Streetwear has become a global phenomenon – a dominant cultural force and influence not only in the fashion sphere, but also in music, art, and pop culture. The once-niche subculture has shaped the menswear category to driving significant growth over the last few years. Aggressively infiltrating the high fashion world, collaborations from Supreme x Louis Vuitton to Palace x Ralph Lauren were seen targeting Millennials and Generation Z.
According to Bain & Company’s 2018 Luxury Study, streetwear is one of the major driving forces behind the growth of luxury fashion. Its rapid prevalent success and growth have led to speculation – is it now on the brink of saturation?
In this report, we explored the performance of top streetwear brands over the past year, along with the influence of high fashion on their immediate future trajectory.
More than 11,000 data points were screened over menswear from 5 labels – Supreme, Vetements, A Bathing Ape, Off-White and Undercover listed on Farfetch, MatchesFashion and Selfridges for a 12-month duration, from April 2018 to March 2019.
Trade Performance Analysis
Total new arrivals, also commonly known as ‘drops’ in the streetwear scene, showed an upward trend over the past year (Chart 1), with SS19 drops peaked in Feb ‘19.
Cross analysing the key metrics showed similar up-trending fashion, with total sell-out overtaken new arrivals at 2x the average count. By the end of Mar ‘19, sell-out was significantly higher at 3x more compared to a year ago, signalling continuous popularity in streetwear.
Performance by Brand
A Bathing Ape chartered reliable results ahead of the others with an astounding 100% sell-out (Chart 2). This means that every item displayed have sold out at least once, and at full price strong. The brand also showed a high productivity level with new-in rate recorded at 85%.
Supreme, a master of the drop strategy – releasing newness in limited quantities without much-advanced notice, delivered 72% sell-out at total full price. Similarly, Off-White achieved 71% sell-out but with a much more extensive assortment (3x above the average count).
On the contrary, Vetements and Undercover were heavy on discounting. With the least newness rate at 65%, Vetement’s high sell-out performance (86%) was primarily driven by discounts, claiming just 35% sell-out at full price.
The Leading Categories
Tops and Outerwear were the commanding categories in streetwear, with more than 50% contributions on newness and sell-out, respectively (Chart 3). Although Tops’ new-in contribution was slightly higher than Outerwear (26% vs 25%), the latter category proved to be more popular with sell-out contribution surpassed Tops’ (30% vs 24%).
‘Others’ included categories of Jeans, Shorts, Pants, Jewellery, Swimwear & Beachwear, Jumpsuits & Dungarees and Eyewear.
Over the past year, Tops and Outerwear surpassed all other categories in the majority months with the most newness launched (Chart 4).
It is interesting to note that the main categories in streetwear have launched newness tailing behind the fashion seasonality. On the timeline analysed, the brands peaked over Summer ‘18, with small spikes over Fall ‘18 starting Aug ‘18, leading up to Holiday peak in Nov/Dec ‘18. The next peak was followed by Spring/Summer launch in Feb ‘19.
Casual silhouettes continued to dominate streetwear over the last 12 months, as seen across loose-fit Tees, oversized Sweaters and casual Jackets, and baggy Jeans. However, this is about to change as we observed increasingly tailored and fitted silhouettes down the runways for menswear. The next chapter dived deeper into this shift.
The New Shift in Menswear
After seasons of invading the menswear fashion with sporty athleisure vibes, the streetwear culture is finally making way for tailoring.
The recent FW19 and SS19 menswear fashion runways showcased a surprising shift away from the baggy athleisure styles to usher in smarter, sartorial tailored pieces. From Balenciaga – one of the first fashion houses that dived into luxury hoodies and sneakers, to Dior, chic tailored suiting complete with dress shoes became stars of the shows. The trend started creeping in SS19 but went full swing in FW19.
Brands synonymous with streetwear such as Off-White, Raf Simons, and A-Cold-Wall have all smartened up in the recent FW19 fashion shows. Key looks featured included suits and blazers in regular silhouettes, marrying classic tailored fashion with streetwear styles.
A variation of keywords such as ‘tailored’, ‘smart’, ‘slim’, ‘fitted’ and ‘classic’ were identified to examine if a more refined style or silhouette has taken off across the five brands in focus.
The modern tailoring silhouette took up 20% of the total newness, where it showed an upward trajectory beginning the second half of 2018 (Chart 5). The brands introduced nearly 3x more tailored style in Feb ‘19 than in the previous months. This movement validated the new shift in line with the trends highlighted in SS19 and FW19 runways.
Outerwear and Tops were the most significant contributors to the tailoring trend. Outerwear new arrivals saw an injection of blazers, double-breasted coats and smart jackets with a streetwear vibe. Meanwhile, slim-fitted and less oversized t-shirts and shirts were seen in Tops.
Jeans and Pants were also riding on this trend. The Jeans category observed increased newness in slim fit, less baggy silhouettes, while more tailored trousers were seen in Pants.
Brand Identity Ensures Success: With the massive success of Supreme and Off-White, more brands look to jump on the bandwagon of fashion streetwear. However, it is prevalent to first establish an authentic identity with critical brand positioning to stand out in the competition.
Off-White’s status as the hottest brand in Lyst Index Q3 2018, surpassing Gucci and Balenciaga, was validated by high sell-out analysed. Its vast assortment with stylised “quotes” and “quotation marks” continues to be desirable for its uniqueness. A Bathing Ape enjoys similar success with its iconic ape and camo prints, leading to its 100% sell-out rate reported (Chart 2).
Meanwhile, Vetements under Demna Gvasalia struggled to entice consumers with 60% of its products discounted – leading to sales driven mainly by discounts. Gvasalia also helms Balenciaga, which is a more popular brand than Vetements.
Streetwear Tailing Fashion: Streetwear is becoming less of a subculture but more of a commercial juggernaut. This is evident from its seasonal drops to the high fashion influences, as well as the tailored-style dominance over SS19 and FW19 fashion runways.
Innovation Matters: The lacklustre performance by Vetements proved that streetwear brands are not able to retain success solely based on hype around scarcity and collaborations. For the past year, Vetements’ success was primarily defined by partnerships, including Vetements x Reebok collection, but it lacked overall newness (Chart 2 showed the brand had the least new-in rate).
Frequent drops would be meaningless if the products launched were uninventive, especially at a time when consumers continue to seek originality and novelty. Furthermore, with streetwear retailing at premium price points, reissuing similar styles without new iterations would be deemed unjustifiable by the consumers.
Slowing Down on Streetwear Styles: The surprising shift towards tailored silhouettes on the recent runway shows could change the design direction and offerings of streetwear on the retail front. This perspective seals the enormous influence of fashion and commercialism on streetwear.
Fashion brands planning to launch or build streetwear inspired capsules should reflect on the shift, as the immediate future might not deliver the same positive impact that it did to streetwear over the recent years.