Streetwear vs. High Fashion: What’s the Difference?

The world of high fashion has embraced many styles throughout the years. One new trend that has emerged as an alternative to the rigors of haute couture is streetwear. This versatile fashion movement encompasses a wide variety of styles. 

High Fashion 

The first movement we’ll discuss is high fashion. High fashion is also known by the original French name, haute couture. When people discuss historical well-known fashion designers, most will have operated in the world of high fashion in some form. As its name implies, high fashion brands have the highest name pedigree among designers.

What it Is 

The definitions of what stylistically makes high fashion, as a style of clothing that has been around for over 150 years, are fairly loose. The original haute couture maker was also the first to coin the term “fashion designer.” Charles Frederick Worth believed that quality apparel should be exclusive and marketed his designs to wealthy women.

This sense of exclusivity has continued to this day. High fashion brands are as well-known for their forward-thinking apparel as they are for their pieces' price tags. 

Who Makes High Fashion? 

The formal term “haute couture” is legally protected, with specific requirements for a brand to qualify as such. Haute couture fashion designers must present a collection of at least 35 pieces every season in Paris, including daytime and evening wear. Each house must have a minimum of 20 full-time staff members. Designers must also create personally tailored designs for private clients. 

These criteria are exceedingly strict. For this reason, while there are many brands considered “high fashion,” there are few which are legally considered haute couture. Haute couture is largely in the realm of storied fashion houses with a long lineage. There is very little room for an individual, untested designer to make waves in this world. 


Streetwear, in many ways, exists in stark contrast with high fashion brands. The world of high fashion is very regimented and specifically targeted towards the upper class. Streetwear brands exist in every economic sphere, from the affordable to the luxury. The first iteration of streetwear started with individuals breaking away to create more “authentic” pieces.

What Is Streetwear?

Streetwear takes fashion and gives it back to the people. As the name suggests, streetwear is the sort of clothing people normally wear on the street. It eschews the gatekeeping of haute couture in favor of clothing that is comfortable and accessible. It leans casual, and even when formal elements are introduced, they are highly stylized.

In the 80s, surfboard manufacturers and skateboarders created apparel that would look stylish without impeding athleticism. This led to the introduction of such popular garments as the graphic tee and helped contribute to a number of subcultures. 

In streetwear, exclusivity is still a concern. Streetwear doesn’t attain exclusivity through a high price point like high fashion. A low batch size in individual garments creates scarcity. Rarity in garments can be the result of smaller houses having fewer resources than fashion megaliths. It can also hint towards a greater amount of detail paid to the production and construction of individual pieces.  

Who Makes Streetwear? 

Many of the best-known streetwear brands are run by an individual with a vision or a small team of creatives. Most of these “houses” are fairly young by the standards of high fashion. A historic streetwear brand may only be a few decades old. A legacy can be formed in a matter of years. A wide variety of influences means that streetwear designers eagerly embrace everything from technical apparel to luxury sportswear.

The newness of streetwear is part of what propels its growth. Streetwear brands, because they may have less oversight from stockholders and other investors, are more able to take risks. It is easier for a designer to pay attention to a line when the priority is on a few luxury articles. Because of tighter leadership in new companies, designers are capable of presenting their vision without as many restrictions.

When people invest in streetwear, they can be confident that the concerns of the designer behind it are shared. Streetwear proves that comfort and fashion can coexist. 

The Difference

Streetwear and high fashion impact each other but are subtly different. Luxury streetwear is highly desirable but exists outside the strictly regulated world of haute couture. Haute couture brands, taking notice of an increased desire for quality streetwear, create their own offerings. Streetwear started as a trend for and by individuals but has expanded to all corners of the fashion world.

The most authentic streetwear comes from designers at the heart of the movement. For streetwear, that heart exists on two opposite ends of the country in New York and Los Angeles. We’ve been fortunate enough to operate in both cities, but for the time being, Los Angeles is our long-term home.



The History of Haute Couture I Harper's Bazaar

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What is haute couture? Inside today’s world of high fashion | Vogue