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What You Need To Know About High Fashion vs. Streetwear

March 07, 2022

The disparate worlds of high fashion and streetwear at first glance seem totally opposed to each other. One style originated among the Parisian elite, creating high-profile, customized apparel for the wealthiest among us. The other style appeals to subcultures, taking fashion and returning its design and use to the general public. 


Despite these fundamentally separate origins and purposes, high fashion and streetwear have more in common than one may think. Daniel Patrick is going to highlight these and show how the two can come together in unity.  

Where Did High Fashion Start?

High fashion is commonly known by another name, haute couture. As stated previously, high fashion originated in Paris. It is arguably the definitive movement that defines Paris as an epicenter of the international fashion world. Though it is a French-originated trend, haute couture was coined by an English fashion designer.


The start of high fashion is directly correlated with the rise of fashion design itself as an art form. Charles Frederick Worth opened the first modern fashion house in 1858, radically changing the way people consumed style. He would create specifically-made clothing to fit the style and standards of those who could afford it.


Each piece would require countless hours of individual attention and result in personal, unique designs. This naturally led to a high price tag, high demand, and a high degree of prestige for the wearers. Worth intentionally wished to create a unique pedigree of fashion only available to the truly elite, and he achieved this. He also set the stage for countless other designers to follow in his footsteps.


An official organization for high fashion, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, was founded in 1868. This organization sets forth specific principles which guide high fashion brands. In 1945, the French Government passed a resolution to give the term “haute couture” legal weight. This set specific requirements, including frequency and scope of product lines, employees, and operating standards for brands. 


Defining the history of how high fashion came to be is easy to do. Defining what high fashion is in concrete terms is significantly harder. 


Let’s discuss more on this now.

What Is High Fashion?

Defining high fashion in terms of pure style is nearly impossible to do. This is because high fashion as a term doesn’t really describe style so much as it describes standards for designers. 


The fashion inherently reflects the tastes and needs of the wealthy and high-powered. To this end, it is most often associated with formalwear, avant-garde designs, or apparel situated to formal events.


The reality is somewhat different. High fashion designers have taken fashion cues from nearly every movement and trend to elevate them. The specific fundamentals underlying high fashion contribute both to cost and desire. We are going to specifically highlight the legal definitions backing haute couture and trends resulting from these.


  • Individuality: High fashion brands must create custom-tailored garments for private clients, with at least one fitting. This ensures both personalized designs and personalized fits for garments. The cost needed is prohibitively expensive for most, turning such garments into a tremendous status symbol.
  • Staffing: Each fashion house must maintain 15 full-time staff in their custom-tailored workshop. They must also have at least one workshop that operates with twenty technical workers or more.
  • Quantity: This refers not to specific batch sizes but to individual product lines. Each house must present 50 combined day and evening wear pieces twice per year. The traditional fashion seasons see these shows in winter and summer, in the months of January and July. In reality, many fashion houses see fewer individual sales, resulting in smaller batch sizes. 
  • Quality: To remain competitive at their price point, high fashion demands uncompromising standards. This includes operating with the best materials and the best craftspeople. Engaging in high fashion works as a status symbol because of incredibly high standards in every regard.

Where Did Streetwear Start?

Streetwear, like high fashion, places individuality and quality at the forefront of its design. It does so from a completely different angle than high fashion does. High fashion was designed to be exclusive and only accessible to a certain class of people from the outset. Streetwear gained its sense of exclusivity from an overwhelming demand placed on many brands.


Streetwear started with subcultures in the 1980s. It started with people, unrepresented in mainstream fashion, taking it back for themselves with casual-inspired aesthetics. Surfers, skaters, and hip-hop artists across multiple continents all contributed towards it being what it is today. There is no singular “origin” of streetwear, as its core components developed in various places.


In hip-hop, fashion turned to sportswear for practical reasons. Sports apparel was durable and protective for use in extremely physical dancing and comfortable in daily use. The same saw sportswear-inspired aesthetics pop up in skater culture. Streetwear offers versatile fashion, able to be used in numerous circumstances. 


Surf culture offered up some of the more purely stylish-inspired streetwear. The brand Stussy started as a California-based surfboard manufacturer who decided to put logos on T-shirts to improve surfboard sales. To his surprise, the shirts outsold all other products, creating a massive streetwear brand in the process.


Streetwear primarily originated in New York and California. Many streetwear designers have interacted with and influenced each other over time, making it a collaborative process. On an international level, streetwear is primarily defined by Japanese fashion. The Harajuku district is particularly well-known for its overarching style across all cultures.


Streetwear is worth over 10 percent of the fashion industry’s overall 1.5 trillion USD valuation. With this extensive place in the market, it can rival any other type of apparel.

What Is Streetwear?

Streetwear is defined by many features. These are general trends and aren’t regulated the way high fashion is. 


  • Style: Streetwear tends to fit closer to casual apparel than formal wear. Much of streetwear is inspired by sportswear or casual jeans. Versatility is the essential factor at play. Good streetwear should be comfortable and attractive enough to be worn with ease in nearly any context. 
  • Exclusivity: Streetwear gets its exclusivity from small batch sizes and high demand. This makes individual pieces affordable when sourced directly from the retailer but still challenging to come by overall. 
  • Production: All clothing manufacturers have to sort their production from somewhere. Many streetwear manufacturers take their production local. This can make dealing with small batch sizes easier and help enhance ethicality and quality of production. This extra detail is one factor that can make streetwear expensive but is worth it for the positive human impact.
  • Quality: Streetwear comes in smaller batch sizes and from more individualized designers. This allows close attention to be paid in every step of creation. Luxury materials, personalized patches, and even signature seamwork can be seen in streetwear apparel. 

The above define streetwear and help give it its long-lasting popularity. In some ways, it differs from high fashion. In others, the two share a surprisingly close connection. We will next be asking a question crucial to this examination of the two. 

Can Streetwear Be High Fashion?

A deep dive into streetwear and high fashion comes to a central point: Can streetwear be high fashion? Can high fashion be streetwear? Though there are some considerations to be made, the answer is yes.

Streetwear refers to a style, whereas high fashion refers more to the standards of a garment. Though haute couture is strictly regulated in France, an international approach to high fashion would be more generous in the definition. Take away the exact staffing numbers and custom-tailored requirements of high fashion, and you are left with high-quality apparel. 


By its very nature, streetwear exists in conversation with what it is and can be. It is constantly evolving as designers and consumers evolve in taste. 


It is hard to see streetwear ever moving away entirely from its practical, sportswear-inspired roots. It is similarly hard to imagine a Parisian fashion house operating solely through custom-made, couture streetwear.


There are cultural differences between the two which prevent one from taking the place of the other. Similar values underlying these differences create the opportunity for high fashion and streetwear to come together.


The fusion of high fashion and streetwear is the luxury streetwear brand. This brand is doubly exclusive because small-batch streetwear and prestigious haute couture pieces are exclusive. Luxury streetwear takes the standards of multiple fashion movements and pushes them to the pinnacle of skill, quality, and design.

Our Luxury Streetwear

Daniel Patrick is proud to be able to call ourselves a luxury streetwear brand. Fashion movements are about conversations between the designer and the world at large. Individual fashion should also be a conversation. 


This meeting point should be one of collaboration, not conflict. Each style has elements that are appealing for notable reasons. When we take inspiration from the world around us, from city streets or foreign ateliers, the result can be outstanding. 


Sources:

High Fashion - How clothing became haute couture - Versace, Dior & Co. | FIV the Magazine


History I FCHM


Global Apparel Market - Statistics & Facts | Statista


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