It’s 9am on a Thursday morning in Soho, London- it’s raining, but outside the Supreme store that’s nothing to be phased by for the teens that have been lining up here for hours already, the same as they do every week.
One guy, Josh, has been here since 5am, and is skipping school to ‘cop’ the latest drop- which includes a branded snow sled retailing for a massive £250, although England shows no promise of snow this year whatsoever.
Josh is dressed head to toe in a blue and red panel tracksuit evidently inspired by the post-Soviet era, created by Russian designer, Gosha Rubchinskiy, and totalling at a price of around £600. It’s also probably now worth noting that Josh is only 16 years old.
Hailing from a rural village in Surrey, Josh travels to London every week in the hope of finding something that not only looks good to his 30,000 Supreme-hungry Instagram followers, but something that he can then resell on apps such as Depop for profit.
“I can easily double my money in a day….I buy a hoodie for £150, I sell it for about £750..people will pay anything when they really want something.
“I’ve been in this about a year and already made enough to send myself to uni when I wanna go.”
Over the last five years, the street wear scene has developed from being a sub-culture niche for the kids daring enough to wear it, to a symbol of wealth and fashion identity.
Between July 2016 and July 2017, leading brand Supreme grew by 801%, rocketing its value from $2billion to a whopping $21billion- and it comes as no surprise judging by the lengthy queues of teenagers that have camped out to get their hands on the latest rare finds.
Streetwear was originally created in America during the 70s, by disadvantaged kids who couldn’t afford branded clothing. They curated an image that represented recognition and identity, somewhere between informality and sophistication, that turned the concept of streetwear into a form of urban art- much like skateboarding or graffiti.
It began gaining popularity in the late 80s, as East Coast hip hop giants such as Wu-Tang Clan started becoming closely linked with large brands such as Champion and Stüssy.
It’s no surprise that from there, the market has rocketed, and with items released in extremely limited quantities, no one can blame the teenagers with enough spare time and enough spare cash for saving for their futures through reselling.
After speaking to fashion analyst, Hikmat Mohammed, it becomes apparent that the trend started when celebrity icons started wearing the clothes and appearing in campaigns, and that these super rich kids are just trying to find a way to be accepted into ‘normal’ society.
“The uprising all stems from “street credibility”- having these clothes that everyone wants makes these kids feel more accepted. It’s kind of the reverse of kids in the ghetto wearing Hermes belts and Gucci monogram polo shirts. They just wanna look like everyone else.
“Diversity has a massive role in this industry — these private school teenagers are getting exposed to musicians beyond Mozart and Elton John at school, and there is a cultural shift happening that everyone wants to be a part of.”
But while the concept of buying these big name brands just to resell them for four times the price seems unfair for genuine collectors, Mohammed says it’s just part of fashion culture and always has been. “Fashion is never fair. Fashion always starts with something very small, a collective of people, which is then mainstreamed by private school goers. You can compare to this cultural appropriation, but in a business-standpoint, these are the people bringing in the money for the company.
My opinion is that we live in such a health conscious environment, and fashion houses are capitalising on this, but at the same time, we are constantly nostalgic — nostalgia sells.”
Fashion experts say the reason for drops being sold in such limited releases is partly due to resellers- if they released things in large quantities the way high street brands do, there’d be no hype or interest in the brand as it wouldn’t feel as though people were spending money on something one-off and unique.
Simon Beckerman, founder of the youth-targeted selling platform Depop, says there are around 400,000 active users on the app every day and with the majority of users being between the ages of 16 and 26, it’s the perfect place for youngsters to market their finds.
But getting your hands on this stuff isn’t always easy. Josh says before he heads to the Soho store, every week he has to go to a different location in East London that gets announced on the day to collect a ticket, that then transcribes to his place in the queue, and if he’s not one of the first 500 people there- well, then he just has to go home. “Even if you’re like 129th [in the queue] it can take you up to five hours to actually get inside…it’s crazy, but, we do what we have to do and if we get something we can sell, or something no one else has, it’s all worth it”
Josh regularly posts photos in his new clothes which has attracted over 30,000 Instagram followers- which he says is the reason he enjoys it so much. “If you’re walking around Soho or you post on Instagram and someone looks at you or says something good about what you’re wearing…that makes you feel good, that’s the buzz.
“There’s also like Facebook groups…Supreme Talk…The Basement…where people show off stuff they’ve bought or big profits they’ve made…it’s a real community”
Physical growth of Supreme has been purposely slow: the brand has only opened two new stores in the past six years. But if Supreme continues to grow at the rate it has, it could become harder to maintain the sense of exclusivity the brand has so far been successful at trading on.
Where once middle-class school kids once spent their parents money on gaming and big-screen TVs, they’re now paying “proxies” big money to queue for them on drop days and buy them £200 pullovers- and it shows no sign of ending anytime soon. Josh has funded his future education ‘flipping’ trainers for the price of a plane ticket to Australia, and if Supreme’s growth over the past 12 months is anything to go by, it would seem they’ve got a fair few years left at the top of the streetwear game.