Insight series: the secret to the success of streetwear

Streetwear became a global phenomenon in the 1990s and grew out of the New York hip-hop fashion scene as a form of counterculture. It remains a strong influence that has evolved into a mainstream and common statement that is now firmly embedded into the social fabric of our society.

How has streetwear maintained its appeal?

According to PwC’s report on streetwear as a sector, more than 60% of streetwear consumers are under 25. Gen Z and the Millennials are undoubtedly ensuring streetwear’s influence continues to inform the way we all dress.

Streetwear’s ‘casualisation’ of fashion is not only practical, but its adoption by luxury brands has meant that it is now both comfortable and contemporary.

Its ability to stay relevant by redefining itself every few years through digital marketing campaigns and initiatives is what has made it so successful.

Gucci and Off White, alongside many others, have seen a re-emergence in popularity and relevance as they continue to align themselves with the demand for streetwear, in turn keeping brands like these exciting for younger generations.

The cult of community

The exclusivity and authenticity of streetwear is a key selling point and the reason why it continues to exponentially grow.

Huge fashion drops consist of releasing limited edition products or collections in small quantities, and are a great way for brands to facilitate a sense of community and connectivity. They are made significant through the use of social media which encourages greater awareness and excitement amongst followers. Having that direct connection and reach between brands and followers is a powerful force which continues to grow as new brands emerge.

It is almost cult-like, yet inclusive, and has meant that the relationship between streetwear brands and consumers is loyal and tight-knit. Consumers have become savvy and impatient. Picking a pair of Jordans that you won’t see anyone else wearing has become commonplace, something that I am guilty of myself. But that’s what makes the scarcity of these brands so successful for our younger generations. As the CEO and founder of Stock X, Josh Luber commented: “That cool 17-year-old kid doesn’t want to wear the same shoes that my mother wears.”

As soon as supply is greater than demand, and the product is no longer rare, it is no longer desirable to a certain group of people whose fashion sense is based on unique self-expression and authenticity. However, this cannot be done without the use of social media which has arguably determined the success of some of the newest brands that have jumped onto the scene.

We saw London go mad over huge streetwear brand, Corteiz, in October last year, which was offering to sell its line of cargo pants – for just 99p. Hectic scenes took over Shepherd’s Bush as people rushed to get a hold of these trousers.  These cargos usually retail for around £150, making this 99p drop chaotic, yet an impressive marketing strategy for getting hundreds of people on the streets in search of a pair of trousers.

The rise of the online influencer

The PwC report also stated that 84% of people say use social media as their top source of influence for following trendy streetwear brands, followed by the other young, urban people they see around them. These people are commonly known as influencers and are key to the marketing strategies of streetwear brands looking to earn credibility and raise their awareness and hype around certain drops and products. These include the likes of former Love Island contestant Molly Mae (@MollyMae) and Kenza (@6kenza) who have been instrumental in blowing brands up.

Streetwear has undoubtedly impacted our fashion choices and wider cultural tastes for over three decades and has given a larger focus on being comfy and fashionable.

Exclusivity and hype, boosted by the power of social media have led streetwear brands becoming successful and dominant within the fashion industry. It is clear that streetwear is here to stay and the way that you and your brand interact with target groups is important for success.

It is clear that hip-hop artists continue to shape fashion and streetwear. With influential artists such as ASAP Rocky and Kanye West driving the popularisation of streetwear into mainstream society, it is interesting to see that the streetwear trends we see today are nothing new. From cargo pants to bomber jackets, these are statements that have been recycled and are almost identical to those seen with hip-hop groups of the 90s such as Wu-Tang Clan. The only thing that has changed is the ubiquity of social media in encouraging wider discourse and keeping generations informed and aware of the constant evolution of fashion.