On the heels of releasing its first post-IPO revenue results on Tuesday, The RealReal has published its annual Resale Report, offering up what it calls “a definitive look at the shopping shifts and rising trends in luxury resale.” After reviewing “sales and demand data from millions of shoppers and millions of items sold,” the San Francisco-based luxury resale site shed light on its top 10 most searched-for brands, how “investment bags” are really faring in the market, what the state of luxury watches looks like, and of course, what brands are dominating the streetwear space. Some of the most striking takeaways are as follows …

Super Brands: Among the top 10 most searched-for brands of the year for The RealReal (“TRR”) are Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hermes, Fendi, Christian Dior, Valentino, Christian Louboutin, and Balenciaga. Not on that list? Celine, which dropped out of its position in the top 10 last year, a drop that appears coincide with the departure of former creative director Phoebe Philo and the September 2018 debut of Hedi Slimane.

Of the top 3 most searched-for brands, TRR notes that as Gucci and Louis Vuitton continue gain momentum, it has come at the expense of Chanel, which is currently embroiled in a legal battle with TRR.

 image: TRR image: TRR

Investment Bags: The usual suspects, namely, Hermès Birkin and Kelly bags, continue to prove the most stable in terms of resale value. TRR asserts that the average resale value for classic bags, such as Hermès’ Kelly Sellier, is 93 percent of the original manufacturer retail price. This is distinct from traditional “it” bags, such as Mansur Gavriel’s bucket bag, which start with markedly high resale prices, only to swiftly drop over the next several years before stabilizing at just below 60%. That is almost the opposite of revival bags, including Dior’s Saddle bag, which in light of a resurgence in popularity go from having a low-but-stable value to increasing quite significantly over a 5 year period to almost 50% percent.

TRR puts the average resale value for all bags – from classics to “it” bags – at a combined 43% or so.

Streetwear: Over the past year, in particular, TRR’s “sneaker and streetwear expert” Sean Conway says that the site has seen “a big uptick” – a 281% surge in searches – over the year prior when it comes to streetwear items.

In terms of searches, Kanye West’s Yeezy took the top spot, followed by Off-White, Nike, Supreme, and adidas. Of the brands will the greatest growth in terms of searches, the New Guards Group-owned Palm Angels saw an increase of 1720% in searches (it is unclear just how significant this number is given that we do not know how many Palm Angels-specific searches there were in 2018).

Other top growth brands in terms of search growth include Off White x Nike, BAPE, Off-White, and Fear or God, while the top searches of sneakers over the past year put Yeezy, Prada, Balenciaga, Nike, and Golden Goose in the top 5.

Watches: Young buyers are driving the charge of luxury watch sales, according to TRR. Sales growth for “high-value” watches, such as Audemar Piguets, Patek Philippes, and various Rolex and Cartier timepieces grew by 58 percent from consumers between ages 18 and 34, and by a 145 percent for those between 35 and 44, who are opting for watches valued at $5,000 and above.

Beyond the watches that set consumers back between $5,000 and $10,000, which grew in sales volume by 48 percent, sales of watches valued at between $30,000 and $50,000 grew 126 percent year over year. 

Sustainability: Finally, TRR notes that sustainability played a large role in consumers’ motivations while shopping this year. An interesting 32 percent of TRR’s consumers said that they shop on its site (or in one of its three retail outposts) as a replacement for buying trendy, fast fashion garments and accessories, while a whopping 78 percent said that TRR has changed the way that they shop. This includes being “savvier about how they invest and the impact what they’re buying has on the planet,” says TRR’s director of strategic initiatives, Allison Sommer.

Move over Monet. One of the world’s oldest auction houses is putting the arts of ancient China and the “monumental works” of the 1980s on the back burner for a moment and offering up “100 of the Rarest Sneakers Ever Produced.” In collaboration with Stadium Goods, the FarFetch-owned premium sneaker and streetwear marketplace, Sotheby’s is hosting an auction of footwear ranging from two pairs of Nike Mag sneakers inspired by Marty McFly’s kicks in Back to the Future Part II to “the auction’s crown jewel,” the unworn pair of handmade Nike “Moon Shoe” circa 1972, which were designed by Nike co-founder and Oregon University track coach Bill Bowerman.

The impending auction, which the 275-year old, New York-headquartered Sotheby’s, calls “the first of its kind,” boasts a range of shoes, including Kanye West’s Yeezy Boost 350s, which are expected to sell for between $7,000 and $9,000, and Off-White x Nike Limited AF1s, which Sotheby’s expects to go for between $11,000 and $16,000, as well as Air Jordan 11 Jeters – which comes with an estimated auction price of between $40,000 and $60,000, and the Nike Waffle Racing Flat, which will likely set a buyer back between $110,000 and $160,000.

