The Best Streetwear Brands to Keep Watching in 2020
In an interview published in December of last year (under the somewhat salacious headline "Virgil Abloh: Streetwear? It's definitely gonna die"), the artistic director of Louis Vuitton's men's collections prophesied the impending doom of the style (nay, movement) he helped popularize. With all due respect to one of the most influential minds in menswear today—and to paraphrase another great American thinker—the rumors of streetwear's death have been greatly exaggerated. It seems a tad early to proclaim definitively that the dominant force moving menswear forward is on its deathbed. What Virgil was getting at, however, was that streetwear as we know it will surely evolve. In fact, it already has.
"Streetwear," a wildly ambiguous catchall phrase the industry invented to refer to everything from (non-designer) graphic tees to (some) basketball shorts to denim (from certain brands), was always an inadequate term to capture the full breadth of the brands typically grouped together under its name. Supreme, the seminal streetwear upstart turned billion-dollar behemoth, and industry standard-bearer, was always about way more than T-shirts and hoodies—the label currently sells some of the best tailoring around and it doesn't feel like a stylistic stretch in the slightest. Today, so many of the brands making what the industry would still refer to as streetwear are as likely to be the best place to find your next favorite tee as they are the topcoat you'll want to wear over it. So for all of ye of little faith, fret not: Streetwear's second act is sure to be even more exciting than its first.
The king is dead. Long live the king.
What more is there to left to say about Supreme, the small skate label James Jebbia founded in 1994 that scored a billion dollar valuation a few years ago, upending almost every aspect of how the fashion industry operates in the process? Ever since the brand opened its iconic shop on Lafayette Street (RIP) it's basically been Supreme's world. We're all just living in it.
upreme's success is due in no small part to the extremely talented people it hires. Brendon Babenzian worked at Supreme for over a decade as design director before relaunching his own brand, Noah, a slightly preppier take on the freewheeling skater aesthetic he helped make a look in the first place.
Ditto Angelo Baque, who left a longtime gig as Supreme's brand director to launch Awake NY, his own collection of clothing that makes full use of his streetwise sensibility and signature eye for standout graphics.
AIMÉ LEON DORE
Queens native Teddy Santis launched Aimé Leon Dore in 2014 and after a few crucial cosigns early on, the label's gone from success to success to (yep) another success. No brand does elevated streetwear quite like ALD: Santis infuses each collection with a retro nostalgia that consistently feels fresh by filtering his singular take on throwback style through extremely specific cultural touchstones that somehow always look like something new.
No conversation on the contemporary streetwear scene would be complete without paying tribute to Stüssy, the OG label Shawn Stussy started on the West Coast in the 80s (James Jebbia cut his teeth working at the brand's NYC storefront before launching his own). Although Stussy, the man, is no longer involved with Stüssy, the brand, the label's offerings, including its selection of camp-collar shirts, consistently still slap.
It's no secret that I've got a big thing for Tyler, the Creator's personal style. Golf Wang is Tyler's outlet to express his singular take on the skate-rat look he made mainstream, now updated to reflect his maturation as an artist and as a man who gets off extremely good fits.
The cheeky, subversive label started by Lev Tanju in 2009 quickly emerged as a spiritual successor to Supreme (the brand's US stores were some of Palace's first stockists stateside), but it brings a decidedly British take on skate culture that's all its own. At this point, Palace's omnipresent tri-ferg logo is one of the most recognizable cool-kid signifiers around.
Kyle Ng launched Brain Dead as a creative collective of artists and designers from around the world. Since then, Brain Dead has become one of the hottest labels in town, collaborating with a who's who of big names—including A.P.C., Carhartt, and The North Face—on highly covetable pieces that incorporate the brand's signature doodling and scribbled graphics.
CACTUS PLANT FLEA MARKET
The secret to seemingly any successful collaboration over the last few years? Partner with Cactus Plant Flea Market (lather, rinse, repeat). The intentionally enigmatic label founded by Cynthia Lu in 2015 has lent its signature DIY typography and smiley face motif to collaborations with Nike (pictured here), and just about every other major player in the streetwear space, and represents a notable standout run by a WOC in a mostly male-dominated segment of the fashion world.
The real winners from the explosive popularity streetwear's enjoyed over the last few years? Sportswear giants like Adidas, New Balance, Nike, and the many, many others that have benefitted from the movement's sudden cool by borrowing some of its design chops, often in the form of sold-out collaborative collections.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.