Streetwear brands have built large followings and now influence fashion industry trends. Last month we discussed trends emerging from international textile trade events in Europe. This week we unpack the potential for streetwear brands to learn from outdoor adventure-wear brands. ‘Gorpcore’ is a streetwear trend influenced by outdoor brands such as Patagonia and North Face. This trend is elevating adventure-wear to luxury status and can be seen on international fashion runways. Part of the appeal is the high quality materials and practical design of adventure-wear. Is this something streetwear brands are learning from?
What is streetwear?
Streetwear is a subculture of fashion that is rooted in Californian surf and skate culture. It has evolved to encompass more than that – including hip hop fashion, Japanese fashion and elements of haute couture. Common components of streetwear are jeans, t-shirts and sneakers, with an overall casual urban aesthetic. As streetwear fashion has evolved, so too has the brands that supply it, and the subculture previously influenced by high fashion is now influencing back. Streetwear is now a fully fledged part of the fashion industry and big international fashion houses like Balenciaga, Givenchy and Chanel all have elements of streetwear embedded in their collections – making the notoriously confusing definition of streetwear even harder to decipher.
Supreme, where streetwear meets luxury
Supreme is a streetwear brand of note for their own collections and for their collaborations with luxury designers. What started as a New York City skate shop in the ’90s is now a recognised global fashion brand. “My thing has always been that the clothing we make is kind of like music,” James Jebbia, founder of Supreme says. “There are always critics that don’t understand that young people can be into Bob Dylan but also into the Wu-Tang Clan and Coltrane and Social Distortion. Young people—and skaters—are very, very open-minded . . . to music, to art, to many things, and that allowed us to make things with an open mind.” Initially beginning with t-shirts, then adding hoodies and hats, Supreme is tuned in to the mix and matching of fashion culture, and started riffing off what designers like Louis Vuitton and Gucci were creating. The collaboration that marked the elevation towards luxury designer status was with Japanese label Comme des Garcons in 2012, which opened a lot of doors for Supreme.
This year, Louis Vuitton and Supreme collaborated on an exclusive collection emblazoned with both brands logos and aesthetics. The collaboration simultaneously gives Supreme luxury designer status while making Louis Vuitton accessible to a whole new demographic of consumers. The collection has an underlying ’90’s influence, including elements of ‘gorpcore’ with parkas, camo and belt bags.
The relationship between Supreme and Louis Vuitton started in 2000, with Supreme producing skate decks and other products featuring a copied Louis Vuitton signature logo print. In the late ’80s and ’90 businesses based on counterfeiting designer products were popular. Dapper Dan, was a major influencer of hip hop fashion who still resonates today as an influencer on streetwear fashion. Dapper Dan’s work came to a halt with court sanctions from major luxury designers, however this counterfeiting era spurred a shift in the way brands began rebelling and reacting in the fashion industry.
It was shortly after this that Marc Jacobs was appointed creative director at Louis Vuitton. Jacobs refreshed the classic Louis Vuitton monogram and injected a youthful appeal by gifting items to young models such as Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss. This youthful attraction to luxury houses and playful appropriation in hip hop fashion, in turn lead to Supreme rebutting with a repurposed version of Jacobs print. The brand included ‘S’ for Supreme amongst the ‘LV’ pattern. The Supreme products were pulled after 2 weeks, due to a cease and desist from Louis Vuitton. 17 years later, the two brands came together to create their Louis Vuitton x Supreme collab, illustrating a true evolution of streetwear fashion moving into the luxury realm.
Streetwear and athleisure have become intertwined
Athleisure has imprinted on both streetwear and luxury as consumers put comfort before fashion. Millennials place significance on time, travel and activities over luxury products, leading to a shift in the types of clothing people are wearing. Casual attire like the streetwear mentioned above, goes one step further with gym to day outfits, sneakers with workwear and technical materials for breathability and performance. Lifestyle has contributed to this as busy, modern people expect more from their clothes. All Birds for example; founded by NZ footballer Tim Brown and business partner Joey Zwillinger, is a comfortable NZ wool, Italian knitted athletic shoe. This shoe has gained major popularity in Silicon Valley as a tech professionals everyday shoe.
