At the end of 2019, leaders in streetwear began pivoting away from casual lines and focusing on more tailored collections. With the pandemic forcing a new lifestyle centered around more time at home, the trend is shifting back to streetwear and the stylish comfort it provides.
While streetwear brands have seen success launching and growing their following through social media marketing and celebrity partnerships, they reach a plateau without having a brick-and-mortar presence. Celebrity ties—such as October’s Very Own founder Drake and Off-White founder Virgil Abloh—are extremely important to drive excitement and desirability, but will lose steam if there’s no store to augment the experience.
Stores provide a space for brand interaction, including Instagrammable moments that help further fuel the social media engine that drives these brands. Shoppers get a personal experience in-store, being able to physically interact with the products and learning a brand’s story in a very different way than can be experienced through social media.
Key to streetwear brands’ business are limited-edition drops. The blocks-long lines filled with loyal followers trying to purchase the coveted products create a level of hype than can’t be replicated online. This type of store traffic creates a buzz on social media, driving more eyeballs and therefore more people to the store, creating a successful marketing loop.
Streetwear brands have become a reliable channel for traditional luxury retailers to connect with a younger demographic—LVMH invested in Madhappy, Louis Vuitton collaborated with Supreme, and Kering’s Balenciaga has expanded into streetwear. The influence of these larger, more established retail groups drives emerging streetwear brands to build stores, becoming their own, new type of luxury retail tenant. These brands are placing themselves in well-known luxury retail thoroughfares, including A Bathing Ape (Bape) on Melrose Ave in Los Angeles and Madison Ave in New York City, and Concepts on Newbury Street in Boston.
From the opening of October’s Very Own in Los Angeles’ The Grove to Virgil Abloh’s Off-White in Las Vegas’ Wynn Plaza to Concepts on Newbury Street in Boston, the recent wave of streetwear store openings is a testament to the power of brick-and-mortar locations. Traffic to stores will only increase following the pandemic, so brands have an opportunity now to begin planning for how they want to capture an audience who will be looking for human (and brand) interaction more than ever before.
By Vincent Spataro, Senior Director