The age of semi-rarity

2016 and 2017 will be remembered as the times when things went upside down.

For example, Hermès reportedly started moving away from their famous demande-frustration strategies, releasing products previously considered rare and privileged. Luxury shoppers knew they had to go through a reservation process to get their Birkin.

Now what do they know? Donald Trump is President. Academy Awards are mistakenly handed out. Facebook copies Snapchat.

Even more unexpected is how streetwear brands are influencing luxury industry tactics.

And Adidas is the power player on the lifestyle market, banking on the Supreme-Hypebeast era. Luxury and Rarity are now concepts completely blurred into Democracy and Approachability. Everyone has heard about the Yeezy sneakers but apparently only a happy few got their hands on them. But these happy few are not Fifth Avenue wanderers anymore. They are over-exposed, competitive young consumers.

Products that are sold out on Day One (or Hour One) appear miraculously on a grey market called re-selling. Is this the way street fashion is turning into a sharing economy? Brands release products, prosumers preempt them, re-selling to consumers, thanks to more and more structured platforms (such as Goat). We could almost say Uber drivers missed a wagon and should have bet on sneakers over transport. We’re talking about a one billion-dollar market type of opportunity distributed to fragmented players, compared to the 1.5 billion dollar cake that Uber retains.

Even the reselling industry has changed. Where hardcore fans used to chase confidential Jordan releases, common consumers now chase quite widely distributed Adidas drops. Even in streetwear, the concept of rarity has evolved. The distinction between commercial items and special items has shifted from a black-and-white opposition to well… fifty shades of grey. The notions of “cool”, “hip” and “hype” themselves are now confusing.

In the age of semi-rarity, has the consumer turned into a semi-individual?

To the contrary! In this new configuration, consumers have claimed a new currency as their own: attention. While access to highly desired and rare products used to come with a premium in price, the age of semi-rarity rewards attentive consumers and bringing them on board of the brand’s business model. The consumer has never been more the ideal sales person than today, in 2017.

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