High-end streetwear is the latest status symbol, and it shows just how powerful rich millennials are in the luxury industry
- Luxury streetwear is gaining momentum among rich millennials.
- The streetwear subculture has been around for decades, but social media and the rise of athleisure have recently brought it to the forefront of fashion.
- Luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton are incorporating streetwear styles to their looks to appeal to millennials.
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Two different fashion worlds have collided, and it's created a new kind of millennial uniform: luxury streetwear.
The streetwear subculture has been around for decades, originating in skate, surf, and hip-hop cultures, Benjamin Schneider, research analyst at Euromonitor International, told Business Insider. According to him, the most popular streetwear brands today, like Stussy and Supreme, grew slowly throughout the 1980s and 1990s and developed cult-like followings.
"As athletes and hip-hop artists gained influence throughout the 1990s, so did the sportswear brands they wore, increasingly bringing brands like Adidas, Champion, and Nike into the streetwear ecosystem," he said.
But it wasn't until social media that streetwear really exploded onto the scene - bold logos and graphics resonated with image-obsessed consumers.
"Now that Instagram is the definitive medium for discovering fashion, traditional luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton have adopted the defining characteristics of streetwear, finding bold logos and exclusivity to be key to reaching younger generations," Schneider said.
It's making Gucci cool again - in 2015, the brand brought on Alessandro Michele as creative director, who led the brand in a millennial and teen-friendly direction by helping Gucci embrace streetwear and the influence of popular culture, Business Insider previously reported. Celebrities like Lil Pump and Kylie Jenner have further popularized the brand through Instagram and music.
And it's working: Gucci nearly doubled its sales in 2018, with consumers under 35 accounting for 55% of those sales. Michael Kors, Fendi, and Ralph Lauren have also partnered with streetwear brands.
Millennials have a thing for athleisure
But social media isn't the only factor behind luxury streetwear's skyrocketing popularity - millennials' appetite for athleisure is also a driving force.
"They like streetwear's casual and comfortable silhouettes like t-shirts, hoodies, and sneakers, which have become increasingly accepted in work and social spaces alike in the US in the midst of a larger casualization trend," Schneider said.
And now that streetwear has gone high-end, millennials are also gravitating toward the trend because of its effect on their perceived social status. Luxury streetwear now numbers among other purchases and symbols - like fancy baby strollers, second passports, and "ugly" sneakers - that people use to demonstrate their status.
The consumers of luxury streetwear may be a niche group - but it's a group that carries a lot of influence on social media. And while the style is seen on both women and men, it's more popular among the latter, according to Schneider. The male millennial knows what the different brands represent, Schneider said, as well as when and where products will be released and how to get them.
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