6 Most Influential and Impactful Designers In Streetwear
From underground niche to mainstream, streetwear has been steadily transforming the fashion industry for the past few years with no signs of slowing down. With new designers and brands rising to stardom in the blink of an eye along with mainstays continuing and expanding their reign, streetwear has become a tour de force since its inception in the early 90s. This subculture of urban / leisure fashion has never been more varied and universal as it is today with legends like Ralph Lauren (Polo), Shawn Stussy (Stussy), and Bobby and Ben Hundreds (The Hundreds) at the forefront. These OGs helped bring this sub-genre to the masses during the 2000s and paved the way for many of today’s top designers.
In 2019, a new fusion of streetwear and high fashion has created luxury brands such as Human Made and Rhude and Fear of God. Prime examples of two worlds coming together is Supreme and Louis Vuitton overseen by artistic director of LV Virgil Abloh and Kith founder Ronnie Fieg orchestrating a collab with the legendary fashion house Versace, something that we would have never seen coming a few years ago.
But, when it comes to streetwear in 2019, it’s all about making a statement and differentiating yourself from the competition while still remaining an integral part of the streetwear community. This is why we have compiled a list of the top 6 Fashion Designers (in no particular order) who are pushing streetwear forward into the next decade while still remaining true to its roots.
1. Jerry Lorenzo
The mystifying Jerry Lorenzo has built an unfaltering cult following since his street-goth brand Fear of God launched back in 2013. Lorenzo, a former party promoter, created a Christianity inspired line that is heavily influenced by hip-hop and punk rock, setting his brand apart from his peers by embodying all three elements equally.
Some of the world’s biggest celebrities, including Justin Bieber and Kanye West, were among the first to rock custom looks from this self-taught fashion designer who began crafting original pieces at his home in Glendale, California. In addition to Lorenzo’s Fear of God imprint, he has also dropped major collabs with both Nike and Vans in recent years.
Jerry Lorenzo’s knack for matching luxe with refined street appeal is what keeps his collections in high demand. Whether it’s suede bombers, oversized multi zip hoodies, or hi-top luxury basketball sneakers, every piece designed by Lorenzo’s hands are touched by God (pun intended).
2. Ronnie Fieg
Legendary clothing and footwear designer, as well as the founder of the fabled retail gallery Kith, Ronnie Fieg began his career in fashion as a stock boy for his Uncle’s shoe store in New York in the mid-90s. His vision and passion for streetwear would eventually lead him to establish his own multifaceted brand, Kith, in 2011.
Fieg created a marque that not only provides Kith enthusiasts with limited-edition drops but also a shopping experience like no other. When you step into one of the 5 flagship stores across the world you literally walk into Fieg’s imagination. Who else would think to combine the latest fashion, sneakers, ice cream, and cereal bars for a one-stop shop? Kith treats have become as much a part of the shopping experience as checking out the exclusive releases themselves.
In recent years, Kith has also had some high profile collabs with Nike and basketball phenom Lebron James, along with the pop culture icon Coca-Cola.
3. Virgil Abloh
Mr. Virgil Abloh is a brand in and of itself. Abloh has been the blueprint for successfully operating not one but two high profile fashion labels simultaneously. With the success of the highly coveted Off-White label and overseeing the continuous reign of fashion powerhouse Louis Vuitton, it appears that Abloh’s grip on the industry will not loosen up anytime soon.
He began his career interning at the iconic Fendi alongside rapper turned designer Kanye West in 2009 and then launched Pyrex Vision and Off White in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Abloh is the 1st African American to ever be named the artistic director of a French luxury fashion house on top of being a highly sought after DJ, booking shows in the trendiest venues across the globe.
His ability to deliver bold and fresh concepts to consumers while maintaining a taste level that represents the current state of culture is what keeps his name mentioned alongside the best in the biz. Abloh is the poster child for showing aspiring designers and entrepreneurs that anything is possible.
Visionary Tomoaki Nagao, better known as Nigo, has been at the forefront of streetwear for over two decades. The fashion designer from Japan helped to define an era in hip-hop culture during the 2000s when he founded BAPE and BAPESTA in addition to co-creating the cosmic Billionaire Boys Club and colorful ICECREAM brands alongside his long-time friend and multi-dimensional artist Pharrell Williams.
After his 20 year run with BAPE in which he garnered idolization from both consumers and his peers in the industry, Nigo recalibrated and introduced the contemporary-luxury brand Human Made to the world. This was completely opposite from the bold prints made famous by his A Bathing Ape brand in the mid-90s to 2000s.
When Nigo isn’t putting the finishing touches on his latest label or collaborating with sports footwear giant Adidas, he is working as the Creative Director and Head of the UT T-shirt line for Japanese fast-fashion house Uniqlo. Nigo’s influence has gone beyond apparel. His legacy is synonymous with 2000s hip-hop culture and fashion while his past and present work continues to inspire a new crop of designers.
5. Rhuigi Villasenor
Rhuigi Villasenor is arguably one of the top 3 most sought after designers in streetwear today right alongside the aforementioned Jerry Lorenzo and Virgil Abloh. His west coast glam streetwear brand Rhude has been worn by everyone from A$AP Rocky to Lebron James to Ellen Degeneres. And to think his ascension all started with a single t-shirt that hip-hop icon Kendrick Lamar wore to an award show back in 2014.
Since then, Villasenor’s Rhude label has been an undeniable force in men’s fashion. With a refined yet rebellious identity inspired by his L.A. culture upbringing, it’s no wonder Villasenor’s name is near or at the top of many influential designer lists.
Early this year, Villasenor curated footwear collabs with industry giants Vans and Puma and, in June 2019, he presented his Rhude collection for the first time ever at Paris Fashion Week.
Not bad for a guy born in rural Philippines. Villasenor quite honestly is the epitome of the American Dream.
6. Kanye West
Don’t let Kanye West’s mind-boggling antics deter you from giving credit where credit is due. Not only is Mr. West arguably the biggest artist on the planet he is also an extremely gifted fashion designer.
In 2007, West got his first crack at being a designer when he collaborated with the legendary A Bathing Ape and dropped his own pair of Bapesta sneakers, inspired by his classic debut album College Dropout. In the same year, he interned with the plush Fendi label and introduced leather joggers to the masses. These two collabs led to an opportunity for him to design his first signature shoe with Nike, the Air Yeezy. The Air Yeezy was the first signature shoe released by the brand for a non-athlete, making Kanye West the first celebrity to be given their own sneaker with the sportswear brand in 2008.
The massive success of his endeavor with Nike opened the door for West work with Fashion powerhouse Louis Vuitton and create a 3-piece luxury sneakers collection in 2009. Since then, Kanye West has designed for many of the top fashion labels in the game, including Giuseppe Zanotti, Balmain, and A.P.C. In addition, he also releases merch capsules that coincide with his album releases, which sell out in a matter of minutes.
In 2013, West signed a deal with Nike’s rival Adidas and released his high-end signature line, Yeezy, in 2015. Yeezy marque is on pace to reach $1 billion by the end of 2019, only 5 years after its release.
You can say what you want about Kanye West but his reign on pop culture and fashion will not be coming to an end anytime soon. And all of this coming from a guy who never graduated from college.
From Jerry Lorenzo to Kanye, these 6 designers have all contributed to my adoration for street culture and fashion. Each designer embodies the coolness, authenticity, and forwardness that continues to push the industry into the future, inspiring up and coming designers along the way.
Let me know who your favorite streetwear designers are and if there are any that you thought should have made our top 6 by dropping us a comment below.