Pause, Get out of your head at risk!
What is Streetwear Style? Culture? Clothing? Fashion? or A mix of all of these?
Streetwear is an eye-catching fashion phenomenon that drew its inspiration from counter cultures like hip-hop, skateboarding, rap, and popular culture. It started in the 1980s in the US and was popular among African-Americans who found a medium of expression through clothes as they infused creativity into racism and formed a sub-community within a community which later on was called ‘streetwear’. ‘Fashion’ and ‘Clothing’ might sound like one and the same thing, but ‘fashion’ is something that catalyzes out of ‘clothing’. One might be wearing branded clothes, and it is possible that there is nothing fashionable about it. Streetwear is not just a style of clothes, it is a subculture, and it has become a medium of expression for people. The growing popularity of pop culture has been recently adopted by great fashion houses and independent brands alike through streetwear brands.
I had a conversation with the founders of ‘At Risk’, an upcoming brand from the culturally charged, content-driven movement of indie streetwear founded by three artists, Utkarsh Chauhan, Kartikey Saxena, and Aditya Pratap Singh.
The streetwear movement is known for its acute cultural awareness, progressive ideals, and graphic tees. Virgil Abloh, an American fashion designer and entrepreneur who was the artistic director of Louis Vuitton, once said, “To me, graphic t-shirts are the most important and most expressive format for a designer or a person. Your taste in graphic tees says a lot about your point of view.”
What is ‘At Risk’?
‘At Risk’ is a forward-thinking and experimental high-street fashion brand which is driven by the purpose of exploring reality and all of its cracks and contradictions through a conversational exchange, in which fashion is a force that informs, normalizes, and is a means to live out your ideas. The focus of At Risk is on the story and concept behind the clothes rather than their physical form and appearance.
Streetwear as a solution to fast fashion
Streetwear is the response to the problem of fast fashion, which not only deliberately produces low-quality products which become unfashionable and old-fashioned within months but also manufactures trends that keep you buying new products every season. The whole purpose of fast fashion is to make you buy more and more clothes so that these fast fashion brands can make easy profits. On the other hand, streetwear is a kind of comfortable clothing that will always be in style and fashion, with a much longer lifespan, unlike fast fashion, which is always chasing behind trends and faces obsolescence.
How mass media is affecting the streetwear fashion industry?
The founder of At Risk, Mr Utkarsh Chauhan, who is pursuing a double major in law and business, and is also a fashion enthusiast, has been closely monitoring the streetwear fashion industry and movements of mass culture. He has been closely studying how mass media generates homogeneity, the same bleak sameness in every product, and how consumers of these products are blandly similar, passive, and unimaginative. “I look at this culture industry as a mechanism of psychosocial control, as it holds a dictatorship over taste and opinion. Through habituation and repetition, we are made to accept the status quo,” said Mr Utkarsh Chauhan. Advertising deploys the sentiments of social justice so that we can feel as if consuming products related to a particular issue is like participating in those social causes. Thus, we never go so far as to act on them in any way. The true essence of streetwear is losing its identity due to capitalistic aspirations. Thus, to know what the streetwear industry is to an artist, I talked to Mr Chauhan because there is a personal element in every streetwear brand which is personal to the artist, be it anyone.
Personal Elements in Streetwear Brands
Mr Utkarsh said, “I have been influenced by art since the age of 5, starting with drawings, to crafts, to being a cartoonist, then moving to produce music, to now fashion and graphics wanting to be more connected with this world.” In order to achieve their goals, the three co-founders decided to launch At Risk to make people more aware of their own choices, liberate free will, and challenge the common expectations of art, design, and fashion. The team at ‘At Risk’ is motivated by the works of Raf Simons, Rick Owens, and Demna for their philosophy, perspectives towards fashion, experimental style, and aesthetics, as they find purpose in things that others tend to miss. Streetwear does not have a well-defined structure or form, it varies from individual to individual, and every individual brings a different perspective to it. Along the same lines, Mr Utkarsh said, “Outsider art is something that speaks out to me; I believe insider knowledge of an art form often brings a rigid perspective towards it. Outsiders bring something new to the game”. People like the feeling of belongingness, and the idea of a cult is fantasized. Belongingness brings comfort for creation which opens the door for expression. Raf Simons expressed his brutal work ethic over his career and his collection “RIOT, RIOT, RIOT”, which talked about sacrificing oneself for art. Team At Risk is also trying to express themselves, and as they often say and believe, “COMFORT IS TOXIC, I’D RATHER BE, I’D RATHER BE, I’D RATHER BE, I’D RATHER BE At Risk”.
Economics of Streetwear
The estimated size of the global streetwear market is $185 billion by sales, and it makes up 10% of the entire global apparel market. It is expected to grow at a considerable rate between 2022 and 2028. The target age group for the streetwear fashion industry is under 25. The consumer spending insights show that two-thirds of the consumers believe that streetwear products never go out of style, and it makes them spend five times more than their usual monthly expenses on clothing and fashion. It is more popular among non-binaries than stereotypical genders, as they see streetwear as a medium to express themselves. In the global market, consumers are willing to spend INR 7,000 to 21,000 easily on streetwear products, while Asian consumers spend more. Thus, we can say the streetwear industry is promising and has great potential, not only in Western countries but in Asian countries too.
Streetwear is a growing industry, and it is not just about clothing; it is a form of expression, and it is a subculture that began as a movement to address social issues but, over time, became a fashion style. Brands like At Risk are coming up with their imaginations and ideas to add their personal elements to the streetwear style to express their ideas and thoughts. Streetwear was mostly popular among hip-hop artists, rappers, and skateboarders, but now it is touching upon other consumers as well. It addresses the rigidity created by the fast fashion industry, and it is coming up as a slow fashion that doesn’t get old-fashioned and stays relevant for a longer period of time or maybe forever. Streetwear has given people new perspectives on their lives. It serves both purposes, fashion as well as cultural aspirations. Virgil Abloh, while talking about streetwear, said, “People, when they say streetwear, they miss the central component, which is that its real people, it’s the clothes that are worn on the streets”. Thus, we can conclude that people are the central component of streetwear, and it is all about people’s ideas, opinions, personal lifestyles, and culture.