The Unisex Conversation
Women in Streetwear
Words: Adrian Bianco
It is 2019 and a man is writing a text about women and streetwear. That smells like igniting a fuse that could end in a delicate situation – and I thought long and hard about the if and how. It is quite simple: both belong together, it goes without saying, but not every brand and store has taken to it quite so well.
Of course, a lot has happened in the scene, entire women-only sneaker shops have opened and increasingly more of the big brand marketing budgets are being allocated to the female gender. More women, female artists and movements are getting the attention they deserve. From Alexandra Hackett AKA Mini Swoosh to Danielle Cathari for adidas, Aleali May for Jordan Brand, Lauren Yates for the whole workwear world and a whole bunch of other designers who have an impact on the contemporary design of today and tomorrow, the female influence is increasingly growing. Then there is the extremely refreshing mix of creatives, influencers and bloggers who inject colour, creativity and a breath of fresh air to the streetwear cosmos. From Selma Kaci Sebbagh from Paris to Kicky Yang Zhang from Berlin, female streetwear influencers have long since surpassed the rank of men with far more to offer than 100 boys who place their hands before of their faces while wearing Off-White.
Furthermore, women in streetwear convey a very unique message, language and represent a slightly different role model when one considers other fashion worlds. The image of women in the fashion world, despite icons such as Rei Kawakubo, Vivien Westwood and new talents such as Emily Bode and Laura and Deanna Fanning, still hangs very heavily on models, slimming mania and beauty ideals that are far from ideal for the body and soul. And while the streetwear scene isn’t completely free of blatant sexism – this or that lookbook or those dreadful sneaker pictures with women in underwear – women in streetwear have a completely different sense of self than of those who walk the catwalks of Milan.
»Am I beautiful enough, slim enough? Can I go out like that?« All of that doesn’t really happen in the streetwear scene. Streetwear is not really designed for body type A, B or C, but mostly just for comfort and functionality. What’s more, the young streetwear designers and creatives reflect a worldview and an attitude that will positively influence an entire generation of girls and also boys. »Just do it, fuck it.« What sounds like the street version of the Nike slogan is the self-confidence that women represent in the streetwear scene in 2019. And somehow, it’s just the beginning. Women in streetwear are mixing up the scene and are an indispensable part of it. Period.
And despite this I’m not yet completely satisfied with how brands handle the topic, especially in regard to products and colourways. Why does it bother me, someone might ask? After all, I am a man and can easily access the supposedly better CW’s and releases. The answer is relatively simple and in itself very descriptive of the fallacy many brands still make. I like streetwear. The way I see it, streetwear has no gender at its core and the fashion, sneakers, bags, pants, sweaters, etc. were designed as such. Naturally, it is ok that women have gender-specific items. A top, skirt or dress are at least not required in every male wardrobe – even if Jaden Smith, Luka Sabbat or Yung Thug have in time proved that even a man can, wants to and is allowed to wear anything.
It’s nice to say that there is Stussy Women and Johanna F. Schneider designs the Nike Women’s Tech Pack (if we are precise, we are talking about sportswear here), but there is still a catch to do with the availability of all general releases that are available in men’s sizes, also for women. It makes sense that some leggings or tops don’t exist for men, but that the bulk of all men’s designs never appear in women’s sizes is complete nonsense.
Everyone can and may wear whatever he or she wants, but when it comes to women and streetwear, it still seems to me that brands assume that only they know exactly what women want and what that should look like. And it’s not as simple as that. There are still numerous releases that brands divide into two camps: To a large extent neutral to peripheral colourways for men and velvety, milky, rosy, gentle pastel shades for women. Blue and black for men, pink and baby blue for women. What starts with sneakers runs through to sweatshirts and T-shirts. Either women don’t find the size they want – it just doesn’t exist – or it exists as a brightly coloured female counterpart.
At any rate, I find the majority of women-only colourways for women terrible. Not because I’m a man, no, but because I just find them terrible. It is so. Or in short: Not every day the sun shines out of the gap in our teeth and a plain dark CW has never been wrong.
Obviously, you’ll notice I’m already being careful, someone will like pink and co. and that’s ok. It’s more of a matter for those who are looking for more subdued colours, it gets old or rather colourful. The notion that men supposedly get the better CWs should by now be common knowledge with all the discussions on Facebook streetwear groups and Instagram comment columns of almost every designer and brand. And yet: finding a passable women-only CW is still, in part, a challenge or an act of impossibility. I’ve worked in sneaker stores for half of my time in this industry, and the sneaker stores never really made it easy for women.
Don’t pink it, don’t shrink it. Streetwear doesn’t have to be repainted to please women. It doesn’t need to be cut differently either. It doesn’t have to be anything; streetwear is as gender neutral as a cosy grey hoodie.
When one wants to staunchly recognise women in streetwear and wants to respect and honour the big, aforementioned names, follow their vision and value what women do for streetwear – then just let women design, draw, paint or whatever. Let them be an active part of streetwear and take it as natural, as it goes without saying.
Women in streetwear belong to streetwear, without brands having to tell us what that looks like. Instead of streetwear being gender specific, it’s only one thing: Cozy. Comfortable. Cozy. Street. In my opinion a simple design language. It’s not so complicated, right? So do not worry about it so much dear brands, and think something bigger, more universal and gender neutral.
With that in mind, »stay cozy« and wear what you want, and dear brands, give them what they want.
Collages: Esra Erdugan