What Streetwear Brands’ Response to COVID Says About the Future of Apparel

The year of 2020 has definitely been a challenging one on many fronts. But, one thing that’s really stood out, especially since COVID-19 reared its ugly head earlier this year, is how art and creativity have helped carry us through it all. It’s helped us raise money for those in need, keep local businesses afloat, spread powerful messages, celebrate graduations in unique ways, and given us much needed distractions from the seriousness of the times.

Streetwear and decorated apparel, in general, has absolutely been a huge source of this creativity and support. Many in the streetwear community are among those, who, even while struggling, have used their popularity and creativity to put a smile on people’s faces, while trying to stay in business at the same time.

The Social Distancing Club

Take, for example, a new streetwear company “The Social Distancing Club,” out of Los Angeles, CA. They spawned from a desire to turn social distancing into something that felt cool and positive vs something negative, in an effort to encourage people to do it. The two founders also started the line out as a way to help the World Central Kitchen, a group working across the country on safely distributing individually packaged fresh meals to communities in need. For every piece of apparel (which consists of t-shirts, crop tops, hoodies and of course, face masks) that is sold, five dollars will go to the WCK.

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❌ Out All Of The Hate☎️

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Huf

Another popular brand, HUF, started creating capsule collections that benefit healthcare workers, small businesses and local employees, who have been affected by COVID-19. There are 3 versions of the collection, each being dedicated to workers in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

Palace

British streetwear label, Palace, transformed their logo to support the efforts of the National Health Service, by switching it’s color to the NHS blue. Using the new logo, they created a line of apparel that will see 100% of the proceeds go to helping healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Fundraising For Social Justice

Social justice has also been at the center of streetwear more recently, with brands like “A Cold Wall,” out of the UK, making a £25,000 donation to support black independently owned businesses; Alife, out of NYC, raising $18,500 in sales of their “Justice for Ahmaud Arbery Hoodie,” which will be donated to his mother; and Savage x Fenty planning on donating to four different organizations, those being Black Lives Matter of Greater New YorkColor of Change, Movement for Black Lives, and The Bail Project.

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Foundation@a-cold-wall.com

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What It All Means

The events of 2020 have made society much more hyperaware than it was yesterday. Large reductions in pollution, due to shelter in place orders, for example, have made it abundantly clear to many people of our impact on the environment. And, the recent social justice movements across the country have influenced brands, big and small, to start taking action.

Because of that and the many other social causes we’ve all been supporting these past few months, consumers will most certainly be looking for more apparel made by companies, who are socially conscious, respect human rights and are practicing sustainability.

The actions we’ve seen from the streetwear community and other major brands, during these turbulent times, are a reflection of the power a piece of apparel can have on society and the importance of making sure your brand stands for something more than just making money. Soon, that could be the defining factor between your business surviving, or fading into the sunset.

(Cover Photo by Tom Roberts on Unsplash)

Dear Decorators, Musicians Need You and Here’s Why.

Being a musician these days may be tougher than it’s ever been. The evolution of how we consume our favorite tunes has taken some money out of musicians’ pockets and forced them to get creative with how they make some of it back.

Gone are the days when fans would rush to the stores to buy that new CD, or visit iTunes to download their album. Today, most of us simply stream our music and the rise of these services has made tour and merch revenue much more important to artists worldwide. Business Insider found that the highest paid act in 2017, U2, made $54 million in total revenue. About 94% of that came from touring and less than 4% came from streaming or album sales. Imagine what that means for a local band or an artist without the cache of U2.

Streaming Is Sucking Artists Dry

According to Billboard.com, by November 2019 album sales fell 19% compared to the same point in 2018. “And, for the full year of 2018, album sales dropped by 17.7% to 141 million — the lowest number of albums sold in a year since Nielsen Music began electronically tracking sales in 1991.” This is largely due to streaming.

NPR interviewed independent musician, Erin McKeown, and found that her accountant mentioned she was only making $0.004 per play on Spotify. At that rate, it would take 250 streams to earn $1 in royalties and 2,500 to earn a typical album download cost of $10. Keep in mind that is because McKeown is an independent artist, she gets 100% of her streaming royalties, but if she had a label, she’d be splitting even that small amount of earnings with them too.

The coronavirus has recently made things even more dire for musicians. With the pandemic effectively shutting down their #1 revenue stream, most acts have been forced to cancel or reschedule their tours. So how are musicians surviving these days?

