It should come as no surprise that Sydney's Bondi Beach would be the location chosen by Louis Vuitton for their latest pop-up store to house their unforgettable Autumn Winter collaboration with New York-based street label Supreme.
Not because of its sweeping vista of Australia's most iconic beach, but because it's also the hub of Sydney's skate culture – which, if you've been paying attention, is very much so hot right now.
From Kayne West rocking sweaters from Thrasher, Vetements flogging $2000 hoodies, to the flood of Vans "Old Skool" sneakers on nearly every set of feet during Fashion Week, skate culture has found itself at the centre of fashion's zeitgeist.
Which, for anyone who grew up a grommet, sounds like a square peg in a round hole situation considering skate culture's less-than-accepting nature and lack of time for anyone they deem to be posers. And let's be frank, this is undeniably what much of fashion is all about.
However, skate's integration onto the runway could be spotted by anyone who was paying attention, either to it's constant appropriation of underground or fringe movements in general or fashion's obsession with irony in particular.
Because while luxury fashion has regularly looked to the periphery of society for inspiration for its seasonal collections (most recently, and notably, Gucci was forced to acknowledge their debt to outside influences, such as the infamous Dapper Dan and even local designers from Australia and New Zealand), skate is far from fringe or even a "subculture". It's been a solid movement and aesthetic in its own right for over 30 years, at least, and it's the rest of us who are now catching up to it.
Steve Dunstan, founder of New Zealand-based brand Huffer who will soon headline New Zealand Fashion Week in September, has seen the full circle that skate culture's aesthetic has undergone.
"I think people have taken notice of skate culture a while now," he says.
"I have seen some skate brands rise into very large businesses - indicating skate is hitting main stream and has done for a while now, ,much like surf did in the '80s and '90s. I think after peaking in the '00s it fell away but the core still existed and kept that spirit alive and now a resurgence highlighted by two superpowers, Louis Vuitton and Supreme, shows the influence of what skate culture has on the global market today."
Dunstan himself has personally witnessed this roller-coaster.
What started as a small-scale project dressing himself and his mates 20 years ago quickly turned into a community-driven business as local skaters – and eventually snowboarders – began wearing Huffer gear. The label hit peak awareness when Orlando Bloom wore one of their T-shirts on the red carpet opening night of Lord of the Rings. (Somewhat tellingly, Dunstan promptly decided to stop production of the T-shirt in question, a decision he says was savvy business sense but has the hallmarks of a die-hard skater's believe in remaining both authentic and not "selling out".)
Pulling a fakie
But do these brands that pride themselves on their authenticity and loyalty to their customer base suddenly finding themselves at the centre of fashion's sartorial Eye of Sauron lose something of themselves?
Yes and no.
For those die hard fans who live and breath these brands long before normies get their mitts on them, it can bring about a somewhat territorial response. In an interview with high-end street style publication Hypebeast, Thrasher themselves slammed both Rihanna and Bieber for wearing their merchandise, calling both pop stars "f--king clowns".
But this influx of funding from sales also lets a brand develop, grow and ultimately evolve. And more importantly, keep the people on their toes.
"Rebellion and creativity have always been a part of skateboarding," explains Rian Pozzebon, designer director at Vans.
"For me and my peers, skateboarding in the late '80's was a very formative time and the creativity of the DIY rebel mentality became the foundation of our life. Some stayed within the culture and others including the film director Spike Jones, Jil Sanders designer Luke Meier and contemporary artist Sterling Ruby moved into other worlds of creativity. In the fashion house world, there is a changing of the guard and many of the new creative directors come from these same roots. The list of fashion designers and fashion retailers that grew up involved in skateboarding is incredibly long."
Keeping it real
"It's great to stimulate the market and pioneer new paths forward. To be honest, I think the market demands it," explains Dunstan.
"Collaborations executed with integrity hold great authenticity. A project or product that communicates both brands values and gives strengths to either makes for an exciting opportunity. This can create a collector status. Often collaborations have great creativity which is a great thing."
In an industry where brands appear overnight and just as quickly fade into the ether, this kind of cultural boom is a blessing that can let labels such as Huffer, Vans (and yes, even Thrasher) carve a secure future for themselves.
And long after the rest of us posers and normies move on to the next "wonder" product or trend, there will always be skaters loyally wearing what they've always worn.
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