Nov 12, 2019 | By Joanne Thomas
Oct 06, 2017
Right around the corner from the WGSN London office is both a Supreme store and a Stone Island shop, so our editors immediately know if there is an exclusive drop coming that day. When it’s the day of an exclusive ‘drop’ the streets are packed and the excitement in the air is palatable. Boys with exclusive sneakers on sit in the fold up chairs that they packed earlier that morning, and commit to reserving their spot in line by any means.
As an observer, it is so interesting to note that the line outside both stores is nearly always 90 percent male. While talking among our editors last night we started to ponder why these consumers are so predominately male, and why in 2017 there still hasn’t been a notable womenswear brand that is competing for the female consumer on that Supreme level, with a dedicated, obsessed community around it?
One explanation is, of course, related to the history of skate culture. The Supreme audience is largely influenced by 70s skate culture, which was predominately male, despite notable females like Peggy Oki who skated alongside fellow greats like Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta.
Then, from a brand perspective, there is the fact that women have a lot more options with almost every mainstream/high-street/luxury retailer, trying to get in front of the female customer in the battle for her wallet. So if you are a specialist, independent brand aimed at the female consumer, how do you stand out from the masses? And if you manage it, how do you keep the allure, season after season, when attention has moved onto the latest new It brand worn by [insert popular influencers name here]?
But there is also another point to acknowledge; the diverse shopping habits of men and women. There is something about the ‘Drop culture’ (that Supreme/Stone Island/Palace has made famous), which has been monopolized by menswear. There’s a lack of hype about womenswear to the same extent. American Apparel maybe came close with its ‘hypebae’ style basics, hoodies, tees and high-shine leggings, but since that retailer left the high street, who remains? In this month’s British Vogue, writer Julia Hobbs explores just how differently men and women shop, in her feature ‘How to shop like a guy’. “On the modern menswear scene, private communities rule and your wardrobe is only as good as your face-to-face connections- the opposite of my persistent refreshing of Net-a-Porter’s “What’s new” tab, lured in by a bailout dispatched to millions. This is socialising rather than shopping,” she explains. She goes on to call this a subculture, which is in complete contrast to the way that women shop. What she is describing is basically the definition of the ‘drop’ culture in menswear, the hype, the secrecy, the thrill of the purchase, the exclusivity of each garment etc.
But why is there no female equivalent? “One woman who seems to be coming close to filling that gap is Rihanna, with the hype she has created around her Fenty for Puma line. Her line almost always sells out, with the Fenty creepers reportedly selling out in just days,” says WGSN Youth editor Marian Park. And, in the same way that the consumers wait with anticipation for a Supreme drop, Rihanna teases fans by launching on the runway with more and more exciting shows each time to build a craving for the line. For A/W 17, which is on sale now, she created a Fenty school in Paris, and for the upcoming S/S18 season, she wowed editors with BMX bikers flying overhead and badass female models walking her latest NYFW show. By creating a video to go with the runway show and extensive social media live from the runway, the hype was created and will continue on until she launches it next year. And more importantly her collection is focused very much on the female consumer, as Puma explained here.
And of course, it’s important to mention the impact of genderless fashion. While (other than Rihanna for Puma) there is no other womenswear label operating at the mainstream level of hype held by the Supreme crown, what we are seeing across retail is a slow rise in the number of women rocking the Supreme look. Youth culture is giving rise to a new wave of unisex fashion collections, and with the blurring of gender lines, more and more women are starting to rock the look, either stealing their boyfriend’s hoodies or braving those ‘drop’ queues themselves. In fact last year HypeBae, the female streetwear site, sister brand to Hypebeast, compiled a list of the street brand offerings that cross genders. And this recent New York Times article seems to suggest that just because Supreme has the monopoly now, they should watch out, as there are a whole host of indie streetwear brands gearing up to become contenders that cater specifically for the skate/streetwear girl.
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