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Forming Norms

I like fashion to go down to the street, but I can't accept that it should originate there.

--attributed to Coco Chanel

Acapulco Gold sweatshirt on Samuel AyideWhile Mlle. Chanel may or may not have actually dissed streetwear, the consummate modernist borrowed a number of her early designs from plebian sources -- sailors' sweaters and men's athletic gear, among others.  One can only imagine what she might have done with the humble hoodie.   (Marc Jacobs' cashmere versions come to mind, but surely that's just the beginning.) 

In the post-Coco era, the street remains a fashion laboratory that has produced myriad small labels offering unique designs.  This is fast fashion at its speediest, a limited-edition set of alternatives to both widely available luxury brands and mass-market imitations.  As the New York Times reports, however, these urban labels reference both 1980s hip-hop roots and the LVs, CCs, and GGs that collectively spell economic success:

The newest companies are reinterpreting the hoodie, introducing variations with brashly vibrant and often menacing imagery:  all-over prints with bullet-hole graphics, chain-link fences and basketball netting, guns and roses, cobwebs and flamboyantly irreverent reinterpretations of Vuitton, Chanel, or Gucci logos, each a graphically subversive comment on those corporate fashion behemoths. 

The small scale of these creative endeavors means that the barriers to entry are relatively low; almost anyone can aspire to be the next hot streetwear designer.  On the other hand, even as the trade in redesigned luxury logos causes corporate brows to furrow, streetwear labels are themselves finding knockoffs to be a problem:

The peril, [10.Deep partner John Fishel] said, is that bootleggers and designers may flood the market with look-alike wares before a small company has a chance to stabilize. 

So where's the line between creative inspiration or parody and mere imitation?  In the upper echelon of the fashion industry, designers risk losing artistic credibility if they're caught copying.  The same is true of original streetwear -- perhaps even more so, since value is so closely tied to a perception of authenticity.  In other words, haute couture and urban streetwear have more in common, normatively speaking, than either might imagine.