Gorpcore, the new normcore?
‘Gorpcore is the new ‘normcore’, rising out of comfort and practicality for everyday wear. ‘Normcore’ was a popular trend of unremarkable “normal” clothing with a purposeful lack of design flare. ‘Gorpcore’ is an evolution of ‘normcore’, with a nod to practical dad fashion and useful outdoor wear. GORP in American slang language stands for “good old raisins and peanuts” and refers to trail mix eaten by trampers and outdoor adventurers. This is where Gorpcore fashion comes in, with belt bags, puffer jackets, durable and practical raincoats, trainers and socks with sandals.
Well established outdoors brands are catering to ‘gorpcore’ fashion trends alongside modern designers. Teva’s velcro sandals were popular in the ’90s an are now available from designer streetwear boutiques. Patagonia’s iconic mountain range logo is now in every millennial’s wardrobe and they are also favoured for their sustainable and environmental ethos. North Face puffer jackets in a rainbow of colours can be seen on wintery streets worldwide. Not only have these brands been elevated to high fashion status and mixed into designer wardrobes, luxury fashion labels are taking inspiration. There were parkas, belt bags, velcro shoes on the AW Fashion catwalks this year.
A stand out high fashion collection with ‘gorpcore’ style is Balenciaga’s Fall 2017 Menswear collection designed by Demna Gvasalia. Gvasalia’s own brand Vetements looks to the street for inspiration, so it is a natural progression that Balenciaga would become a more refined, upmarket version of this. In the Balenciaga collection, standout pieces mimicking adventure wear on the runway included puffer jackets and vests emblazoned with the Balenciaga logo, hoodies ironically toting the Kering group logo, shiny rain jacket fabrics for trenchs and parkas and gumboot style boots.
What can a fashion brand learn from outdoor adventure-wear?
Outdoor adventure-wear is designed for practicality first and foremost. Innovative techniques and technical materials enable this practicality, which can be translated into fashionable design. Natural fibres such as wool are often used for the outdoors due to strength and warmth of the fibre and resulting garments. High quality and innovative fibres are developed in conjunction with interesting textile techniques. Nike created a new sports bra using Flyknit this year. A knitting technique initially designed for their foot wear, Nike creates seamless knitwear with complete support and recovery using their Flyknit technology. This advancement removed 30 seams from the bra design, enabling superior comfort. A combination of innovative design and technical materials leads to fashionable, practical garments that consumers want to wear everyday.
Perino by Woolyarns is an innovative yarn collection suited to both athleisure and luxury clothing. With softness properties comparable to cashmere and building on the warmth of wool, Perino can be used in linings, as the main outerwear or in mid layers creating insulation. Engineered in New Zealand, a country known for outdoor adventure, it is no surprise that the adaptable textile can cater to multiple demographics. Not only is it superior in softness, weightlessness and has an interesting, halo-like texture, it has natural breathability, drawing moisture away from the skin. Always refining and developing, the Perino team from parent company Woolyarns has limitless possibility for bespoke blends to fit any designer need.
Choosing versatile, high performing materials and techniques is a way for deisgners to learn from the adventure-wear industry.
High quality, technical materials for streetwear brands
High quality, interesting and technical materials will give streetwear brands an edge on the ‘gorpcore’ fashion trend. Luxurious fabrics, interesting developments in techniques and an application of high fashion design is the fusion of elements that will benefit the streetwear market. Millennials want more from their clothing than ever before, therefore long-lasting high quality garments paired with good design is an advantage for brands.
With luxury designers adapting themes of skateboarding into their collections and shows, of course it will have some blow back from hard core skaters with a true connection to skate culture. Esquire interviews skate magazine editor Jake Phelps of Thrasher and Brendon Babenzien founder of skate brand Noah.
Want to get on board? NY Mag has curated a list of 11 ‘gorpcore’ pieces to buy this season.
GQ has coined the term “Second-hand Dad” describing Gorpcore, likening the look to “dressing like your dad, going for a walk in the woods, some time in the early 1990s”. This article by The Gaurdian discusses the rise in sales for authentic adventurewear brands following the trend and designr collaborations with brands such as Nike and Supreme.