Bad and Boujee

In a world where streetwear has become just as reputable as designer brands, the line between inspiration and cultural misrepresentation continues to blur. While the West has partaken in the subculture-no-more known as “street”, “Asian” street has become particularly influential. While street fashion itself isn’t evil, it's increasingly bourgeois -- or boujee in street slang -- industry has allowed the opportunity for bad companies to cultivate the practice of cultural misrepresentation, implicitly influencing youths to believe that it isn’t an issue. Born from the desire to differentiate from the older generation and to cultivate something that is solely theirs, the current generations of youths have created a culture of their own--an individuality that unfortunately comes at the cost of a people and their culture. Given the fact that Hypebeast, the leading digital curator of men's contemporary fashion and streetwear, is headquartered in Hong Kong, it isn’t particularly hard to understand why Asian aesthetics may dominate street fashion. However, in looking East, the world has often mistaken appropriation for appreciation. Asian -- particularly Japanese -- culture has been appropriated and misrepresented in order to create the ideal street aesthetic. Though it can be argued that both Western and Eastern brands engage in an equal partnership that continuously draws on one another, the West and the issue of cultural theft acts differently due to historical imperialism. This was from a time when their customs and cultures were introduced and implemented in a vast majority of the Eastern Hemisphere. Additionally, the way inspiration is drawn often resembles the reduction of cultures that are inherently not something to take, such as misused characters and stereotypical Japanese imagery. This is visible in both the smaller, more “authentic” street brands, as well as certain mainstream brands. SuperDry Japan -- a British brand -- adorns their clothing in meaningless phrases, translated from English using basic software like Google Translate, to appear authentic to its name. Even Asian-run brands like Sydney’s Nothing can fall to misrepresentation, evident in their use of Japanese imagery, characters, and the schoolgirl aesthetic on their Instagram. This is part of a trend where cultural images are glorified in a manner that is inconsiderate of its past. Yakuza art is utilized without any thought to the very real dangers it represents in Japan. The rising sun flag is scattered throughout magazines, advertisements, and clothes without understanding its offensive connotations in the rest of the Eastern Hemisphere. The list goes on, but the issue here lies not in the “appreciation” but in the cyclic perpetuation of certain Japanese stereotypes. Appropriation segregates the acceptance of other cultures. The parts that have been proven to be economically profitable are hailed as edgy, whereas the more real, imperative aspects of the Asian experience -- such as daily prejudice and government erasure of certain political issues -- are pushed aside and ignored. Though there are aspects to modern Japanese culture that are inherently problematic, its origins being wrong doesn’t make their misrepresentation right. The “Japanese” aesthetic is indeed intriguing as long as it is sourced from the right people, with the right values, knowledge, and understanding of what they’re doing while straying away from the bad and boujee. Street brands that are positively celebrating Japanese culture include Osaka’s Evisu with their use of traditional art and colouring, Shinsuke Takizawa’s NEIGHBOURHOOD, whose aesthetic described as “badass sophistication”, Tokyo-based Wacko Maria and their music-inspired pieces, and of course the original Japanese heavyweights Comme de Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto, Cav Empt, and BAPE. Cultural misrepresentation problematizes itself by being without respect and sensitivity for its aesthetic origins. It discredits its origins, where Western brands profit off of Japanese imagery and the Asian sweatshops the products are (most likely) made in. Moreover, it denies Japanese people the opportunity to represent themselves in the way they desire to the world. As someone who holds Asian-style Street near and dear because it is different and unique, there still comes a time where everyone needs to question what they’re paying for.  

The New Wave of Young

Youth is a state of mind. We all want to look young forever. No matter what our age is, we can always express ourselves through fashion. Marc Jacobs once said, ‘’ clothing is a form of self-expression - there are hints about who you are in what you wear’’. Every area in thefashion industry is now influenced by culture of the young that is very rebellious with strong sense individuality. It is not only appealing to youths, but it also extends its appeal across generations. As a means of self-discovery, teenagers are more open and flexible to changes, which is can lead to fashion trends without borders. Inspiration can be taken from anywhere in the world with the rise of social media. The youth of today have unlimited access to information and can follow current events globally. The young and outspoken creatives are now more socially aware about the accepted and unaccepted norms, resulting in fashion trends that are shocking and pushing societal boundaries with its gender fluid styling. Taking a break from the modern world, teenagers also have the ability to look into history and inspire each other by creating new trends that is familiar but fresh. From doing so, they implementing characteristics from the past and redeveloping them to create something new and original, resulting in the current fashion trends that are inspired by the ‘70s look. Throughout the trend you can see uses of bold graphics, mixed proportions, oversized silhouettes, highly saturated colors, deconstructed surfaces, and the clear visual statements of typography. Therefore, street wear is becoming a popular trend to teenagers. This look to the past helps push the fashion world, which is often driven by certain nostalgia. The rise of disco in the late 1970’s still has a great impact in the current trends. The youth of today are channeling their energy through music and clubbing. They begin to look back and take inspiration from legendary nightclub scenes, such as Studio 54 in Manhattan in 1977. Fashion designers are also aware of this. Taking references from the euphoric disco club culture, high fashion street wear designers have successfully brought back a nostalgic feel to their designs. Take a look at the Yeezy’s stretch led, body con design, which is also influenced by the 80’s disco era. The dropped shoulders and the elongated sleeves of Vetements design are reflections of the 1986 skate culture. Designs from Marc Jacobs feel very retro with its technical sportswear, eccentric hues, and bizarre pattern that gave us bold graphic messages of gender fluidity and veering from traditional ideas. Classic pieces are updates with a youthful twist, resulting in an avant-garde look that is masculine and cool. The trend of classic typography that started in the 80’s is making a good comeback. Young souls are hunting for fashion brands that can showcase a strong identity through typography in logos and prints. Fashion is switching gears, and the underground club kids are back on the dance floor.