Collaborations are the bedrock of streetwear, and as the category has swelled in popularity and inched its way into every corner of retail, brands, specifically luxury ones, have spent most of 2017 attempting to capitalize on the frenzy.
Louis Vuitton’s partnership with Supreme caused the most noise — so much so that the product never made its way to New York City. Shortly after that, Burberry worked with Gosha Rubchinskiy on a capsule collection he previewed alongside his spring 2018 show in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In the past, the streetwear consumer would have viewed these associations as selling out, but Brendon Babenzien, the founder of Noah and former creative director at Supreme, said today’s shopper fully accepts and expects it.
“They are open to it now more than ever,” said Babenzien. “I think we’ve gone further and further into this idea that ownership of stuff that’s expensive or exclusive or whatever is the best thing in the world.”
Babenzien expects these types of collaborations to continue, but in the second half of the year they will have to evolve. Here, WWD outlines the ways in which these partnerships are likely to morph:
More non-apparel brands working with streetwear companies
Different players from different industries are figuring out ways to work with streetwear brands. Ikea has turned its attention to the market and unveiled collaborations with Chris Stamp of Stampd, whose line will be available in 2018, and Virgil Abloh of Off-White, whose collection will be released in 2019.
“Ikea is a brand that’s known for creating home furnishing solutions and products for families with kids,” said Henrik Most Nielsen, the Swedish retailer’s creative director. “It’s important that we broaden and invite in younger generations and communicate with them.”
Even a television network is trying to harness the hype. HBO tapped streetwear brands including Carrots, Dee & Ricky and Alife to produce and release items tied to its hit series “Game of Thrones.” HBO will drop a different “Rep the Realm” capsule from a new brand throughout the season. Customers are instructed to leave #RepTheRealm in the comments section on the participating brand’s Instagram account for a chance to win the product as HBO uses the energy around streetwear to heighten engagement for the series.
“We identified streetwear culture as an art form we hadn’t explored, so we teamed up with seven designers that are huge fans of the show and could take its themes of power, reign, rise and fall and express them in their unique ways through fashion,” said Lucinda Martinez, senior vice president, HBO marketing. “We have seen an incredibly positive response to ‘Rep the Realm’ thus far. Fans have been enthusiastically participating in giveaways for these limited edition high-quality pieces.”
More event-based merchandise
Tour-related merchandise produced by companies including Bravado and The Thread Shop will also continue, but in order to maintain demand, these companies might opt to keep distribution more exclusive or event-based. In the past they released Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour merchandise in stores ranging from Barneys New York to Forever 21 and Bravado recently enlisted Heron Preston to create a capsule for Dave Chappelle’s residency at Radio City Music Hall. The product was only available to buy at the venue. Know Wave worked with MoMA PS1 on a line of T-shirts to celebrate Warm Up Radio’s 20th season. This merchandise was also only available to purchase at MoMA PS1.
More extensive partnerships
As brands realize how important these partnerships are, they will start to offer more creative license to the designers and artists they work with. Kanye West, who left Nike in 2013 to work with Adidas, spent a lot of time criticizing Nike for being too restrictive and not allowing him to release styles he created. Three years later, Adidas and West unveiled plans for Adidas + Kanye West, “a Yeezy-branded entity creating footwear, apparel and accessories for all genders across street and sport.”
Nike might have learned its lesson and asked Abloh, West’s friend and former creative director, to reinterpret 10 of its signature sneaker silhouettes. They will celebrate the launch of this collection with Nike Off Campus at 23 Wall Street in Manhattan on Sept. 6. The space will not only sell product but serve as a cultural learning environment. There will be a series of workshops with leading contemporary designers that will be open to the public.
Collaborations are driving the market and will remain important. They allow streetwear lines to scale without oversaturating the market with the same product, and they offer more established brands a platform to reach a younger consumer. But will customers get product fatigue or become so frustrated with the limited distribution that sometimes leaves them empty-handed?
Mike Camargo, a sneaker influencer, doesn’t think so and previously told WWD that the excitement around these alliances will remain.
“Yes, there are more kids complaining about it and they are more vocal, but for every kid that’s willing to be like, ‘I’m done dealing with this,’ there are five other kids who just turned 16 and say, ‘Yeah, I’m willing to deal with this,’” Camargo said. “This has been going on since I was a kid and it’s not going to stop.”
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