Back Issue__ Leaders of the Pack: The Leading Ladies of Streetwear Unveiled

July 09, 2009 | By

illustrations by: Gillian Damborg

Playing poker requires finesse, restraint, foresight, and, in the immortal words of Kenny Rogers, knowing when to hold em, fold em, and precisely when to walk away. Considering that, this month's cover ladies are veritable card sharks. They bet on themselves, went all in, and came out on top of the deck.

Streetwear—if that’s what you want to call it, as many in the industry are beginning to disassociate themselves from the term—has exploded in the last five years. Brands that emerged out of tiny studio apartments with a few graphic tees are now multifaceted businesses—their gear reaching bare backs around the world. The men’s game exploded quickly but the women’s side of the industry was slower to realize. Initially neglected, ladies were left with the option of buying men’s tees and sneakers in small sizes and lacked an established community to call their own. Then suddenly, women’s brands started popping up, carving a place for women in streetwear.

Granted, today there are still more men’s brands, but the female labels represent the best of the best. As Leah from Married to the Mob says, ‘The men’s brands mostly (not all, but a lot!) look the same, but the female lines have their own look and feel. Pretty dope.’ This sentiment is echoed by Hellz Bellz founder and head designer, Lanie, who points out that her line is far more than merely a complement to menswear, noting, ‘We're not just the sister counterparts to the men’s streetwear brands. We're now able to stand on our own and become forces to be reckoned with.’

The four women of our cover are most certainly forces to be reckoned with. Each has blazed a trail and filled a void in different aspects of the culture they have come to dominate. Hearty presents, queens of the street fashion pack.

First up is legendary graffiti artist Claw Money, who has been bombing the streets for decades with her iconic paw with three claws. She was around when women were a rare breed in graf, and now also owns a clothing and accessories line.

Not only does our second feature femme run Married to the Mob, one of the biggest women’s streetwear lines, Leah McSweeney, also orchestrates a forum for women to speak their mind through the MOB Blog. ‘I grew up in NYC most my life. I drank 40s at the cube, went to Wash Square Park after clubs to continue the party, shopped on Lafeyette in 1995—this is where the “streetwear” culture grew from.’

Lanie Alabanza-Barcena, is the founder and creator of the other titan of women’s street clothing--Hellz Bellz. ‘I grew up in the culture. It's not something that I was fascinated by and jumped on the "streetwear" bandwagon,’ Lanie says.

Finally, on the retail side of things, Sarah from colette, buys for and operates one of the biggest streetwear boutiques in the industry. Her Paris store is a unique combination of skate shop, gallery, bookstore, and couture house. She consistently sets the mark for innovative, exclusive collaborations.

But pimpin’ ain’t easy. Not to mention the recession sucks. On the upside, the times have forced people to be more creative and flushed out brands that were coasting. Despite this, these ladies are still beating the house. All having been successful with their own unique personalities, not caring what others thought—their attitude’s are inspiring. ‘Do you!’ So the saying goes. These ladies did them, but in turn did something for all of us.

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