nothing replaces intelligence and awareness. While All Caps Studio is an “emerging” line founded by Saeed Ferguson, it’s not his first rodeo. Ferguson was formerly the creative director of the Ps and Qs boutique, a OG streetwear mecca in Philadelphia. His creation, AllCAPS, was born from his socially conscious heart and mind, featuring a trippy, free spirit inspired aesthetic with messages of peace and unity.
April Walker (WalkerWear)
April Walker was inspired by Dapper Dan and went on to start her own (lesser known but just as important of an atelier) in the Big Apple. She opened “Fashion in Effect”out of her house in Brooklyn in 1987. Following that she opened a street boutique, and rolled out with it her eponymous line, Walker Wear, in the ‘90s. Walker Wear was one of the first “black street” lines to have mass distribution in major retailers and it was worn by celebrities including Tupac, Biggie, and Aaliyah. It’s still poppin’ today.
Designers Jonathan Coffie and Kelly Foli created FTY in 2013, and since then its played the role of a rising star from the nation of Black Stars. The Ghanian brand’s T-shirts have highlighted soccer players, musicians, local skate culture, and cities such as Accra and Tema. FTY has transformed now into also becoming non-governmental organization that aims to build shared workspaces for young creatives in Ghana.
Fat Tiger (Collective)
The Windy City offers far more than Jordan memorabilia, Kanye mascot bears, and Drill beats. Meet Fat Tiger Workshop, the pillar of the city’s urban fashion community. The collective that founded Tiger, Joe Freshgoods, Terrell Jones & Vic Lloyd are no strangers to the game. They all had projects going off in The Chi before they decided to unionize. The team has seen collaborations with the likes of New Balance, Adidas, and even McDonald’s between them. They went from slingin' t shirts that said "I Wanna Fuck Rhianna" to truly becoming the face of Chicago's streetwear & urban art culture, with the Mecca being Fat Tiger Workshop.
Chaz Jordan’s Ih Nom Uh Nit
Young Thug. Offset. The virtual streets of NBA 2K20. Bro, Ih Nom Uh Nit has had like the best first five years of any line not attached to the Kanye coaching tree. Chaz Jordan’s line mixes more luxe items like a painted denim jacket or floral button-up with hoodies and T-shirts referencing sardonic pop culture. That hoodie/tshirt drop with the face of Stranger Things’ Eleven was a game changer tho.
Kris Kites, a self-taught designer based in Chicago, is known for his playful collection of jewelry that places superhero figurines and toys in clear cubes attached to plastic Cuban-link chains. He collaborated with J. Balvin on a line of glow-in-the-dark jewelry at ComplexCon Long Beach in 2017.
Martine Rose, a London-based designer, has been producing her eponymous label since 2007. She’s created a cult following with her distinctive sportswear pieces that are just a little off-kilter—a look she helped popularize while also working for Demna Gvasalia when he launched Balenciaga men’s and tapped Rose to help with design. She also designs Napa by Martine Rose, a collection with Italian brand Napapijri.