The label “streetwear” can often feel like an oversimplification, an umbrella term that fails to do justice to the creative brilliance behind threads and accessories conceived by those with ideas bigger than just clothes. Once secluded to the same underground as the subcultures that produced them, streetwear now sits cozily alongside high fashion, sharing spaces in boutiques, department stores, and online alike – inadvertently setting the tone for styles and trends through its effortless cool.
The shine from that spotlight isn’t always a good thing, making for an oversaturated market of ill-informed design that lacks substance. That said, amongst the never-ending sea of emerging “streetwear” brands, there are streetwear purveyors making all the right waves with fly threads driven by messages of clear opposition towards the ills of gentrification, police brutality, or any variation of systematic authority. Let it be clear, there are brands out here putting on for the subcultures that birthed them, and some of the best doing it are at the hands of Latinx designers and visionaries. Peep them below:
424 by Guillermo Andrade
Guillermo Andrade brought forth LA concept shop FourTwoFour on Fairfax in 2010, along with the subsequent creation of the aesthetically aligned shop’s in-house label 424 in 2015. Andrade, an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant in his youth, reimagines classic pieces with bold prints and an artful attention to detail, like his highly coveted police brutality-protesting 424 red armband. Streetwear purists might be off-put by a high price point, but Andrade’s dedication to keeping the creative process from conception to production in LA simultaneously provides quality garments and serves the community.
Midnight Studios by Shane Gonzales
Perhaps no brand sits so comfortably on the fine line between streetwear and high fashion like Midnight Studios, the product of California whiz kid Shane Gonzales. A child of punk aesthetics, hip hop sensibilities, and a distinct veneration for designers like Raf Simons and Jun Takahashi to name a few, Midnight Studios has provided coveted pieces with an essence all its own, which might explain an impressive resume sporting frequent collaborations with Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, A$AP Mob’s AWGE collective, and most recently classic denimwear GUESS.
Stray Rats by Julian Consuegra
Now in its eighth year, streetwear brand Stray Rats consistently drops one-of-a-kind collections inspired by a careful consideration to the intersections of subcultures. Born to a Cuban mother and a Colombian father, Julian Consuegra conceived the brand as an ode to underground punk scenes and inner city living in mind. Founded in Miami, the brand saw a relocation to New York City that brought along streetwear veteran JR Ewing, previously of FUCT, to see Stray Rat at its most polished. With Consuegra having been tapped to implement his talents to design Drake’s tour merch, we can only imagine what the future holds for the Stray Rats brand and Julian Consuegra.
Spaghetti Boys by Kerwin Frost and Ray Martinez
What don’t the Spaghetti Boys do? Kings of the youth, multimedia artists, DJs, New York City underground socialites, unintentional IG influencers, fashion designers, but mostly just a couple dudes putting out their creative vision in whatever capacity and medium they find fitting. With a youthful aesthetic to match, the NYC-based collective headed by Kerwin Frost and Ray Martinez produces clothing and accessories at its liking, most recently releasing a backpack in collaboration with Sprayground only available from the back of a U-Haul truck pop up on Lafayette Street; adding to collaborations with Off-White, Heron Preston, Fool’s Gold and Nike.
PARADIS3 by Sean Pablo
The symbiotic relationship between skate culture and streetwear should be of no surprise, and that’s apparent in the half-Salvadoran / half-Irish skate phenom Sean Pablo’s (skating for Supreme and Fucking Awesome) streetwear brand PARADIS3. Founded in 2015 when he was just 16 years old, the brand boasts an unapologetic amalgamation of religious imagery and an array of graphics drawn from car decals to bail bonds ads; effortlessly embodying the chaotic beauty that is Pablo’s youth in LA.
Born x Raised by Spanto and 2Tone
In a market visibly oversaturated with poor blackletter design and severely lacking substance, BornxRaised prevails as the realest brand out there since its founding in 2013. A sticker graphic by co-founder Spanto reading “Gentrification is Genocide” would make the connection with fellow co-founder 2Tone to build this never-ending homage to Venice and its roots. From quality threads, to zines, videos, and one-of-a-kind of events like its annual Sadie Hawkins dance, BornxRaised has proven to exist beyond the limitations of simply being a streetwear brand, with garments that remind us to put on for our home turf and combat gentrification.
Felt by Kristian Acosta
2013 saw the founding of Kristian Acosta‘s streetwear brand Felt, an acronym of “For Every Living Thing.” Born in Miami, Acosta – aka Kosta – spent a portion of his youth in Colombia. Kosta’s designs recall the simplistic essence of early streetwear, with a minimal implementation of graphics and text playing with bold colors and often referencing the cartoon, music, and sports-filled bygone days of the Miami native’s upbringing.
Public Housing Skate Team by Vlad Gomez
For all its intersections/crossovers with high fashion markets, the best streetwear will forever be a product of the youth. No brand in recent memory embodies that more authentically than Public Housing Skate Team – a raw encapsulation of hood living in hoodies, tees, skate decks, just to name a few. Founded by The Bronx’s own Gun Hill Houses project skater boy Vlad Gomez, this gritty streetwear brand has found international acclaim but don’t get it twisted, PHST will forever be for the kids.