The rare sneakers auction is part of a larger effort by auction houses to remain relevant in the modern market and court the next generation of collectors. As Architectural Digest noted last year, “Across the major auction houses, most have plans in place to cultivate a younger demographic.” This has seen auction houses, such as Christie’s, hosting cocktail hours on weekends to order to draw in a younger, hipper crowd, and others, including Freeman’s in Philadelphia, hosting auctions with pieces at more accessible entry prices.

Sotheby’s, in particular, has looked to engage new – read: younger – consumers. “We are really focusing on Weibo and WeChat right now, particularly growing our Chinese audience,” Sotheby’s director of digital marketing and strategy, Noah Wunsch, said. And thanks to the company’s growing presence on multiple platforms, it is seeing significant uptick in new buyer engagement, while remaining cognizant of the legacy of the Sotheby’s name and the risk of “alienating its older, engaged clients.”

image: Sotheby’s

All the while, with its rare sneaker auction and its recent offering of “the only privately owned collection of every Supreme skate deck ever manufactured,” including the three that led to a legal scuffle between the famed streetwear and Louis Vuitton back in 2000, Sotheby’s joins the likes of houses that are looking to inherently “cooler” offerings than impressionist artworks and rare books.

French auction house Arterial, for example, made headlines when it staged an auction last spring entitled, C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me), a nod to rap group Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 single. The auction’s 145 lots – which were available by way of the house’s Paris headquarters and simultaneously online – consisted almost exclusively of limited-edition and hard-to-get goods from New York-based cult streetwear brand, Supreme.

Arterial’s entire Supreme auction brought in a bit more than $1 million, which is less than $15 million less than what Pablo Picasso’s singleYoung Girl with a Flower Basket (Fillette à la Corbeille Fleurie) sold for last year. While Nike sneakers and Supreme skate decks might make up just a tiny fraction of the $11.21 billion global art auction market, many of the buyers interested in these items are the future.

In April, The KAWS Album (2005), a painting by KAWS, the New Jersey-born graffiti artist-turned fine artist named Brian Donnelly, sold for HK$115.9 million ($14.82 million) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, breezing past the pre-sale estimate of HK$8 million ($1.02 million). The sale, which set a record price for the artist, “seems to be a harbinger for something to come,” Betsy Bickar, a vice president and art advisor at Citi Private Bank, told Barrons, speaking particularly of an emerging audience of younger collectors.

“If younger buyers are demanding a more holistic and inclusive approach to luxury, the market will eventually respond,” writer and art historian Osei Bonsu told Hypebeast this spring. And that seems to be exactly what is underway as we speak.

On the corner of Broadway and Canal Street in New York City’s Chinatown, amidst the shops boasting fake Rolex watches and oddly-printed Louis Vuitton-esque bags, a vendor selling sweatshirts and t-shirts boldly emblazoned with the word “Deisel” popped up in early 2018. The just slightly off-kilter spelling of Italian brand Diesel’s trademark and the cost of the goods – hoodies for $60, jeans for $70, a notable step down from the brand’s traditional retail prices – situated the set up neatly in line with the ordinary operations of Canal Street, Manhattan’s notorious haven for fakes. The relatively-cheap, definitely-misspelled garments were counterfeits. Or were they?

As it turns out, those seemingly counterfeit goods were not fake. Far from it actually. They were limited edition, designer goods. Faced with the reality of an overly-crowded fashion month calendar and an influx of counterfeit goods, something that continues to plague brands (particularly in the digital age when largely China-based entities can easily set up huge networks of counterfeit sites in an almost completely risk-free manner due to their ability to hide behind layers of fictitious identities and contact information), Diesel ditched the catwalk for Fall/Winter 2018.

Rather than an over-the-top foray in Soho, complete with a star-studded opening party, Breganze, Italy-based Diesel decided to do things differently; it temporarily masqueraded as a counterfeit seller on Canal Street. 

“We have so many counterfeit products all over the world I thought, ‘Why can’t we play with this problem that we have?'” Diesel founder Renzo Rosso told AFP, saying he believes that more than a million counterfeit Diesel goods are sold annually around the world. “So, we created a fake product, a fake name, and we came to the counterfeit district.”

