By KATRINA VRAKAS
Prospect Avenue on the East Side of Milwaukee buzzes with people as unique as the nighttime stars, wearing a wide array of styles and colors of clothing. Suddenly a woman catches your eye. She is wearing a chunky sweater, high-waisted brown pants, a large plaid scarf, a knitted beanie and low-top sneakers. She encompasses everything about street fashion.
What is street fashion?
Street fashion includes outfits that are not styled by fashion experts or famous designers. It is about ordinary people expressing themselves through their own, unique looks.
“I consider street style to be outfits that you remember at the end of the day,” said Kristin Souvigny, senior fashion major at Mount Mary University. “When you’re out and about, you see so many people, especially in bigger cities. If someone is dressed in a unique way, they’re separating themselves from the general public. I think it is most effective when current trends are taken into consideration, but the wearer styles themselves in such a way that it makes it personal.”
Although designer labels do play a part in looking fashionable, street style is more about combining designers and low-priced labels. What makes street style unique is that anyone can pair a $2,000 Yves Saint Laurent leather skirt with a $29 blouse from H&M and still look as if she was styled by the hottest designers.
Not only is street style about self-expression, it also illustrates what is currently going on in society.
“You always see edgy styles when there’s unrest, or when there’s a fall in the economy or something like that,” said Trish Kuehnl, fashion professor at Mount Mary University. “Like in the ’80s – the whole punk thing. The reason why that started was because the street kids were rebelling against the monarchy and so they started doing the safety pins, and ripping up their clothes … It starts from the street and it’s an amalgamation of what’s going on in fashion and what’s going on politically and economically.”
Why is street style important?
Street fashion provides inspiration for designers, stylists and other fashion professionals.
“Designers who have been at the forefront of the fashion world for decades are now taking a back seat to a younger generation of designers who gather inspiration differently,” said Sandra Keiser, chair of the fashion department at Mount Mary. “They look to the streets and pop culture for references that are more relevant to a younger generation of customers.”
Designer Derek Lam created a collection in 2012 called “10 Crosby,” which was inspired by the style of everyday people who walked down the sidewalks near his Soho studio in New York.
In 2011, Designer Jason Wu released his pre-fall collection that was inspired by twentieth century street style photographers.
Street style also provides insight for worldwide fashion brands and local boutiques on what is trending throughout the general public and what will be hot sellers.
“We pay attention to what the people in the neighborhood are wearing, and then whatever there is a demand for is what we sell,” said Aja Steffen, sales associate at Lela Boutique in downtown Milwaukee.
Who can wear it?
Anyone can embrace street fashion. It’s all about finding a look that highlights your personality and shows off your best features.
“In Milwaukee if you’re not wearing a Packers sweatshirt it’s like, who are you?” Souvigny said. “I always refer to the quote ‘dress like you’re going to get murdered in those clothes.’ Like if I were to get hit by a bus, I would hate to die in sweatpants and moccasins,” Souvigny said.
Where to spot it in Milwaukee?
Common areas to find local fashionistas include Broadway Street in the Third Ward, Brady Street downtown and Downer and Oakland Avenue on the East Side.
“I live in Bay View and certainly there are a lot of interesting fashion businesses opening there and Water Street has been designated Milwaukee’s new Fashion District,” Keiser said.