ALL ABOUT THE MERCH
Donald Trump, Kanye West and Karl Lagerfeld are the unlikely leaders in fashion’s most playful new trend. By GRACE O’NEILL
Sloganeering fashion says it loud.
QUESTION: WHAT DOES IT TAKE to get cynical millennials — who shop almost exclusively online — lining up for hours at an actual IRL (in real life, for the laymen), bricks-and-mortar store? If you were anywhere near Bondi’s Campbell Parade or Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street on the weekend of August 20, when hundreds of avid Kanye West fans lined up for hours to get their hands on a piece of his Life of Pablo merchandise, you’d know the answer. A LITTLE CONTEXT: 24 hours beforehand, west announced on his website that 21 cities around the world would house pop-up stores, open for one weekend only, selling official merchandise from the new album.the offering? A range of logo tees, crewnecks and satin bomber jackets emblazoned with lyrics such as “I love you like Kanye loves Kanye” and “Woke up and felt the vibe”. Prices ranged from $50 for a black “SYDNEY” cap to $400 for a military-style jacket — though many paid far more than that on ebay and on the street outside the pop-ups, where entrepreneurial types sold their limitededition spoils for hiked-up prices. So why the frenzy? I’m sure the fact that West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, or sisters-in-law Kendall and Kylie Jenner are often spotted in the designs helped, but it’s also emblematic of a broader shift in the fashion landscape.the Pablo pop-up may have been the most publicised example of the trend, but West is far from the only musician riding the designer-merchandise train right now. Drake’s Summer Sixteen pop-ups in New York and Los Angeles saw similar sell-out success, Beyoncé’s seminal album Lemonade came with a shoppable range of tote bags, phone cases and bodysuits, and fashion It girl Chiara Ferragni dedicated an entire post on her wildly popular blog, The Blonde Salad, to a hoodie from Justin Bieber’s Purpose tour, which she paired with Dior and Balenciaga (naturally). Fashion, it seems, is in the throes of an all-out merchandise obsession. And it’s far from limited to the realm of pop music. A week before West’s pop-up stores opened, The Business of Fashion ran an article about the increasing role of merchandise in the 2016 US presidential election. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton tapped a handful of American fashion heavyweights — Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg and Joseph Altuzarra included — to design her ‘Made for History’ campaign T-shirt range, while Donald Trump’s notorious (and widely parodied) “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” hats need no introduction. Throughout the tumultuous campaign trail, merchandise has not only proved a powerful marketing tool, but a significant revenue raiser, too; trump has funnelled more than $2.6 million into the production of his trucker caps, generating a reported $1.7 million for his campaign in the process. On the runway, cultish street labels such as Vetements and Off-white have led the charge (think the former’s Justin 4ever hoodies and DHL tees), but the established powerhouses are following close behind. Resort season saw a love affair with the logo tee, be it at MSGM, Miu Miu or, more obviously, the noughties-style iterations at Gucci and Chanel’s cruise show — destined to become street-style staples in seasons to come. Then there was Marc Jacobs’s Mtv-inspired collection, MTV x Marc Jacobs, which debuted in time for the VMAS and officially launches this month. A mix of totes, hoodies and tees embroidered with the iconic MTV logo, the collection also boasts sizeable price tags: a sweatshirt goes for about $1820.
In terms of the trend’s wearability factor? We say keep it simple: a Chanel “VIVA COCO LIBRE” tee with high-waisted jeans, or a “PABLO PABLO PABLO PABLO” denim jacket worn with leather trousers, à la Kendall Jenner. Or you could throw caution to the wind and go full Rihanna with a tie-dyed Nine Inch Nails band tee worn with Dior speed-dealer shades, a stole and personalised Manolo Blahniks.the idea is to have fun, after all.
“Kanye fans lined up for hours to get their hands on a piece of Life of Pablo merchandise.”
Miu Miu resort 2017 tees. Kanye West’s Pablo pop-up store in Sydney and (right) New York.
Rihanna rocking a Nine Inch Nails tee. Alicia Keys and Tracee Ellis Ross, in an MTV x Marc Jacobs tee, at the VMAS in New York.
Kanye West. Kendall Jenner in a “PABLO PABLO PABLO PABLO” jacket.
Veronika Heilbrunner and Justin O’shea, in a “JUSTIN4EVER” hoodie, during Paris fashion week.
Donald Trump in his slogan cap.
RESORT 2017 LOOKS From left: Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci; Gucci; Chanel; Louis Vuitton.