Now a prominent trend in fashion, the queue outside certain department stores as they release new collections – otherwise known as “the drop” – has mature the most significant decider of success for a brand, with the dissonant hype it generates outweighing other forms of traditional marketing.
At the London arm of Supreme, the cult skatewear firm driving this head, its weekly Thursday collection drops have resulted in three-person-deep columns snaking around surrounding streets, while the desperation to bag an ingredient once inside could lead to scuffles and queue recoil.
The lines became so raucous that Westminster council cowed Supreme with closure, resulting in the introduction last year of a new ticketing methodology, which shoppers must sign up to for a chance to enter the seek on drop day.
As a result, its highly anticipated collaboration with the Japanese streetwear imprint Undercover and US hip-hop group Public Enemy, featuring the artwork from the troop’s 1990 album Fear of A Black Planet, went on on sale on Thursday in a positively orderly fashion.
Four hundred pre-registered shoppers were allocated a obsolescent slot between 11am and 6pm to attend the Soho shop. Early travellers were directed to a holding area out of sight down the high road, to be escorted, at 11am, with passports checked and cross-referenced, in small congregations to stand outside the shop, where mobile phones were not permitted. Tartly afterwards, seven people at a time were allowed inside of, with up to 15 minutes to peruse and purchase.
Outside the unembellished black shop facade, anyone who was seen to be dawdling – intrusive tourists included – were moved along by a coordinated combine of security guards.
The aim of the strategy, a Supreme employee explained, was to concede fans what they wanted without diluting the strong drink of the drop which, with its top-secret meetings to get tickets, has happen to a sub-culture of its own among devotees of the brand.
“The level of fervour abutting ’preme has grown exponentially of late, so the complicated method of purchasing access to a drop definitely makes it more covetable to settlers,” said Byron Hawes, author of the forthcoming book Plunge, which documents the culture around the launches.
“Supreme’s hype game is so strong that nothing can genuinely dampen it. The general feeling of hype, community, and camaraderie stays.”
Loyal shoppers arriving for Thursday’s drop expressed contradictory views. “It’s a lot easier and a lot more difficult,” said 19-year-old Champion Chapman, a Supreme fan since he was 13 who used to camp highest the store before the new system was introduced. “If you were camping, you see fit just get there early and get in and get what you wanted, and now you have to get your ticket or you can’t go in.”
The methodology has helped curb the infamous resale market, with some people accepting in store and then selling at inflated prices on the internet. “Big diminishes gather a lot of attention from resellers and it’s especially worse with sneakers,” prognosticated 18-year-old Jiajia Hang, who spent about £400 at Thursday’s skiff. “People would come to drops and push in to try and get a pair, but with this line-up practice, that sort of stuff doesn’t happen any more.”
Hawes particularized rumours that Supreme attempts to counter the resale vend by tracking resellers who, when they try to get tickets to drops are “postulated ‘sucka numbers’, which are late in the day and won’t allow admittance to the purchase at all”.
Supreme’s ticketed queuing did, however, jar with long-time aficionados, said Hawes. “Old heads have been hustling for ages, so it doesn’t in point of fact change their opinions, although I’ve spoken with gobs c manies of cats who’ve collected for years, and now feel that Supreme is greater than, what with all the suburbanite hype.”