We made some calls—first to Rihanna’s stylist and 032c fashion director Mel Ottenberg. “It’s a crazy, fucked-up, upside-down world these days, so it’s time for new ideas to reign supreme,” he offered. “Some new, extreme voices in fashion are being heard, loud and clear, and people are buying into the newest, loudest, and clearest visions.” We called Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. He agreed. “All those top three brands have a distinct signature—Michele’s maximalist opulence, and Demna’s proportion shifts, like that asymmetrical torque on the body, and also his logo-driven pieces. And Virgil’s brand identity—that arrow graphic is so smart. People are craving excitement in their clothes, and those three brands are delivering that.” Barneys New York’s fashion director, Marina Larroudé, expressed a similar sentiment. “People are gravitating toward unique and special pieces, but they don’t want a super fancy look. These brands offer a diverse assortment. Their pieces are very well done with a modern aesthetic and a youthful look,” she said, adding, “Consumers crave novelty and want an emotional connection to their purchase. People are gravitating towards intricate, playful accessories and ready-to-wear that will get them likes on social media—fashion is no longer about looking proper and well groomed, and the influence of streetwear and hip-hop culture is huge! That’s what’s pushing fashion now. There is no bigger trend than streetwear at the moment. It may not last forever, but at the moment, streetwear is the look.”
It’s true. All three of the top brands are extreme, with uber-distinct brand identities. Michele’s Gucci is all about opulence—fine fabrics in bright, rich colors, dripping with crystals and sequins, and so many man-hours of embellishment and embroidery. Bold graphics, like that black-and-red snake or the snarling tiger lend an edgier aspect to the aesthetic, but this is unarguably high fashion at its uppermost peak. Conversely, Gvasalia’s Balenciaga is all about irony. It’s anti-fashion—Ikea bags or laundry bags reimagined in Italian leather, and those Crocs that were decried by some as click-bait, but which will definitely pound downtown pavements in cities across the world come spring next year. Balenciaga is also more streetwear-leaning, which brings us to the Lyst Index’s bronze-medalled brand, Off-White. With his roots in streetwear, founder and designer Virgil Abloh has made a determined excursion into high fashion-land, but there is still a streetwear thread through his collections, and a collaboration with Nike, plus his nightclub life as DJ Flat White, bolster that. And while high fashion brands like Valentino, Givenchy, and Saint Laurent occupy some of the other top 10 positions, Vetements is number four, Stone Island’s eight, Moncler’s nine, and Raf Simons rounds it all out at number 10—#streetwear.