SMU Students Making Bank Re-selling Designer Streetwear

By: Marlowe Barnett

They stand in line for hours in front of stores, purge their closets, and even use online bots to find and buy their favorite clothes and shoes. Then, they turn around and sell them.

Why? To make bank.

Millennials have turned streetwear, a style rooted in California skate and surf culture and embraced by designers, into a huge market, reselling clothing and shoes for twice or even three times the original price.

The resell market is pretty absurd and the mark ups are unreal but that’s what happens when designers make limited quantities and make it an art piece,” said avid streetwear consumer Jack Fojtasek, an SMU senior.

Fojtasek, an Applied Physiology and Health Management major, said he buys from Supreme, a brand that took streetwear to luxury wear. He bought a bright orange and blue stripped Supreme sweatshirt for $85 about a year and a half ago, for instance, and sold it for $210.

The global streetwear market was an estimated $175 billion in 2015, according to market reports. The U.S. market alone was valued at nearly $80 billion. The numbers are rising as millenials spend hundreds of dollars to boast a brand’s name across their chest, say researchers.

The most efficient way to resell coveted streetwear items is through apps such as StockX, a live marketplace that is shaping the resell industry. Buyers and sellers are open to an anonymous market where they can freely buy and sell without fear of fakes, according to Ethan Krakover, a former StockX intern in Detroit.

“All items bought and sold on StockX are sent in to their headquarters and verified authentic before being sent out,” Krakover said. “When I was in middle school I would buy Supreme items and resell them on eBay before StockX was around.”

Today, reselling on eBay has become much harder due to the competitive nature of the market. Buyers are also hyper-conscious about not paying for a fake.

“I’ve found that without a high profile account on eBay or Grailed, an app to resell similar to StockX, it can be hard to resell stuff since there are so many knock offs and no one wants to get ripped off,” said Fojtasek.

Photo credit: Grailed

The street style phenomenon emerged when famous fashion photographers made the move from their studios to the streets and urban environments in the second half of the 20th century. Photographers were intrigued by the surf and skate culture on the west coast, depicted in the baggy t-shirts, oversized hoodies, and sneakers worn by young people whose first priority was comfort. Shawn Stussy, who grew up in the surf culture Southern California, is credited as one of the founders of “streetwear”. Known for making surfboards, Stussy put his logo on t-shirts in 1980 and created a brand that is still one of the most popular among buyers devoted to the style.

Other designers saw a trend emerging in the “SoCal” look and began to replicate it. Once the market took off, companies ran up the prices by manufacturing very few pieces, which in turn fueled the re-sale market that exists now. Today, the streetwear trend impacts fashion consumer trends just as much, if not more than, runway collections, according to SMU professor and Fashion theorist Elif Kavakci.

“Streetwear has become a part of our popular culture. It offers a unique aesthetic that other trends do not, almost like a movement that is a global club consumers can join. It stands for more than clothing items themselves but a cultural ideology,” said Kavakci.

The style has evolved into clothing and shoes with a hip-hop, high fashion, even haute couture twist to them. Streetwear is constantly evolving but never seems to stray from brazen logos, cotton for maximum comfort, and oversized everything.

Krakover said he has an advantage in the re-sale world because he was buying from these brands before the market exploded and understands how it works. A shirt that he once bought and resold without much thought, could have been sold today for seventeen times the price.

“The most memorable item I sold was the ‘3 6 Mafia tee.’ I bought it for around $45 and sold it later that day for over $150. If I still had that shirt today, it’d be worth around $800,” said Krakover.

The tactic streetwear brands are using is exclusivity. The idea is crucial for the longevity of a brand, as seen with the success of Supreme, and Off-White, an Italian streetwear brand founded by DJ and creative director Virgil Abloh. He grew up as a skater kid and began his successful career as Kanye West’s creative director. In a Vogue Forces of Fashion talk Abloh explained his thought process: “My internal tool for digesting the word luxury is to determine whether or not something is ‘coveted.’ If you covet it, it is luxurious to you.”

Will McDermid, an SMU senior from Denver, bought a hoodie through StockX where he saved $1,000 off the retail price and only paid $750. “I bought a heather grey Supreme box logo hoodie which is something I’ve always wanted because it’s a true classic. You can wear it with anything. It is a timeless piece,” said McDermid.

Luxury brands have even started collaborating with streetwear brands to reach a wider audience and gain clout. An example of this is the Supreme X Louis Vuitton collaboration. McDermid, for instance, purchased a Supreme X Louis Vuitton wallet for re-sale value, a price that typically ranges from $1,000 to $2,000.

This collaboration, sold exclusively at Louis Vuitton stores, opens the luxury brand up to a wider audience, including the millennials investing in streetwear in hopes of making a hefty profit through a third party.

Jake Charnes, a first year student at SMU, received a private invitation to the Supreme X Louis Vuitton drop where he copped a bright red classic Supreme hoodie with the classic LV logo written in white.

“I bought the Supreme LV hoodie as an investment because originally, when I bought it, it was around $900 but now I can sell it online for more than $5,000,” said Charnes.

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Jake Charnes wears his Supreme x Louis Vuitton hoodie Photo credit: Jake Charnes

More collaborations are expected to hit this season as Virgil Abloh is now the creative director of Louis Vuitton.

“I believe the popularity of streetwear culture will continue to impact fashion trends. I don’t see it ending anytime soon,” said Kavakci.

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