Ranking the most powerful people in streetwear is a difficult task. For starters, "power" is not the same as "popularity" and the members of the list had to be integral to their brand, which means that the majority of the famous faces behind "celebrity-designed" brands like Trukfit, or rappers known for co-signing high-profile brands simply didn't make it.
It is common knowledge that the current success of a person or brand does not guarantee their longevity. While experience in the game in general is a factor, we also considered current influence. At the end of the day, we often deal with the number of product sales, but we wanted to go beyond sales to also determine who was in a position to change fashion and the opinions of others, both inside and outside the industry. Who is leading streetwear fashion and who is just part of it?
NEW STREETWEAR BRANDS.
Today new French brands are emerging in streetwear and in fashion in general. This is the case of our brand, Chicken Streetwear with their Sneakers. Quality and originality at the rendezvous. Create your own identity, develop your style and stand out from the rest. These are the values of these young brands.
DISCOVER WHO SUCCEEDED AND WHO IS AT THE TOP OF OUR LIST OF THE 25 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN STREETWEAR.
25. MICHAEL "MEGA" YABUTWho is he? The founder of Black Scale.
Founded in 2007, Black Scale has really come into its own over the past year. Alfred De Tagle and MEGA started the brand as a sideline to their gigs at HUF. In fact, Hufnagel was MEGA's mentor in the street industry. By embracing dark colors and occult imagery from the beginning, the brand has integrated itself into the currently fashionable street goth aesthetic: its basics and their streetwear t-shirts are easily paired with designers such as Rick Owens. Black Scale's fan base has grown exponentially over the past year, thanks in part to the support of their most famous client to date, A$AP Rocky. According to the story, Rocky began wearing Black Scale after the brand opened with a store in New York City in 2011. And while their paths to stardom didn't quite run parallel, MEGA and Black Scale certainly benefited from Harlem MC's success.
24. RUSLAN KARABLINWho is he? Designer at SSUR.
While his "LIKE FUCKDOWN" design has made SSUR a household name, Russ' status as a member of the OG streetwear community is undisputed among the inner circles of cool guys. Born in the Soviet Ukraine, Russ grew up in Brooklyn as a Shawn Stüssy fan. He was an early adopter of Stüssy's graphic-based clothing, believing it to be the perfect way to showcase his work. This was only some time before the arrival of the subversive messaging, now synonymous with SSUR. For now, it's almost impossible not to see an SSUR outfit clogging up a Tumblr or Instagram feed - whether it's a parody Rolex t-shirt or a collab. But those aren't his only claims to fame: the SSUR "Ne Blatuy" t-shirt is legendary.
23. MATTHEW WILLIAMSWho is he? Designer & Co-Founder, #been #trill
Matthew Wiliiams, art director and one of his #been #trill cohorts, is behind the striking visuals of artists like Lady Gaga and Kanye West, and is often found in streetwear. Case in point: their popular collaboration with Stussy, which validated the faux neo-dada movement. Other projects include album cover design and video direction, namely the polarizing Hood by Air Spring / Summer 2013 video lookbook, which exploits the dark, high-fashion inspired look he championed. This diversity of skills makes him someone who is currently instrumental in the direction and aesthetics of fashionable gear.
22. KARL HEINZ-MULLERWho is he? CEO at Bread & Butter
How do your favorite streetwear brands buy their products in stores around the world, season after season? Well, partly thanks to people like Karl Heinz-Muller, founder of Bread and Butter Berlin. Despite the global economic downturn, B & B continues to grow and currently hosts over 600 brands per season. Without this massive show, it would be infinitely more difficult to give smaller streetwear brands a presence in new markets.
21. KEITH HUFNAGELWho is he? Founder at HUF.
Skateboarder Keith Hufnagel's semi-named collection, HUF was founded in 2002 and has maintained its notoriety ever since. Hufnagel remains one of the most prominent and authentic contributors to streetwear, perhaps due to his pro-skater roots and more recently the label's endorsement by Odd Future. While Odd Future's fame has certainly helped spread HUF across America and abroad, its members are only a small sample of the fans who have contributed to HUF's years of success.
It is this success that has earned the label collaborations with Converse, Nike and Jansport. Although HUF has moved away from retail - closing popular stores in Los Angeles and San Francisco - it maintains a strong wholesale business and has expanded into new areas, such as a line of streetwear shoes. Year after year, the brand comes up with solid offerings such as its nearly ubiquitous "Plantlife" socks and hats. Huf values skate culture over clothing trends, which is why it has maintained its integrity for so long.
