Cotton Once, Cotton Twice (The New Wave).


Are we heading towards a streetwear recession or are the kids deciding to buy other shit than tees right now?

One conversation that has been consistent in the past week is the idea that one segment of street is slowly but surly heading towards what could conceivably be described as a bubble.

I’ll discuss the bubble from the point of view of consumer transitions. Not in terms of precursor to depression, I want to make that clear.

Deardorff’s Glossary of International Economics defines a bubble as “A rise in the price of an asset based not on the current or prospective income that it provides but solely on expectations by market participants that the price will rise in the future. When those expectations cease, the bubble bursts and the price falls rapidly.”

Let’s avoid the idea of ‘thought income’ and look more closely at the idea that the market participants being the “assumers” in the model.

The assumers (say ‘hype crowds,’ not to be confused with deciders) are using the information sources at their disposal to make assumptions and (maybe) expectations towards what direction the market will take. In modeling this towards the fashion of street we can assume the relevant release dates, sales cycles, celebrity placement, and overall output of designers and brands to be the variables in making said expectations.

But what the fuck happens, “When those expectations cease…” as mentioned in Deadorff’s definition. More to the point, has the printed matter game become so thick with options that the overall expectation — the expected output by labels and brands as a whole — is now showing less impulse buys by their very customers than in the past?

In other words, is the “hype” game slowing down in conversion rate?

Rumblings throughout the industry are beginning to point in this direction. More and more the story is that payments are coming late, short and that storefronts domestically are looking to liquidate wares while more product lays stagnant on shelves.  The cause and affect of this expected change can be seen in terms and conditions of many outlets today;  shorter shelf life before discount, increased pressure to allow for sales, and even returns.

Looking at it from the other direction, has the expectation by brands/labels that their consumer is an impulse shopper looking to gobble up each and every last piece of ware being thrown at them changed?

Is the hype crowd today able to siphon out the shit from the good? This is clearly a two way conversation that tends to bore into exactly what a brand will put to the market and even the idea that the street fashion consumers today are becoming more individual than on demand crowd responders.

I used to fear that the idea of being an individual was slowly being lost to the internet hype culture. Peter once mentioned to me how he believed that the culture was “overlapping and folding on itself before it even has time to cook” which didn’t allow the hype crowd enough time to purchase and convert before the next “new thing” slammed onto their screens.

Peter certainly was valid in saying this, expected even. Hype crowds are being fed so much product with an incredibly short life cycle that even they MUST be exhausted from it all. At some point it, the general crowd will slow down their pace of purchase and to this idea, kids are not being sold on what they may have been sold just three years ago.

Today’s hype crowd culture was not dumb. They never were. They simply bought into the excitement of a new culture, a new scene, that made it ok to not buy into the mall world (though many of the brands of street are readily available in these outlets today i.e., brands need to get paid). The expectation of the hype crowd did not need to be factored into what brands and lines offered. The formula was pretty clear: they would buy anything. Was the crowd simply green with the attraction of product, even those formulated to be limited”*?

Perhaps they felt some community spirit to being part of a sub-culture that spoke to them. Perhaps today they feel compelled and attracted to brand/lines that are growing up with them, instead of the lines that remain stagnant to two year old rehashed ideas.

Today, the hype crowd is not green. They know the drill and have more time to digest (in quick spurts) what enters the market.  Their decision making will slowly transform back from the crowd to the individual.

And while they are impacted with a new form of the new, another core of new wave of hype kids will form their own crowds and reactions to the market.

The impact of the old and new crowds is surly realized by brands and designers who ready new seasons. The intended outcome, as argued by Nick many times over, is will a brand grow with their consumers or will it remain in line with a new generation of kids who want to be part of the next wave of hype crowds.

The expectation, in general terms, revolves around where a brand will remain positioned.

We all know the brands do it for the love, but the reality and the intention should be to put product on the market that people will buy to allow for growth in one form or another. The new wave will learn from the previous class of alumni and will hopefully beg for more than what was thrown to their former classmates.

Those that do not cater to the former or the present will hit the bubble. It is more than wakeup time for all. The glory days are shifting towards necessary change. The new wave will be here soon and I’m betting they have learned a thing or two.

* People always talk about limited and the idea of short run product that can only be consumed by an elite few. But what happens to the idea of limited product when the amount of limited offerings as a sum is as large as the non limited runs made available? Count the posts on the hype sites. You’ll more likely find less “non limited” press announcements than not. We’ll discuss this further sometime.