Apparel Bundles and Merch Are Saving Musicians

Enter the apparel bundle. Because no one really buys music anymore, musicians need to entice their fans into purchasing albums. In an article for Rolling Stone, J. Cole manager, Matt McNeal, says that bundles are meant

“to trick people back into buying full albums…Fans are probably already listening to the album [on a streaming service], but because I sold them this t-shirt, I also get a CD sale within it.”

T-shirt bundles like these can sell for upwards of $30 and get paired with either a physical copy of the album or a digital download. But, some artists are skimming on using quality apparel and taking a hit on margins, with these bundles. On average you’d pay $10 for an album and between $20 to $30 for the artist’s apparel. Some bundles, like the one Nicki Minaj had put out for her “Queen” album, have gone for as low as $15 dollars, which seems crazy to some, because it leaves so little margin for profit. So why would someone do such a thing, especially when merchandise is such a huge revenue stream for artists today?

Apparel Catapults You Up The Charts

These days, almost all the albums on the top 200 are getting their rank boosted by a bundled album, and we’re talking about the likes of Taylor Swift, The Jonas Brothers, Kanye West, Ariana Grande, Thomas Rhett and Billie Eilish. Your Billboard ranking is dependent on your total album sales, but since everyone is streaming, musicians need to bundle decorated apparel with album downloads, to raise their ranking.

It takes 1,250 paid subscription streams to equal 1 album unit and 3,750 ad-supported streams to do the same, making it almost impossible to rely on streams alone to raise your Billboard ranking.

When Travis Scott first released his album “Astroworld,” he bundled it with exclusive merch that spanned 28 items. For the first 9 days of the release, every 24 hours he updated his site with brand new exclusive merch. One of those pieces included a t-shirt collaboration with the ever-popular Off-White founder, Virgil Abloh. As you probably know, his strategy worked, because “Astroworld” would eventually hit #1 on the Billboard charts.

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Virgil for Astroworld 24hrs

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In a way, this has sparked what some are calling a “bundle war” in the music industry. Your position on the charts is becoming more about how creative you can be in developing unique promotions and apparel than whose music people enjoyed more. That’s why some artists are willing to settle for less on quality and margins. Their main goal is to sell as many units as possible, by any means necessary. In Rolling Stone, Michael Cherman, designer of merchandise for A$AP Rocky and Lil Wayne, says:

“If [artists] can move the numbers up, that will get them more attention. It’s just a marketing game: The more you can trend, be the album that’s talked about, the more people are going to go and see what’s happening.”

Of course, bigger acts are going to be able to play this game more than the smaller ones. Some musicians aren’t able to skimp on margins and might sell less albums because of it. Some won’t want to skimp on quality, because it’s a bad reflection of their brand. The main takeaway is that all of them need you.

The one constant within the industry is the need for decorated apparel, and not only is it increasing, it’s becoming a vital part of an artist’s success. Knowing the ins and outs of how apparel affects a musician’s image, ranking, and survival will be key in your consultations with them. Your ability to help recommend the best approach in choosing the right design, quality and quantity to achieve their goals is what will take your business to the top of the charts.

Celebrities Love Adidas. But, THIS Is Why Your Clients Will Love Them Too.

Iconic sports brand adidas has made a huge sustainable splash—and the world has taken notice. That’s why it’s so exciting for S&S to be the exclusive distributor of premium adidas products to the wholesale market. We’ve now introduced the wholesale market to more than 30 adidas styles that contain recycled polyester, or are made from 100% recycled polyester, and more are on the way.

The prestige of this brand, coupled with its compelling recycled-product story and sustainable message, speaks to Gen X and Millennial end-users in a whole new way.

This year, and into 2021, distributors and decorators should start embracing the opportunity to present clients with adidas’ sustainable story and styles, as people are looking for more responsible brands to buy from. Here’s a few reasons why.

Celebrity Love for Adidas Is Blowing Up

When you take adidas’ sustainable efforts and then add in major star power, you get an unbeatable formula for brand success. Collaborations with artists like Pharrell Williams and Kanye West have led to the creation of highly sought after sneaker collections. Beyoncé’s “Ivy Park” athletic apparel line, just launched—capturing more of the urban and streetwear markets. Their newest brand ambassador, NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes, is the inspiration behind their recently launched collection, Pat’s Closet, and the talent keeps on flocking to adidas.

Many athletes and celebrities use their reach to help causes they care about the most. They feel a need to align themselves with things that can make a difference and Continue reading “Celebrities Love Adidas. But, THIS Is Why Your Clients Will Love Them Too.”

Off-White: Behind The World’s Hottest Streetwear Brand

Kanye West and A Musical Beginning

Off-White founder Virgil Abloh was born in Chicago in 1980 to Ghanian immigrant parents. After earning an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology, he established a Chicago art gallery and streetwear boutique called RSVP Gallery.

