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Drops instead of shops: The rise of streetwear, a growing trend in fashion

Branson Reasor shows off his Burberry coat, which has a price tag of around $1,000, that he found on sale for about $200. David Samson / Forum News Service1 / 2
Satyam Mistry launched an online retail store that sells backpacks, hats, belts and other accessories from his home. David Samson / Forum News Service2 / 2

FARGO — It’s Saturday morning. Your alarm goes off, ensuring you’re ready by 9. But you’re not leaving the house — rather, you’re hopping on your computer or phone to buy new clothes or sneakers the minute they release.

A prominent trend among high-end and streetwear fashion companies, and even run-of-the-mill athletic companies like Nike and Adidas, is the rise of clothing “drops,” though the limited supply often isn't enough to meet growing demand for this gear.

Streetwear is casual in style and rooted in skateboarder and surfer culture, with graphic T-shirts and hoodies among the style's staples. As it's grown, streetwear has adopted elements of hip-hop and Japanese street fashion.

Some streetwear enthusiasts make hundreds of dollars each week flipping products they snag during drops. Clothes can be resold on eBay and other online mainstays, but some specialty sites are designed specifically for buying and selling clothing and sneakers.

Grailed was built to make top-shelf clothing more affordable by connecting buyers with secondhand items.

StockX, which bills itself as "the world's first stock market for things," features only new items. Branson Reasor, a senior at Minnesota State University Moorhead who’s particularly passionate about designer fashion, is drawn to StockX due to his interest in clothing and the stock market.

“StockX is like taking two things that I actually enjoy and it combines both of them,” Reasor says. “There’s so many shoes and crazy pieces that I follow just because I like to know where the prices are fluctuating, because that’s super interesting to me. We’ve created an entire culture around selling clothing like that.”

Limited offerings

In a sense, clothing drops are similar to how musicians release content these days, with songs available to download or stream at midnight. Clothes or sneakers will go on sale online or in a store at 9 a.m.

The products in clothing drops are limited in quantity and promoted by designers via social media, sometimes months in advance. When the limited offerings do release, it usually doesn't take long to sell out.

Supreme, a skater-centric brand turned streetwear giant with a $1 billion valuation, is one of the big figures in clothing drops. Supreme does weekly drops in two seasons, the fall/winter and the spring/summer.

Supreme has retail stores in New York City, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, London and Paris, as well as six locations in Japan.

The products also release online and sell out within minutes — and Supreme happens to be one of the most resold streetwear brands because of that high demand.

Due to the exclusivity and hype of Supreme’s drops, a T-shirt that retails for $50 can often be resold for more than $200. A headband that dropped last year for $32 is reselling for about $150, while a box logo hoodie that retailed for $168 last year currently resells between $1,100 and $1,700.

Reasor thinks Supreme will eventually have to change its formula.

“I think Supreme has five, six, seven more years left before they become like a high-end designer brand and change their marketing scheme, and start to do drops in department stores or something,” Reasor says. “I think if they do that, they’ll continue to thrive.”

Costly collaborations

While releases from top streetwear brands get plenty of hype, the buzz — and price — ramps up when designers collaborate with other other brands. Supreme collaborations have produced pieces costing more on the resale market than a new car.

Take designer brand Louis Vuitton’s 2017 collaboration with Supreme, for example. The two came together to release hoodies, T-shirts, backpacks, jackets and even a trunk in what is said to be one of the most talked-about collaborations in history.

The Supreme Louis Vuitton box logo monogram hoodie had a steep retail price tag of about $860, and resale prices on eBay now reach up to $25,000. The box logo T-shirt that retailed for about $450 resells for $3,000 to $5,000, while the lowest asking price on StockX for the Malle Courrier Trunk is $128,999.

The Supreme and North Face collection has also soared to lofty prices. The outdoor company sells jackets that often cost between $75 and $200. Some of the Supreme North Face jackets now sell for around $400, and others go for $2,000 to $4,000.

Streetwear style

Drops and streetwear are simultaneously gaining popularity. Satyam Mistry started Beyond Hype, a formerly Fargo-based streetwear company.

Mistry, who now operates out of Nebraska, racked up $130,000 in sales during his first year of business in 2013. He experienced steady growth, even doubling sales from one year to the next in some cases.

Beyond Hype sells established brands like Sprayground, Rastaclat and Champion, an old brand that made a comeback with the rise of streetwear.

“All these brands have kind of reinvented themselves,” Mistry says. “(Champion) is a brand we recently added. Champion has blown up again. They’ve been around for (many) years, and they’ve re-emerged these last five years.”

Mistry said Beyond Hype’s niche is accessories, with sunglasses, backpacks and bags among its best-selling items.

He thinks streetwear is here to stay, and he said social media is part of the reason for its popularity.

“The culture keeps changing and social media has a big responsibility expanding that, and it’s so direct and accessible everywhere,” he says.

