As Streetwear Peaks in Bangkok…

June 18, 2007 at 3:58 am 1 comment

street1.jpgJu (MindShare, Regional Team) writes:

“With a surfer’s business model, Harajuku aesthetic, and uniquely independent American attitude, the message of streetwear speaks to a global youth audience.”Theme Magazine, “X-Pollination of Streetwear”

At The Esplanade, another mall that has recently sprouted up in Bangkok, there is huge fenced-off, under-construction section that promised a space for Zoo York, Ed Hardy, Reef, Emily The Strange, and the likes of other such streetwear brands.

Streetwear is part of street culture, the definition of which is difficult to articulate and often subject to debate. On a superficial level, street culture is united through the elements of hip-hop, skate/surf culture, graffiti arts, print designs, and an obsession for limited editions. At its more meaningful core, it manifests the values of individuality, rebellion, sexiness, originality, freedom, and a sense of exclusive smallness, dressed up in a certain aesthetics, tone, music and attitude that only those ‘in the know’ can decode.

As I walked by that section at The Esplanade, I couldn’t help thinking of the principles of trend research, as a paper written eight years ago by Flamingo International on forward-looking trend research (Complacency Kills: Protecting Levi’s Cool Mindshare) articulates very well:

…one of the effects of skate culture, a culture both marginal and increasingly aspirational for the mainstream, has been the growth in non-denim workwear and combats, from brands such as Carhartt, Dickie’s, Homeboy, Stoopid. The Early Adopter credibility of these brands depends on their smallness, to the extent that once they become big they are left to the mainstream, as the leading edge goes off in search of more underground brands. The short lifecycle of these brands feeds into consumer perceptions that they can keep finding cool, new, small brands (indeed, smallness becomes a prerequisite for coolness and acceptability).

Assuming this, could the fact that these ‘underground’ brands now have a big, clear presence in a mall and are thus more accessible and recognized by the mainstream erode their ‘cool equity’ in the minds of Bangkok’s true leading edge youth?

As streetwear travels from its fringe origins with local Californian surfer Shawn Stussy in 1980, mutating and cross-pollinating around the globe (more on the journey of streetwear here), the type that eventually lands with a grand entrance at one of Bangkok’s latest shopping malls 27 years later is also likely to attract a mainstream group who buy more into the hype rather than into the lifestyle or the attitude of the brand. This risks chipping away at the brand’s youth credibility in the long run even as sales volume rises.

For any mass brand striving to become a part of youth’s ‘cool’ ground (or maintain it), it may useful to consider this ‘Early Adopter’ strategy put forth in Flamingo’s paper:

As a mass brand, in the sense that the brand enjoys high volume sales, it has been central… to retain cool mindshare by specifically not targeting the mainstream. As a brand which has to achieve credibility above all with the key 15-19 male target, it is essential that the brand be seen to be part of the target’s world, initiating trends from within, rather than merely ‘decorating’ that world. This means aiming ideally to stay ahead of the core target, but at least to match them…

….Media is not only chosen on the basis of penetration, GRPs, etc. Cool mindshare depends on…maintaining a discreet dialogue with the most opinion-leading core target: this means having a credible low-key presence in selected media… ensuring that opinion-leading youth feel they have access to communication coming from the brand which is less accessible to the mainstream.

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Entry filed under: all asia, media general, retail, thailand, trends.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. John Lee  |  October 16, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Thanks for taking the quote from our story as the intro – although why we never get any ad buys from MindShare I have no idea…
    Come on MindShare – support independent thinking/publishing!!!

    Reply

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