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The basis of exclusivity, on which streetwear collaborations historically capitalize, relies on the demand for a product exceeding its supply. The Dior x Air Jordan High is the epitome of a one-off, difficult to attain product; currently, it sells for over $14,300 on popular resale sites – which is more than 14 times its original price. The sneakers were initially scheduled for release in specific boutiques, which was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. This, combined with the fact there were just 8,500 pairs available worldwide, made the sneaker even more difficult to purchase; put in context, an estimated 12 million pairs of stock, non-collaborative Nike Air Force Ones were purchased at the peak popularity of the silhouette in 2005.
Cult skate-streetwear brand Supreme’s trademark drop strategy is a role model for many collaborations that utilize “limited time and stock” to assert exclusivity, and attain the cultural capital implied by high price premiums on resale sites. Dropping new, limited edition items every Thursday, the brand’s founder James Jebbia famously told Interview Magazine in 2009, “If we can sell 600, I make 400.”
Beyond streetwear, the strategy of demand outstripping supply often contributes to the making of collectors’ items. This was the aim of premium whisky brand Glenfiddich’s tie-up with online retailer Mr Porter, releasing just 1,500 bottles of a limited edition whisky worldwide in November 2021, and Pokémon’s partnership with French luxury brand Baccarat and Fragment Design on a run of only 25 crystal Pikachu figurines, also released in November 2021.
Though limited stock is a commonly-used method of creating a sense of exclusivity around a collaboration, selling items for a “limited time” can be just as effective. The Yeezy x Gap round jacket was a surprise release on June 8, 2021, available for pre-order for just six days; in that time, according to Lyst, searches for the collaboration increased by 257 percent. Of course, Yeezy creative director Kanye West’s global following increased conversation around the drop, but the limited-time-only model fueled urgency to purchase.
An example of “limited time” fostering exclusivity is the 2019 collaboration between the artist KAWS and the Japanese High Street brand Uniqlo, as there was a fast-fashion level of stock available. Shopper riots broke out at Uniqlo stores in China, which led to London stores — which launched the collection later in the week — to only allow 10 shoppers in at a time, causing long queues. The hype boiled down to a combination of the artist’s wide fanbase, photos “leaking” two months before the launch date and the artist posting online that it was going to be his last-ever collaboration with the brand. (It wasn’t.)
Each T-shirt sold for RMB 99 ($15) and then re-sold on the secondary market for RMB 799 ($115), a 667 percent price increase. Furthermore, individual shoppers were only allowed to purchase two of the same design, a frequent tactic for collaborative drops in the sneaker world. According to StockX, buyers who invested in KAWS x Uniqlo tees have seen an 82 percent return over the past two years.
Get your copy of “The Drop: Understanding Successful Brand Collaborations” on our Reports page