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Editor's pick product Retail social media

3 ways streetwear is reinventing the product ‘drop’

The streetwear ‘drop’ model of drip-feeding products in order to generate a constant sense of newness is now a tried and tested one. But as luxury brands and retailers borrow from its success recipe, the big question is: is the hype bubble about to burst?

While many of streetwear’s forefathers now claim the once-niche movement is long-dead, brands are still finding different ways to capitalize on such an invested audience. Beyond product releases that draw crowds outside stores at major capitals, from New York to Tokyo, there is a new level of creativity being deployed in order to keep the momentum going.

Here, we highlight the most disruptive ways in which streetwear brands are continuing to achieve the same level of frenzy:

Reinventing the scavenger hunt
Fred Perry x Raf Simons

The traditional ‘drop’ strategy involved feeding the audience with specific release dates and locations, and waiting for the masses of eager streetwear fanatics to show up and queue. But as a system of resale and unfair buying behaviors began to develop, brands had to rethink their strategy.

By gamifying the drop experience, consumers feel a bigger sense of ownership and emotional response to the whole experience – in other words, by making them work for it, they value their purchases, and the brand, more.

At last year’s ComplexCon taking place in Long Beach, California, adidas was arguably the biggest sportswear presence with a number of activation booths throughout. But it took advantage of the larger-than-life venue by deploying giant cubes that hung from the ceiling and facilitated the purchase of limited edition shoes.

Through the ComplexCon app, it told Con-goers of the exact time a new model was about to drop. Users were then encouraged to stand under one of the cubes and scan to gain access to the e-commerce page and proceed to purchase. As a result, before the clock struck every few hours, one could see small crowds gathering under the cubes, hoping to be able to ‘cop’ the shoe before anyone else.

Fred Perry meanwhile, took it to the digital sphere to promote its latest collaboration with Belgian designer Raf Simons. It created a Google Streetview-like experience where, by visiting a virtual map of a suburban English town, users could navigate its empty streets to spot people wearing the latest collection. Once they found someone sporting the new look, they could click it to purchase, and be led to an e-commerce page.

Rewarding post-purchase
Converse’s Chuck Stop café

If digital channels have made it far too easy to get one’s hands on a limited edition item, then brands should also be focusing on the important post-purchase moment as an opportunity for creating longer-term bonds. In doing so, brands are creating a never-ending cycle of engagement, with a clear reward keeping fans coming back for more.

To promote Air Max Day, Nike’s yearly celebration of the Air Max shoe, the brand launched a virtual store where limited edition items could only be accessed if the consumer showed proof they had already purchased the latest model of the shoe in the first place. Logging in a purchase number generated Air Max ‘credits’ that were put into a virtual wallet, which then allowed access to items such as bottles, socks and stickers.

Meanwhile, when launching the latest iteration of its much-hyped collaboration with Off-White last October, Converse rewarded consumers with access to an exclusive experience at Selfridges in London. Any consumer wearing any item of Chuck Taylor clothing, and having bought the new shoes at sneaker retailer Offspring’s concession at the store, were given a Converse “coffee loyalty card”.

This granted them access to the Chuck Stop café, where they could enjoy a drink and a bagel, pick up freebies like tote bags and socks, and add their own graffiti to a wall.

Tapping into social
Nike x HQ Trivia’s limited edition kicks

Social media is arguably the most important driver of the popularity of streetwear – from enabling users to discover and covet new brands or products, as well as connecting labels to a larger community that keep their popularity going.

Ultimate rivals Nike and adidas are often the first ones to tap into new channels of engagement, in a constant battle for the top spot in positive consumer sentiment (and spending). Last year, amid the craze surrounding live gaming app HQ Trivia, Nike sponsored a live game that included access to exclusive shoes and a cash giveaway of $100,000. Previously, it had taken to Snapchat to pre-release Air Jordans at an NBA after-party in Los Angeles. Only guests on-site could scan Snapcodes to gain access to purchase.

Adidas has also played with Snapchat, and recently used Apple’s “AirDrop” functionality on the iPhone to gift attendees at Coachella Valley Music Festival with a new shoe collaboration with musician Donald Glover (also known as Childish Gambino).

Also leveraging social is NTWRK, a new social media platform by Aaron Levant, the former founder of Complexcon. Dubbed as the “HSN of streetwear” and with ambitions to become a full-on entertainment platform, the app works by broadcasting live bite-sized ‘shows’ that feature exclusive product drops. Users who wish to get their hands on product, which includes collabs with the likes of Levi’s and New Balance, need to log into the app at the exact time the show airs.

How are you thinking about retail and product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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e-commerce Editor's pick product

New label Fall Risk launches collection through dedicated telephone hotline

New York-based streetwear label, Fall Risk, has released its very first collection via a digital showroom, but its only shoppable by calling a dedicated hotline.

The phone line (+1 212.982.7475) is highlighted on the brand’s website alongside a tagline that reads “CALL TO ORDER”. Befitting the overall retro atmosphere of the site, this is written out in green pixelated letters on a black background, reminiscent of early years computer screens.

