Hypebeasts Gone Mad

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a significant rise in a newly branded demographic called “hypebeasts”. Whether it be a newly introduced Supreme and Nike collaboration or Adidas Yeezy shoe, a hypebeast will spend or do whatever it takes to get their hands on the latest trendsetting item. One of the more popular brands among hypebeasts is the New York based streetwear brand, Supreme.

Supreme is famous for its collaborations with celebrities and for its limited releases, as you can only purchase from the brand at one of its few locations or its online flash sales. Due to the lack of Supreme gear in circulation, much of its supply demands a huge price tag from resellers. The lack of Supreme inventory in the market has also led to hypebeasts resorting to violence to obtain these desired products.

Just this past February, at the Supreme Spring 2016 release, a 21 year old man who left the Supreme store, shopping bag in hand, was slashed in the face by a man in the ski mask when he refused to hand over his bag. When a witness was asked what happened he stated, “So the guy slashed him and ran. He didn’t even get to take the item that the guy got from the store…It was a big cut. It was as wide as your finger. It was open, bleeding a lot.”

Violence at recent flash sales has caused concern over the implications that a self-imposed shortage in product supply by Supreme may have on brand-conscious consumers. Supreme, along with other popular streetwear brands, are guilty of creating an artificial shortage of its products. As a result they build up a reputation of being a highly-exclusive luxury brand, while creating a frenzy among hypebeasts who want to get their hands on the trendiest gear.

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Those with the most free time on weekdays, will have a better chance of purchasing from Supreme and  dominate the flash sale distribution methods as they’re willing to stand in line for excessive lengths of time. This group includes many resellers trying to earn income off this market trend. Resellers will purchase Supreme gear and proceed to resell it on sites like eBay at prices highly inflated in comparison to retail prices. This is the most popular method of purchasing from Supreme to turn a profit. The reseller market has grown in popularity such that there are now websites, like stockx.com, that will give you an estimated price range for goods currently flowing through the reseller market.

Resellers not only dominate the on-site sales of Supreme gear, but also dominate the online methods of distribution. When Supreme holds one of its online flash sales, its gear will sell out in a matter of minutes. Resellers have purchased coded “bots,” computer programs that hold all of your personal and credit card information, allowing them to purchase online goods within seconds. Once the Supreme gear is up for sale online, the resellers, through the use of bots, will purchase the products, in bulk, in a matter of seconds. This arbitrage of the system has caused an uproar within the fashion community.

Supreme, along with other streetwear brands, should do more to curtail violence surrounding product launches. GQ Magazine in their documentary “Sneakerheadz” estimates that about 1,200 Americans die every year because of sneakers. In the documentary, “Sneakerheadz”, a mother by the name of Dazie Williams recounts how her son was shot and killed after he was followed home from the mall with a pair of new Air Jordans in-hand, giving us a more in depth look of how limited releases can have a ripple effect on the community of hypebeasts and “sneakerheads” that feed off of said releases. In the GQ documentary, sneakerheads are defined as “people who are so obsessed with sneakers that they’re willing to forgo paying their rent to say that they own a shoe that they will never wear”. If any change is to be initiated, there needs to be a widespread consumer revolution. Both brands and consumers must take it upon themselves to reinvent a culture that has of late taken a dark turn.

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Brands in high-demand like Supreme need to shift from current methods of distribution, and sell exclusively online. In this scenario, these brands would also have to tighten up its website security in order to prevent bots from buying up all of its stock.

Then again, this could all be avoided should these high-demand brands decide to put more of its supply into circulation. Supreme, for example, could mirror the current methods of distribution that Nike has adopted. In this scenario, supply would increase while also increasing price. This would also almost entirely eliminate the reseller market for Supreme branded goods as the increased retail pricing would not allow for reseller profits, as the market resale price would approach the WTP (willingness to pay) of the buyers. Sellouts would be avoided, thus eliminating the whole purpose of the reseller market in the first place. Finding the sweet spot for supply and demand should be the goal for these high-demand branded products, so that its customers can purchase the product first hand and without having to resort to sometimes costly or contested measures.

– Carlos Torres de Navarra

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