The Limited-But-Frequent Release Strategy: An Analysis of the 'Streetwear x Luxury Fashion' Trend

This year has been rife with numerous incarnations of the 'Streetwear X High Fashion' variety.

When Burberry announced it would be releasing limited edition drops as part of the brand’s new strategy under the debut of creative director Riccardo Tisci, it was another development in the ongoing love affair between streetwear and luxury fashion.

At first glance, it might seem odd for a brand that relies so strongly on the appeal of its heritage to borrow selling strategies from the likes of “low brow, skate-culture brands” such as Supreme and Stussy.

In 2015, street-led designers such as Alessandro Michele (Gucci), Demna Gvasalia (Vetements, Balenciaga) and Virgil Abloh (Off-White, Louis Vuitton) were named fashion’s new stars. Since then, the way that male customers shop has changed forever, and it has become necessary for a brand's survival to subscribe to the cult of streetwear.

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Never have the lines between what were once two disparate worlds ever been so blurred. The year 2018 was rife with innumerable incarnations of the “Streetwear X High Fashion” variety. Nike sneakers became a staple on the catwalk. Hailey Baldwin was voted Style Influencer of the Year for the previous year. Gucci and Louis Vuitton made regular appearances on street culture blogs such as Hypebeast and Highsnobiety. Department stores such as Selfridges and Nordstrom began creating destinations for streetwear and sneakers.

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The phenomenal rise of streetwear can be credited to a predominantly male audience of younger millennials and Gen Z, who were born around the same time the first Air Jordan was created. They grew up with the concept of sneakers as a collector’s item, with products being purchased and exchanged with the scrutinizing eye of an art dealer.

A shoe that was purchased for only $100 could later resell on the market for as high as $900 and maybe even higher. As the value of sneakers rose in price and social cachet, it wasn’t long before athletic brands like Nike and Adidas became aware of the secondary “resale” market growing around rare sneaker styles and they decided to capitalize on it themselves. The more exclusive a release was, the more covetable the shoe became.

A new selling strategy evolved around “limited drops” that were hyped online and discussed months before the product was made available to the public. The waitlists and overnight lines outside of specialty shops that ensued are some of the customer behaviors that luxury brands such as Burberry are now attempting to replicate.

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At the same time, a new breed of celebrity became popular through Instagram. Basketball players and other popular athletes were no longer the sole personalities associated with athletic brands.

A “streetwear” trend that merged hip-hop, athletic gear, and designer clothes emerged. The most influential personality behind the movement was rapper Kanye West who released his first collaboration with Nike in 2009. Following the success of his first sneaker, he later debuted the Air Yeezy II in 2012, and released the Yeezy Boost 750 with Adidas in 2015. Since then, the celebrity culture around sneakers has forever changed, with personalities as diverse as Barack Obama, Rihanna, and Damien Hirst dabbling in sneaker design.

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Sneakers were the gateway product into streetwear, and boys who initially only categorized themselves as “sneakerheads,” eventually started to crave a head-to-toe look and evolved into “hypebeasts.” It started off as a relatively simple manner of wearing hoodies and t-shirts. But with the likes of Virgil Abloh zeroing in on the trend, it has evolved into something much more elevated than that. These days it’s difficult to make the distinction between “streetwear” and “fashion” anymore, because the growing reality is that streetwear is fashion.

As more brands typically oriented toward women have adopted the streetwear trend, the past years have seen an emergence of the “hypebae." Hailey Baldwin rules as the queen of this scene, and together with the Jenners and the Hadids, has popularized the trend for a female audience of millennials and Gen Z.

The bubble has expanded to include childrenswear, as more millennials are starting to become parents. Even the pets of the family are not excluded from the “streetwear thing,” with clothing lines and Instagram accounts directed at the “hype dog,” which shows how this trend has evolved into something more of a lifestyle.

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As a developing country, Manila has been somewhat removed from the streetwear scene, with limited exclusives only known through Instagram and accessible to those few who have lived abroad or travel often. This has started to change, however, with luxury brand Off-White making its presence in the Philippine retail scene earlier this year, and with concept stores such as Commonwealth and Titan popping up, and even a Jimmy Choo x Off-White collection being sold at the department store Adora.

A major luxury player like Burberry getting in on the game might just be the push the industry needs for streetwear to develop a larger hold on our market.

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About The Author
Nicole Tantoco de los Reyes
Nicole has a deep background in both retail and publishing. She had a series of internships in publications, which led her to her first job as an editorial assistant for a lifestyle magazine. Today, she works as an associate research assistant for Rustan's creative office. As a self-confessed bookworm, she draws a lot of inspiration from the things she reads as well as from several creative people in the fashion industry. With her work in retail and writing, she hopes to help others discover and unlock their own creativity and talent.
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