Around this time, Abloh interned at high-fashion label, Fendi, in Rome, where he connected with rap superstar Kanye West. West made Abloh the creative director of his agency Donda, where he designed sets for West’s concert tours and created the artwork for West and Jay-Z’s album Watch the Throne.

In 2009, Abloh and West launched Pyrex Vision, an innovative streetwear design company. According to Highsnobiety, Pyrex Vision’s first garments consisted of Ralph Lauren flannel shirts purchased for $40, screen printed with the word “Pyrex” and the number 23 (a nod to the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan), and resold for $550.

Off-White?

In 2013, Pyrex Vision relaunched as Off-White ℅ Virgil Abloh. The name is a reference to “the gray area between black and white.”

Off-White often uses quotation marks in its designs, with Highsnobiety saying that, “By presenting words as citations, Abloh is taking them out of context, and questioning their seriousness. When he puts “Sculpture” on the side of a handbag, he’s provoking the viewer. What’s the difference between a handbag and a piece of art, really?

Off-White’s Fashion Aesthetic

A quick look at Off-White’s spring/summer 2020 collection shows how much they’ve expanded their offering over the years. Their line covers everything (Tracksuits; bombers; puffer jackets; sweatshirts for men; jackets, crop tops; dresses and activewear for women). All of these styles use a mixture of both muted and bright hues, so there’s something for everyone. Brand lovers can even extend the style to their living space, with home goods like blankets, towels, pillows and more.

A Rise In Popularity

According to an interview conducted by Business Of Fashion, Federica Levato, a partner at Bain & Company, says:

“Customers are becoming younger, and that is very good for the mid- and longer-term survival of this industry. There is a big market of €2.5 million for luxury T-shirts, for example, that is growing very fast.”

Off-White has merged the worlds of contemporary art, high-fashion and hip hop culture in a way that’s appealed to consumers of all ages, from teenagers on up. With 10.3 million followers on Instagram, the brand has definitely used social media to grab the attention of that young generation of buyers and keep their image fresh. That influence has also demanded the attention of major brands and fashion designers around the world, allowing them to keep creating more collaborative collections that people are continuously lining up for.

In 2014, Abloh debuted collections at Paris Fashion Week and has shown no signs of slowing down, establishing the brand’s first concept store in Tokyo and followed that up by launching a furniture collection called Grey Area in 2016. One year later, he was awarded the British Fashion Award for Urban Luxe Brand. Following a steady rise in popularity, in 2018, Abloh was named artistic director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear division.

One thing is for sure: Off-White isn’t going anywhere. According to HYPEBEAST, during Q3 2019, it beat luxury brand Gucci as “Hottest Brand.” It held on to the top spot for Q4 2019, with Gucci and Balenciaga taking the second and third spots, respectively.

Throughout his career, Abloh has also formed partnerships with a variety of brands, including Nike, Levis, Jimmy Choo, Warby Parker, Sunglass Hut, Converse, Dr. Martens, Timberland and more. He’s even gone as far as collaborating with IKEA, and creating exhibits like the one at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, which launched in 2019.

What’s Next

So, what’s next for Abloh and Off-White? Footwear News reports that Off-White and the Jordan brand will release new Off-White x Air Jordan 5 sneakers later this year. Virgil Abloh and Off-White are certainly here to stay.

Cover Photo by Leon Skibitzki on Unsplash

Masks Are Now Made For Decorating

Streetwear has gone in many different directions that have, at times, seemed a little overboard. With companies like Supreme going as far as putting their logo on an Oreo cookie, there seems to be no limit on what a streetwear company may do next.

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Dropping Soon.

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Enter face masks. Although wearing them has been fairly common in a few countries, here in the states, fashionable masks are generally an unnecessary luxury that just seemed like another over-the-top reach for more sales.

However, times have changed and masks have suddenly become one of the hottest pieces of streetwear on the market. How hot are they?

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Gen Z Wants Sustainable Apparel and ComfortWash is Bringing It to Them

Garment-dyed apparel is hot in fashion right now, but not as hot as sustainability is becoming. Awareness of the fashion industry’s effect on our environment and human rights is at an all-time high, and no one is more conscious of this than today’s college students. How seriously are they taking it?

Forever 21 failed to address the growing concerns of its main audience in Gen Z, and is now filing for bankruptcy. College campuses like the University of Massachusetts, are dedicating whole sections of their stores, specifically to highlight sustainable spiritwear. Fashion schools are starting to implement courses that educate students on the impact of the industry’s practices, and some institutions may even go as far as making understanding these concerns a requirement that affects your overall grade. All of this is signaling that a shift is happening in the expectations of young consumers throughout the world.

