Street art and graffiti first appeared on American subways in the 1970s as an act of creative vandalism, later reaching Europe in the 1980s alongside hip-hop music. Its beginnings are entangled with the art, youth culture, music and fashion of New York at the time, with artists moving easily between outsider and insider culture. Among the main influences of street art are the scribbled-on clothes seen in the punk fashion of the 1970s.
Things have come full circle now as fashion has turned more and more to the streets for inspiration. Through a variety of bold collaborations between brands and artists, including limited editions, one-of-a-kind collections, autographed items and tagged products, this expressive art form continues to spread its influence as a growing pillar of popular culture. From embellished trucker jackets to graffiti-painted kicks, these streetwear trends successfully tapped into this zeitgeist.
Coach x Keith Haring
Keith Haring, an artist who emerged from the vibrant dance-club and street-art scene of 1980s New York, is known for the unique energy and optimism of his art that inspired generations of contemporary artists. Coach’s latest collection takes his art right where it belongs—back to the streets. In collaboration with the Keith Haring Foundation, the American luxury label created a special-edition collection that combines Haring’s iconic illustrations with their own signature craftsmanship. Celebrating both the city of New York and the legacy of the iconic American artist, the collection is comprised of bags, shoes, jackets and t-shirts adorned with Haring’s most recognizable motifs, including dancing people, barking dogs and flying saucers.
Vans, a celebrated American manufacturer of action sports shoes and apparel, has a long history of artist collaborations. In 2015, the brand partnered with the quirky Japanese artist Takashi Murakami for a fall collection under Vans’ premium label, Vault by Vans. Known for combining refined classical painting techniques with a supercharged mix of pop, animé and otaku imagery in his distinctive “Superflat” style, the artist brought his vibrant artwork to the uppers of Vans silhouettes, the Classic Slip-on, and a focused apparel capsule. This limited-edition series brought to life two of Murakami’s recurring motifs—the smiling flower and skull patterns. The list of artists Vans previously collaborated with includes Curtis Kulig, Zoe Zigler and KAWS, among others
OBEY x Keith Haring
Shepard Fairey’s clothing label, OBEY, also collaborated with the Keith Haring Foundation on its extensive collection for fall 2012. Inspired by The Pop Shop, Haring’s 1980s storefront, the collection coupled the production methods that would have been available to Haring at the time with his iconic and lesser-known works that would translate to today’s audience. Characterized by an authentic, vintage aesthetic, the resulting collection took the art and designs of both Haring and Fairey to a vast array of items such as tank tops, tees, a varsity jacket, an M-65 army jacket, raglan tees, fleece pants, crewnecks, hoodies and accessories such as a beanie, cap, necklaces and pins.
Levi’s x MOCA Trucker Jacket
Since it was first introduced in '67, the Levi’s trucker jacket has served as an iconic canvas for artists around the world. In 2011, Levi’s collaborated with MOCA to create a collection of limited-edition trucker jackets that featured designs by 10 artists: Andre, Chaz Bojorquez, CRASH, Keith Haring, KR, Neckface, Lady Pink, REVOK, Kenny Scharf and Shepard Fairey. Created for the MOCA exhibition Art in the Streets—the first comprehensive U.S. museum survey of graffiti and street art—the collection celebrated the trucker jacket and its intrinsic tie to the street art community and culture. It also served as a unique retrospective of the history of street art since each jacket was released in chronological order of each artist’s work.
Supreme Spring / Summer 2018
With a long history of amazing artist collaborations, Supreme has bridged the gap between contemporary art, skateboarding and street culture for the past 20 years. The brand recently unveiled its first collection of 2018, presenting a couple of collaborations in the mix. The collaborations include a trucker jacket, denim shorts, carpenter pants and a hooded work top featuring artwork from legendary graffiti artist Lee Quinones. Gaining fame from the 1980s New York City Subway graffiti movement, Quinones is celebrated for tackling a variety of social issues of the time. This isn’t the first time Supreme worked with or paid homage to an iconic street artist, with the roster including Rammellzee, KAWS, Mark Gonzales and Futura, among others.
Reebok x Jean-Michel Basquiat
In 2013, Reebok paid tribute to the king of Neo-Expressionism, Jean-Michel Basquiat. In his unfortunately short life and career, Basquiat brought many of the social dualities of the time to the forefront, leaving an enormous impact on the art world. In collaboration with the artist’s estate, Reebok created a limited-edition sneakers collection that featured Basquiat’s seminal artworks screen-printed and embroidered across luxurious uppers. Featuring silhouettes ranging from the Classic Leather, Workout Mid and Ex-O-Fit for men to the Freestyle and Princess for women, the collection aimed to channel the bold messages and attitude of the artist’s celebrated oeuvre.
Founded by designer Paul Budnitz in 2002, Kidrobot fuses urban street trends, fashion and pop art to produce limited-edition collectible toys, signature apparel and lifestyle accessories. Its products are the result of unique partnerships with top international artists from diverse backgrounds, which range from graffiti to fine art, fashion, industrial design, graphic design, illustration and music. The list of artist collaborations is long, and it includes Ron English, Frank Kozik, Johnny Draco, Otto Bjornik, Sket One, Mad Barbarians and Travis Cain, among others. At the beginning of 2018, the company released new Kidrobot Hoodies and VIP Letterman jackets designed by Chris Hold, a.k.a. The Toy Viking.
Hektik, an independent street label from Germany, stands for urban lifestyle and creates jersey products influenced by graffiti and street art. The brand has worked with a variety of international street artists such as Caver, Grito, Kid Crap, Otis and Yubia, among others, and it recently collaborated with Montana Cans, an iconic art supply company that has influenced the street art scene immensely. This limited-edition capsule collection includes six different t-shirts, each printed with one of Montana's hues. Deliberately reduced to basic geometrical forms, the image refers to graffiti by subtle drips only.
Wild Style Technicians
An independent American label, Wild Style Technicians was founded in 1991 as an all-elements crew that aimed to preserve, promote and advance traditional wild-style graffiti art. Initially creating items for crew members only, it decided to share its passion for lettering and hip-hop with the public. The brand's mission was to create something non-corporate that focuses on artists and empowers them. For its apparel collection, Wild Style Technicians collaborated with some of the best graffiti writers in the world such as Damit, Okuda, Dario Sanchez, PresOne and Pesci, among others.
OARE is a French clothing label that promotes the work of street artists and graffiti writers from around the world. Every year since the early 2000s, the brand presents street and graffiti artists coming from different backgrounds and working in a variety of styles. Be they famous international artists or just graffiti vandals, the brand brings the same dedication and passion to promote their amazing work. The label has collaborated with artists such as TILT, Remio, Nemco, VENTS137, ILK, Flying Fortress and Azek, among others.