The Association of High Fashion Stick-Up Kids Feat. Givenchy, Balmain & KTZ

The Givenchy SS14 show began with live samba drums leading into a soundtrack curated by the Senegalese band, ‘Sing Sing Rhythms’. The runway was anchored by a smoking pile-up of wrecked cars—Jaguar, Mercedes, BMW. Through fading smoke on a diamond shaped runway, silhouettes began to emerge. The “crashed luxury off the autobahn” was entertaining but, as more models appeared, I became more interested in the collision of Tokyo and Johannesburg.   Ricardo Tisci spoke of his travels to Africa and Asia, ““It was really my obsession with the two cultures I really like most- Japan and Africa. So basically the elements of African people, the colors and the draping, and the delicate feeling of Japan.”  Without question, his time there was well spent.

There were no kimonos, but geometric cuts of layered fabrics, accented by flaring sleeves. Conical hems gave a nod to Japan while intricate draping techniques—brought to life with muted earth tones of rust and tangerine—created a palate reminiscent of the Sahara, which grounded the collection. Riccardo Tisci unveiled high-fashion that gives, “a unique vision…which is both urban and couture.” Urban and couture? That’s certainly apt phrasing.

For Givenchy, one of high-fashion’s most prestigious labels, Tisci has created wearable high-fashion (gasp) inspired by the streets. I respect his take on "culture, and draping, and delicacy", but you see it without me having to point it out.  He seamlessly blends street aesthetic with couture influence into garments which lure a different type of fan to the Givenchy brand. Because of this feat, my newly named, Association of High Fashion Stick-Up Kids have  tapped Tisci the new Artful Dodger.

A few things, for the purposes of this article, a Stick-Up Kid is any person who stands around corners or in alleyways waiting to rob someone. While street-fashion is defined as the clothing we see everyday that celebrates the swag of those who haven't had their  passport—assuming they are in possession of one—stamped in New York, London, Milan, or Paris.

The interplay between the streets and the catwalk began long before RUN DMC donned Adidas, introducing the concept of designer sweatsuits to the mid-80's; before Diddy force fed us Versace and COOGI via the Notorious BIG.  William H Rawls, Celebrity Stylist and Owner Fame & Righteousness muses, “Think about the earlier collections of Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld. Note his 2008 nod to  the ankle bracelet, he took something very very urban—very street—and became inspired to create the quilted ankle pack.”

Like most modern high-end designers, Tisci (and others like him i.e. the Alexander McQueens, Rick Owens, Marc Jacobs, Balmains, et al) is very invested in streetwear. After all, he is responsible for every rapper’s requisite $500 graphic tee and $800 graphic sweatshirt. But as the popularity of Givenchy grows and the label evolves, shifting from conceptual art—reserved for the 1%—to fantasy—still beyond the reach of most— streetwear designers are under pressure to distinguish themselves in what is becoming a saturated streetwear market.

UK-based brand Kokon to Zai, also known as KTZ, teamed up with Been Trill on a capsule collection. Featuring predominantly monochromatic tones in black and white, the lineup utilizes cryptic graphics and logo branding to convey strong street ties and symbolism. French label Pigalle integrates leather for a '90s feel, while going minimal with modern updates to athletic wear, using prints on jackets and jerseys. Shane Olivier's Hood By Air (HBA) presented during NYFW sending an array of oversize looks down the runway. The collection was heavy with graphics, strong solid colors, and plenty of metal hardware. Having proven its legitimacy to “most,” although not to me, the line flies off the shelves at retailers like Harvey Nichols in London or Colette in Paris. The HBA presentation, however, left me wanting to forsake fashion for a uniform of Carhart and Timberland boots.  Christopher Grace says, “I've become really uninspired by the amount of inspired pieces lately”. This collision of high-fashion and street-fashion is seemingly forcing Grace and other style savants underground in search of the next fashion moment. But Grace maintains, “Its not about being forced underground. Think of it as allowing a space for unfiltered play [Hood By Air].”  Unfiltered play...again, more apt phrasing.

As the divide separating the haves and the have-nots continue to grow, urban daydreamers graduate from $800 sweatshirts to $3800 Camo Satchels and $2500 Eel Shark boots. Maine Smith of Eniam's Closet, Pop Expressionist reminds, “street fashion begets high fashion/haute couture.  It all originates from the streets, ghettos,...backwoods tribes creativity doesn't only exist within the elitist mind.”

High fashion is the product created from manipulating the perception that clothing not only be flawless in execution but it must also compliment whatever is “en vogue” for that moment.  Street Fashion, on the other hand, is a combination of personal style and the cultural trends of those who cannot afford high fashion. The lines that once divided design elements are fusing, and as this continues, the balance of power shifts. While the shift is gradual, Tisci’s reign doesn't seem to be threatened. However, we are left wondering if the The Association of Stick-Up Kids are losing their grip on the wow factor. #CATCHTHAT

 [Edited by Sherin Nicole]