The impact and influence of streetwear is evident at AFW where local lines BZLY, Tücy and CELLOPXNE keep it chill on the catwalk.
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If fashion is a pendulum swinging between extremes, it’s clearly taken a break from ricocheting between hemlines and waist heights to lean hard in a new direction—away from dressing up and into casual clothing. Signs are everywhere: Sneakers have gone from commuter wear to statement shoes. Gym clothes are now something to be seen in rather than schlub in. While sweatpants have been around for as long as there’ve been college students to wear them, in no other era has their chicness been considered.
And while a host of big-name designers support this argument—including streetwear label Off-White’s founder Virgil Abloh taking over at Louis Vuitton and Alessandro Michele’s baseball team-bedecked backpacks starring in Gucci’s fall collection—local clothes horses need look no further than Atlantic Fashion Week’s season 12 roster to see that streetwear has never been bigger. While it’s far from the first time a casual label has walked AFW’s catwalk, this year’s collection of runway shows sees more streetwear-focused designers than ever debuting works.
Amongst them is Peter Hemsworth’s local line BZLY, a tees-and-hoodies-focused label. “I start with a painting whenever I begin a new collection, and then I can get the colour ways and the whole design aspect from [that]. Then I can go about making the actual pieces. It’s a very analogue way of making things,” the designer says. “I like to take things that are a very universal human struggle and encapsulate that in pop culture references.”
Hemsworth says casual clothing is what made him fall in love with fashion, and he describes streetwear in the words of Abloh: “It’s fashion without resources.”
For Hemsworth’s second time at AFW, BZLY is going big, “taking the idea of generational divide and creating a runway show that shows a utopic idea of generational collaboration” with a collection of casual wear that saw the designer delve into the Nova Scotia Archive’s records of royal visits for inspiration. “The whole show is based on the idea of taking something old and taking something new and building something with it.”
Streetwear signals a sort of cultural synthesizing, a layering of decades and references that fellow AFW presenter Chris Cameron—the designer behind Halifax’s Tücy—likens to “a mosaic, or like a quilt of different vibes.” To him, streetwear is “pure self-expression,” and in the age of individuality it makes sense people are reaching for BZLY’s tees that tweak classic movie posters or Tücy’s windbreakers, which Cameron spray paints himself with the brand’s logo: It allows the wearer to compile visual talking points about who they are.
Cameron bridges high-fashion concepts with his brand, dubbing his up-cycled plaid shirts “bespoke” and “low-quantity” (terms often volleyed in the world of made-to-order haute couture).
He isn’t alone in his high-end view of casual wear. Kelly MacGillivray, Halifax-based creator of CELLOPXNE (and fellow AFW presenter) talks about the rise of more wearable runway pieces as a sign fashion is becoming more inclusive. “I’m really into the whole mixing of different styles to get the look; I think Instagram is a great source for [inspiration],because I think fashion is more on the street than what a specific celebrity that’s being dressed is wearing,” she says. “It’s like the Japanese ita-bag trend: These bags with a clear PVC panel and people put their charms behind that to protect them; it’s like a total customizable bag that you decide what it looks like and you expose your personality. I wanted to have an idea like that for the clothes [in my collection]. They’re like a base for the wearers to expand on.”
As the shift from fashion focusing on gowns to hoodies continues, one thing that hasn’t changed is that what separates the good clothes from great clothes is the style and artisanship that continues to live in the details. After all, as Hemsworth puts it, “Essentially, the people that wear your clothes are your art gallery.”