Streetwear trends are constantly cycling in and out, too. Three years ago, snapback hats were a hot item. Bulky sneakers, long belts and fanny packs have become trends over the past year.

“There are so many directions to go,” Mistry said. “When one brand comes out with something, then everyone puts their own spin on it. The most recent thing right now has been waist bags and fanny packs. (Trends) will keep circling around.”

Athletic brands

Streetwear and athletic brands have crossed paths as well. Nike and Supreme came together to produce sweatshirts and sneakers, and Jordan and Supreme collaborated on multiple shoes.

Other streetwear brands, including Kith, Comme des Garcons and Off-White, have collaborated with Nike. Maybe the most notable of the streetwear-athletic apparel releases is the 2017 Off-White and Nike “The Ten” collection, which included sneakers from Nike as well as Nike-owned brands Jordan and Converse.

Readers of fashion and sneaker blog Highsnobiety voted Off-White CEO Virgil Abloh as the most influential person of 2017. His Nike Air Jordan 1 “Chicago” design was awarded the best sneaker of 2017 in the blog's annual Highsnobiety Crowns awards. Off-White was also voted the most relevant brand of 2017, and Complex named “The Ten” as the best sneaker collaboration of the year.

“Virgil is a visionary,” Reasor said. “He’s created an entire revolution in fashion and he’s broken down walls and barriers that nobody else has.”

Reasor bought a pair of the Off-White Nike Air Max 97s at retail for $190 when they released; now, those shoes sport a resale price of around $850 on StockX. The Off-White “Chicago” Jordan 1 is going for anywhere from $2,100 to $7,000, depending on the size.

“'The Ten' was just a revolutionary collaboration,” Reasor says. “It created so much hype around shoes that hasn’t been created in a long time.”

Sports and celebrities

The popularity of streetwear brands among celebrities and professional athletes has only contributed to its growth in recent years

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is a notable and frequent wearer of streetwear. During the 2017-18 season, he broke his ankle and rocked a Louis Vuitton Supreme walking boot during his recovery.

Supreme has also influenced the NBA, much to the disapproval of the league. Last season, Kelly Oubre Jr. of the Washington Wizards wore a Supreme sleeve on his leg and was forced to remove it. Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard J.R. Smith has a permanent bond with the brand, getting at tattoo of the Supreme logo on his right leg during the offseason. He was told by the league that he will be fined for every game that tattoo isn’t covered up.

There are some celebrities who have created their own streetwear brands. Rappers Drake and Kanye West have each branched out and launched their own companies.

Both West and Drake have followed the blueprint of “drops” by hyping up products then releasing them in limited quantities.

West’s brand, Yeezy, was created in collaboration with Adidas, and “Yeezy Season 1” debuted in 2015. The brand gained significant popularity, and West claims Yeezy is “the second-fastest growing company in history.”

In August, The Blast reported that Yeezy received a valuation close to $1.5 billion.

Drake’s streetwear label, October’s Very Own (OVO), isn’t quite up to par with the numbers Yeezy does, but it is projected to bring in $50 million in sales this year, according to Business of Fashion.

‘It’s an identity’

Reasor’s interest in designer fashion was sparked by his mother. She studied interior design in college and dreamed of doing window displays for designer department stores in New York or on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

Reasor grew up in Eagan, Minn., and lived only a few minutes away from the Mall of America in Bloomington. Growing up, he often tagged along with his mom when she went shopping, sparking his intrigue with fashion.

He hopes to someday design his own clothing line.

“I would love to have a successful clothing line in a department store like Nordstrom,” Reasor says. “Something that has some sort of value after you purchase it, that is something that I would love my clothing to be … To me, that’s important to a product, that it still holds somewhat of an initial value after you purchase it.”

Growing up, Reasor got clothes from his mom as birthday gifts. In high school, he bought a designer item for the first time with his own money. It was something he’d always wanted: a pair of Gucci shoes.

Today, some of his favorite brands are Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Tom Ford, Jordan, Polo and Coach. Spending $5,000 on a Louis Vuitton handbag is a good chunk of change, but Reasor sees it as more than a bag.

“That’s a piece of art; it’s not just a handbag,” Reasor said. “That is something that took hours of craftsmanship.”

Another way Reasor gets his hands on designer clothes is thrift shopping, especially in Minneapolis or St. Paul rather than Twin Cities suburbs or Fargo-Moorhead stores.

“That’s where you’ll find this old designer stuff,” Reasor said.

Whether it’s a $1,000 Burberry coat or a $100 Supreme iPhone case, Reasor loves fashion because it’s a way for him to express who he is. He says if you give five people the same outfit, three of them will probably rock it the same way, while the other two will put their own spin on it.

“It’s an identity,” Reasor says. “To me, just being able to pick and choose anything you want and make anything you want look good is important and what fashion’s all about.”