Waiting In Lines
The Internet gets the blame for a lot of things. Probably the most common remark I hear is thrown around by adults who fear that the world wide web is ruining the innocence of children; social media makes kids grow up all too fast and leaves them open to all sorts of dangers. I have also come across numerous articles outlining how the fashion industry is eating itself due to the relentless pace created by the internet; Instagram is just a ‘pump and dump’ platform for bloggers to show of the latest wears whilst ever quickly moving on to the next hot thing. Whether either of these complaints have any merit is neither here nor there for this blog post, but I never thought these two strains of thought would come together as they did on the morning of 5th of March.
It was a dreary day, typical London, rainy, cold and a bit shit. Yet despite the inclement weather and the early weekend hour (it was a Saturday around 10AM) there were hundreds of people crowding a few streets just off Piccadilly Circus. They had managed to organise themselves into a nice orderly queue (the beauty of Britain) which snaked itself to a small black painted shop on Brewer Street. The shop is the only standalone Palace shop in the world and the reason for all the commotion was the imminent in-store release of the brand’s Spring/Summer 2016 line. The line was big, really big, Supreme big, and I think it came as a bit of surprise to even some of the more seasoned queueing veterans in the line, “it wasn’t anywhere this bad last time” I overheard someone say about halfway down the line. You know when K-pop boybands are wearing your tees then you’ve made it big and global and that is certainly the case with Palace. The Triferg Logo has been all over Insta and every streetwear blog and the size of the line, whilst impressive, was understandable.
What was more surprising about the line was the age of the people that made it up. Young kids and a there were a lot of them. I say it was a surprising because the kind of person who you see online flexing that sort of gear is typically a little older, in their late teens or twenties but if I had to guess I would say the average age of the person in the queue would probably have been around 14. Not to say that kids in their young teens don't go around wearing skate/street brands, but that the line was not necessarily representative of the overall Palace consumer pool. Why is this line so unrepresentative? I think the answer reveals itself when you we look at those two complaints I talked about at the beginning of this post. The majority of the things bought on that day will not be intended for the people who actually bought them, but they will be sold on at a higher price online. Most of these kids are resellers, they do the queueing, buy up the goods when they come out and then post them for sale online above retail price to make a profit. Not to say they are not interested in the brand or the culture, just look at the pictures, they are all rocking Palace, Supreme etc. They will get a few things for themselves but the majority of the clothes being purchased will end up for sale on eBay, Facebook or Instagram. All this is only possible because of the juggernaut Internet hype machine that creates an atmosphere where reselling is possible on a global scale with instant effect.
Its a difficult situation and I'm not sure anyone really wins out here. You would think that the kids who are making a quick profit are the obvious winners but I cant help to think that 14 year olds shouldn't spend their whole Saturday in a queue just for them to rush home and post something for sale online, I just don't think that will ever form a highlight of anyones teenage years. On the other hand the people who are the end user have to pay ever higher prices. Perhaps the brand is the biggest benefactor, Palace gets more buzz, they sell more, they make more money. Although I would hazard a guess whilst this may make the Palace accountant happy, the current situation may leave niggles in the mind of the founder of the Brand. Reselling and Palace’s ever increasing popularity may raise questions over where the brand is heading and how it’s becoming unaffordable to the people it originally was designed to cater for (Palace is at its core a skateboarding lifestyle brand). James Jebbia, the founder of Supreme, has stated that he finds reselling problematic because it means people are getting ripped off for clothes he intended to be affordable in the first place.
Beyond the dilution of who ends up being the brand’s customers, there is also an issue of hype being so mobile. In the world of Hypebeast and Highsnobiety, you burn hot and bright but you burn quick before it’s on to the next new thing. The Palace drop happened on Saturday and by Wednesday the hot news and buzz had moved on and everyone was now discussing the new Supreme Paris store opening and how the Paris box Logo T-shirts were reselling for some reported cases of £1000 (retail was £45). The pace of things is unforgiving and relentless, new releases every week in every colour way imaginable and there are new collaborations happening all the time. For sure it is a creative and exciting time but it also removes and tarnishes how special new editions or limited editions used to be. When there are drops every week and four collaborations a year is any of these really that ‘special’?
This is not a damning critique nor am I saying that things were better back in the good old days. Just some observations and questions that have been bouncing around my head since I saw that giant line on that wet Saturday morning. I am as much a part of this system as any of those resellers in that line: you are reading these words on a sort of fashion blog, I Instagram outfit pictures, I enjoy following the hype machine etc. I do wish though that I could go to that Palace store and not have to wait 5 hours in a queue and buy the goods that I actually want at retail prices and I think I'm not the only one.
Bonus Granny pic because she was looking chich af and was best dressed on the day.