With a reliance on scarcity and hype to drive demand, it’s no surprise that streetwear’s drop culture has been embraced by luxury brands—especially in Asia’s global streetwear capitals.
Burberry’s new B Series collection has been one of the most highly publicized examples of this trend. The brand has taken a page from Supreme’s playbook, announcing that new pieces will be released on the 17th of every month. The logo T-shirts and other products are only offered for a maximum of 24 hours, and Asia is a major focus for this sales model. Three out of the four platforms where the collection is available globally are Asian messaging apps: China’s WeChat, Japan’s LINE, and South Korea’s KakaoTalk, in addition to Instagram for US and European shoppers.
For the brand’s initial “Drop Zero” of its first B Series T-shirt ahead of its London Fashion Week show, Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu was one of the celebrities selected to model it. While streetwear brands have created their own apps in the US for these online sales, messenger apps like WeChat are useful for creating sales with a sense of immediacy and scarcity in Asian markets. Burberry’s WeChat followers receive a push message when each collection goes online, linking to the brand’s mini program for the B Series sales. When in an active selling period, the mini program features a bright red countdown timer telling the shopper how much time is left to buy the items (if they’re not already sold out).
As luxury brands are replacing creative directors left and right to bring in those with streetwear credentials, targeting Asia’s younger consumers is a key priority. Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury China finds that streetwear-related search terms are growing in popularity at a faster rate than luxury keywords. Millennials and Gen Z shoppers are reading up on the latest trends on China’s streetwear platform Yoho! or the Hong Kong-based publication Hypebeast, which is published in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese in addition to English.
Digital-only drops can help to alleviate some of the chaos caused by the buying frenzy that ensues over popular streetwear luxury items. Balenciaga learned this the hard way after the Paris store launch of its crazy popular Triple S “dad shoe” devolved into a fight involving Chinese daigou sellers and other third-party sellers waiting in line to buy a pair. When a video of the scuffle circulated online showing a Chinese seller allegedly being roughed up by the store’s security, it created a PR disaster for Balenciaga in China and prompted an apology from the brand.
Collaborations with traditional streetwear brands are also being promoted heavily in Asia. Lacoste sold pieces from its Supreme collaboration on WeChat in the spring, Rimowa also made its Off-White collaboration available on WeChat, and Polo Ralph Lauren just announced its collaboration with skater brand Palace through mysterious billboards in Tokyo.
While a pure streetwear drop generally offers no little to no preview of items in addition to limited availability, luxury brands have also been experimenting with the drop’s cousins like the pop-up, flash sale, or pre-sale to create a sense of scarcity. For example, Moncler launched a pop-up on Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion for its streetwear-inspired Moncler Genius collection, which features pieces by eight different designers in smaller capsule collections released throughout the year. The Tmall pop-up offered six of the collections exclusively on the platform for pre-sale before they were made available on Moncler’s site and offline pop-up store, as well as a Tmall-specific capsule collection.
Other brands experimenting with pop-up shop models for streetwear-inspired lines include Valentino, which has enlisted K-pop star Zhang Yixing to promote flash sales of its VLTN collection on WeChat; Fendi, which had K-pop star Jackson Wang release the hit single “Fendiman” for its FF Reloaded capsule collection made available on a JD.com Toplife pop-up; and Loewe, which enlisted Huang Zitao to promote its limited-edition Z.TAO Goya backpack that was sold in a WeChat mini program advance sale ahead of being released in stores.
While high-end fashion brands are now borrowing from streetwear, brands like Supreme were likely initially inspired by the luxury industry’s ability to drive demand through limited quantities and brand cachet.
Limited-edition luxury brand sales are widespread on WeChat for traditional products like handbags and jewelry items, especially for holidays like Qixi Festival and Chinese New Year or in collaboration with a Chinese celebrity or influencer.
The idea is coming full circle in China, as even Hermès, the monarch of the scarcity principle, has featured a streetwear-style capsule collection for sale on WeChat.