20. MATT GEORGEWho is he? Founder of United Front.
While Matt George is a name you may not be familiar with, you've definitely seen his work. The Canadian designer is the talented mind behind retail spaces like Nomad, Stüssy Toronto and Goodfoot. The sneakers he creates under the Ransom by adidas brand are some of the most beautiful collaborations ever. It is these frequent small projects that increase his influence on streetwear. Yet, most know him for his role as a creative consultant to Kanye West, where he helped Yeezy develop his womenswear collection as well as the now defunct Pastelle line.
19. AARON LEVANTWho is he? Founder of Agenda.
If you're a streetwear or action sports brand looking to expand your reach, then go Agenda. Founded in 2003 as a modest trade show consisting of 30 brands, Agenda now boasts over 300 brands with shows set up around the world. Aaron's unwavering dedication to quality, while always giving new labels their fair share of respect, has led to Agenda's success as the premier streetwear trade show.
18. ROB GARCIAWho is he? Designer at En Noir.
Rob Garcia proposed to MEGA as a designer for Black Scale, but it was his new company, En Noir, that got him noticed. Launched in 2012, capitalizing on the baroque themes ubiquitous in streetwear and high fashion over the past year, he found instant fans among celebrities and style junkies. En Noir is unique because it falls in that gray area between fashion and streetwear, especially since some of the clothes are extremely expensive for people used to buying graphic t-shirts ($1,000 leather shorts anyone?). That being said, Rob's reputation in streetwear and the current popularity of En Noir means he knows what he's doing.
17. NICK BOWERWho is he? Head designer at Stussy.
Nick Bower is part of a strong team of designers such as Art Director Adam Jay Weissman and Brand Manager Fraser Avey, who make Stussy the center of streetwear today. Nick studied at the prestigious Central Saint Martins in London, which includes designers like Christopher Kane and Alexander McQueen. He went on to work with Valentino and Versace before his love of surfing took him to California.
At Stüssy, he designs everything from T-shirts to caps, and was instrumental in creating Stüssy Deluxe, introducing a high-end line to accompany the ubiquitous streetwear brand and a new generation of customers. Quality was the goal rather than relevance, and he continues to be an integral part of the local team that helps Stüssy do what they do best: create classic clothing in their own way, while cultivating a massive, yet totally organic customer base.
16. ERIN MAGEEWho is she? Founder of MadeMe.
As Supreme's director of production, Magee oversees the production of everything from camp hats to streetwear hoodies to woven shirts and pants. That means the quality we've all come to expect from Supreme rests largely in her hands. In 2007, Magee launched her own brand, MadeMe, where she creates quality streetwear for women that reflects her menswear-inspired style. As the owner of MadeMe, she has collaborated with Schott, Vans and Stüssy. Make no mistake: she's not only one of the most influential women in streetwear, she also gives everyone else in the industry a real run for their money.
15. ERIK BRUNETTIWho is he? Founder of FUCT.
20 years later, FUCT continues to have a lasting impact on the streetwear world. His name alone is responsible for the use (or misuse) of the F-word in streetwear, but counterculture themes are only part of what makes Erik Brunetti a great artist and FUCT a great brand. Brunetti's relentless authenticity to himself as a person and as an artist has been a constant in his work and what has kept him relevant all these years later. In an interview with Hypebeast, Brunetti said, "To stay relevant in this industry, you have to do things on your own terms." Clearly, he is doing just that.
14. VIRGIL ABLOHWho is he? Designer at Pyrex Vision.
Despite the criticism of his latest collection, one thing is undeniable: it sold out instantly. Thanks to his close ties to rappers like Kanye West and A$AP Rocky, Virgil's work has reached astronomical demand. He's also part of Matthew Williams' #been #trill cohorts, a troupe that has worked for streetwear heavyweights like Stüssy and high-fashion places like Milk Studios. While it's too early to talk about his lasting influence, there's no denying that Virgil is a figure to watch as the line between streetwear and high fashion continues to blur.
13. CHRIS GIBBSWho is he? Head of UNION Los Angeles.
Since his early days in the legendary SoHo retail scene, when Stüssy, Union and Supreme ran the shit, Chris Gibbs has learned his trade from the best. And since then, he's become his own taste. Remember when visvim was only available in Japan? American fans rejoiced when UNION LA began stocking the legendary Japanese label. Chris' remarkable talent for style and understanding of trends is a big part of what made UNION LA such a success. Today, Gibbs remains a leader in finding new quality labels such as US Alteration, Tantum and Anachronorm. He basically finds all the favorite brands on blogs before the internet.
