The Influence of Streetwear


After a decade’s worth of quiet dabbling and tinkering, Lululemon has announced its entry into the streetwear market with its unveiling of Lab several weeks ago. Often known as the company with the extremely comfortable yoga and dress pants, Lululemon contributes its take on the trend of meshing high-end with casual outfits alongside others such as Northface, Nike, Adidas, and Uniqlo. Speaking on the decision to unveil the company’s expansion into the streetwear space, Lululemon’s Chief Product Officer Sun Choe notes that “As we grow internationally, we know that exclusivity is something that is very important in Asia and Europe”. As brands such as Supreme and Off-White skyrocket in their market share, one has to wonder how streetwear (and its associated resale market) transformed itself from being associated only with skateboarders and urban rebels to regularly crashing the websites of industry giants Nike and Adidas. Learn more below on how and why mainstream clothing brands blurred the lines between casual outfits and luxury pickings

A Look into Some Key Players

This may be shocking to some readers, but sweatshirts, sweatpants, joggers, leggings and sneakers used to not be socially-acceptable components of an outfit. These items were relegated solely to the fitness world and would be scoffed at only 5 - 15 years ago.  How did we get to the point where wearing traditional gym clothes has transitioned from being popular to just being normal?

If there’s anything that streetwear isn’t, it’s being a novel phenomenon. Spanning back nearly 40 years, the industry of streetwear has gone through many niche markets to become the global force that it is today.

To many streetwear enthusiasts, lists of the greatest contributors to streetwear culture always will contain Supreme’s Box Logo, Nike’s Air Jordan, and Adidas’ Yeezy product lines.  Here’s why:

Nike’s Air Jordan:

The Jordan Brand serves as the most iconic athlete-endorsed brands of all times. As Nike in 1984 was a simple but struggling athletic wear company, the idea was made to reinvent its marketing to approach athletic stars and create a more tangible consumer connection to its products. Despite repeatedly going to Adidas for sponsorships, Magic Jordan started down the road to ultimately define Nike’s most famous product line: The Air Jordan.

Serving as what Nike cofounder Phil Knight described as “the perfect combination of quality product, marketing, and athlete endorsement, Michael Jordan was continuously fined over $5000 per game by the NBA within the 1990’s for not wearing primarily white shoes. As fans saw Jordan embrace himself in regard to his choice of style and domination within basketball, his continued success with the Chicago Bulls served to bolster and empower his fans to follow along with this huge fashion statement. With the rise of retro throwbacks and vintage looks, Air Jordan took less than a decade to quickly became Nike’s signature line for artistically made sneakers with a history in rebelling.

 

Supreme’s Box Logo:

Meanwhile on the East Coast, sharing in the same rebellious undertones, the brand Supreme had just opened its first office space in downtown Manhattan. Unlike traditional clothing outlets, the store was designed by and for skaters, the 1980’s stereotypical rebel without a cause. With a central open area to allow skaters with backpacks the ability to skate within the store and feel comfortable, loud and edgy videos continuously played in the background to attract window shoppers. The less commercial and anti-conformist styling of Supreme apparel sought to shun society but allow for a look into its exclusivity.  

 In a 2017 interview with Vogue, James Jebbia, founder of Supreme, notes that he made clothes in the same spirit as artists make music. “There are always critics that don’t understand that young people can be into Bob Dylan but also into the Wu-Tang Clan and Coltrane and Social Distortion. Young people—and skaters—are very, very open-minded . . . to music, to art, to many things, and that allowed us to make things with an open mind.” By starting with the simple design of a Boxed Logo and placing it on various form of apparels ranging from sweatshirts to hats, Supreme established itself as the posterchild for streetwear apparel.  

Adidas’ Yeezy:

Despite seemingly having an amazingly strong brand connection, Adidas’ Yeezy was not the original tipping point for Kanye West. However, Kanye’s obsession for design is as ongoing as his career within the music industry. With his rise in fame and movement away from life on the streets, his focus on his own vulnerabilities and empowerment led for him to return to his original love for shoes. Although he created an unreleased shoe for Adidas in 2006, A Bathing Ape (Bape) served as the first brand to collaborate with the artist as an ode to his album ‘College Dropout’ After designing numerous shoes for other brands such as Nike, Louis Vuitton, and Giuseppe Zanotti, Kanye signed on with Adidas in 2013 due to the CEO’s openness to Kanye’s proposals and designs. Created with the same juices of individualism and risk taking that had inspired his music, Yeezy Season 1 was released to critical acclaim, particularly within the footwear collection. 

For these three lines, the rest is history. As entrepreneurs sought to determine the business model required for success, the target demographic shifted. Within more recent years, this market’s start as a male-focused enterprise has opened its door to being adopted by women and youth looking to stylize in more gender-neutral roles. With a wider audience for apparel and sneakers, so too have the number of creative collaborations over the past decade.

From Zero Commas to Now

To showcase how large the sneaker market, a component of streetwear, has become, observe the following table of the four largest publicly traded shoe companies:

 

Company Financials: 2018 – 2019 Fiscal Year Reported Net Revenue

Rank

Company

Net Revenue [$ USD Billions]

1

Nike

$ 4.340 B

2

Adidas

$ 2.190 B

3

Sketchers

$ .322 B

4

Under Armour

$ .085 B

 

NOTE: Within these revenue statistics, these figures also include the company’s businesses within apparel and sports equipment. 

Here is the now the same table with the inclusion of sneaker reselling within the secondary market:

 

Company Financials: 2018 – 2019 Fiscal Year Reported Net Revenue 

Rank

Company

Net Revenue [$ USD Billions]

1

Nike

$ 4.340 B

2

Adidas

$ 2.190 B

3

Sneaker Reselling

$ .659 B

4

Sketchers

$ .322 B

5

Under Armour

$ .085 B

 

Shocked? To many members of the streetwear community, one would encounter surprise that the value isn’t higher.

As investors have seen the market’s reaction to popular streetwear collaborations such as Supreme Comme des Garcons SHIRT Sweater RedOFF-WHITE x Rimowa Transparent Carry-On Case Clear, and Jordan 2 Retro Eminem (The Way I Am), investors have begun pouring tens of millions of dollars into discovering what limited edition items will be the next “cop”. Given that in 2017, Supreme was valued for nearly $1 Billion USD, traditional fashion giants have taken great note of the market’s key players such as through Louis Vuitton’s appointment of Off-White Founder Virgil Abloh to their French Luxury Menswear Division.

Conclusion: 

This market has now become incredibly important for investors to understand due to this new generation’s mobile-directed obsession with brand loyalty and the community that comes alongside it. With no end in sight to the number of unique and exclusive products coming from present and future streetwear fashion giants, stay in tune with what’s fashionable in the United Arab Emirates with Baza Bazaar.  For hundreds of the latest and greatest within streetwear: