“Yeezy Taught Me”
Article by Eric Edleman
Thousands waited in front of their computer screens. Some waited for ten minutes while some waited for ten hours, regardless, they were all brought by the same thing: hype. The intangible inflator of value, the invisible consciousness that has immeasurable power over how many express themselves in regard to fashion: hype. As Game 7 of the 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Finals concluded, a single tweet was sent out from NikeStore.com’s official twitter page. In moments, thousands upon thousands clicked scrambling to get a pair of what is now being called by many as the most hyped sneaker release of all time. Retailing for $245, the value of the Nike Air Yeezy II—named and designed by Kanye West himself–skyrocketed as soon as it hit Ebay. One notorious pair of Yeezys sold for over $90,000, although the authenticity of the sale is still debated. Regardless, it is a powerful example of how easily hype is quick to inflate the value and demand of exclusive items. Although brands like Nike certainly artificially manipulate the supply, it is another testament to the incredible value today’s entertainers—specifically rappers—have in terms of influencing fashion.
When A$AP Rocky’s “Pe$o” video debuted on YouTube, some of the earliest comments from viewers were, “What brand is he wearing?” Within weeks, Black Scale, a streetwear brand from San Francisco, had some of its best selling collections of all time. Their Funeral hats and “Fuck Swag” shirts, both worn by Rocky in the aforementioned music video, sold out in a matter of days, something completely new for a brand that had never seen such tremendous visibility until Rocky wore their clothing. Another streetwear brand that saw their sales spike thanks to hip-hop hype was Supreme, thanks to Odd Future’s similar ascension as the most hyped artists at the time. However, hype exists in high fashion brands as well.
Two brands in particular, Balmain and Givenchy, have seen a tremendous resurgence in the past months, all thanks to one man—Kanye West. Both brands certainly make great pieces, but never before have high fashion brands suddenly become as coveted and easily accessible to the average fan. As Kanye West took the stage during the various Watch the Throne tour stops in a leather kilt, leather pants, Yeezy sneakers, and Rottweiler shirt, the average American fan had seen something they’d never seen from a hip-hop artist. Even though Kanye was literally wearing exactly what was debuted in European fashion shows, to the average fan, this was something totally unique. Suddenly, the Givenchy Rottweiler tee became one of the most iconic hype items in recent memory; even other artists began to emulate Kanye West’s flair for high-fashion couture cross-bred with hip-hop grit. Just as brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci have seen, hip-hop artists are probably the most powerful marketing tool there is.
Hip-hop has always possessed a certain braggadocio aspect to it, what you wore was always a key cog of the aesthetic of what made you an artist. However, for the first time ever, the average fan can instantaneously acquire whatever hyped item they desire thanks to the complete assimilation of social media and the ease of access many online retailers provide for high fashion items. Whether it’s a Supreme Camp Hat or an oversized Givenchy tee, hype exists both in the streetwear and high-fashion realms respectively, all thanks in large part to hip-hop artists.