We take a look at some of the best streetwear designers on the planet that are flying the flag for the latest designs & innovations on the global streetwear scene.
At its core, streetwear is about the clothes we wear. Getting inspiration from, the streets, and the culture that surrounds it. However, with time gone by; streetwear has adapted and become a mainstay in fashion. Merging the lines between designer & streetwear has created a new luxury focused street style with a new breed of creatives & pioneers flying the flag for the latest street driven designer trends. From sportswear pioneers like Yohji Yamamoto to the latest generation of designers in this feature we take a look at some of the very best streetwear designers out there. Here are some of the top designers paving the way in streetwear, challenging and adapting the way we think about it and see it.
Ronnie Fieg, the founder of KITH started his now worldwide level brand in 2011. Spanning over 8 various brick and mortar stores as well as a strong online presence, KITH is more than just another streetwear brand. Instead, Fieg aims to create an experience with the brand. With their stores designed by Snarkitecture, everything about KITH aims to bring more than just clothing to his audience catering to men, women and children with a range of streetwear brands on offer; as well as the highly acclaimed KITH own brand with high quality sportswear pieces that channel vintage American silhouettes, bringing it into the new.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know exactly who Virgil Abloh is. Even people that don’t know or care for streetwear know the name. The founder of off-Whiteand long term creative director for Kanye West has worked his way up starting with one of his first ventures ‘Pyrex Vision’. With the first collection in 2013 titled ‘The Youth Will Always Win’, Abloh has been able to tap into all areas of youth culture as well as art, music and fashion.
However, after some scrutiny over Pryrex, Virgil decided to rebrand and that was the inception of off-White. Creating ready to wear pieces that has inspired a new era in streetwear all the way through to his high-end runway looks displayed in Paris. January of 2018 saw the leave of Kim Jones from Louis Vuitton to Dior. Following this, Virgil Abloh was appointed the first ever African-American artistic designer at LVMH beginning his role as the lead designer for their menswear line. This was one of the biggest moments in not only Abloh’s career but also in streetwear, pushing it into the high-fashion realm. Sadly Abloh passed away in 2021 after battling with a rare cancer leaving a lasting legacy on the streetwear scene.
Cutting edge Japanese streetwear designer, Yohji Yamamoto, takes a very different approach to his work when compared to some of the other designers on this list. While streetwear continues to lean towards big brands splashed onto clothing, such as off-White with their ready to wear pieces; Yamamoto’s designs use form and shapes to create interesting silhouettes. Yohji Yamamoto’s work actually spans over a number of sub brands, the two most popular being ‘Yohji Yamamoto’ which has been described as subverting typical concepts within western clothing and design. The other being Y’s, described by Yamamoto as being his ‘everyday, ready-to-wear’ line which has a distinct focus on “fabrics, airiness, volume and balance” between the garments and the wearer.
While Yamamoto has been at the forefront of innovative design, one of his most renowned collections is Y-3. Spring/Summer of 2003 saw the launch of Yohji Yamamoto’s collaboration with adidias titled ‘Y-3’. The collaboration was able to take Yamamoto’s designs and merge them with Adidas sneakers to create a lux, high-end design that, at the time, brought a completely fresh take on sneakers, especially for adidas.
In a similar vein to Virgil Abloh, Heron Preston holds a big influence in youth culture while holding other talents such as: DJing, being a digital producer at Nike and most importantly, being a designer. His brand simply titled ‘Heron Preston’ is based on hard wearing utility garments including boots, vests, jackets etc as well as t-shirts and jumpers. A big reason for his success is his connections within the industry. Working alongside Virgil Abloh and Kanye West, Preston immediately caught the attention of hardcore streetwear fans.
Since his increased popularity, Heron Preston has had the opportunity to collaborate with Levis, SSENSE with a sustainable capsule collection titled ‘JUMP’ and of course NASA. Preston is trying to bring a new, refreshing, take on the streetwear industry with his attempt to go green. Working with sustainable brands like the Department of Sanitation, NASA and Nike on projects such as the Nike Air Max 720 (a shoe which is 70% recycled materials) as well as making sure to use sustainable materials in his collections.
Francesco Ragazzi is the mastermind behind the laid back, streetwear brand ‘Palm Angels’. However, the way this brand started was very different to the other brands on this list. Best known for the joggers seen being worn by A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti as well as other big names in the culture, Palm Angels originated within a photobook created by the Moncler art director, Francesco Ragazzi. The photobook, shot by Ragazzi, was released in 2014 and featured black and white images of the LA skate scene that plays a big part in the Palm Angels design. The book led to the brands first ready to wear collection, which has since taken off, being sold in over 210 stores across the world including Barneys, Selfridges and Harvey Nicholls. Blending Ragazzi’s sartorial Italian background with his love for LA skate culture.
