There’s always an air of excitement surrounding Burberry’s fashion shows, but now, more than ever, all eyes were on the esteemed brand as Riccardo Tisci showed his debut collection at London Fashion Week on September 17th. The former Givenchy creative director was appointed chief creative officer of Burberry in March 2018, assuming the title previously held by Christopher Bailey. Although Tisci’s collection was only just released, his influence had already manifested in Burberry before then – the brand has a new logo for the first time in two decades, sworn off using real fur, and recently announced that they will be releasing their clothes to the public in 24-hour drops via Instagram and WeChat.
This methodology is indicative of tactics often employed by streetwear brands, most notably, Supreme, but is new to the realm of high fashion. The basis of the drop is that there’s a limited number of product available for a limited period of time, creating added “hype” around the clothing, so not only is the drop a means of distributing the clothes, but it also acts as a self-sustaining advertising campaign. T-shirts with the new Burberry monogram were the first of Burberry’s drops available for purchase on the social media apps, as well as in their London flagship store.
Burberry has been targeting a younger audience for a few years now and Tisci is the next step in attracting their ideal buyer. Under Tisci, Givenchy successfully sold hoodies, trainers, and jerseys, gained popularity amongst rappers and hip-hop artists, and cemented themselves as the first high fashion brand to develop luxury streetwear, despite pushback from critics. It’s expected that Tisci will have the same progressive impact at Burberry that he did at Givenchy, but the drop method feels like the first step in the wrong direction. Clothing drops are founded and continue to thrive off of fashion’s consumer culture, which emphasises the scarcity of an item over its actual value, monetarily or personally, to the buyer. Little thought goes into the buying process and the purchase is made simply because the product is exclusive; once the item is sold out, it won’t be restocked, a major contributor to its appeal. The entire drop method feels like an extension of the see-now-buy-now model. It’s just been adapted for Gen-Z by taking place on social media channels instead of brand websites.
I recognise why Burberry has adopted this practice; online drops are made available to everyone, equalising the playing field for potential shoppers and mainstreaming the brand. At surface level, this seems like it would also put an end to the elitism that the public associates with high fashion houses like Burberry, but in reality, it has the reverse effect. Oftentimes, a great deal of clothing released through drops are purchased by resellers, who in turn, sell the product for double or triple its original cost. The intended accessibility of drops only makes it harder and significantly more expensive for the normal buyer to obtain the clothing.
Tisci is not at fault for this, nor is any designer whose brand is subject to having their clothing snatched up by resellers before it can reach the general public. In fact, many brands have taken preventive efforts to inhibit resellers. Supreme, for example, does not allow online buyers to purchase the same item more than once in a single order. (The quick and dirty way around this would be to place multiple orders, but this is typically impossible due to clothing selling out so quickly.)
The omnipresent mindset is that the pricier and rarer the item, the better, (though few people will actually admit to thinking this way). A large portion of streetwear culture exists and operates online, and showing off exclusive clothing on Instagram is one of the primary ways to gain followers, which powers the performative mentality that makes drops so successful. Even if the clothing being dropped is rejected by fashion critics, it’s practically a given that the brand will profit off of support from the streetwear community or individuals adjacent to it, since purchasing from drops is a habitual and occasionally addictive activity for members. As high fashion shifts into the digital realm, the likelihood of drops as the primary method for releasing and purchasing new collections increases, especially for brands that have integrated streetwear into their clothing. I, for one, am curious to see how Burberry’s use of drops pans out long-term, but remain hopeful that it won’t become the new norm.