October 25, 2018 Full Contact

Credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Streetwear is the new subculture of fashion we should be paying attention to. Brands like Supreme and Vetements create limited-edition clothing lines, mostly for men, and have people waiting in lines for hours or even days just to get their hands on a new piece of clothing. Knowing the millennial consumer and the value of scarcity has catapulted brands like these to success. Now we’re left wondering what this means for the rest of retail.

What We Can Learn From the Impact of Streetwear on Retail
Source: Adweek

In this Adweek original, Nick Gardner speaks to managing director at Highsnobiety, Jeff Carvalho, about why streetwear brands have become so popular among young consumers. The driving factor is the “drop model” in which items “drop” on a certain day and sell out in a matter of minutes or hours. “The perceived scarcity of drops really just comes out of consumer demand. In some cases, there’s a product out there, especially with footwear, where consumers believe there is a shortage of that good but the truth is there’s just a massive demand,” says Gardner. Not only has the drop model proven successful in getting new consumers in the door, but it’s also a smart test bed for brands to gauge consumer interest.

Best Brands of 2018 (So Far)
Source: Complex

In this list of some of the most successful brands of 2018, we see an unexpected mix of original streetwear brands, big designer fashion houses, a sneaker behemoth, and even an aluminum suitcase company. What do they all have in common? They use the drop model. It goes to show how a slew of loyal followers combined with limited edition, one-of-a-kind releases can be a recipe for success for any brand in any retail space.
Before this year, not many people were thinking about Balenciaga, an old luxury fashion house. But, “in 2018, we’ve seen Gvasalia and his band of Balenciaga loyalists turn the tumorous Triple S into the new gold standard for chunky sneakers, bring iconic ‘90s dragon graphics back, make Matrix-like sunglasses mainstream again, and vault a $1,300 ‘T-shirt shirt’ to viral fame.” Some might think their latest releases are a little “out there”, but as Steve Dool puts it, “you have every right to deny the clothes themselves, but the impact? That’s undeniable.”

The Hype Machine: Streetwear and the Business of Scarcity
Source: BBC Capital

An in-depth look at all the factors contributing to the frenzy around streetwear brands, most notably “hypebeasts.” Damian Bowler describes these super-fans as “members of an entire subculture built around streetwear brands and getting access to the rarest products available.” But where does the hype start? Kyle Maiorano, a 20-year-old university student from upstate New York says, “The culture is about exclusivity. When people post Instagram selfies of themselves wearing these items, people get jealous and it just grows from there.” The exclusivity of streetwear is also responsible for the newly lucrative re-sale market. Maiorano himself claims to have made revenue of $200,000 last year reselling sneakers.
Given the amount of work it takes to stay tapped into this subculture, why do consumers keep coming back? Adam Alter, a marketing professor at NYU Stern School of Business says, “the beauty of fashion is that it’s conspicuous; everyone knows what you’re wearing, so if you’re wearing a scarce, fashionable product, you get the benefit of knowing privately that you own something scarce, but also the benefit of being able to show other people that you own a scarce product.”


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