A major retail and fashion trend to emerge in recent years is streetwear, which consists largely of footwear, T-shirts, and other items that bypass traditional retail channels and are produced, promoted, sold and resold online.
It is common for customers to rally via social media to be the first to buy products only available directly from the brand, whether in-store or online. Consumers and streetwear brands form a tight-knit, almost cult-like relationship due to the anticipation of a limited time to buy.
Since the 1980s and 1990s, streetwear has grown from being an eye-catching fashion phenomenon that was inspired by counter-cultures such as graffiti, hip-hop, skate and surf into a multi-billion dollar industry. Some of the most iconic, established brands in the retail and luxury goods sectors, as well as the fashion industry overall, are taking notice of streetwear's impact on retail culture and the numbers involved.
The streetwear industry includes a wide range of players. Streetwear brands like Supreme and Stüssy specialize in streetwear, while sportswear brands like Nike develop their traditional sports equipment portfolio into cool, hip sneakers and hoodies for streetwear. The luxury brand sector is also working hard to gain a significant foothold in streetwear.
This is largely due to its ability to reach a new generation of consumers. Young people make up the majority of streetwear's audience: mostly under 25. Second, streetwear has subverted how fashion trends have taken off, which is why established brands are interested in it. As a rule, fashion has operated on a top-down model, with insiders serving as gatekeepers for upcoming styles. Streetwear has reversed this.
Industry insiders and customers have equal power in determining what's cool. High prices do not confer exclusivity or desirability, but scarcity and insider knowledge do. Essentially, streetwear has reinvented how "cool" is made profitable. In addition, streetwear's democratic values are increasingly shared by all consumers, for whom peer opinions are becoming increasingly influential. In light of this, it is no wonder that fashion brands are embracing streetwear. One of the most prominent examples of this collaboration is Louis Vuitton's work with Supreme and its appointment of Off-White founder Virgil Abloh to lead Louis Vuitton's menswear collection.
Streetwear is expected to grow well even though there are some dark clouds forming over the retail sector due to concerns about a worldwide economic recession. We have looked at how brands might participate in the streetwear sector and succeed in light of this environment. For success, it is important to keep in mind five factors: authenticity, scarcity, democracy, affordability, and activity that is smoothly integrated online and offline.
FIVE STREETWEAR WINNING STRATEGIES
Most fashion labels struggle to remain relevant by periodically redefining themselves. Streetwear is successful because it stays loyal to its roots. However, in order to attain this ageless appeal, businesses must show authenticity and live up to the extremely high standards established by streetwear's youthful, affluent clients. Consumers of streetwear believe that brand activism and social justice campaigns are significant to them.
How can businesses, especially ones without any prior ties to the cultural forces that shape streetwear, claim to be authentic?
- Emphasize your background, share your narrative, build on what you truly believe in, and invest in distinctive qualities to define your brand. In a congested digital space, developing an authentic brand purpose is essential for reaching people. There is a decent probability of success if you can utilize technology to break in and then present a tale that people will find interesting.
- Pay attention to what your customers are saying, act promptly, and regularly review how new items and promotions compare to what customers anticipate from your brand's history and reputation.
- Establish connections with genuine artists and innovators in the fields of fashion, art, music, and sustainability so that you may innovate together. Hip-hop and graffiti are still very much a part of the cultural roots of streetwear. According to our poll, people were more likely to trust sources from the music business, modern musicians, and industry insiders than they were to believe celebrities, athletes, or social media influencers. Therefore, rather than aiming for superficial marketing through professional influencers, businesses should forge significant connections with real inventors and producers in these industries.
- Provide evidence of your dedication to subjects like sustainability and the circular economy to demonstrate that your words are backed up by your deeds. Adidas, for instance, unveiled the first running shoe that is completely recyclable earlier this year, calling the shoes "a signal of our resolve to take responsibility for the whole life of our product."
In contrast to the luxury market, where exclusivity is mostly driven by high pricing, streetwear is primarily driven by limited supply. Brands need to comprehend and manage the dynamics of restricted supply in this industry, starting with the drops model.
New mainstream fashion collections are frequently not disclosed at all outside of the retailer's usual promotion; high fashion goods or collections are typically first displayed to the public in runway shows. However, streetwear pioneered a brand-new method of product distribution known as drops. On the designated day, customers line up outside the brand's store and are let in in groups. People are only allowed to spend 15 minutes in the store and can only purchase a total of six goods.
By allowing well-known individuals to wear their items, brands may increase demand prior to a decline. Before the official release, personalized versions of Virgil Abloh's "The Ten" sneaker collection by Off-White and Nike were given to famous people like basketball player Michael Jordan, musician Drake, and model Naomi Campbell.
In a previous innovation, Nike created the SNKRS lottery in 2015, which selected participants at random from those who signed up for a new drop and assigned them a slot that allowed them to buy the shoe. Nike was able to have the type of direct relationship with its customers that many fashion businesses yearn for, both for brand awareness and sales reasons, by making the new product scarce, enhancing its demand, and only accessible from Nike directly. When done right, drops provide businesses the chance to gain momentum and actively direct demand to outpace supply.
This method of creating scarcity boosts marketing and demand for specific items. Companies using the drops model for the first time might invest in predictive analytics to simulate demand and supply in order to create scarcity without running the danger of producing too little of a popular product. A thriving resale market, another distinctive aspect of streetwear, is likewise driven by scarcity. For instance, in summer 2019, Supreme box-logo crewnecks that initially cost $158 resale for at least $500.
