This time last year the “Best of” story was written under the HighSnobette banner. We have since relocated, changed our name a bit, experienced the unsteadiness and challenges that come with starting fresh, but our affair with sexy, edgy, cool fashion and culture remains rock steady. Like any relationship, us and fashion have had our bummer moments but its ability to thrill us, and make our hearts beat faster keeps us grinding for those brighter days.
What was noticeably different about 2013 is that compared to the prior year, it was less about the the one covetable and pricey designer piece and more about the event, the art or the culture, a story that individuals can connect to, perhaps pointing to a direction in which it’s less about an item than a deeper, more nuanced, overall style statement. One again, in no particular order we share what we regard as some of the best, joy-bringing efforts of 2013:
In our 2012 list we celebrated MTTM designer Leah McSweeney’s triumphant return as an independent designer but she stays on our list this year for two reasons. First up, McSweeney’s decision to take on streetwear label Supreme, who sued her for her Supreme-Bitch emblazoned merchandise earlier this year. Despite a once friendly, working relationship, Supreme played rough with MTTM from the get go and no doubt given the language of the suit most independents would have backed down immediately. McSweeney stood tough, eventually inspiring the support of famed civil rights lawyer Norman Siegal. The case was settled so there was no clear cut “winner,” but our admiration is more about McSweeney’s moxie and willingness to stand up to a very imposing foe based on general principles only. And yes, you can still buy “Supreme Bitch” merch.
From a design perspective we loved McSweeney’s MTTM “Mob Sport” crew graphic. Ironic luxury brand take downs were the thing in streetwear in 2013, but the MTTM graphic stands out. More than just a graphic tweak on an iconic logo, there is an authentic story and connection with McSweeney’s own youth as a come up during the height of New York Lo-Life. The graphic is further stamped by a red-block “Bitch,” one last shout at the Supreme vs. MTTM feud that had the streetwear blogs buzzing for the first half of 2013.
Ronnie Fieg was on our list last year, too, for going independent and launching Kith stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Looking around the various best-of-sneaker lists, Fieg is all over various top 10s, which, props, props and more props. (Icing on the cake that Fieg had the smarts to bring in super brainy Mellany Sanchez as creative director for Kith.) Our fave shoe, and in our opinion one of the slickest kicks in 2013, was his Asics Gel Flamingo. Fieg has a gift for color and material selection and the combinations in the Flamingo were not just unique but 100 percent right on for the when the shoe was launched in August. Sadly, pictures don’t do the shoe justice, in real life the eggshell pink coloring is sly and subtle and just the right amount of flair for guys who like to keep their dude cap strapped on tight.
Levi’s High Rise Skinny jeans (style No. 199700054): sort of random but really not because the price is right, the cut is perfect, as is the rise (no gap at the waist!) and there are a multitude of washes, all of them on point. Plus, they’re Levi’s, still authentic after all these years.
Ricardo Tisci in general brings us great joy. An artist and a visionary we love how he blew off the European fashion elites with his streetwear-influenced Autumn 2013 collection (the “Bambi” crew will be in a Tisci museum retrospective one day) but also rubbed shoulders and gave nods to folks like Frank Ocean, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, who may be outside fashion’s inner circles, but are culture movers in the real world, associations that were further endorsed with the recent announcement that Erykah Badu will front the label’s spring ad campaign.
We have always been Kanye West fans but this year we were transfixed by his take downs on first the fashion industry and then Nike. His message was often obscured by his own boasting, eminently debatable in the eyes of the beholder, but what can’t be argued is Ye’s call out on major corporations , who have a history of stealing from or under-compensating creative individuals like West. In 2013 brands are more powerful than ever so while we admire West’s bold stance, at the same time we can’t help but feel a little worried for his safe being! On a side note, we can’t wait to see what he cooks up with Adidas this fall.
In 2011, the stage was set for the return of the then beat down and beleaguered Timberland brand when the company was purchased by VF Corp, which also own Vans and Northface, and knows a thing or two about brand management. Even before the change over, the streets were whispering for the return of the iconic “six-inch wheat” with the boot showing up on all of the rap world’s most influential names. VF took its time, developed a coming out party that would give the brand long legs and with a flurry of events and collaborations, ushered the official return of the boot in the fall of this year. On a path this season to sell out completely, Timbs are looking like THE shoe for Winter 2012/2013.
