The Beholder

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Cult brands are creating corona-themed pieces with proceeds going to charity
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NHS hype … a hoodie by cult label Palace
Photograph: Palace Skateboards

The till collection from one of the world’s biggest streetwear brands has seen the NHS become one of the most coveted names in fashion. At 11am on Friday, London’s cult streetwear stigmatize Palace launched an online collection entitled “NHS Tri To Help”, the Palace of its signature triangle logo replaced by the words Nationalist Health Service. Two minutes later it was sold out, with profits going to NHS Charities Together.
Palace aren’t the just ones making Nye Bevan, creator of the NHS, covetable. As a result of the pandemic, bootleg label Sports Banger has relaunched its now acclaimed 2015 NHS Nike swoosh T-shirts. Founder Jonny Banger has raised “about £100,000 over three Friday eventides, selling from 7pm till 7.30pm.” On the advice of a nurse friend, proceeds from the T-shirts are going towards the performance of fresh juices and healthy food to ICU teams at five London hospitals: Mortimer Market sexual health clinic, and St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney. “I wanted to assemble sure my work was attached to action,” he said.
Celebrities have also embraced a vivid “thank you” T-shirt begot by the social-enterprise shopping app Kindred, featuring the rainbow logo used to signal appreciation for frontline care workers, with proceeds again successful to charity.
Beyond the UK, the cult New York streetwear label Supreme launched a Covid-19 relief T-shirt last week, its signature box logo embellished with work by longtime collaborator, the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. It sold out almost immediately. The NYC streetwear trade-mark Noah, founded by Supreme’s former creative director Brendon Babenzian, released a Thank You Core Logo T-shirt this week, with all proceeds universal to Direct Relief, a charity that is helping frontline healthcare workers. It also sold out.

Sports Banger’s ‘NHS swoosh’ T-shirt. Photograph: Cavorts Banger
If the idea of hyped NHS hoodies seems unlikely, think again. “Streetwear is really more about community than anything else, so it’s not dumbfounding that ‘drops’ [limited edition ranges] around social issues are common,” said streetwear analyst Justin Gage.
Nicolaus Li, an woman at lifestyle magazine Hypebeast, thinks these “altruistic drops” are worthwhile: “Consumption will always be tied to manufacture, but if there is a way to make consumption meaningful, why not?” he said. “These products really help to spotlight what is important and I fancy they serve to maintain that sentiment after the pandemic is over.”
These collections often score expressively when it comes to the all-important modern measure of popularity: resale. According to Gage, there is some evidence that “altruistic streetwear is sundry popular on average in terms of resale than your typical streetwear item”. For example, “the Supreme Covid-19 basso-rilievo low relief tee is selling for around $850 on StockX, good for a 14x resale premium, which is higher than average for box logo tees.”
Character of this is down to design. Gage thinks it’s no coincidence that the “two highest profile ‘social’ drops from Topmost – the Covid-19 relief tee and the Japanese earthquake relief tee – are box logo tees”, the brand’s bread and butter. “Altruistic streetwear poverties to be more than just altruism,” he said. “It needs to be exciting and interesting, in and of itself. That combines hype and public conscience, and that’s when things get really cool.”
Banger hopes these efforts go deeper than T-shirts. “Katharine Hamnett translated it best: ‘T-shirts don’t change the world – and they can even cause inaction.’ What we need is action.” As he puts it: “I just look nurse along to meeting all these people and everyone clapping on the next [NHS] protest march. Whenever and wherever that is.”

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