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Is streetwear still alive? Thoughts and prospects of an easy trend that requires a shift

The future of streetwear is about regenerating a sense of community: urban culture vibe forced a change in paradigms and brands prove themselves valiant going against the flow

In December 2019, Virgil Abloh, creative behind Off-White and Louis Vuitton released an interview with Dazed and Confused, stating that streetwear ‘was definitely going to die’. When Covid-19 hit in March 2020, people all over the world had to change their habits back to casual overalls. Streetwear can be questioned in many aspects, for the way it has been sold out by design houses and some multinationals. The overproduction model followed in the last years and the constant offering of new items might have been one of the factors behind the high inflation of streetwear, a trend that today leads us to think that there is a need for fashion houses to seek a new direction. Some other brands may have seemed determined in taking the risk doing streetwear in such a historical era, as the young Italian brand Àlea which defines itself as a ‘luxury eco-conscious and genderless streetstyle brand’. Started in 2019 from an idea of Stefano Pugliese and Vincenzo Lattanzio, Àlea began its pathway just before the pandemic outbreak. 

The name Àlea comes from Latin and it can be intended as ‘Alea iacta est’ to say ‘The dice is cast’ which in turn might mean ‘taking the risk’. «Streetwear has been known to this day as a platform to put under the spotlights brands and celebrities through drops of limited-edition collaborations with t-shirts which in fashion are considered to be the easiest items to produce without any reflection behind on a technical level. Streetwear is not going to dieThere will be more depth behind it and it is going to evolve in new shapes. Streetwear style is not chained to a specific cluster but it is the sense of belonging to a community, the street subculture that breaks the walls between social classes» says Stefano Pugliese. «Through our genderless collection we want to communicate that gender is not important, but the future is». Before the mania of recent years, streetwear belonged to the underground. It was a style that reversed what high-end fashion meant at the time and was profoundly grounded in the subculture. Streetwear was comfortable, and Streetwear represented everyone. Its rapid rise into the mainstream over the past decade, thanks to the efforts of forerunners that transformed it from a niche movement in the 1980s into a worldwide cult phenomenon is also in part why there are such murmurs in the air that streetwear is dead. When a shared sense of community is combined with merchandising, the story behind a product’s logic is told, and the relationships between retailers and consumers become more akin to that of a gallery curator and an art connoisseur. 

alea lookbooks
Àlea collection fw20, Courtesy of Àlea

On the other side of the binary between streetwear and tailoring, consumers are looking for a compromise. Apparel is without any doubt reverting to a certain level of sartorialism, but comfort has to be part of the deal. If a costumer is buying, they want something that really fits them. It doesn’t have to be a suit, but it has to adapt to their lifestyle. And that’s what’s feeding this outreach of streetwear and couture into a brand new third category right now. The future of clothing, and specifically luxury clothing, is not merely going to be a lifestyle, but more of a hybrid cross-over. «All the pants line is workwear style. The top wear is composed of t-shirts and sweaters inspired by the casual look of hooligans’ subculture of the Eighties and Nineties. The research of patterns and prints of the roots are more distant, starting from the Fifties, from deco, all this has been rearranged and customized in a modern digital key, putting from the point of view of colors and shapes. The shapes of the old days have been reinterpreted and digitized: many pixels, many saturated colors, acids for a modern visual impact». The desire of uniting such distant styles comes from an aesthetic research behind. «Vincenzo Lattanzio is a fabric researcher who worked for Jil Sander, Giorgio Armani, Prada and Ermenegildo Zegna. With his cultural depth he has his own personal archive. When buyers saw our collection in Paris during the Fashion Week in January 2020, they recognized the Prada trait. Our style is stylistically influenced by a professional designer background, so we make garments with the same precision and attention required for the prêt-à-porter. There is a lot of workmanship behind. To make the collector understand what we had in mind, we had the garment redone five or six times, which never happens with streetwear». The question of all the historical research in the archives is not currently tied to the archives because of the streetwear of today. 

One of Àlea’s goals is to remove from the environment something that already exists as a waste to give it a second life or by giving a second chance to something that could be discarded. The use of organic cotton as a base comes from the huge water saving behind it and the fact of not using chemical herbicides that are toxic to the environment. «The benefit of organic materials, is that the crops aren’t treated with pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and Genetically Modified Organisms. These toxins are harmful for farmers and workers, us as consumers, and entire wildlife ecosystems». One of the things Stefano Pugliese is proud of is the up-cycling: «Slowly we are taking steps to increase and improve the sustainability part. What does up-cycling mean is that we use deadstocks. There are companies that have warehouses with deadstocks from previous years that they will never sell. We buy these stocks, customize them and put them back on the market. We take away from the environment something that is already there in the form of waste that no one uses because it will never be sold. We reuse them by customizing them with low impact. We make light customization so that we are not impacting at all. This is the real sustainable, when you take a waste from the environment and put it back into circulation in the form of something new».

As far as the future of the fashion industry is concerned, Pugliese acknowledged that the outbreak might change paradigms: there will be a total clean-up both from the point of view of eco-sustainability and from the point of view of collections. Many companies, even the biggest ones, are cutting back on intermediate collections to avoid extra production and extra pollution. «We are lucky because without knowing about the pandemic, as we started earlier, we have always made trans-seasonal collections. We have designed garments so that they can be used in winter or even in summer on cooler evenings, versatile throughout the year. There will be a greater attention and control over the processes. On our end, we are looking for support, a business partner that could help us in the research and development for the things that we can’t do today. There is the blockchain project that we want to implement but we still have a lack of structure. With the Covid-19 crisis we have slowed down but on the other hand we are happy because this pandemic has cleaned up everything in every sense, acting as a catalyst. It has accelerated the processes of sustainability of the green supply chain and all those important issues that are the solutions to the main problem of the twenty-first century that is pollution». Streetwear dies and reborns every day. The authentic streetstyle has not lost its appeal, because it is much more than just fashion. It is the very identity of those who live on the outskirts, the distress of young people and the total mixture with all creative forms that is the soul of true streetwear, a movement that is far from dead. This urban style is in high trend among young people, as it provides the foundation with which they can express themselves, be themselves and not remain trapped in pre-established aesthetic and cultural rules. 

IMAGE GALLERY

Àlea is an emerging eco-conscious genderless luxury streetwear brand, made in Italy started in 2019. Helmed by Stefano Pugliese, a former Business Administration student at Bocconi University, Vincenzo Lattanzio, a fabric researcher who worked for Jil Sander, Giorgio Armani, Prada and Ermenegildo Zegna, and Tatiana Orlova, who honed her skills in the sales department of New Guards Group. The brand exclusively employs sustainable fabrics, either through responsible sourcing, processing or recycling. Tops are crafted from GOTs-certified. Prints are created using a digital inkjet printer that does not release waste, while workwear pants are made of unsold dead-stock that are embellished and customized.

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