Streetwear brands have long been distributed outside the U.S., but as the category expands, the demand is growing internationally. After 27 years in business, for example, Union, the men’s shop based in Los Angeles owned by Chris Gibbs, opened a Tokyo store through a franchise partnership with Jacks Inc., and Alife, which relaunched this year, is planning on reopening its Tokyo store.
In the Middle East, particularly Dubai, streetwear labels and athletic companies are seeking to take advantage of Dubai’s popular mall culture — Nike recently opened a 35,400-square-foot store at the Dubai Mall, for example. And brands including Adidas, Kappa and Herschel are utilizing platforms such as Sole DXB, an annual footwear, music, art and lifestyle festival that takes place in the Dubai Design District each December, to have a presence in the area.
“It’s a meaningfully smaller market and we’ve had to figure out how we get brands to pay attention to the region, but that’s started to change over the last three years,” said Rajat Malhotra, a partner at Sole DXB. “Because we are all-consuming the same media, the market is interested in the same brands, and brands are releasing larger drops.”
Brands are beginning to understand that it’s not enough to simply plop a store in a particular region. They must tailor their offering to the market. Stadium Goods, which was recently acquired by Farfetch, partnered with Tmall’s Alibaba and participated in its Singles Day shopping event. Stadium Goods also uses a site that’s in full Mandarin and works with local Chinese talent on weekly live broadcasts.
Not tapping into markets abroad can have detrimental impacts. While Supreme has stores in Japan, the company has never set up shop in China, and Samsung unveiled a collaboration with Supreme Italia which, unlike Supreme, has the authorization to sell products under its name in the Asia-Pacific region — Supreme tried to fight Supreme Italia with a counterfeit case but lost. Whether the collaboration with Samsung will go through is still up in the air, but the plan was to help the company open stores in China.
On the other side, customers want newness from lesser-known international brands. M + RC Noir, a streetwear brand that’s now based in the U.K. but started out as a secret store in Paris, was one of the most sought after brands at last year’s ComplexCon. Ralph Lauren opted to work with London-based company Palace on a collaboration collection and Puma has partnered with South Korean brand Arder Error on a capsule collection.
As streetwear looks for more opportunities to grow without losing exclusivity, entering other regions in a meaningful way that speaks directly to that customer will become increasingly important.