Achival Consumed: Street Couture


The relationship between high fashion and street wear goes back a long way. In a recent book called “The Essence of Style,” by Joan DeJean, there is an anecdote from the spring of 1677, when “an inexpensive gray serge cloth” worn by Parisian shopgirls was adapted by “ladies of the court” who liked the fabric’s look and incorporated it into their elegant wardrobes. This is how it has seemed to work ever since — right up through the archetypal example of the “grunge” style associated with the Seattle music scene appearing on the runways, courtesy of the designer Marc Jacobs (then working for Perry Ellis) in the early 1990’s. In other words, the streets are raided for ideas and inspiration that get reworked in a couture context — “the aura of wealth and luxury,” as DeJean wrote of the 17th-century version of the high-low mash-up.

All of this implies tension between street populism and couture exclusivity. But in the last few years, as some sneaker shops have come to resemble highfalutin art galleries, it has been a little less clear who is borrowing what from whom. Consider, for example, Supreme. Read more