Number 331, 209. That’s the place my colleague tells me they had in the Beyoncé ticket queue. One of nearly 500,000 fans. Another chimes in with veteran tales of cracking the Glastonbury code, citing this year’s efforts of nine laptops with nine different IP addresses to attend the music Mecca.
There’s no denying that there has and always will be events that sell out in minutes, be it gigs, festivals or other cultural moments. But if you can’t bag your place without a detailed strategy, is spontaneity dead?
For many of us Gen Zers, gone are the days where brands can love-bomb us with logos and high prices and expect us to queue for the privilege of the name alone. Must we really remember the Abercrombie and Fitch days – queues snaking around Wardour Street to pay £50 for a T-shirt you couldn’t even see in the store? At least you could smell it though, right?
Then came the Zara boom – the rise in logo-less fashion. Before you know it, we’re here – on the frontline of the brand authenticity debate. The all-important A-word, arguably the hallmark of Gen Z campaigns, creates a new meritocracy for brands: ‘If you’re going to show up at all, then why? And what do you stand for?’
The Next Iteration of Drops
Drop culture is not a new phenomenon. But it’s on the rise.
Apple have been dropping since before the iPhone. Supreme practically coined the term, powering youth culture for the entirety of the 2010s. But ‘Supreme is dead’ is a sentiment shared umpteen times by blogs, discord groups, Instagram commenters and prosaic TikTok’s over the recent years. According to Highsnobiety this week, the doom-mongering may actually bear weight, as this year’s Supreme x North Face collection, typically one of their hottest drops, lingered online for days.
But if the giant is down, who swiped their crown? Arguably, no one brand, but a collective of labels empowered by social media and a renewed creative direction. The question then becomes, why is drop culture still happening all these years later?
Well, because it’s not about elitism anymore. It’s about spontaneous experience. Disappointment around a product alone is not a sustainable model, we already know Gen Zers feed off hype and community, being part of something and finding this through shared experiences. What if brands that are embracing drop culture are in fact facilitating something even more valuable – spontaneity?
In the last month alone, we’ve seen this with Nike on three occasions: from rapper Jeshi’s Air Max Pulse drop from a tiny newsagent on Carnaby St; Nia Archives’ pop-up rave in a kebab truck in Dalston, drawing a crowd of over a thousand; to Clint419, the Oz-like figure behind streetwear brand CRTZ, in another guerrilla-style drop of his limited-edition Air Max 95s from a bodega on the streets of NYC. For those of us who sat behind a screen for two years, it’s no wonder that this hunger for spontaneity, deregulation – and, at times, anarchy – rings true and mobilises the masses.
Likewise, the same thread of spontaneity runs through the luxury sector. The likes of Louis Vuitton x Kusama drawing swathes to Paris and London from all over the world to catch a glimpse of the fleeting collaboration. Or Moncler, opening its doors to thousands like myself alongside the Biebers and other ultra-VIPs, for a one-night-wonder at The Art of Genius, reaching 1.5 million YouTube streams and 4.6 billion impressions online.
Jeopardy is the attraction. And it’s not just scarcity of product anymore, it’s scarcity of time. See it first, follow the whispers, drop the co-ordinates – before it’s gone. Are brands prioritising the hype of the experience over putting their logo to the message, in the hope that it builds loyalty long-term?
Whether you’re drop pros like Nike and Apple or new-adopters such as Moncler and LV, brands are using drop culture as vehicles for the mentality that spontaneity not only lives, it sells. And I for one can’t wait to see how this momentum builds this year, and which brands – streetwear or otherwise – are ready to unlock the power of it.
Anna Gonzalez is Business Development Manager at XYZ.