Cultures are similar to time, in that both existed before they were given their names. The culture of Streetwear is no different. What Streetwear is existed long before it was given the title “Streetwear” and is continuing in brands now. Despite the culture and aesthetic evolving from the classical definition taken from Bobby Hundreds’ controversial article; “True traditional streetwear is a genre of contemporary apparel, united between sportswear and military looks, and is one that speaks to a spectrum of subcultures (skateboarding and hip-hop mostly),” Streetwear continues to be rooted in storytelling, referential designs and genuine lifestyle brand building. With this in mind, these are the 5 most interesting brands currently shaping the Streetwear culture.
V. For Every Living Thing(FELT)
Felt is a Miami based brand inspired by the crossroads of raves, psychedelics, and the beauty of nature. The brand feels like a pleasant acid trip that begins in the living room watching cartoons, and somehow peaks in a picturesque field surrounded by butterflies. Felt is able to separate themselves from other “trippy” brands by focusing more on details, consistent imagery and genuine references. Their most recent years have been a stream of quality collections and collaborations that have brought in more eyes than ever. This almost gives them a sense of overnight success despite having close to a decade worth of business under their belts.
Felt first caught my attention with their collaboration with Yeenjoy. They were able to utilize Yeenjoy’s expertise with their own natural aesthetics to create a porcelain, mushroom incense burner that went entirely outside of Yeenjoy’s usual imagery. A perfect collaboration by any standard. Felt continued to hit with collaborations with the MLB, Anwar Carrots and even a New York based tea and lemonade company, Brooklyn’s Best, to release their own Peach Tea Lemonade. All of this while continuing to release their own collections, and even throwing their own rave. I’m looking forward to seeing what Felt cooks up for the rest of the year.
IV. FTP Fuck The Population
Zac Clark created Fuck The Population, and has been able to mold it into something that feels similar to great Streetwear brands of the past while also not following in their footsteps. FTP takes the rebellious attitude and aesthetic of Fuct, the accessibility of Supreme(whether purposefully or not), and the camaraderie of early The Hundreds without falling into any of those brands’ individual pitfalls. Not to mention the nostalgia of banned Young Jeezy Snowman tees, and the rabid fan base of $uicideBoy$. This is what makes FTP such a silent giant in the industry and culture.
I believe the brand’s most significant attribute may be something not necessarily within their control, which is the lack of stockists. Similar to Supreme or early Bape, FTP is only sold in their own store or website, and this creates a sense of truly limited availability. Someone cannot just stumble upon FTP unknowingly while shopping for other brands. A person can either get it directly from the source, or buy it from a reseller. Both of these methods show that customers not only buy it, but buy it intently for the message and sense of brotherhood.
III. Verdy(Girls Don’t Cry/Wasted Youth)
Japan has always had an undeniable influence over all aspects of culture, but especially so in terms of Streetwear. Without Tokyo’s approach to Streetwear influencing the culture as a whole globally, who knows where we would be today. Therefore, personalities within this cultural ecosystem have a high chance of becoming leaders internationally. Before Nigo there was Hiroshi Fujiwara, and after Nigo is now Verdy. The mononymous graphic designer managed to make a name for himself outside of VK Design Works collective, and has used this to open popup shops around the world, become a Nike SB collaborator and turn his designs into plushies and jewelry.
Verdy’s main attribute is that he’s able to design with a cohesive style that it is instantly recognizable no matter what brand or collaboration it is released through. Whether it is the soft playfulness of “Girl’s Don’t Cry,” the rough rebelliousness of “Wasted Youth” or the ways those two styles cross to create characters like Vick and now Visty, everything Verdy touches is distinctly him. Another aspect leading to Verdy’s rise is his approach to merchandise being similar to that of a rock band touring the world. Where some would say this creates repetitive releases, I see it as allowing his characters the space to become well known without appearing commodified. If Verdy is able to continue this trajectory, we could be looking at the first Streetwear Mickey Mouse, and I’m sure that’s exactly how Verdy would want it to be.
II. Joe Freshgoods
Joe Freshgoods has become a one of a kind creator in the Streetwear culture, and his rise over the years is something I’ve never seen before. Less of a brand and more of an art and design studio is how I would best describe what Joe and his team have created. Freshgoods feels like a collaboration machine similar to Fujiwara’s Fragment Design Co. Instead of focusing on their individual collections and releases, the Chicago brand puts all their creative effort into creating projects with larger brands that those larger brands could never have genuinely done without Freshgoods involvement. Whether it is his collaborations with New Balance, his work bringing back fitted caps from the brink of obscurity with his New Era tour or creating his own flavor with Snapple, everything Joe touches contains such a deep story that it could only be created by someone who genuinely lived those experiences.
Freshgoods’ focus on storytelling through product design is what sets him apart from other brands. There’s so much thought put into every aspect of the product that each release is an entire story on their own, and that creates a longevity to the life cycle of the product far beyond hype or resell value. This also gives customers and fans an opportunity to research and learn from these products, which is what initially made me fall in love with Streetwear. Another large aspect is how much Joe Freshgoods gives back to his Chicago community. For instance, Chicago natives had the chance to enter a raffle for his New Balance collaboration, and all they needed to do was donate books and toys. Streetwear has always been about more than just fashion, and the Freshgoods team is a prime example of that.
I. Carrots by Anwar Carrots
Anwar Carrots has come a long way from working at the Rouge Status store and frequenting Hypebeast forums. In fact, he may be the most recognizable name and face in the culture today. “Carrots by Anwar Carrots” started as a continuation of ideas and aesthetics after the downfall of PNC(Peas N Carrots), and has become the Streetwear’s own Ralph Lauren. This is not solely due to the eponymous brand name, but the fact that Carrots is an all encompassing lifestyle brand. And Anwar Carrots was able to accomplish this through the well tested method of collaborations.
Crocs, Champion sweatsuits, DC shoes, phone cases, or even exotic weed, everything Carrots touches is well design, creative and full of genuineness. These aspects are the main attributes that allow Carrots to release collaborations that would have been seen as taboo to older Streetwear enthusiasts. Projects such as his collaboration with Guess or releasing his collaboration with FELT through Nordstrom. And while his collaboration with Crocs were not the first, they did help solidify Crocs as a legitimate, fashionable choice of footwear. Factoring in that Carrots main releases are also well designed, and not necessarily hard to obtain means that their following is more than hype. More so, Carrots’ following and success is a reward for their consistent level of quality and courageousness to step outside of the box of traditional Streetwear.