Exclusivity Is the New Luxury

Photo by Daoudi Aissa on Unsplash

I’ve had the intention to touch a topic on streetwear for weeks now, and especially after Paris Fashion Week Men’s when I saw Virgil Abloh’s debut for Louis Vuitton. This specific fashion show was one that inevitably changed the perspective of the cards that are being played by luxury brands and will perhaps be documented in fashion history for the generations to come. The initial impression of Virgil’s takeover was, of course, the inspiring signal that doors are now open for black talent to become protagonists of luxury brands. On the other hand, there is one more interesting moment captured, and it’s one related to the impact that streetwear has been having in the fashion industry so far and how luxury brands are taking advantage of the movement.

First of all, STREETWEAR is a term that started being used around the 70’s when the punk rock style was all around, and later in the 80’s when the hip-hop culture took over. Back then, this type of style could be easily identified by just taking a look at sneakers, statement t-shirts and probably tracksuits, the traditional hip-hop style. Moreover, a streetwear look can be nowadays identified by non-conventional pieces of clothing but more importantly, as a way of dressing that mixes comfort with style. Ultimately, streetwear is and has always been a reflection of the movement of people, and you could even say it’s urban fashion, that is presented as an opensource idea for the fashion shows of the future. When thinking about streetwear, the common brands that pop into mind are typically Supreme, Palace and of course, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White. You can think about the history of these brands on high-demand and spot that they all started as an anti-cultural movement, saying NO to traditional luxury fashion and now it seems ironic that we have already witnessed Supreme collaborating with Louis Vuitton and Virgil Abloh making its life-changing debut for the same brand.

Now, why is this happening? We know street culture and street fashion exist, but do luxury brands really know what streetwear is and what it stands for? Regardless if they know or not what this type of “art movement” (as Virgil Abloh defined it) is, luxury brands are on the mission of appropriating it and applying it into their new image. It’s important to consider that the history behind big fashion houses will never be taken for granted; there is tradition and a heritage behind brands like Gucci, Balenciaga or Louis Vuitton, but what is happening now is a change of dynamics. Since streetwear is on demand right now, luxury brands have to adapt to that change, or they will be far behind and won’t sell. More importantly, the big reason why the whole fashion industry is going through an entire change of dynamics is that of the new generation in charge of the market power.

The whole point why millennials and Gen Z are drawn to streetwear is mainly because they’re striving for something new and unusual that makes them feel in a way unique and special. Brands like Supreme bring that effect into both generations and that is how it makes sense why Louis Vuitton brought Virgil Abloh into the spotlight, and you could say there’s a marketing strategy behind it. Designers like Virgil Abloh that have direct relationships with major celebrities and influencers like Kanye West know and understand how the new young generation works. When it comes to the job that luxury brands do, it all started based on paying attention to the quality and craftsmanship of the product, but this is no longer a relevant driver for the new generation to shop. The desirability for the exclusivity factor has been growing more than ever, and that’s something that luxury brands have to work on. The young generation is looking for something that stands out rather for something that has a quality finish that could be found in other less expensive traditional brands. Exclusivity no longer means being able to afford something that others can’t, for the new generation this means to wear pieces that stand out for something, and they will be more likely to spend a high amount of money as long as that condition is followed.

So, is the portrayal of streetwear working on luxury brands? The answer is yes, mainly because they have been using the exclusivity factor and simplifying their dynamics even when it comes to advertisement, which now actually shifted into sponsored content. It’s not that luxury brands will one day become a 100% streetwear, but it’s a phase that will endure for a long while until the taste and needs of the young generation changes. The talent of Virgil Abloh was just the beginning, we should expect to see more collaborations between luxury sportswear brands with big fashion houses.

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