Rihanna is our patron saint of style so by default she is on all of our lists, but this year she grabbed our attention for a couple of events–her successful collaboration with River Island, the announcement of her as face of Balmains’s Spring 2014 campaign, but she charmed us most of all with her decision (as executed by longtime stylist Ursula Stephens) to wear a doobie (teasingly described by a friend To The Snobette as akin to attending a formal event with crystal-adorned rollers) to the AMA Awards in December, the ultimate insider wink at a thoroughly steet-inspired ‘do that had the streets buzzing for days.
Jean Paul Gaultier is well respected in the fashion world but over the past decade as the fashion industry became more buttoned up and obsessed with seamless branding, Gaultier’s stream-of-conscious design style received less love and at times appeared stuck in the past. A visit to his exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum (October 25th through February 23rd) reminded that while trends may come and go in fashion, Gaultier is a true artist and a genius designer. Brands now more than ever are tapping into the underground-movements of the ’80s and ’90s to add flavor to their lines, but they all need to take a seat. Gaultier already been there done that and explored it to a level that can’t even be fathomed.
The rise of the female DJ (shouts to the ones in our world: Diamond Kuts, G*Lee, Kitty Cash, Quiana, Jasmine Solano & Venus), has become a real enough phenomenon that it is being addressed in popular publications like the New York Times. More than just pretty celebrity faces designed to bring attention to an event, the latest crop of DJs are legit music devotees with dope skills and a refreshing perspective.
In October of 2013 artist Banksy took up a self-declared residency in New York City proceeded to take the city on a wild ride through his art escapades. Staged on various city markers including an abandoned lot, a truck and under a bridge, Banksy even posed as a street vendor and sold pieces of his work for the bargain basement price of $60 each. His work broke the rules, made front pages (above), inspired a citywide manhunt (denied by NYPD, mocked by Banksy) but most of all made thought provoking statements with his work that captured the attention of notoriously busy, jaded New Yorkers.
Our opinions on retail-brand collaborations are very mixed (good for the value retailer but bad for the high-end label) but at least from a fashion fan perspective, the HM X Isabel Marant collaboration was worthy in that the designs stood on their own whether you were a fan of Marant or otherwise, with added points for above average garment quality.
Brooklyn-based Wangechi Mutu uses fashion and pornographic magazine imagery to create artwork with visual statements about femininity, beauty and society. In 2013 she opened “A Fantastic Journey,” a collection of works featuring her signature collage artwork, sculpture and her first animated film titled The End Of Eating Everything, starring musical artist Santigold. Mutu’s work is sensual and provocative with an aesthetic that is filled with expressions of style. A fantastic Journey is on view at The Brooklyn Museum until March 2014.
The brainchild of Comme des Garcon’s Rei Kawabuko, Dover Street Market brought freshness to the New York fashion retail landscape by opening its first boutique in North America. Housed in seven floors in the quaint neighborhood between Grammercy and Murray Hill, Dover Street stocks established luxury labels like Prada, Saint-Laurent, Louis Vuitton , Supreme, Visvim, as well as vast array of young designer labels like Proper Gang, Jacquemus, Phoebe English. We found the space to be conducive to an intimate shopping experience but also filled with creative energy. A definite thumbs up!
The Knowles sisters were busy as always but this year they especially threw down the gauntlet with bold, game-changing moves. We were thrilled to see Solange launch her own label, Saint Heron, kicked off with a compilation album including a variety of up-and-coming artists including Jhene Aiko, Sampha, Petite Noir, Cassie, Kelela, BC Kingdom, Jade de la Fleur and India Shaw. The label also has a content platform of the same name with a team of six, all female writers, giving us hope that women and especially women of color can occupy positions of power and influence in the notoriously un-female-friendly music industry.
Beyonce delivered her own industry changer on December 13th, when, without any warning or lead up hype, she dropped a self-titled visual album including 14 songs each with an accompanying video. As of now the launch is sitting atop Billboard charts for three weeks straight, and is the first album since 2009 to sell more than 300,000 copies in each of those 3 weeks. Whether or not other artists would have the same success using similar tactics matters not as much as how Beyonce shook the industry and forced folks to put on their thinking caps right quick.
Finally, we are proud of our own work as leaders on the design and production team for the NFL x Junkfood Runway presentation (below), shown during New York Fashion Week Autumn 2013. This was our second time working with Junkfood on a runway presentation and the we felt really good about the results. Design, production, styling, casting–our names were on all those things.
Thanks to all of you for the support through the years!