As the pandemic changes style preferences, menswear brands are adapting to refocus on the good old streetwear and athleisure wear

When Virgil Abloh declared streetwear was dead, it was safe to assume that menswear had to take a different route, cue bold tailoring. When the man who has been part of the culture and the clothes decides that the trend will come to an end, it speaks volumes. Similarly, other designer houses were inclined towards a similar transition. But then boom, Covid-19 took over, and men all over the world had to put on hold the suits, and athleisure came back, roaring.

Almost three years ago, the craze around Supreme, Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga, and other ugly sneakers was in full bloom for at least three seasons, trickling down the fashion system to the point that you can step into a Zara store now, and pick your choice of these luxury brand’s bestsellers. With the pandemic hitting the world, it struck a balance between sophisticated menswear and streetwear. Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Dior are producing smart tailoring along with capsule drops that cater to every buying group. Born from the dead, quite literally, the re-emergence of menswear is around every nook and corner, with the rise of newly launched athleisure labels and sneaker drops.

We delve right into the conversation with Jack & Jones India, and ask about the future of streetwear in India. “We have observed a vast scope in the streetwear category in India. Although a niche in itself, it has enabled us to offer a unique style ethos that is translated into contemporary styles and designs, catering to the varied yet discerning taste of the modern man. Over the past few years, Indian customers have opened up to be experimental with their fashion through vibrant and easygoing styles, and references are drawn from everything that influences the current trend,” says a spokesperson from the brand.

According to Euromonitor, during Covid-19, the overall menswear sales declined 16 per cent from $438 billion in 2019 to $369 billion in 2020, while the decline for sportswear-inspired apparel sales is much lower, down six per cent to $77 billion. Demand for hoodies rose 33 per cent from April to May, according to global fashion search platform Lyst. Searches for baseball caps increased 49 per cent quarteron-quarter, and trainers have been the most in-demand product category during the lockdown period, with searches up 267 per cent quarter-on-quarter.

 

“We saw a huge adoption of streetwear over the last few seasons, with consumer aspirations and lifestyles changing so dramatically. Just like everything in fashion that gains some kind of mass acceptance, streetwear will also evolve to a new hybrid that can levitate above the mass market. This could be in collaborations between brands that have strong signatures, artists and creators, and young disruptors who have a voice that could paint the canvas of street silhouettes. Streetwear has always been an idea, not just a product, so the scalability in terms of fresh thoughts will come easy as we progress into new landscapes,” says Shyma Shetty, cofounder, HUEMN.

 

New athleisure brands and streetwear have hit the ground running, thanks to the need for pandemic clothing and comfort. commenting on whether streetwear as a genre will lose its charm, Yogesh Kabra, founder and CEO, XYXX says, “The death knell for streetwear has been sounded many times over now but it comes back, reinvented and renewed in ways we could simply not fathom. It remains a force to reckon with, either subtly reinterpreted or completely metamorphosed through clothes with a more classic, comfort-focused style. Streetwear is the springboard for luxury houses and independent designers alike to make their way into the wardrobes of millennials. Limited edition launches, capsule collections, intense branding, and a disruptive narrative will further push streetwear’s burgeoning popularity quotient.”

XYXX is one of the many brands that started a separate collection of athleisure wear. “The boundaries between fashion, art, luxury, and streetwear culture today are blurred. Shopping has moved beyond buying apparel and accessories to embracing ideologies and lifestyles. It has now become an aspirational lifestyle, of “how you need to be seen”. Denim and chinos have made way for lounge pants and joggers, for instance. Sneakers are now a popular choice everywhere. Fashion houses have taken on sneakers and completely reinvented them by infusing them with normcore inflexions, screaming logos, and intriguing detail. Globally, the move in fashion has been towards a more relaxed aesthetic postpandemic, and this pivotal shift will shape the streetwear culture of tomorrow,” opines Kabra.

Capsule collections and collaborative partnerships are some of the major ways streetwear is seeping into the current fashion culture. The Jack & Jones Autumn/ Winter Collection 2021 has utility streetwear as an integral part, with a solid graphical concept and an eye for innovative details. The brand’s latest limited edition collection, Jack & Jones x Coca Cola, is an ode to a classic brand while reeling in the sense of nostalgia through fashion.

When asked if the trend is here for the long run, celebrity stylist Isha Bhansali thinks, “In the last four years, there has been a huge wave of streetwear. Even in the ’80s and the ’90s, it started because of hip-hop. Rappers were the ones who wore athleisure and normalised it, making it look cool. It’s come back especially during the lockdowns. The streetwear culture has spread so rapidly that it has trickled up to luxury brands and now you have Gucci and Prada who are now doing cool tracksuits, so this whole from suit-to-tracksuit transition that has happened is because of the streetwear culture, and I do not see people getting bored of it yet. It will co-exist with tailoring, but it is here to stay.”

With the re-emergence of streetwear, the conversation about its sustainability is happening parallelly. The newly launched I Am Animal athleisure wear label focuses on organic fabrics to curate styles. “It is a myth that great style and fashion must come with degradation to the planet. I Am Animal is the hard proof of that fact. Using organic fabrics is becoming easier by the day. And it’s the responsibility of the larger brands, with deeper pockets, to lead the way. Be it with the materials, the dyes or the production process in general, there are many ways for brands to jump on the planetfriendly bandwagon,” says Kunal Avanti, the founder of the label. Avanti continues, “I think that India is at the brink of a streetwear and athleisure boom. Not only because we are very influenced by western trends, but also because we are now finally living in a time in which people are beginning to associate being stylish with being comfortable. And since there is no better way to do that than with athleisure, I believe that the future of this category is extremely promising.”

Go pull out your funkiest hoodies, and splurge on those Balenciaga sneakers. Streetwear has officially re-emerged.