Brand collaborations have been flooding my social media feeds over the last few months, I can’t help but feel a little blurry eyed as one after the next brands take it in turns to have a go at becoming the next hyped collaboration. The reality of course, is the hype lasts a matter of days before it is forgotten and us lowly non-instagram famous people can only ever dream of owning some of the rare grails.
Is 2017 the year of the collaboration, or a fad that will pass? Or, is this the future for fashion as we know it? A recent HighSnobeity article asked fashion influencers their opinions of the latest Supreme X Louis Vuitton collaboration debuted at Paris Fashion Week. Bobby Hundreds, designer at The Hundreds said,
“Supreme was a different brand 17 years ago – scrappy, punk, underdog. Skateboarding was invisible and subversive, while high fashion was unattainable. Today, the circle is closing. What’s underground is mainstream and vice versa – the classifications are not applicable; we’re dealing with a new hierarchy.”
Is he saying that the aim of these collaborations is to bring luxury retail into the remit of affordable fashion? Surely this isn’t a safe zone for designers aspiring to create the art of luxury retail.
Amongst up and coming youth-driven designers such as Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga and Vetements, the aim is to create the next immense collaboration. High-end retailers are gradually readjusting their targeting toward the youth of today, hoping they’ll become their future core customers. Instagram stars such as Leo Mandella (@gullyguyleo) the 14-year-old, seen at both London and Paris Fashion Week this January 2017 adorned in every collaboration imaginable.
I don’t even know where one would begin the manhunt for a genuine Supreme x Louis Vuitton piece, however its certain bootleggers are already creating fast paced identical copies of every piece from the collection, and soon it will be hard to tell which is which. The original demographic of luxury retailers such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci is the luxury lifestyle clientele, however the direction seems to be changing, increasingly less about the ‘luxury’ factor. Do these brand associations strengthen or in fact weaken the brand? If you walked into a Louis Vuitton store in a Supreme box logo hoodie and Nike 95’s 5 years ago the staff would probably do a double take and call security, but now? These underground brands are stronger than ever and the relevance of the target luxury consumer is almost completely dissolved.
With the gap rapidly closing between high-end and streetwear, what is the future for the luxury elite? Although most pressure on the industry seems to be on dilution of the underground streetwear scene, with the likes of Cruz Beckham getting his tiny hands on the first Supreme x LV Box Logo hoodie, focus seems to be drawn away from the affect this is having on the true art of luxury fashion. The origins of Paris Fashion Week came from french haute couture designers displaying at least 50 original items to the public for the first time, and with between 100 and 700 hours work from a skilled technical team of 20 full-time artists and ateliers, the true luxury element of couture appears to be falling by the wayside. The collaboration pieces are still beautifully crafted, but it is certain that Gucci’s consumer profile doesn’t, or didn’t, contain the likes of 14 year old Gully Guy Leo.
Luxury designers have such an in-depth knowledge of their specific consumer and product that each brand creates approximately 2,000 made-to-order sales from these shows, and from those roughly 200 are regular buyers. With the rise of the digitally savvy consumer and the immensely fast trickle down of trends this allows, the changing scope in the traditional elements of the fashion industry are apparent and although complaints arise around the adoption of highly coveted streetwear brands, the real question is, what is the future of luxury fashion? If these incredibly skilled and established designers are ready to collaborate with hyped streetwear and underground names, it seems the gap is really closing more rapidly than we realised. Are the rising Instagram stars the next luxury consumers of our generation or has luxury fashion become too fast. The 200 haute couture fashion elite are surely not to be lumped in with these 14 year old Instagram stars? And so raises the question whether any of the traditional elements of fashion still really matter at all…
But where the consumer goes, the brand must follow to stay relevant to the new elite, and with the rising power of street style and the immense worth of the trading market in vintage luxury and streetwear ($60 Billion and growing)… it is certain that the future of fashion is changing, I’m just not sure the industry is quite ready…
By Alex Neilson-Clark (@alexncxx)
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