12. RONNIE FIEGWho is he? Founder of KITH.
The cult shoe designer also runs one of New York's best up-and-coming brands. Sure, the store always stocks Ronnie's latest sneaker collaboration, whether it's with Supra, Asics, Doc Martens or Puma, which according to Matt Halfhill of Nice Kicks, makes Ronnie one of the most influential people in sneakers right now. But Kith also makes quality clothing and collaborates with top talent. From day one, he's managed to get coveted apparel like a leopard print varsity on celebrities like Justin Bieber, and now he's stepped up his game with products from his brands like BWGH and legacy brands like Harris Tweed.
11. NICK TERSHAYBetter known as Nick Diamond, 2012 was the year Diamond Supply Co. went from another Fairfax skate brand to one of the most popular brands on the market. Whether it was industry heavyweight Karmaloop or high-end collabs with stores like KNWN and celebrity co-signs Kanye West and Curren $ y, Diamond Supply Co. made some power moves this year. Their apparel game has evolved considerably, for example, the ripstop camo pants that Complex staffers were thrilled with the quality and fit.
10. BOBBY HUNDREDSWho is he? Co-founder of The Hundreds.
Founded in 2003, Bobby and Ben Hundreds have since built a loyal business, with hard numbers to back it up. In 2008, Inc. magazine was expected to generate $4 million in revenue, a figure that has grown exponentially since. In addition to having a strong bi-coastal presence in Cali and New York, what's really holding up the discussion is the number they've generated online. In addition to the brand's popular blog, which provides a glimpse into Bobby's stream of consciousness, they've amassed a considerable number of followers on social platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.
9. EDDIE CRUZWho is he. Co-Founder of Undefeated.
In 2002, Eddie Cruz and James Bond started with Undefeated, a store specializing in athletic shoes, but quickly diversified. Since then, the only thing harder to find than a pair of limited edition sneakers at the store is someone who doesn't own at least one item from the Undefeated label. Today, Undefeated is one of the most well-known and respected streetwear brands on the market. It's achieved this through Eddie's expertise in the industry, a business he's acquired working for iconic brands like Supreme and Stüssy. Undefeated's consistent quality offerings and collaborations with brands like PUMA, as well as Cruz's occasional sneaker designs for Nike, show just how well the brand lives up to its unbeatable name. And with Eddie at the helm, that probably won't change anytime soon.
8. LEAH MCSWEENEYWho is she? Founder of Married to the MOB.
In 2004, streetwear was not only a male-dominated world, but women in the industry were harder to find than the latest limited edition sneakers. Nearly nine years later, women in streetwear are doing what they do and, in some cases, putting on the world's most respected brands. This evolution of gender roles in streetwear can be attributed in large part to the efforts of Leah McSweeney, founder of her label Married to the MOB in 2004. The brand's strength has always been combining female-centric graphics with a finger on the world.
To this day, Married to the MOB is one of the strongest and most diverse streetwear brands on the market and has inspired countless women's brands. She didn't do it alone though, with her sister Sarah McSweeney being one of the hottest girls in streetwear, and Futura offspring Tabitha McGurr providing the voice of the brand through her writing. With such a crew, Leah may hold the crown as the "ultimate queen" of streetwear.
7. HIROSHI FUJIWARA
Who is he? Founder and Designer at Fragment Design.
Being caught up in the daily whirlwind of limited edition streetwear copping makes it easy to forget how the limited edition culture began. While many think of the cult craze as something that started with James Jebbia and Supreme, the truth is that Hiroshi Fujiwara did it first. In 1993, he opened a store called Nowhere (with the help of a kid named Nigo), a place that helped establish the Japanese streetwear culture.
Fujiwara's role in the Tokyo chapter of the International Stüssy Tribe is what inspired him to create his first brand, GOODENOUGH in the late 1980s. Today, Fujiwara uses his elite reputation to deliver the highest quality products, from apparel to phones, under the Fragment Design brand, while collaborating with fellow legends, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Parker, on the Nike HTM series. While his reputation is what carries him, his consistency in quality results, combined with his lasting impact on streetwear, makes him an icon.