As the new shopping generation’s demands for a renewed sense of corporate responsibility becomes louder and louder, brands and organizations nationwide are taking notice and taking action. So the question is, what does this mean for your business?

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The Unpredictable Storytelling of Streetwear Legend Joe ‘Freshgoods’ Robinson

(Featured Image: Hive Society)

He may not be from Los Angeles or New York City, but his hometown of Chicago is a booming hub for entrepreneurs, and streetwear designer, Joe Freshgoods, has certainly made a name for himself beyond the third coast. His talent for storytelling, eye for art and passion for his hometown are a big part of why the Freshgoods brand has thrived over the years.

He Started Storytelling Through Apparel 

Freshgoods went to the prestigious Lane Tech High School, on the north side of Chicago, and told Black Enterprise that he’d always been into style and unique looks. “In those days, I was trying to look different so I could stand out from the crowd. I had my homegirl sew bandanas on my jeans, and everybody went crazy. I realized that people like something I had only thought of a few days before. That was my ‘aha’ moment.”

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How to Copyright Your Artwork

Protecting your intellectual property as a creative individual is something of great importance in today’s world of copycat infringement. Your ideas are unique, innovative, a product of your hard work, so you deserve the credit! Copyrights were created for that reason, and we’re here to explain one aspect of copywriting in particular: protecting your designs on printed merchandise.

Image: Copyright CafePress

What is the Copyright Act?

Copyright.gov explains that the Act consists of “pictorial, graphic and sculptural works include two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic and applied art, photographs, prints and art reproductions, maps, globes, charts, diagrams, models and technical drawings, including architectural plans.” Paintings, sculptures, photographs and anything that satisfies visual artwork could fall into this category, as well.

5 Steps to Copyrighting

Once the creator files to protect their original creations, which must be “fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” and also exist in physical form according to Printful.com, the copyright goes into immediate effect. Authors can register their group of works on printed merchandise of no more than 10 unpublished items by the same person. 

1. See If You’re Eligible

Copyright.gov has strict eligibility requirements in place in order to register a group of unpublished works. You will have to confirm that you understand and meet these requirements before registering with your application and filing fee.

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A History of the Baseball Cap

Not all of us are going to be blessed with the athletic ability to play center field for the New York Yankees; however, we can dress the part thanks to the baseball cap. Baseball culture has filtered into many aspects of everyday life — from catchy sayings like “teamwork makes the dream work” — to our daily fashion choices. Baseball shoes, jerseys and caps adorn the streets of cities worldwide, but the cap, in particular, is a more popular way for both men and women to showcase their love for their favorite team or simply make a fashion statement.

Why the Baseball Cap?

Epic Sports makes a good point. The baseball cap is a big part of American culture, because of how versatile it is. It can be worn forward or backward. It shows off logos that aren’t restricted to baseball alone. But most importantly, it also helps shield your eyes from the sun, which is arguably, why it was invented for baseball players.

The Cap’s History

Speaking of New York, there was a baseball team back in 1849 called, the Knickerbockers, who were the first ones to start wearing straw caps on their heads, while they played. This was potentially the first version of the lid we now know and love. Merino wool caps came onto the scene shortly after, becoming a closer version of today’s cap. Players started to experiment with various versions, and the uniform cap adorning the team logo showed up early in the 1900s with the Detroit Tigers. Epic Sports says the stitched bill started in 1903 with sporting goods company Spaulding.

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Sustainability is Becoming Fashionable

Fashion is an ever-changing landscape. Each year sees new colors, styles, and materials fall in and out of fashionistas graces. While this evolving aspect of fashion keeps things interesting, it’s also contributed to unsustainable practices in order to quickly turn out the next hit trend. Statistics show that the average consumer is now buying 60 percent more clothes than they did at the beginning of the century, but only keeping garments on average for half as long. Because of this, a growing concern for consumers worldwide is that unwanted and discarded apparel is ending up in landfills, or our oceans, and they’re demanding a change. 

Sustainable Is In

Fashion follows the trends, and the past few years have shown the trends leaning heavily towards sustainability. One study showed that internet searches for “sustainable fashion” tripled between 2016 and 2019. This trend is led strongly by Gen Z and Millennial consumers, who together represent $350 billion in spending power in the US alone. Statistics show that nine in ten Gen Z consumers believe companies have an obligation and responsibility to address environmental issues. 

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