Redefining Streetwear: A More Conscious Urban Movement

It’s not just about the clothes or accessories, it’s a movement.

Cool beginnings

Some say streetwear owes its roots to LA’s skateboard and surf culture influenced by the rise of punk in the 1970s. While others claim it grew in popularity in the ‘90s around block parties – once a staple in the hip-hop scene.

Origins aside, one brand took these subcultures and transformed them into something tangible.[1] Shawn Stussy, a surfer from Laguna Beach, California, began designing t-shirts and shorts for locals, along with his surfboards, with a graffiti-influenced handwriting on them – eventually becoming the company’s logo.[2]

With time, the T-shirt shop grew into a phenomenon. The urban style and unconventional flair resonated with underground subcultures, taking inspiration from music and its icons. “Punk broke creative and aesthetic barriers and taught us that anyone could have a band. Rap pushed social boundaries and explored the ideas of remixing and sampling,” explains Stüssy’s website.[3]

This movement gave way to a new form of expression – and a platform for fashion – which appealed to creative youths around the world. Today, renowned artists like Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, and Drake continue to spread the authentic style.[4]

As the climate question accelerates, streetwear now faces a different type of movement: how will it fare against the rise of responsible fashion?


Big changes

Urban apparel tends to appeal to younger audiences, especially Gen Z and Millennial groups.[5] These generations are also the finest advocates for conservation with 7 out of 10 young shoppers willing to pay a higher price for sustainable goods.[6]

Such preferences are pushing streetwear companies to focus on greener practices, like opting for eco-friendly materials and packaging.[7] For example, the urban brand DEDICATED only uses Fairtrade and GOTS certified cotton, recycled polyester, and other types of natural fibers.[8]

Stark realities

However, offering eco-solutions through design is not enough. Industry experts push that street fashion commitments need to go deeper, demanding a more holistic approach.[9] This means challenging the speed at which streetwear brands produce apparel and the rate shoppers buy them. On average, people spend 5 times more per month on streetwear brands than non-streetwear attire – even though urban clothing accounts for just 10% of the entire fashion market.[10]

The upper echelon of urban fashion houses recognizes that shoppers are more interested in the value of the brand name, not the products. Some brands get it right by choosing transparency, breaking down the planetary cost of their clothes. Noah, an American streetwear brand, offers a behind-the-scenes look on the decision-making behind their garments and pricing strategy. This helps educate shoppers on the planet and human consequences of consumerism, aiming to shift the status quo.[11]


Grand visions

Other conscious urban brands go beyond greener manufacturing processes and customer education. Ashlea Atigolo, founder and creative director of London-based streetwear brand Ebyak, aspires to bring urban fashion back to its authentic origins through sustainability. “I wanted the brand to be a form of expression through a green and on-trend alternative,” the founder explains.[12]

To Ebyak this means producing vegan apparel, opting for GOTS certified organic cotton, and implementing circular design by repurposing manufacturing waste into organic cattle feed, and vegetable oils into outputs for the food industry.[13]

As designers push the boundaries of streetwear fashion towards greener endeavors, we can do our part to support them. Check out these 9 up-and-coming and responsible urban brands today.



[1] “The evolution of streetwear” | The Finery Report. Available at:

[2] “All About Stüssy” | Stüssy. Available at:

[3] “All About Stüssy” | Stüssy. Available at:

[4] “Defining Streetwear” | Strategy&. Available at:

[5] “5 Best Sustainable Streetwear Brands for Ethical Street Style” | TRVST. Available at:

[6] “Sustainable Retail: How Gen Z Is Leading The Pack” | Forbes. Available at:

[7] “Streetcare and Upcycled Vintage: 6 Trends Shaping Conscious Fashion” | Sourcing Journal. Available at:

[8] “Sustainable & Ethical Streetwear Brands Do Exist. Here Are Our Favorites.” | Ecocult. Available at:

[9] “Special Report: Streetwear Has A Sustainability Problem” | Highsnobiety. Available at:

[10] “Streetwear, The new exclusivity” | Strategy&. Available at:

[11] “How Noah is Changing the Sustainability Discourse” | Sole Savy. Available at:

[12] “Niche Streetwear Brands Join the Sustainable Conversation” | WWD. Available at:

[13] “Niche Streetwear Brands Join the Sustainable Conversation” | WWD. Available at:


Author: Naomy Gmyrek