6. GEMO WONGWho is he? Senior Designer at Nike Sportswear.
Gemo Wong and the entirety of Nike Sportswear has been crushing it for years with products that no other streetwear brand is capable of. By rethinking what Nike is as a brand, they have not only taken sportswear out of the gym and onto the street, but they have also taken it into the future. They channeled old school manufacturing with the NSW Pinnacle collection, while championing technology in apparel like the 21st Century Windrunner. Gemo Wong and the NSW team have done an exceptional job of creating tech-inspired wearables that work great and look great. While Gemo was not personally involved, the Nike Sportswear and Undercover collaboration was one of the most creative and visually appealing capsule collections released in the past year. We're sure Gemo's talents will serve him well when he becomes Director of Energy Design at Jordan Brand later this year.
5. JEFFSTAPLEWho is he? Founder of Staple Design & Reed Space.
Since opening in 2003, Reed Space has become a New York streetwear institution. Owner jeffstaple not only launched his own in-house label, Staple Design, but also published the in-house magazine Reed Pages. His rise to streetwear stardom dates back to 2005, when Staple designed one of the most coveted Nike Dunks of all time, the "Pigeon Dunks." Since then, the Pigeon logo has clad both Staple Design apparel and a handful of other collaborative efforts, including a New Balance 575 sneaker and a Kangol 5-panel hat. As for Reed Space, the store carries some of the best streetwear brands on the market, such as FUCT, Acapulco Gold, Norse Projects, Fragment, Reigning Champ, Undefeated, and unnamed others. As a designer and curator of quality products, jeffstaple cannot be stopped. The combination of these two talents is what puts him in the top 5, where he should stay for years to come.
4. ANGELO BAQUESure, James Jebbia, founder of Supreme, deserves a spot on his own for keeping his brand relevant for nearly 20 years, but Angelo is the guy who defines the modern direction of Supreme. While they have always invested in a marketing-free strategy that relies on quality products and word of mouth to sell their products. This sub rosa approach has worked well in terms of keeping the brand in the right circles, but it certainly hasn't stopped the silly people from dumping the dough to save money.
Angelo's history as head of the new underground Nom De Guerre brand means he knows something about low-key marketing methods and keeping a brand relevant. If hype can indeed be explained as a mathematical equation involving notoriety, mystery and exclusivity, then Angelo seems to be an ace at making this shit a science.
3. GREG SELKOELove him or hate him, Greg Selkoe is the king of mass distributed streetwear. While some accuse Karmaloop of "killing streetwear" by taking it to the mainstream, others say he democratized the industry. Beyond graphic t-shirts and small brands, Selkoe knows how to turn a penny into diversified dollars - just look at his new ventures like PLNDR, Boylston Trading Co and Brick Harbour. He's even let smaller brands take a piece of his pie, thanks to Karmaloop's Kazbah consignment program. Whether he is hailed as a shrewd businessman or the biggest salesman in the game, it is clear that as long as Selkoe is the one running the ship, Karmaloop will continue to rake in the cash.
2. KEVIN MAIn 2005, Kevin Ma launched an online magazine dedicated to tracking the release of coveted athletic shoes. With a name built on somewhat belittling humor, Hypebeast quickly became a primary source of information for streetwear enthusiasts looking to find out when and where they could get their next sneaker fix. With 3 million unique views per month, Ma is arguably the most important person on the internet when it comes to deciding which streetwear brands are worth knowing. With an audience as large as Hypebeast's, one post can be enough to validate a brand's success.
Last year, Hypebeast not only launched a print magazine, but also an e-commerce store, diversifying the brand's reach while monetizing the products it champions. Hypebeast is a true game changer, downplaying the reach of brands and consumers and creating the kind of over-the-top atmosphere we rank in this list. Additionally, Hypebeast forums have served as schools of streetwear knowledge and trend fishing.
1. PHARRELL WILLIAMS
In 2005, Pharrell Williams leveraged his superstar status to create a BAPE-inspired collection of streetwear t-shirts, hoodies and sneakers. With Nigo as his mentor, Pharrell's involvement with his label runs much deeper than most star groups. He's more than the face of the brand, he sits in meetings, signs designs and runs a business. Although Nigo's BAPE line faltered and was eventually sold to I.T. Hong Kong Group in 2011, BBC remains privately held and independent.
In 2011, Jay-Z partnered with him to take the brand to the next level. From a collaboration with Palladium Boots that resulted in a post-earthquake exploration of Japan, to recruiting Complex Style man Mark McNairy next year to design the high-end Bee Line collection for billionaire Boys Club, to his role as creative director at KarmaloopTV, Williams not only has his finger on the pulse of streetwear and youth culture, but he remains the most prominent voice in the conversation.