When a new Yeezy line drops, the entire world knows — and enthusiastic fans camp outside of stores in select cities, waiting in anticipation (with a bevy of snack reinforcements) for the latest products.
In contrast, there’s a select group of smaller, under-the-radar streetwear brands that are thriving by conducting business exclusively on social media platforms — no buzzy product drops, no flashy media stories. Rather than launch full seasonal collections in-store, these emerging companies debut limited-edition items through Instagram posts or Facebook groups, both private and public. This method not only fosters lowered costs by bypassing wholesale models, public relations and middlemen altogether, but it also grants streetwear companies autonomy over how they distribute products.
“For brands to work very much within one specific platform, it allows them full control,” said Jeff Carvalho, partner and executive editor at Highsnobiety, a digital streetwear publication. “Traditionally, fashion and streetwear was to follow the model of seasonality — you would make a collection for a seasonal show at a marketplace, take wholesale orders, go to production and ship it out. That model requires funding. You have to have some ramp to go to market and produce it.”
What these brands lack in big brand name cachet, they make up for in exclusivity and point of sale models that speak to a younger demographic of consumers. To shop Instagram-based streetwear brands, digitally native millennials simply log in and scroll through images of potential purchases, which often feature captions that instruct them to direct message the account for sales details. They are then sent to a third-party platform to complete the purchase — typically PayPal, Shopify or Big Cartel.
An Instagram post from earlier this month notifying followers that new items will be available on Shopify.
Many of these brands have accumulated a critical mass on Instagram and risen from obscurity by attracting celebrities. Such is the case for Cactus Plant Flea Market, or CPFM. Almost overnight, the company became a favorite of big names like Big Sean and Cara Delevingne, but acquiring a CPFM product remains an elusive process. The brand offers occasional product drops on Big Cartel — shoppers aren’t able to find the items on other standard streetwear e-commerce sites.
A photo posted by CACTUS PLANT FLEA MARKET (@cactusplantfleamarket) on
Model Cara Delevingne wearing a Cactus Plant Flea Market hat last year.
Resellers consider social media an underground streetwear market where exclusive products can be sold at hefty markups. This is especially true of Facebook — shoppers can browse looks that are accompanied with a “Message Seller” button, which will direct them to a pop-up screen where they can learn more about the items as well as the price. They can then pay directly through Facebook, making a purchase in as easy as a few clicks.
Companies including Wavey Garms, a U.K. site formed in 2012, have excelled at the Facebook commerce model. Its Facebook group has more than 64,000 members, plus it has been credited for helping cultivate street style and serving as a bastion of rising trends. Wavey Garms offers products from a wide smattering of brands, ranging from Nike and Adidas to Burberry and Valentino.
A user-generated post on the Wavey Garms Facebook page, and a prompt to purchase the shoes.
Carvalho said operating exclusively on a social media platform allows brands to gauge demand for experimental products and conduct unofficial market research. Additionally, it lets community members monitor sales violations and band together to fight counterfeiting. Facebook groups like SupTalk, which sells Supreme products and has branches in various countries, and Yeezy Talk Worldwide, which has more than 97,000 members, come together to resell goods with a watchdog mentality — it monitors members by requiring administrator approval.
The Facebook page for the closed group Yeezy Talk Worldwide, where users can buy Yeezy products.
“There’s a bit of self policing, as well. In a similar vein as forums, if you have a bad transaction with somebody, you’re going to let others know,” Carvalho said. “Especially in the sneaker world and the resale market — you’re as good as your last transaction. They want to make sure they’re doing business with authentic sellers.”