No category is argued to have disrupted the fashion industry more than streetwear. Media further indulges its relevance by consecrating creative directors, as brands strive to tap youth culture and further their digital strategy. In a comprehensive report released today, Hypebeast and PwC Consulting’s “Strategy&” probed further into the streetwear market.
The “Streetwear Impact Report” attracted a total of 40,960 consumer survey responses to inform the results, distributed in multiple languages, including English, French, Korean and Japanese, leveraging Hypebeast’s global audience. The report includes industry insight, as well as interviews with industry thought-leaders including one of Japan’s first hip-hop DJs, sometimes called the “godfather of Harajuku fashion,” Hiroshi Fujiwara; Rimowa chief executive officer Alexandre Arnault; contemporary artist Daniel Arsham, and StockX ceo and cofounder, Josh Luber.
The State of Streetwear
The majority of respondents were mainly Gen Z consumers, with 33.9 percent, aged 16 to 20, and 28.9 percent, aged 21 to 25. The dominant nationality was Korean, trailed by Chinese and American respondents, likely attributed to the dominant readership of the publication.
Divided into four main categories, the intent of the report is to detail streetwear’s cultural significance and consumer behavior as it relates to streetwear, while also dissecting communication nuances and the fabric of streetwear’s direct-to-consumer relationship model. It is authored by Enrique Menendez and Dr. Axel Nitschke.
“Measuring Streetwear” fleshes out the consumer attributes, defining key consumer spending habits and regional insights. South Korean and Chinese respondents reported the highest average monthly spend on streetwear, but Japanese consumers reported the highest average spend per product. Pricing for the category, by consumer demand, relays a price range of $100 to $300, with respondents reporting spending 5x more per month on streetwear than non-streetwear fashion goods. Of the most desirable goods in the category, sneakers earn the majority vote, or 62 percent, edging out T-shirts, hoodies and accessories.
The report also welcomed individuals to self-report as “nonbinary,” reflecting Gen Z’s growing preference for inclusivity, wherein these consumers reported a “significantly higher average spend than female and male” consumers. Gender-neutral brands such as The Phluid Project, TillyandWilliam and OneDNA are spearheading the unisex trend, while even celebrities — Kanye West’s Yeezy line — to fashion houses: Off-White in launching its unisex capsule collection “For All” last January, have capitalized on a growing demand.
Like the cultural icon and featured interviewee in the report, Hiroshi Fujiwara, musicians are the “most credible” figures in streetwear. Fujiwara worked with Louis Vuitton’s men’s artistic director Kim Jones on a range of ready-to-wear items, shoes, accessories and four limited-edition versions of the brand’s Monogram Eclipse bags released at a Tokyo pop-up in 2016, with consumers — or rather, fans — lining up two hours before open, as reported in WWD. The consumer respondents may have very well stood in that line, as half reported a willingness to wait in line for a product release. One cannot mention product releases without nodding to its origins.
While Supreme ushered in “the drop” Stateside, the distribution model originated in the Nineties among the vertical Japanese streetwear brands, such as A Bathing Ape, Neighborhood and Goodenough. With stores in New York, London, Paris and Japan, James Jebbia’s Supreme and its signature red box logo skated away with the idea and ever since, more have followed leveraging scarcity, transparency (sometimes operationalizing true market pricing, as in the case of streetwear marketplaces such as StockX) and limited production to create high demand. More than half, or 53 percent of consumer respondents indicated a physical brand store as the chief touchpoint to purchase streetwear products, indicating a move away from multichannel retail. With frequent and limited releases, “retailers can lure in consumers time and time again,” even if the digital user experience or store environment is lacking.
For those who missed the drop, resale marketplaces such as StockX, Grailed and others exist to service the customer. A majority of respondents, or 70 percent, said they bought no more than a quarter of their items through resale, meaning a third of consumers are buying at least a third of their items exclusively through resale. While active resellers make up a minority of the respondents, there is still a choice: wait in line or pay a premium.
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“The ultimate driving force behind streetwear is its spirit,” whereby streetwear evolves organically — always gripping the pavement to ensure community, authenticity and rejection of conventional norms keep the movement grounded. Taking root in key pop cultural shifts indoctrinated by pop artists of the Sixties, street artists of the Seventies and hip-hop artists of the Ninetiess, streetwear is cool. The majority of consumer respondents, or 70 percent, when asked why they liked streetwear: “because it’s cool.” Social media helped entrench the guiding values of streetwear, with online communities developing on forums, such as Sole Collector or BapeTalk, but few consumers (or 31 percent) report a brand’s social media presence as an important factor in streetwear relevance. More important? Social issues and a sense of connection to the brand.
“I believe that knowledge is the cultural currency,” said Huan Nguyen, vice president of brand partnerships at Hypebeast. “That the more you know, the cooler you are. It’s very simple.” Nguyen spoke at WWD’s Men’s Wear Summit in April, outlining the intersection of streetwear and luxury as it pertains to Hypebeast’s readers. With creative leadership under the likes of Virgil Abloh and Demna Gvasalia, luxury and streetwear are synonymous for “cool.”
Tracing origins of streetwear, the report declares the current state of streetwear as operating in four categories: original streetwear (Supreme, BAPE, Stüssy and newcomers such as Palace), sportswear (Adidas, Nike), adopted streetwear (those which incorporate streetwear trends) and luxury streetwear (Off-WhiteTM, Ambush and Vetements). But as streetwear conventions such as ComplexCon have shown with its surging attendance (60,000, for 2018, up from 50,000 the previous year), according to ComplexCon event director Neil Wright, the category is still transcending without losing touch with its origins.
For retailers and brands to understand the streetwear market, keep on the ground and don’t miss the drop.