The store opened quietly one day in February, prompting hundreds of customers to flock to it to browse and make purchases, with most of the initial buyers blissfully unaware of what was actually afoot. “People came and they thought it is a fake product. When they discover it’s not a fake product, they can sell it for three or four times the value,” Rosso, 62, said at the time.

Rosso and his brand are not the first to put their own spin on the problem of fakes in recent seasons. In February 2016, Gucci tapped Brooklyn-based artist GucciGhost to make his mark on its garments and accessories … literally. One of the bags from the Italian design house’s Fall/Winter 2016 bore a graffiti-tagged “REAL” situated just above a Gucci logo. On a jacket, the © symbol, which denotes a federal copyright registration. Another includes an ®, the equivalent trademark notation. (The Italian fashion giant would later trot bags and other wares emblazoned with the word “FAKE” down the runway for Fall/Winter 2020 in furtherance of “an ironic homage to the institutional code of the brand: the logo.” According to Gucci, “The narrative began with a print inspired by a retro appropriation of the Gucci logo featuring the bicolor stripe. Entering a new chapter, the green and red design mixes with ‘Fake/Not’—a playful commentary on the idea of imitation.”)

In the summer of 2017, Valentino released “Expect the Unexpected,” a video campaign in which London street-goers are duped into buying what they believe are fake Valentino bags and Rockstud sandals for some 200 pounds, only to learn that the goods are, in fact, real. Before that, the Spring/Summer 2017 shows saw Dolce & Gabbana bring legal commentary onto their runway. As the Wall Street Journal’s Christina Binkley noted in connection with the brand’s “Dolce & Gabbana,” “Docce & Gabbinetti” and other slightly askew offerings: “Dolce & Gabbana is having a laugh at knockoffs. The tees will be affordable to GenZs, I assume.”

Meanwhile, Virgil Abloh, the creative behind burgeoning streetwear behemoth Off-White, unveiled a makeshift Canal Street set up outside of his Spring/Summer 2017 show venue in Paris, offering fake fake (aka real) Off-White bags. The stunt fit neatly within the brand’s overarching message for that season, having just revealed, “Off-White™ first ever ‘if the cops come run’ handbag campaign,” a Canal Street-themed ad campaign. Abloh, it seems, was unable to resist commenting on the excessive amount of fake Off-White garments and bags – many bearing the brand’s striped logo and “White” trademark – that have consistently been offered on e-commerce marketplaces like Alibaba and eBay for years now.

Limited Runs, Better Quality Fakes

The rise in visibility of brands’ battles against fakes is especially interesting at the moment. While the luxury model has always depended on expensive price tags and story-telling-centric marketing aimed at maintaining the aura of luxury (even as many of these brands quietly boost the qualities they manufacture and lower the price points by way of increasingly accessible offerings), this has been put into overdrive in recent years. The result is overly eye-popping prices for products (i.e., $500 cotton Gucci t-shirts, $1,500 Vetements hoodies), and seemingly more limited edition products (maybe thanks to the widespread usage of bots to hoard products upon initial sale) than ever before.

This equation – paired with the hype of Instagram advertising by way of brand sand influencers, alike – is a perfect storm for fakes, and in many cases, is driving consumers to resort to counterfeits purely in order to be able to get in on the action. As I wrote for Dazed this week, “Louis Vuitton’s Supreme collaboration was limited in nature, expensive from the outset, and bore even more outlandish prices at resale.” In the same vein, “a quick search of Instagram for adidas’s various Yeezy sneakers, which are notoriously impossible to get when they hit the market due to their small-runs and often prohibitively expensive at resale – is a good example of how counterfeiters are thriving on consumers’ desire to get their hands on otherwise unavailable products.” 

Pair this with the widespread availability of – and ease with which consumers can get their hands on – downright accurate counterfeits, and you have a thriving market for fakes. 

This is something that was certainly on the Gucci team’s mind in connection with its collections, and at the front of the minds of Diesel’s creatives, as well. So, if fashion brands cannot beat counterfeiters’ efforts (and given the breadth of them, it is only fair to say that to a certain extent, they simple cannot), it seems the motto is, why not join them, at least for a good PR play.

*This article was updated to include a reference to Gucci’s F/W 2020 “Fake/No” capsule.

