The current state of fashion in India is dynamic, disruptions are common, and people are no longer scared to experiment. One fashion genre which is changing the way people look dress is streetwear. This genus is all about a mindset, an attitude which is visible in everything the wearer does.
Originated from Californian surf and skate culture, streetwear is a style of comfortable, casual clothing inspire by skateboarding, surfing, hip-hop, punk, Japanese street fashion and other subcultures. It is avidly bought and worn by. The trend is picking up pace in India, with ‘hypebeasts’ – avid streetwear collectors – on the rise, buying the latest releases from the world of streetwear.
According to Shakeef Khan, Co-Founder and CEO, Disrupt, the rise of hip hop and rappers in India, along with movies and shows like Gully Boy and MTV Hustle are moving this trend along at a fast rate.
Sanjeev Mukhija, Founder and Managing Director, Breakbounce Streetwear says, “Streetwear is a subculture that expresses freedom to experiment. It breaks away from mainstream and thrives on real concept of counter-culture. And, a true enthusiast strives to keep up the identity.”
Abdon Lepcha, Creative Director, Cravatex Brands Limited (Fila) explains that streetwear is a mindset, not just a trend. “Streetwear is a revolution to the fashion that has been prevalent for decades. It has brought a change in how we feel, dress and express ourselves. It is a cultural shift as streetwear works in the opposite way than the common practice of brands telling the consumer what to wear. It is the consumers that direct styles. It has erased the boundary line between casual and formal. Today it is okay to wear jogging pants and sweats and go to office, which wasn’t the case some years back.”
Streetwear is modern, usually casual, clothing that is typically worn by urban youth subcultures. Originating from cultures and neighborhoods as opposed to the fashion styles dictated by designers and major retailers, the attractiveness of streetwear rests on the fact that one can wear whatever he/she wants, creating a mix-n-match style that fit their personality. In India, streetwear fashion is popular among Millennials who are otherwise predominantly into international labels.
These Millennials want innovation in design, along with unique collections that reflect their individuality, and are willing to go that extra mile to get the styles they desire.
As Khan puts it, “Millennials and Gen Z represent a large and still growing share of fashion consumers, and they want community and authenticity. Add to this comfort and a lot of attitude and streetwear is the outcome. It’s no surprise then that the most followed streetwear stars are massively visible celebrities like Rannvijay Singh, Melvin and Raftaar are household names in streetwear these days.”
He further states that the culture of hip hop is not just a cult anymore but a major community considering the size of the youth in India with many of them being influencers, it was but overdue for streetwear to go mainstream.
As per Lepcha, streetwear is a combination of keeping true to one’s own identity while being comfortable and not shying away from others.
“Be it individual or group, everyone has their own ideas. People want to explore and express, and streetwear is a great platform. Globally the Kardaishans, Kanye West, etc., are the kind of celebrity influencers for fashion, music, make up. They create their own style, and this is something which influences a major chunk of millennial today – being comfortable with who you are and not afraid to express yourself is the defi nition of streetwear,” he states.
Retail Responds to Streetwear
Retailers today are trying to provide whatever their consumers demand and are stocking up on streetwear to give shoppers clothes which reflect a ‘don’t care’ attitude.
“Shopping trends are changing with people adapting to comfortable and personalised buying. Streetwear speaks to the young who are highly persuasive and globally connected. Independent brands are making their mark to uphold the genre in India, appealing to Millennials and Gen Z buyers. Customers are now asking for the category and retailers are delivering, making space for these new age styles in their stores,” says Mukhija.
“Streetwear is here to stay, and every brand wants a piece of the pie. It is self-expression and hence cannot be confined to one specifi c business unit. It could be one t-shirt with an expression, a studio, a boutique, a brand or even a community. There is space in this category for everyone,” states Lepcha.
From the runways of Milan Fashion Week to the collaborations that Fila has done in India with brands like NorBlackNorWhite and VegNonVeg talks about the seriousness of the brand towards this fashion trend.
“The collaborations we do is to nourish the growing street culture in India, then be it art, culture, fashion, music or any other form of expression, because we believe that when different ideas come together, the result is often an explosion of creativity,” Lepcha explains. “Every range that we make has a story to tell. What we do is create memories rather than just put products out in the market. Fila is not just a sportswear brand but a fashion sportswear brand. The fashion element to sports is the diff erentiator and we believe that the stories we tell create a bond between us and our consumers.”
Khan adds, “Indian fashion markets are still adapting to streetwear and the genre is still evolving. More and more street style designers are emerging, and designers are creating more urban collections. Meanwhile brands have just started mainstream collaborations, like the Louis Vuitton X Supreme. The market is also seeing fresh competition from Chinese fashion brands like Shein, ClubFactory, etc., which have gained popularity with their affordable prices and contemporary clothing.”
The objective behind streetwear is to off er the wearer a relaxed style whilst looking good, though very few brands have been successful in linking themselves with the streetwear category. There are also luxury streetwear brands like Supreme, Off White and Bape, which make the style extremely desirable. Sportswear major adidas too has done well by leveraging their early market entry and collaboration mix.
The Street Ahead
According to Lepcha, streetwear as a culture is going to grow a lot more in the next 2-3 years as compared to formal wear.
“In the next few seasons, we will face a lot of unisex clothing, training lines for athleisure, etc. Comfort as well as styling which will be a combination of streetwear and lounge wear. But, as of now what’s running in the market will continue for two more seasons for sure,” he concludes.
(With inputs from Gurbir Singh Gulati)