The way luxury brands connect with consumers has changed over the years: from introspection (identifying the defining attributes and benefits of their brand, then pushing that version to market) to actively and purposefully creating conversation. Culture has replaced control.
Of course, brands can’t just decide to be culturally relevant. To deepen relevance and connections with consumers, brands need to adapt their game plan. From collaborations to playing the scarcity game, we take a look at how brands are borrowing from streetwear culture to change the rules of luxury marketing.
Collaborations are a major part of streetwear culture. Recent history is full of examples of unexpected collaborations - from PALACE x Wimbledon to Off-White x Rimowa to Supreme x Louis Vuitton (or Supreme x White Castle, or Supreme x Budweiser etc.).
There’s a magnetic power that streetwear brands have over consumers – the immediacy, exclusivity and the draw of must-have drops can have a positive effect on the brands that collaborate with them. And luxury brands are cottoning on.
Done correctly (this usually means letting the streetwear brand lead) collaborations can make a passive brand truly unignorable, exposing the brand to different audiences, conversations and putting the brand in a different context.
“Collaborations have to feel right,” says Jian DeLeon, editorial director at Highsnobiety. “It works best when it’s two different brands coming together to make something they couldn’t make on their own. It’s not about slapping two names together and using it as a marketing tactic, which happens a lot.”
Collaborations don’t have to mean the ‘brand x brand’ formula, think deeper about who your collaborator is. Last year, we helped luxury Scottish whisky brand, Johnnie Walker, collaborate with Denis Villeneuve, director of Blade Runner 2049, to create a Director’s Cut Limited-Edition liquid blend and bottle to celebrate the iconic, cult sequel.
The limited-edition speaks to both Johnnie Walker and pop-culture fanatics, blowing the boundaries of ‘luxury whisky’ wide open. Making its way onto the pages of Hypebeast and into the hands of tastemakers, such as film critic Mark Kermode, are just two ways we saw the difference between paid-for-media and priceless media. It’s the difference between culture marketing (borrowing culture) and culture (the real stuff).
2. Drop Culture
The drop model, where a limited amount of product is quickly released, has fuelled the rise of streetwear and quickly been adopted by luxury fashion brands.
Last week, in true streetwear style, Kenzo brought the hype to their latest launch by inviting fans to battle it out in order to buy one of 100 exclusive pairs of their new Sonic Sneakers. The battle occurred on a brand new e-platform, solely dedicated to limited-edition products: shopping-league.com
Meanwhile, Dean Cook, menswear buying manager at luxury fashion retailer Browns, says: ‘The past two years have been crazy. Not since the 1970s has consumer behaviour changed so fast and so quickly. Here at Browns we do drops now. So does Apple. In fact, everyone follows the sneaker model. It keeps things hot and alive.’
But now, the trend is catching on with brands outside of the luxury and streetwear scene.
Fast food giant, Shake Shack, has used its app to exclusively ‘drop’ six new menu items with limited numbers as a way to test appetite before fully rolling out the menu.
If you were still in doubt as to the impact of streetwear in the luxury world, take a look at Artcurial’s streetwear auction earlier this year.
Billed as the first street culture sale, Artcurial brought a new generation of luxurians to its Paris auction house, in the hope of snapping up some rare goods. As attitudes to luxury and acquisition evolve, auction houses are diversifying, both to retain relevance and to attract a new breed of young, moneyed consumers.
SEEN is compiled by LOVE’s Head of Culture, Kat Towers. Want to say hello, ask questions or challenge her cultural knowledge? Get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org