How has the livelihood of women changed over the last 50 years? Well, in a society still widely believed to favour their male counterparts, there are those who feel encouraged by certain initiatives that bestow sexual parity between both men and women, yet at the same time, aren’t quite ready to celebrate gender equality in its truest form. The #MeToo movement, for instance, has been one of the most productive tools put in place to help leverage justice against men who have shamelessly leveraged personal clout and capital over members of the opposite sex. When else has there been a time in recent memory when a woman’s word was good enough to take down powerful figureheads and corporate conglomerates alike?
More so than just a spirited call to action, such crusades as the aforementioned #MeToo movement act as a stern reminder for men to champion women in a manner equal to that of their own. With that said, how do we as individuals and together as a global collective ensure our mothers, grandmothers, sisters and wives are being treated fairly? Although, difficult to answer at this point in time, specific events, such as Women’s History Month teach us the importance of preaching patience, equality, and respect for females worldwide. Initially viewed as a socialist movement devised to help improve feeble working conditions, WHM has since spawned into a global phenomena, doing well to cast a spotlight on gender uniformity. And now, with Women’s History Month now upon us, we thought it only right to pay homage to a group of ladies who continuously push progressive street culture beyond the outer rings of tedious convention.
In what seems like another lifetime ago, Chitose Abe first absorbed the innate sensibilities of the high-fashion world as a pattern cutter for Rei Kawakubo’s COMME des GARÇONS imprint. Her journey eventually led her to Junya Watanabe, where the artist honed her skills as a gifted design ace, before striking out on her own to introduce sacai. Today, Abe’s own label sits at the forefront of modern urbanity—positioned comfortably at the crossroads between avant-garde couture and casual streetwear. Since first breaking out onto the scene 20 years ago, sacai has consistently churned out collections that resonate with style aficionados far and wide, including some noteworthy collaborations alongside such heavyweights as Nike, Dr. Woo, A.P.C. and Beats by Dre, amongst a handful of others.
American photographer and film director, Cindy Sherman, has captured the imagination of art pundits since the ‘70s, most notably through her awe-inspiring still shots. Sitting atop her laundry list of accomplishments is her landmark photograph series, “Complete Untitled Film Stills.” The award-winning artist unleashed a barrage of black-and-white photos that sought to supplant the many stereotypes cast on women within the media. Sherman shot images of herself mimicking Bmovie film actresses, scoffing at gender partisanship while promoting a body of work that extended beyond the arches of shallow aesthetics. As of late, Sherman’s work has found ways to imprint present-day streetwear, boasting collaborative projects with some of the industry’s most notable players. In 2017, Supreme unveiled a set of skate decks littered with her portraits, with other images making the cut a year later in one of UNDERCOVER’s most memorable capsules.
Initially starting off as a menswear shirting brand, Martine Rose and her eponymous label have successfully struck a chord with distinguished gentlemen, fashioning avant-garde pieces that play with silhouette and style structure in the most creative of ways. The British-based designer was a child of London’s rave & reggae scenes of the late ‘90s and credits the city’s conformity to both subcultures as inspirational touch points. Parallel to her innovative design language was the way in which Rose chose to communicate her vision, opting to showcase many of her collections outside of the industry’s rigid calendar. Earlier in her career, the artist’s unconventional approach to fashion shows led to the unveiling of select seasonal ranges in nightclubs, rock climbing centres and outdoor markets.
Yoon Ahn is regarded as a style icon who is revered the world over for her multifaceted approach to the arts. The budding creator studied graphic design at the University of Boston, which she later parlayed into a stint designing album cover art for a handful of Tokyo-based hip-hop artists. Alongside her husband, Verbal, the duo introduced their first couture jewellery line called Antonio Murphy & Astro in 2004 before giving way to AMBUSH in 2008. Today, the latter is celebrated as a powerhouse fashion imprint whose catalog of eccentric accessories quickly grew to include garments that stylistically intersect creative freedom with functional competence. Personal projects aside, Yoon has recently been added to the Dior Homme team as the house’s resident jewellery expert under Kim Jones’s artistic regime.
Under the watchful eye of Virgil Abloh and Don C., Aleali May cut her teeth learning the ins and outs of the highly-competitive fashion world via the duo’s legendary RSVP Gallery. May’s stint in the ever-evolving retail sector opened the doors to other avenues within the industry, later emerging as a well-informed style consultant to such heavyweights as Lil Yachty and Kendrick Lamar. The Los-Angeles-area native then moved on to modelling and has since hit several Fashion Week catwalks for some the biggest names in the game, including Samuel Ross’ ACOLD-WALL* and Ronnie Fieg’s KITH. 2017, however, marked a momentous year, not only for May herself, but for the larger sneaker collective alike with her commemorative Air Jordan 1 design. Aleali May is officially recognised as the second women to link up with Jordan Brand and the first to release both men’s and women’s sizing for the iconic brand.
Unlike the fellow contemporaries on this list, Ava Nirui broke into the style landscape, creating bootleg merch that respectfully paid tribute to couture fashion’s few and far between. Reaching beyond the prototypical graphic hoodie and branded T-shirt, the gifted artist, instead, carved out her own lane, reworking everyday household objects, such as wallets, asthma inhalers and cigarette cases into bespoke pieces of art. Ironically enough, Nirui’s unique skill set caught the watchful eye of Marc Jacobs, who later hired the artist to create custom “Mark Jacobes” hoodies. Outside of Nirui’s ability to create lies a background built on a sound writing and photography foundation, making her the all but obvious choice for Helmut Lang, as the house’s acting digital editor.
Lina Iris Viktor
Raised in London to Liberian parents, Lina Iris Viktor spent time traversing the globe as a child, doing well to absorb each region’s artistic points of difference. Viktor can best be described as a conceptual artist who operates on a cross-functional plane, marrying elements of photography, performance movement, and paint with one another to forge a style that stands apart from all other creative contemporaries. Boasting a methodology governed as much by feel as is by science and the natural world surrounding her, Viktor’s oeuvre is one that borrows cues from hermetic philosophies, mathematic principles and the holy divine. Masterful works aside, the artist openly shares her knowledge and is known to have participated in panel discussions at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Harvard University and New York University, amongst others.
Originally from Newark, New Jersey, Barbara Kruger studied at New York’s Parson’s School of Design, which eventually led to graphic design gigs for several big name lifestyle publications, including House and Garden and Mademoiselle Magazine. However, the artist found her true calling as a conceptual artist, often devising thematic collages that encourage specific social commentary. Black-and-white photos borrowed from pre-existing publications were often paired alongside declarative captions that wrestle with cultural constructions of power, identity, and sexuality. As far as streetwear enthusiasts are concerned, Kruger’s name is often mentioned in the same breath as Supreme, with founder, James Jebbia, acknowledging that the brand’s iconic box logo was in fact created in the image of Kruger’s work.