A significant indicator of a brand's success is resale value: the higher the demand and resale price, the more scarce the product is. So, how can players manage scarcity in a proactive manner?
- Streamline the direct-to-consumer model, which the larger fashion industry has been frantically trying to crack for both sales and communication. Adopt drops because they have been shown to be a successful method of generating demand.
- Recognize how the mechanics of resale may impact your pricing strategy and amount of supply.
- Invest in data analytics and consumer-facing and back-office technologies to forecast demand and actively direct supply.
Streetwear is characterized by the democratization of influence, with businesses and industry insiders actively responding to customers, primarily those under the age of 25. Streetwear is a fantastic fit for social media because of its consistent supply of new items, reasonable price point, and look that is based on the actual world rather than the runway. Before social media platforms like Facebook existed, streetwear enthusiasts formed online forums in the early 2000s to debate trends and labels that were not covered by major fashion publications. Currently, Instagram is the most popular platform, with 96 percent of the respondents to our poll utilizing it to research streetwear.
Consumers no longer have to rely on what businesses or publications advise them to wear because they can now poll their peers' opinions via their own social media profiles. The biggest hurdle to entrance for fashion firms, though, is becoming accepted by the "in crowd" that is driven by consumers. No matter how trendy their product is, firms without a streetwear background find it difficult to connect with customers since these people have a strong admiration for the brands that have been around for a while. Who succeeds in streetwear is determined by the support of the crowd.
What can businesses do to appeal to them, then?
- Instead of using the conventional, top-down strategy of instructing your customers what to wear, engage them in co-creation. For instance, participants in a New York gathering called "Off Campus" to introduce Abloh and Nike's "The Ten" line were able to modify and chop up pairs of sneakers in a pop-up shop.
- To maintain a continual discussion, use both cutting-edge and time-tested methods of communication with customers, both online and offline.
- Partner with an authentic streetwear player to gain acceptance, gradually enter the market, provide existing customers with a new kind of "cool," and establish your own credibility.
- Use the history of your brand to demonstrate your right to compete and succeed in the streetwear space (Balenciaga, for example, has successfully grown a streetwear business from its luxury roots). The first Supreme x Louis Vuitton collaboration, which debuted in the summer of 2017, marked a turning point in the perception of streetwear in luxury design.
Although affordability has helped a handful of tiny firms producing stylish T-shirts grow into a multibillion dollar industry, scarcity may be what gives streetwear its cachet. With limited resources, young customers give priority to the brands they adore.
Versatility is another aspect of affordability. Sales of streetwear are driven by footwear, which customers believe they are most likely to purchase. Today's sneakers, like the other streetwear essentials, T-shirts and hoodies, can be worn all year long and with a wide range of various outfits and scenarios. They also have a far longer lifespan than other fashion goods.
It's crucial for companies to flourish that customers see their goods not just as inexpensive commodities but also as works of art that they like. Then how do they approach this?
- To determine price, consider the geographic disparities and purchasing habits of your clients.
- Reward your devoted target audience instead of going for wealthy individuals. Instead of charging hefty costs, using drops makes streetwear more accessible to those who love it. Customers are more inclined to stay loyal to a brand and make direct purchases rather than going through resale sites if they believe the costs are reasonable.
- Provide a variety of goods, such as sneakers, t-shirts, and hoodies. It is not necessary to provide a vast variety of styles. You may control expenses and accelerate with the aid of a straightforward portfolio. A small selection of wearable shoes, T-shirts, and hoodies that customers desire to wear for more than one fashion season is all that successful streetwear businesses require. Include both designs intended to be mainstays and a select few "big bang" designs to catch people's attention.
Social media and streetwear have developed together. The mismatch between the significance of an online presence for marketing purposes and actually making a purchase, however, is a distinctive element of streetwear. Customers prefer to purchase streetwear straight from a company at one of their physical stores or online. Everything else is referred to as "Plan B".
The streetwear business model, which makes items available for a short period of time in certain locations, is what encourages customers to visit the company's physical store. Successful streetwear firms, however, focus on providing a seamless connection between their offline and online platforms.
Customers want to experience the excitement of co-creating their own shoes at a pop-up store or waiting outside the brand's main store for a drop. However, people find out about these events via interacting with the brand and other websites online. Brands may reduce the amount they spend on conventional top-down marketing initiatives if they successfully integrate their web information with offline sales channels. Instead, they might concentrate on gaining more genuine followers to solidify their position as a streetwear player.
So how can businesses assure a flawless connection?
- Invest in the appropriate front-end IT and data solutions so you can use data to respond to customers and stay current, rather than just "broadcast" to them.
- Create personal relationships online, primarily for information, communication, and inspiration, and utilize it as a two-way conduit to experiences in the real environment to promote customer centricity both online and offline. Make offline interactions with people primarily for experiences, developing relationships, and making purchases. Branded physical storefronts are where most sales are made.
- Reevaluate the variety, timing, and volume of your product offerings in your shop to increase attractiveness, reduce markdowns, and create a more sustainable idea with less waste.
- Reevaluate how your marketing team interacts with target audiences, other internal processes, and how marketing expenditures are used.