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  • Isha King

Streetwear Sucks: Hype Fashion, Sustainability, and Ethics

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

There are a lot of things about the fashion industry that make me roll my eyes into the back of my head. One thing that I’ve always especially hated is the ‘hype’ business model associated with fashion’s most popular streetwear brands that has risen and thrived in recent years.

For example: From the jump, in my view, Supreme has been sustainability’s enemy. It doesn’t take much thinking to understand why a model where products are ‘dropped’ every single week encourages rapid consumption and thus is incredibly unsustainable.

The counterargument to this would be that Supreme (and other streetwear brands), in order to maintain the ‘hype’ that they so carefully curate, only produce a small number of products per ‘drop’. Limited runs are certainly more sustainable than mass-production, right?

The problem with this logic is that Supreme drops every. single. Thursday. There’s nothing to indicate that they’re producing any less than any other brand. They’re just making you think that what they’re making is more special.

On top of this – think of how many unethically produced fast-fashion knockoffs of all kinds that Supreme and all its ‘hype’ have spawned. Yucky.

I’m ragging on Supreme a lot here but obviously they aren’t the entirety of this problem. They were just the ones who kicked it all off. Our obsession with newness and coolness that they’ve so encouraged is what I have a problem with.

Skate culture and skate fashion have been ‘cool’ for a long time, but only in recent(ish) years has luxury fashion begun to cater to this market in intensity – which may be attributed in part to Supreme’s outrageous success.

I hate it. Not because I hate the idea of it – quite the opposite.

I hate what streetwear and hype fashion have become in the luxury sector. Overpriced, unimaginative garments that are so blatantly lacking in any creativity whatsoever. At this point they barely even look different season-to-season. They’ve turned it into a cash cow.

They sold us sh*t like the Balenciaga Ikea bag, and we bought into it because of the absurdity of the juxtaposition of those garments with the luxury branding and sky-high price tag.

Turn on your location Demna I want to fight

I bought into it too, for a while. Thought it was rebellious.

But with no certifications or messages of sustainability whatsoever, and with the continued over-production of this type of garment, I’m now convinced that these luxury brands have conned every hypebeast into delusion.

You know that graphic tee cost under a dollar to make, right?

We really let Virgil Abloh sell us ugly sneakers with zip ties on them for $700. I think about that a lot.

There is also something about a lot of hype fashion that just genuinely offends me as someone who grew up largely in a working class household. What does a DHL driver think seeing his uniform for sale at Vetements for $500? Why is hype fashion encouraging the luxury consumer to f*cking cosplay as the working class? Why aren’t other people more angry about this?

We see the appropriation of ‘poor’ culture across many creative industries (music, film, the visual arts, etc) and it is becoming, in my opinion, increasingly obvious in fashion. I think it’s time we stop giving fashion brands a free pass at commodifying poorness.

"I think it's time we stop giving fashion brands a free pass at commodifying poorness"

1Granary did an article with SSENSE last year edging around this topic (very worth a read) and mentioned that fashion likes to fetishize poorness perhaps as an unconscious apology for the industry itself.

I think this could be true, in a way. It’s common knowledge at this point how high the human costs of the industry are, and these hype/streetwear trends continue to skew towards bastardizing workwear. Maybe this isn’t a coincidence?

Ok. Key takeaways:

  • Hype fashion sucks and will continue to suck until some consideration of sustainability is built into its model.

  • Streetwear sucks and will continue to suck until it gets some self-awareness.

That’s my brain-dump for the day. Yes, I’m being a bit of a hater in this one. I know there are a lot of people who probably have thoughts on the above. Whether you agree or disagree, send us a message so that we can have a cute chat about it. I’m literally ready to ramble about this at any given point in time.

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