Sandwiched between high-end grooming company Hommage and the venerable if not forgotten Hugo label on the brand list of Barney's New York is Hood By Air. Only four pieces from the cult favorite are currently available—one T-shirt, two long sleeve tees, and a sweatshirt—but this is a huge move in what has already been an incredible year for HBA, and a huge move for the high-end streetwear that has emerged and dominated 2013.
The foundation of streetwear will always be rock solid, and the culture that has sprouted up around brands like Stussy, The Hundreds, and Staple isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But what started in late 2012 and flourished in 2013 is the sub-group of higher-end streetwear that dabbles in true designer and fashion-forward elements, not to mention a price range that rivals the higher-end counterparts. Labels like Hood By Air, En Noir, KTZ, and Astrid Andersen have all incorporated a philosophy rooted in traditional streetwear and gone bonkers with it, blending in super-premium materials, progressive silhouettes, and other elements that might raise an eyebrow at your family's Christmas dinner.
The couture runways have always influenced others, but this time the blurring of the lines isn't a one way street. Several fashion houses that cake off their air of impregnability have taken cues from the streetwear culture. Arguably led by Riccardo Tisci's work at Givenchy, we now have Houses with a capital "H" churning out items and footwear that hypebeasts and streetwear enthusiasts can blend into their already-existing wardrobe. The likes of Alexander Wang, Versace, Balmain, and Balenciaga are now on the lips and forums of streetwear heads just as readily as HUF, Black Scale, and SSUR.
This is one of the few times in recent memory when the trickle-down effect from the runways of Paris and Milan is flowing somewhat equally in both directions. Yes, high-end streetwear definitely makes gear influenced by couture and luxury labels. But the convergence of the two have allowed the former to prosper and take this awesome common area of the streetwear/fashion Venn diagram in its own direction. Now we're seeing labels that started in the streets informing what couture Houses and designers are doing. The streetwear vs. fashion conception is no longer a dichotomy. And for anyone who grew up in the streetwear culture, that is an incredibly powerful notion.
Currently, the Hood By Air pieces sit on the co-op floor of Barney's, alongside brands like Acne, Public School, Rag & Bone, and other labels that wouldn't necessarily be classified as streetwear. However, this year saw En Noir getting stocked on the designer floor of Barney's this year. Orders for HBA's spring/summer 2014 line are pouring in after garnering huge accolades from both streetwear kids and fashion critics when it showed at this past summer. For fuck's sake, GQ is writing think-pieces on Virgil Abloh's Off-White brand. And a quite literal visualization of this whole idea can be seen at Dover Street Market NYC, where Supreme's section at Dover Street Market is across the aisle from Prada.
By this point next year, the fact that streetwear brands are in the same conversation as high-end labels may not even warrant any sort of reaction. Dudes have, after all, been mixing in designer labels to a streetwear look for a minute. But for now, the excitement and astonishment brought about by these small, significant victories are palpable and personal for any fan who considers themselves a part of streetwear culture. It's about damn time, but it's pretty safe to say that the recognition is real.