Back in 2016 Hypebeast, an online media company and e-tailer with ‘sneakerhead’ origins shook up the fashion business world when it filed for an IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
This led up to the pivotal moment for streetwear to break into the mainstream in 2017. With the highly hyped and coveted Louis Vuitton X Supreme capsule drop and the Carlyle Group buying a stake in the Streetwear behemoth, effectively valuing Supreme at $1 billion, venture capitalists went into a tizzy looking for the next billion dollarbrand. With the inclusion of skateboarding in the Olympics from this year, brands at the intersection of skate and fashion have been sought out.
In a 2018 report, Bain & Company credited streetwear as a growth driver for luxury sales with a 25% jump in luxury t-shirts sold!
Streetwear’s position as a commerce driver was cemented.
Today, you can’t talk about streetwear and not mention the exponentially growing secondary market called the ‘Resell Market’. This segment has probably titillated VC’s the most. The space is dominated by StockX, which counts Eminem and Mark Wahlberg among its investors, Goat with Ashton Kutcher as one of its investors, Grailed and Stadium Goods, which received an undisclosed amount investment from LVMH. Investor interest in streetwear saw a collective investment of about $179.8 million between 2017 – 2018 into streetwear’s leading online marketplaces like StockX, Goat, Grailed, Stadium Goods and Highsnobiety, according to fashionista.com.
And what we found really interesting was the blurring of lines between retail-resell-investment-streetwear.
But what is streetwear?
Streetwear is probably one of the most misunderstood categories. Some people think streetwear is clothes found on the streets a la Fashion Street, while others think all graphic tees & hoodies are all streetwear.
Sure, Streetwear is t-shirts, hoodies, sneakers and the like but as Bobby Hundreds of the OG Streetwear brand, The Hundreds, says, ‘without community’ streetwear is just fashion.
A lot of streetwear culture was born out of functionality, ground up, from small communities. Shawn Stussy and brand Stussy are often credited with creating the genre of streetwear and are often quoted as the best streetwear brand of all time. A major influence on streetwear’s aesthetic comes from skate culture. Skaters in the west coast had their own distinctive style and their assertion of being misfits. Ripped jeans, shoelace for belts, graphic printed t shirts were their pledge of allegiance to the culture. Brands like Supreme, Vans, HUF and Thrasher catered to this community, providing them tees, pants, skate decks, accessories, heavy rubber sole sneakers and media.
Streetwear has since gone on to include hip hop, sneaker culture, street art, military aesthetic, Euro-street, Japanese fashion and continues to expand its influence and inspiration.
A critical component of streetwear is its ‘Drops’ culture. ‘Drops’are product launches, where unlike the usual spring- summer, autumn-winter fashion season, limited edition streetwear and sneakers, are brought to market and sometimes even just one style!
India has a sizable community that is into streetwear, in the range of 4 – 5 Lakh Gen Z and millennials, at the very least. Oversize fits, logo t-shirts, chunky ‘dad’ sneakers, snapback and bucket hats, long sleeve tees, coach jackets, tactical apparel, fanny packs (bags meant to be worn around the waist but often slung over the shoulder), slides with interesting socks, tracksuits, Yeezy, Jordans and Nike SB’s are some styles that form part of the uniform of this crop of cool folk that are part of India’s bubbling streetwear community.
We’ve seen an interesting mix of consumers – there are Gen Z consumers who love streetwear inspired luxury or street-luxe. Then there are those wholove the‘hype’ i.e the hottest, most valuable drop, almost treating streetwear as an asset class. Hype products are usually celebrity driven or collaborations or extremely limited quantities that are impossible to ‘cop’ at retail. And there are those who are far from the hype but love stories streetwear brands tell. There are also fashion folk who appreciate the silhouettes and designs of streetwear and participate in global trends here in India.
Streetwear has literally shaken up the fashion business with brands like Stussy, Off-White, Heron Preston, A Cold Wall*, Les Benjamins, Daily Paper being touted as fashions new heirs.Streetwear has always been around, it is the fashion expression of youth culture. It will continue to own its space. What is clear is that streetwear is not just a trend, it is a category – a category of clothes and shoes that have baked in cultural codes and are worn to announce your affinities.
About the author:
Bhavisha is Co- Founder, Capsul. She is a former National Speed Skating Champion, got initiated into street culture at an early age. After spending 10 years at PUMA across diverse markets like India, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine, during which time she worked with youth culture creators in India from 2010 - 2014 and on a Russian sneaker collab for PUMA Suede’s 50th year, she came back home to India to start Capsul. While at Capsul, she has been a consultant to brands like Budweiser, Air Canada, PUMA and has been quoted as one of the voices of streetwear India in Hypebeast, Verve Magazine, The Economic Times, to name some. She has an M.B.A. from the Asian Institute of Management, Philippines and an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Mumbai