ComplexCon was only two weeks ago and everyone has already stopped talking about it. Last year’s ComplexCon featured fist fights, the destruction of entire booths for limited supply clothing, and competitive lotteries and raffles in hopes of maybe getting a hand on those new Adidas Human Races or Nike Air Jordan’s. However, this year was nothing special and had the same cultural significance as your local sneaker convention. There just seems to a lack of ‘hype’ surrounding the street wear industry lately and I have a few reasons to why this may be the case.
Every season the street wear giants, Supreme and Bape, are straying further and further from their skateboarding and street roots. This lack of cultural awareness is what led to the boom of other companies in the industry 1-2 years ago. However, with the rapid expansion of these new street wear companies came a lot of headaches and bad customers service, which lead to the abandonment of the culture as a whole.
Why Have These Companies Fallen Off?
Companies like Anti Social Social Club, Vlone, and Yeezy seem to have had their 15 minutes of fame and are on their way out of the spotlight. Anti Social Social Club has hit a ceiling in their relevance due to poor order fulfillment, extremely long shipping times, and overall staleness in design creativity for the past couple seasons. Vlone, started by the infamous A$AP Bari, was set to be the next big Supreme rival. The brand abruptly lost all cultural support from customers and fellow brands after domestic violence accusations against A$AP Bari. Meanwhile, Kanye West forgot the number one rule in street wear success: “BE EXLUSIVE,” causing his Yeezy line to fail. Adidas looked like they had made the move of all moves when acquiring Kanye West as a celebrity designer from Nike. For two years it seemed as though Adidas was going to be more of a commercial success in the street wear industry than Nike… for all of 2 seconds. Resellers were asking well over $1,000 for the exclusive Yeezy Boost 350s in a variety of color ways. Two years later, after attempting to cash in on the ugly sneaker trend a little too late and producing the same Yeezy Boost 350s for a third time, the name carries almost none of the value it had two years ago. Meanwhile, Nike signed a partnership with Virgil Abloh, the man behind the surging success of Off-White. Next thing you know, Nike and Off-White create “THE TEN” and Adidas x Yeezy was finished as the number one name in footwear.
“I get all my street wear from the mall!”
The blame does not fall completely onto the many street wear brands or their customers for the decline, but on the fast fashion retailers in the mall as well. Fast fashion mall stores are going to beat “street wear” culture with a stick, suck every last dollar out of the subculture that they can, then move onto the next subculture to drain it of any uniqueness or relevance. These companies have saturated the market with cheap knockoffs of iconic street wear styles just to increase their total number of units sold. Not even a full season later, Pacsun will be carrying the same t-shirt designs as Supreme, just without the logo.
Fast fashion is cheapening the street wear brands and have now made what was once a subculture into pop culture. With so much of the street wear identity based around limited supply and inaccessibility, these fast fashion companies wont stop until that Supreme logo is worth nothing more than the fabric it is printed on.
What Is the Industry Doing To Survive?
Honestly… not much. Supreme’s answer to the blatant culture fraud these fast fashion companies are committing is to create more and more wacky and, quite frankly, ugly designs that their loyal customers cannot identify with. The brand is also steadily raising their prices to the point where even resellers aren’t as interested in picking up every drop. These two factors alone have caused Supreme slower sell out times and in more cases than ever, weeks where not everything sells out.
Although I’m hopeful that the industry can turn things around soon, I don’t think customers have much more patience for the current street wear climate, and may start abandoning the culture all together.
Written By: Trent Gibson
Edited By: Kami Strander