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12 Sep

Complex Streetwear Power Rating (September 2023)

Complex Streetwear Power Rating (September 2023)

How do you define streetwear in 2023?

It’s an advanced query for the reason that category used to feel very specific. Within the ‘90s, streetwear brands drew from then-niche subcultures like skateboarding, punk, hip-hop, and graffiti. They produced literal “street wear,” like T-shirts, hoodies, jeans, tracksuits, and sneakers that targeted a younger audience. However the category has evolved and the subcultures it reflects at the moment are multibillion-dollar businesses, which makes the definition of streetwear way more nebulous—and in our opinion, that’s a very good thing.

We define streetwear as clothing that appeals to youth culture and taps into the zeitgeist. It still references hip-hop, skate, punk, and graffiti, but the patron base is broader and it’s not dictated by a price point. (If Gucci can sell us a $500 T-shirt, why can’t a “streetwear” designer?) Some consumers, like resellers, look to streetwear for financial gain; others participate because they need to follow trends or associate themselves with a community or tribe. None of that is entirely latest. The category is just way more expansive.

Many designers on this list might view streetwear as a pejorative term, one which boxes them into a specific space and prevents their work from being perceived as elevated or luxury. But we’ve all the time viewed streetwear as high art and a crucial vehicle for storytelling that speaks to consumers in a way luxury brands could never. And it’s the explanation why LVMH—which owns Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Kenzo, Dior, and more—desires to align with or employ streetwear designers and personalities. Being connected with streetwear means being connected with cultural currency. And after a few years of luxury brands taking from streetwear with none credit or acknowledgement, we aren’t mad at designers who started off making T-shirts helming fashion houses. So while not everyone on this list is solely a streetwear designer, all of them impact the category, which influences fashion at large, as all the time.

How did we rank this list? We only included individuals who make and sell apparel and sneakers, which explains why someone like ASAP Rocky or his stylist Matthew Henson, who’re each incredibly influential, aren’t on the list. Then we, a panel including well-informed members from the Style and Sneakers teams, individually scored everyone’s power based on the next categories: their overall influence in fashion without delay; their current relevance/brand desirability; their overall body of labor; their endurance/consistency; and the worth they carry to larger brands. After tallying those scores, we hashed out the rating over multiple internal meetings and rounds of voting, which was all the time tight. 

These lists aren’t meant to troll. They are supposed to tell a story concerning the state of an industry that we love and respect. With that being said, here is our rating of essentially the most powerful people in streetwear without delay. We invite your feedback, so long as it’s respectful and informed. 

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