Once a customer calls, the designer himself – John Targon (a former employee of Marc Jacobs, Celine and Burberry) – or one of his team will pick up the phone to discuss the purchase.

“The idea of personal connection is the biggest driving force for me right now,” the designer shared in an interview with CR Fashionbook. “I wanted to connect directly with the people who are interested in buying Fall Risk. There was no better way for me to get the true feeling of what is resonating other than by directly listening to my potential customers. Also, it’s fun to listen and talk to them since you can understand what people already own and what they need.”

The collection itself invites references of the 70s and 90s fashion eras, featuring unisex knitwear clothing and accessories. Only 50 items have been produced of each style, which explains why they all sold out after launching only yesterday.

A campaign image of newly launched NY fashion label Fall Risk

Fall Risk is cleverly tapping into the successful marketing strategies of streetwear brands, garnering hype around limited edition collection “drops”. For example on the top of the digital showroom website, a small tab to the left shows a timer that counts down to the brand’s next drop. Currently, it is set for 00:00:00, but items such as that shown in the ad above have not yet been released, suggesting another range of styles is not far off.

In the future, the designer has outlined his ambitions to introduce a membership program that will allow members to preorder items and participate in exclusive events.

Fall Risks’ retro approach to selling its merchandise is one of the latest examples of how streetwear is tapping into consumers’ need for newness. Adidas, for example, gifted their newest sneaker collaboration with Childish Gambino via Apple’s AirDrop feature to lucky festival-goers at Coachella this year.

How are you thinking about e-commerce innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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business Editor's pick Retail

Community and causes: Highlights from the Fast Company Innovation Festival

Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Strauss & Co.
Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Strauss & Co.

Experiences that attract young customers, engaging with the community and taking a stance on social issues were the major topics of conversation at this year’s Fast Company Innovation Festival.

Speaking at the conference, brand experts highlighted the growing importance of listening to their consumers, and reflecting their lifestyles and values.

Shopping as an experience

“Experience today is a younger generation’s currency,” said Daniella Vitale, CEO of Barneys New York. “They’re less motivated by money and more motivated by an authentic experience.” At a panel about the company’s strategy for reaching young customers, Vitale mentioned the success of “The Drop”, an elaborate, experiential program that involved a retail model inspired by streetwear, as well as parties and workshops. “We were willing to forfeit profitability and sales for an incredible experience.”

Vitale stressed, however, that the program ended up generating a huge return on their investment by converting visitors to repeat customers while retaining the ones they already had. ”The Drop is way beyond merchandising. It’s about working with large-scale brands on creating exclusive projects.”

Companies as communities

Tina Sharkey, CEO of FMCG startup company Brandless, says the company thinks of itself less as a company and more like a community, which includes constant communication with its customer base.

Social networks are its go-to channel for those conversations. “We are constantly asking what do they think, what we can do better, what they are looking for?” Sharkey said. “People want to answer these questions because people want to be seen. It amazes me that direct-to-consumer companies think of [social media] as a channel as opposed to a direct relationship.”

For Sharkey, the brand becomes a platform for customers to be heard and for products to tell their own stories. For instance, Brandless does weekly Facebook Live events with its buyers so that customers can ask questions in real time. “Companies shouldn’t be creating false narratives around the products. The products need to be able to speak for themselves. Therefore the quality of the product is foundational.”

Brands weighing in on activism

For Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Strauss & Co, countries are so politically divided at the moment that CEOs have a great obligation to weigh in on causes. Recently, the company pledged $1M to gun control organizations, as well as signed a letter asking Congress to pass the bipartisan Dream Act. It has also also teamed up with over 200 brands, including Patagonia, in the “Time to Vote” campaign, which grants employees time off to vote.

Levi’s isn’t afraid of losing customers, Bergh said. “When we took action on gun control, I got lots of emails of people saying they would stop buying Levi’s, but I also got thousands of other ones from people saying they would buy even more from us.” The risk seems to be paying off, however. “We’ve had four quarters of double-digit roll growth. That’s on top of last year’s 8% growth. So our business results are actually accelerating.”

Bergh also said that becoming political was never an issue for the talent the company works with. “Having the courage to stand up and take a stand has always been a part of our lifeblood, and it’s who we are. And our employees expect it.”

Are you thinking innovatively enough in your brand messaging? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Campaigns Editor's pick product

Diesel teams up with cult Berlin kebab shop for latest collab

Diesel x Mustafa
Diesel x Mustafa

Diesel has teamed up with cult Berlin-based kebab kiosk, Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap, for a limited edition collection drop.

The line launched last weekend at Zalando’s customer-facing trade show, Bread & Butter, a model aiming to emulate the success of ComplexCon in the US by hosting immersive customer experiences, exclusive drops and live music. At the event, Mustafa himself was also serving his popular kebab creations.

In line with the Italian brand’s satirical approach to fashion, Diesel is hoping to challenge what is expected of typical collaborations with this launch – where one brand piggybacks on another’s ‘cool’ factor through limited edition clothing that targets the trend-driven demographic. It also serves as commentary on how collab-obsessed the younger generation (and subsequently, brands who wish to target such customer) have become.