Fashion Week is upon us again. The Spring/Summer shows officially kicked-off on Thursday in New York, where a slew of brands – some, like Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta, household names, others virtually unknown – line the official calendar. This go-around of the bi-annual week, which kicks off the larger month of runway shows in London, Milan, and Paris, comes with a few noteworthy absences, some of which have decamped to the greener pastures of the more established Paris to show their seasonal wares, while others simply have opted-out altogether.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America has put changes in play in New York in order to fashion a more compelling week for the industry’s participants and stakeholders: a shortened week (NYFW is down to six days as opposed to seven) and more striking bookends. These NYFW-specific alterations – which will ideally cut down on the days-late rush of editors, buyers, and influencers, who have, for many seasons now, skipped the first few days of NYFW, arriving just in time for the biggest events – are good for the brands that stand to gain tangible benefits and meaningful traction (i.e. return-on-investment on the hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more that brands spend) from their runway shows, such as increased sales, new clients, and press buz1z that lasts beyond the day of show, etc.

It has become obvious that not every brand on the calendar walks away from its respective fashion week event with benefits worth writing home about, particularly as social media and other digital endeavors continue to shape the industry in significant and meaningful ways. In fact, only a small fraction of brands that stage shows or presentations likely stand to capture a truly meaningful fashion week return-on-investment.

Nonetheless, most brands incur the expense and continue to stage costly shows because, well … that is what brands do and have done for decades. It is the traditional model upon which fashion brands are built and operate within the industry. Brands – big and small, established and emerging – show during fashion week, and until very recently, it seemed as though the vast majority of them did so without necessarily questioning the individual merits of the situation.

Questioning the System

Yet, changes are afoot. It is difficult to not sense that fashion has been very much in flux in recent seasons, and that designers – regardless of their size of their brands – are re-examining the old-school fashion week model, which started in New York, at least, in the 1940s in order for brands to secure magazine placements. Is fashion week necessary in the digital era? It is relevant if we consider the unique demands of millennial and Gen-Z consumers?

The result of such inquiries, it seems, is the largescale emergence of the idea that not only is fashion week participation not a requirement for brands (and especially not for less established ones, no shortage of which are situated in New York and London), participation very well might not even be a sound business idea. (It is hardly a secret that a handful of brands that have religiously showed during both NYFW and London Fashion Week have called it quits in recent years).

In confirming that she would not show her collection during NYFW this season, Jenny Packham said she is “questioning the value of the traditional catwalk show” and that she will, instead, launch her Spring/Summer 2018 collection digitally to “provide stronger assets to use across multi-media platforms.”

This is just one example of the countless other symptoms of designers questioning the system and veering away from what was long considered (implicitly or otherwise) the only way. Small scale appointment-only presentations have proven a more compelling – and cost-effective – alternative for some brands, as have online-only shows and the combination of menswear and womenswear onto one runway. Others have taken to relying on a “see now, buy now” model (a trumped-up trend that went virtually nowhere), or the more viable option: Capsule collections that are made available to customers almost immediately after the show in order to actually bank on the press and social media buzz created.

Relevance Lost?

If nothing else, it seems as though we are currently experiencing “a moment of change in fashion and experimentation, in terms of making fashion week relevant now,” Will Khan, Market & Accessories Director at Hearst’s Town & Country magazine, told Reuters this time last year.

But what seems maybe most apparent is that there is absolutely no guarantee that the traditional fashion show will continue to be relevant for any brands other than maybe the big-name oft-conglomerate-owned ones, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Prada and co., which stage runway extravaganzas more for the purpose of maintaining lucrative licensing deals (eyewear for Prada, cosmetics for Tom Ford, underwear for Calvin Klein) and selling in-house-produced accessories (logo-adorned bags for Chanel and Louis Vuitton) than for facilitating buying opportunities for clients or press mentions.

Similarly, brands that are aiming to elevate themselves to the conglomerate-attracting level – à la Altuzarra and Christopher Kane (in which Gucci’s parent company Kering holds a stake), Proenza Schouler (which until relatively recently was said to be courting an LVMH investment), and those similarly situated – potentially also stand to benefit from the traditional prestige that comes with showing on the runway.

As for how the traditional runway model translates into an advantage for the emerging-stage brand or even more established ones that lack hundred-million-dollar licensing deals and/or wildly profitable leather goods categories, that is unclear. This is especially questionable now at a time when consumers are seemingly just as – if not more – swayed by product placements on celebrities and influencers that appear on their social media feeds than by Vogue’s runway photos or editorial placements in magazines.

With that in mind, runway shows do not necessarily make a lot of sense for the majority of brands. Chances are, the viability of many brands, including the handfuls of little-known brands on the official NYFW calendar, for instance – are better off by taking a hard look at what they – very tangibly – stand to gain by showing in a traditional capacity and in some cases, accepting that there just might be different – and better – ways of doing things.