As I walk down the streets of Harlem with Dave Odum and Jean-Claude Francois, co-owners of Francois Duperval, there are sirens blaring, the commotion of kids who just got out of school, and the train passing over our heads. I can’t help but feel connected to street culture and my childhood. Maybe it’s the fact that Jean-Claude is wearing the brands “City Flyers Hockey Jersey” or how Dave paired the company’s “Aviation Bomber Jacket” with some classic Ray-bans that has me feeling like I’m in a throwback Naughty by Nature video. Either way, I am loving the vibes and I begin to reminisce about my youth…
See, I’m an 80s baby raised in the 90s and I feel like I got to witness some of the dopest eras growing up. As a result, I’ve grown to love some of the greatest art forms of those times. We had the best music, dances, TV shows, and of course, our style was on point. I was a bit of a tomboy. I grew up loving sports, rap, hopping fences(I still remember when I ripped my favorite skort, yes I said skort, trying to climb over a huge fence to get into a construction site). This, of course, led to my love of 90s fashion. The baggy clothes, hats, and athletic gear mixed with some slightly feminine touches matched my personality perfectly. The rise of urban brands and streetwear was undeniable.
Fast forward to present day, Francois Duperval is giving you that nostalgic feel with a modern twist, but one question remained, is it really fashion? And if it is, why don’t we see this type of fashion showcased during NYFW?
Dave and Jean-Claude will be the first to tell you their passion for fashion and starting this brand came from not being able to afford the “cool clothes back in the day”.
“Sewing tigers on my shirts, and alligators…you wanna see the inside, Huh, I’ll see you later.” ~ Notorious B.I.G.
Two young boys growing up, in completely different countries, shared the same desires. Coming up in an era big on name brands, it was hard to be seen as fashionable if your outfit didn’t feature some sort of logo. This fashion duo used their upbringing as a driving force to develop a brand that creates go to pieces for “the cool kids”. When asked about the brand they answered,
“Francois Duperval is a premier street fashion brand that embodies authenticity, style, street culture, art, and creative expression. We have timeless and innovative design that puts us at the forefront of emerging fashion”.
I couldn’t help but wonder how a brand could be on the forefront of emerging fashion, yet their style and function have little to no representation during fashions’ biggest events: New York Fashion Week.
Fashion is art and art can mean different things to different people, as well as serve different purposes. Francois Duperval purpose is to fill the void of a fly brand that is still affordable and attainable for everyone. Jean-Claude’s designs aren’t being worn to the Met Gala or the Academy Awards, but does that make it any less fashionable. I don’t think so! In fact, paying over $250K to have an official New York Fashion Week “show” would seem more off brand and almost like a sell-out. If I’m viewing a Francois Duperval collection, I expect to be in Brooklyn, in some dope warehouse that Vogue has yet to discover, with the modern day Basquiat, in attendance. I think that streetwear brands are even more relevant because they are an art form closer to the pulse of what the people want. You’re not wearing Givenchy and Fendi to your sons Pop-Warner game. Streetwear mimics the decline of formal dressing and the desire for practicality. Jean-Claude explains,
“Streetwear brands became a big thing because we weren’t seeing everything we wanted from other major brands so we created our own. For example, RocAwear, Fubu, Karl Kani and other brands creating their own lane without dealing with the standards of the fashion industry”.
So again, I ask, why is this type of fashion left out of NYFW?
Streetwear elements have been taken and mixed with high-fashion houses to birth concepts like Hood by Air. You have seen Shayne Oliver‘s ghetto aesthetics brought to Italian tradeshows. While you see all the foundations of streetwear in these emerging brands, like Hood by Air, these ‘luxury streetwear’ (is that an oxymoron?) brands do not want to be associated with the streets. Matthew Henson, Fashion Editor for Complex, expressed, “They are not streetwear brands. It’s a new genre. Its luxury sportswear and deserves to be labelled as such.” What’s wrong with being a streetwear brand? Francois Duperval proves that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a streetwear brand. When brands try to take elements of the street, but disassociate from the street, where is the authenticity?
If you are making something inspired by the streets and for the streets, it needs to thrive in the streets. New York City in and of itself is a real life, living runway. Any block, on any given day, is the runway for Francois Duperval. Streetwear’s existence came from the need to make its own lane in the fashion industry. It is important that brands like Francois Duperval hold true to that. The fact that the owners pride themselves on their brands diverse following of “streetwear connoisseurs, skaters, hip-hop heads, punks and young counter-culture” shows they aren’t looking to conform or go down the same traditional route of other designers. In fact, it is Francois Duperval core value to not to follow mainstream fashion trends. These things have been a crucial part of the brands’ success. It’s not about streetwear being “left out of NYFW.” Because with the popularity of fashion brands like Francois Duperval, they are already accomplishing what every NYFW designer could want. They are showcasing their designs to their ideal audience, and it is selling.