‘Urban Fashion’ is a loosely defined term. Perhaps Devon Griffith defined the style best when he commented that: “Street wear is youth – it’s a retro 80s look inspired by the sneaker culture and hipsters on New York’s Lower East Side.” Griffith, who works for the Fashion giant Massive Revolution posited that the ‘the dark denim, baggy clothing and white sneakers’ which define urban fashion all come from the inner-city street wear look. This is in essence; just how ‘young people dress in the city.’
Popular urban designers include: Christian Audigier, Converse, Bench, Mark Ecko, Quiksilver, Pelle Pelle, Billabong, Animal and Quiksilver among thousands of other household brands. The tendency is towards culturally diverse, hip-hop, skate and casual fashion trends.
Here is a little info about some of the most popular urban fashion brands:
Keying in to a youth demographic (18-24 year olds) quiksilver have specialised in Surf and board-sport fashion since their inception in 1970. The company is now based Huntington Beach, California but has roots in Australia. ‘Roxy’ (founded in 1990) is a version of the brand specifically for women. The company also makes swimwear and sporting equipment under a number of other well-known names and DC (the popular skate-styled footwear brand) is owned by quiksilver.
So are Raisins, Radio Fiji and Leilani all of which are swimwear brands. The company sponsors many tournaments and sports people, including skateboarder Tony Hawk and surfer Kelly Slater. The company’s designs may draw from the practicality of board-sports, but they’re worn by the urban masses.
Pelle Pelle is another urban fashion brand which began life in the 1970’s. As the brainchild of designer Marc Buchanan it was the first ever brand world-wide to launch ‘designer’ baggy pants. Based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, this street style fashion house has clothed numerous R & B icons including: G Unit, Usher, 50 Cent, Ludacris, Dru Hill and Bobby Brown.
Based in Poole, England, Animal is the UK’s most prolific board-sport style fashion house. The company first started in 1987 and now it is an international company with 50 UK stores and 10 more around the world. Animal also sponsor a 3 day water sports festival called Animal Windfest. With the same demographic as Quiksilver, the company’s designs and choices of fabric are also quite similar.
Mark Ecko was born Mark Milecofsky and he was raised in a Jewish family. He has been on the New York Magazine’s ‘influentials’ list and also been listed in several other magazines as a Power 100 player and one of the ‘Most Powerful Men Under 38.’ His urban fashion empire first began in 1993, but he had already sold t-shirts throughout the 1980’s. He has had deals with MTV and ran several interactive entertainment projects.
He has also expressed support for street art (graffiti) and supports many worthy causes including a Jewsish Orphanage in the Ukraine. His street art influences can be seen as notable motifs in some of his clothing ranges and he was once quoted saying: “The motif of graffiti is one that has the right to exist credibly and it is great to see the courts make a distinction between illegal vandalism and the motif of legal graffiti as a legitimate art form that cannot be pushed aside by legislators.”
1970s to Present Day
Some people say music doesn’t have much to do with urban fashion but we would argue that it does and several designers, including Marc Jacobs, would agree with us. It all started in the 1970s when rock bands such as: The Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin and Aerosmith infiltrated youth-culture and brought denim jeans (including bootlegged or flared styles) and fitted t-shirts with them. Towards the mid-to-late 70’s punk rock exploded and denim was used in more creative and radical ways but it still remained a huge staple of most urban wardrobes.
It wasn’t just the kids in the clubs wearing denim either. People of all ages embraced denim jeans and jackets. The teenagers who worked in independent record stores and the 20-somethings who shopped in them wanted to look like their idols and the trends which music inspired transferred directly on to urban city streets.
When the 80’s arrived there was an economic boom and young people found they had more money for clothes than ever before. Music came along for the ride again, with bands such as the Pet Shop Boys releasing songs like: ‘Shopping’ and Madonna becoming forever known as the ‘Material Girl.’
The eighties also saw lots of eccentric prints; high waistbands and layered looks become the height of urban fashion. Vivienne Westwood’s sharp lines with triangular torsos aided by shoulder pads went from high-fashion to urban-fashion instantly.
After the eccentric and theatrical excess of the eighties came the laid back, low-fi 1990’s. Between the 80’s and 90’s Run DMC and The Beastie Boys made white trainers and jeans iconic and cool. Then, in the early to mid 90’s street style was seduced by grunge and the kids on the street started ‘dressing-down.’ The grunge style embraced baggy and torn jeans and casual plaid shirts. Marc Jacobs has always said he was enormously influenced by this, with one of his first ever collections comprising of hand-knit, grunge-style sweaters. Light plaid shirts meanwhile, are a semi-permanent fixture in the aisles of high-street chain Top Man.
Following on from this slouchy 90’s look, street fashion became highly self-referential. The ‘naughties’ were eclectic. There has been a resurgence of bootleg jeans influenced by retro-70’s chic and there was even an Avril Lavigne-fueled grunge-style revival in the early 2000’s. Decades of different styles had soaked in to urban fashion and suddenly, almost anything worked. A youth could invoke almost any of the previous eras they liked by shopping on the high-street. They could get 70’s bootlegged jeans from H &M, a printed 80’s style dress from Topshop or even buy quiksilver clothing from a skate shop and evoke a grunge-inspired look