The Next Generation of Creatives Shaping Fashion and Youth Culture

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LONDON — Who will shape the new cultural landscape after it’s been turned upside down by the outbreak of COVID-19 and global Black Lives Matter protests?

The answer lies in performance labels, streetwear figures who are unafraid of taking a political stance and TikTok stars more so than the traditional fashion labels.

Highsnobiety and the fashion search platform Lyst are highlighting those groups in their new Next 20 report, which points to a new wave of brands and creatives.

“The innovators in the list define youth culture at this point in time, whether it be through fashion, music, entertainment, art, activism or other creative disciplines. These emerging personalities and brands write their own rules and serve as an early look into where society is heading culturally,” the report said.

At the top of the report’s brand index is Salomon, highlighting the increased relevance and popularity of performance labels.

The French brand has managed to evolve beyond its core running clientele and seize the momentum that running has built amid the global lockdown. It has done buzzy product collaborations with the likes of Marine Serre and The Broken Arm in Paris, as well as partnerships with leading fashion retailers.

According to Lyst, searches for Salomon increased by more than 1,000 percent on its platform compared to the previous quarter, while monthly searches on Google surpassed 550,000. 

Two other running newcomers, Hoka One One and Swiss brand On, also made it to this quarter’s brand index, given their high-profile tie-ins with the likes of Virgil Abloh and Kanye West and Roger Federer, respectively.

Brands rooted in streetwear, including Pyer Moss, A-Cold-Wall, Awake NY, Fear of God and Braindead, also featured heavily in the latest brand index.

Their dismissal of authority and inclusive attitude toward their communities initially helped them grab global attention. Now their approaches are resonating even more deeply with consumers, as have their recent actions to support the current health crisis and anti-racism movements.

“Brands with roots in streetwear cater to those too often dismissed by the elite luxury fashion industry. Now, they’re single-handedly leading where the industry should go themselves,” said the report, which pointed to the business grants that A-Cold-Wall’s Samuel Ross set up for Black-owned businesses; the thousands of PPE units donated by Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond to COVID-19 frontline workers, and the funds raised by Awake NY’s Angelo Baque for New York’s immigrant coalition.

Another set of brands stands out in the report, and includes Marine Serre, Jacquemus and footwear maverick Amina Muaddi. Although all are very different, their ability to approach marketing in new, creative ways has catapulted them to the top of the index — and of search engines.

These brands “did not wait around for the fashion industry to go back to normal, they knew the way forward is rewriting the rules and creating marketing moments from thin air, creating more tight-knit communities as a result,” added the report.

The report highlights Jacquemus’ Zoom photo shoots featuring everyone from his grandmother to Bella Hadid, which resulted in a 22 percent rise in Google searches for the label; Serre’s dance classes; the Meaningful Connections series by 1017 Alyx 9SM, which connected fans with the likes of Abloh or artist Alex Israel, or up-and-coming handbag label Medea’s music series.

Also on the list were sustainability pioneers such as Bode and Collina Strada, as well as the London-based designer Mowalola Ogunlesi, who was appointed design director of Yeezy Gap last month.

The report also highlights the Next 20 cultural pioneers, a group of young activists, social media stars and rappers among others.

They include 16-year-old American TikTok phenomenon Charli D’Amelio in the top spot, followed by the international ambassador of Black Lives Matter Janaya Khan, Tremaine Emory, Dixie D’Amelio, Chase Hudson and Julia Fox, among others.

As a collective, this young group shows that the personalities who will have the most impact in the creative landscape moving forward are the ones who can work across different disciplines and lead necessary, often uncomfortable conversations around topics such as society’s treatment of the LGBTQ communities and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Entertainment and activism will go hand in hand for youth audiences,” according to the report, which also features the likes of Munroe Bergdorf and Aurora James, whose call for major U.S. retailers to stock 15 percent Black-owned businesses keeps gaining steam.

The report, which aims to offer a more well-rounded approach to fashion forecasting, was put together using a combination of data and insights from industry experts.

Lyst has developed a custom-made algorithm combining sales and search metrics from more than 100 million annual shoppers, social tracking, and Google data to rank brands, and simultaneously uses feedback from a dedicated advisory board.

For this project, the board included Sarah Andelman, Browns’ buying director Ida Petersson, Highsnobiety editor at large Christopher Morency and Tomorrow’s chief executive officer Stefano Martinetto.

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