The Diesel x Mustafa collaboration includes jumpers, t-shirts and hats, and will also be available for sale on diesel.com and at selected Diesel stores worldwide.

Diesel’s latest initiative follows on from previous marketing activity that serves to reinforce the brand’s commitment to celebrating the unusual, and doing so with a sense of humor.

In January this year, it launched its “Keep the World Flawed” campaign, which included a video with digital Easter eggs in which everything was just slightly off; in February, it launched a “Deisel” pop-up store at NYC’s Chinatown neighborhood, selling ‘fake’ versions of its designs; and most recently in May, it launched the prototype for the world’s most uncomfortable meeting room, aiming to keep meetings as short and efficient as possible, while making fun of the fact they are often unnecessary.

Earlier this year, TheCurrent also featured Stefano Rosso, Diesel’s CEO of North America, on TheCurrent Innovators podcast, where he talked about the idea of challenging conformity.

Diesel x Mustafa
Diesel x Mustafa

Are you thinking innovatively enough about your brand messaging and collaborations? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
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Editor's pick product Retail

Balenciaga’s new trainers can only be bought by appointment at Selfridges

Balenciaga 'Track' sneakers
Balenciaga ‘Track’ sneakers

Balenciaga is launching a new shoe, named the ‘Track’, by appointment only at London department store Selfridges.

In order to book an appointment however, shoppers must visit a dedicated site to reserve a pair, and collect at a designated time slot at the store’s Corner Shop.

“This service model has been in place for brand launches for a few years, and it has helped eliminate queues and customer dissatisfaction,” Sebastian Manes, Selfridges buying and merchandising director, told Vogue ahead of the launch.

The retail strategy demonstrates once again the influence that streetwear’s drop culture has had on luxury as a whole, from product to shopping experience. Under Demna Gvasalia’s tenure, Balenciaga has borrowed from the hype generated by the Georgian designer’s other role as the head creative of Vetements, which gained him cult following by playing up irony in fashion.

With that mindset, Balenciaga led the trend of the ‘ugly’ sneaker in luxury fashion with its Triple S model. This new model, however, takes inspiration from traditional hiking and running styles, using similar high tech materials that aim to enhance performance.

Balenciaga 'Track' sneakers
Balenciaga ‘Track’ sneakers

“Balenciaga sneakers have been one of the most in-demand pieces of footwear since last year,” continued Manes. “Every time we restock the Triple S, it sells out within hours thanks to a growing waiting list. Our clients can’t wait to see what’s next from Demna Gvasalia – he has truly reinvented the house for the modern day woman and man.”

The new model will come in four styles, which can be previewed on the interactive site. Given the popularity of its predecessor, both the brand and retailer expect it to become another cult classic.

Selfridges’ Corner Shop, which is the store’s pop-up space, will also host artworks by artist Mark Jenkins at the same time that the coveted sneakers are on sale.

How are you thinking about product and retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick product Retail social media

Nike sells limited pre-run of Air Jordan III “Tinker” on Snapchat

The Nike Air Jordan III “Tinker” sold out on Snapchat
The Nike Air Jordan III “Tinker” sold out on Snapchat

Nike became the first brand to sell a product via Snapchat this week, with the pre-release of its Air Jordan III “Tinker” following the NBA All-Star game.

Achieved via a partnership between Nike, Snap, Darkstore and Shopify, the initiative enabled attendees of the Jumpman All-Star after-party in Los Angeles to scan exclusive Snap codes to buy and receive the shoes by 10:30pm that same night.

All of them sold out within 23 minutes.

“This is the Holy Grail of the experience [Nike is] trying to intend, which is direct to consumer — to the actual consumer, versus a bot — and same-day delivery,” Darkstore CEO, Lee Hnetinka, told TechCrunch. “The Snap code introduces a new paradigm for commerce.”

“Jordan Brand and the Jumpman represent greatness, so we hold ourselves and our partners to that standard to create distinct and meaningful experiences for our community,” Dan Harbison, Jordan Brand’s senior director of global digital said. “To execute on that, we worked with some of the industry leaders in this space. Snapchat had an existing partnership with Shopify to create the frictionless commerce experience, so we felt that would make sense. We had also talked to Darkstore and liked their same day delivery solution and learned they had partnered with Shopify in the past, so that became an easy decision.”

The Nike Air Jordan III “Tinker” sold out on Snapchat
The Nike Air Jordan III “Tinker” sold out on Snapchat

Darkstore is an on-demand fulfillment startup that looks to locations such as malls with excess capacity to store products, and uses them to then ship from same day. They become fulfilment centers with just a smartphone.

In this instance, the official release of the shoe isn’t until March 24, but using Darkstore and the other partners, served as an opportunity to drive interest and engagement with fans.

Nike has been experimenting with this idea of requiring shoppers to be in a physical space in order to get their hands on specific product, for some time. It previously did so via an augmented reality treasure hunt, for instance. We’re also seeing numerous other brands heavily playing with the notion of scarcity and experience, particularly surrounding streetwear and sneakers at present, including Palace, Supreme, adidas, and most recently, Converse.