Matthew M. Williams
Best known for his signature metal buckle belt, Matthew Williams is the founder of the highly converted brand Alyx. Starting his career as a creative director for Lady Gaga, Williams has a strong affinity for streetwear and the culture surrounding it. Following his work with Lady Gaga, Williams went on to start the streetwear brand ‘Been Trill’ working alongside creative directors – Virgil Abloh, Heron Preston and Kanye West. The brand is heavily streetwear based, playing on youth culture and fashion trends gaining traction by posting various art outlets onto Tumblr including mixtapes, images, music videos etc.
In 2015, Matthew Williams launched his brand ‘Alyx’. Creating a sleeker, more sartorial take on street style complete with subtle branding giving for a professional finish. While the brand focused on womenswear to begin with, from 2017 Alyx has created garments for both men and women. Since it’s release, Alyx has quickly gained it’s footing in the streetwear industry after being a finalist for an LVMH prize in 2016, collaborating with Nike in 2018 releasing a variety of utility inspired sportswear pieces and using his creative knowhow in the Dior SS19 collection adding his flare to the accessories.
Samuel Ross is a relatively new designer on the block. Releasing his brand A-cold Wall* in 2015 at the age of 25, Ross has been named the Fashion Awards 2018 British Emerging Menswear Designer. Within the first two years of the brands existence in 2016 and 2017, Ross was able to get the brands value up to $1.7 million after partnering with it’s stockists including SSENSE and Barneys. Before the launch of A-cold Wall*, Ross was chosen by Virgil Abloh to assist working as a creative assistant at off-White and Yeezy. This past experience shows in the pieces that the brand creates. With a strong focus on quality materials and production methods over bold branding seen in mainstream streetwear as we currently know it. Ross has since shown both his Autumn/Winter and Spring Summer collections at London Fashion Week last year. This is definitely a brand to look out for in the years to come.
Relaxed downtown street style is where Alexander Wang excels. A well known name on the designer streetwear scene, and more so, the wider fashion industry. Wang has been creating clothes from a very young age. At just 19 years old, he had decided to drop out of Parsons School of Design in New York in order to focus on his brand. The brand initially was made to sell cashmere jumpers, which quickly caught on, going on to release his first full women’s ready-to-wear collection at New York Fashion Week in 2007. One of the biggest achievements that pushed Wang into the streetwear scene was his collaborations with Adidas that took the classic designs from the sportswear brand, including tracksuits, hoodies and skate shoes, and gave it a more high fashion makeover with lux materials and colour palette.
Errolson Hugh is the founder of the tech heavy streetwear brand ACRONYM. Founded back in 1994, the brand aims to create pieces that fuse modern technology with functional apparel and the results are incredibly popular. The brand can usually be seen using a monochromatic colour palette with bright detailing. The Munich based brand is at the cutting edge when it comes to the fabrics and technology they use within their garments. The myriad of outerwear pieces caught the attention of Nike. In 2014 Nike asked Hugh to re-establish the ACG (All Conditions Gear) line which is their answer to other popular Gorpcore brands like Arc’teryx and The North Face. The brand recently took to Instagram to announce the release of it’s latest collection with a range of pieces that have utility, design and comfort in mind. While the pieces are aimed for a slightly higher budget, they’re definitely worth the investment.
Mini Swoosh is, technically speaking, a small version of the Nike logo. That was until 2016, when London based Australian Nike enthusiast, Alexandra Hackett caught the attention of not only the streetwear audience but also the mainstream. After turning an IKEA bag into a bucket hat and kicking off a worldwide trend. While this seems like a great feat, the creativity and talent doesn’t stop there. Take a look at her Instagram page (@miniswoosh) and you’ll see various pieces including tactical vests made out of Nike towels and shoe bags, to rugs and chairs amongst many others.
In 2017, Alexandra Hackett was one of the 12 creatives chosen by Nike to design their own take on a Nike Air Max sneaker and has since had various projects working alongside them. Nowadays, Hackett has created her own brand named ALCH. The aim of the brand is to continue the process of breaking down streetwear garments and recreate new pieces. The brand has already found itself creating pieces for some big names including Frank Ocean, Stormzy and Young Thug while also working on ongoing projects with PATTA.
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