The Elusive World of Fashion Industry Plants

If you’ve ever gone shopping online for secondhand designer clothing you’ve probably had that weird moment where you encounter an impossibly high price for a brand that you have never heard of. Now, usually, this is because of some level of unfamiliarity with a lot of high fashion houses but occasionally it’s because a brand new label blew up, and now everybody wants their piece. But really whats happening is while you were living your fashion “oblivious” life, a large mass of teenagers saw a celebrity where some streetwear brand and took to the stores where the bought out the entire stock.

This isn’t a very new phenomenon. People wearing clothing because of celebrity endorsement has been pretty popular for a while now. But what’s changed a lot is the brands themselves. Many of the newer brands to blow up along this method are borderline mom-and-pop stores.

For example, Cactus Plant Flea Market, a streetwear brand that blew up for their goofy sweatshirts, didn’t even feature products on it’s website at first. It had images of Pharrell and Travis Scott and, of course, pictures of food. It wasn’t even clear what it was, but what it did have, even at the time, was celebrity affiliation. And that is the most important tool at play here. They didn’t even blow up until Kanye was photographed wearing a sweatshirt from them. But Kanye wouldn’t have worn it if Pharrell wasn’t there.

Likewise, Bianca Chandon had been in its own little spotlight for some time. The brand was started by Alex Olson, a well liked and pretty popular skater, and even it’s name calls to imagery of Mick Jagger and Moët & Chandon. Interesting to watch is their pricing remaining modest even just as they began to blow up.

biancachandon.com in March, 2014
biancachandon.com in January, 2015

But most of there “blowing up” within this space was still well within the loyal skatewear commune. They seemed to have died down for a bit until the only man that can make unfrosted pop tarts look coll, Frank Ocean, gave the brand a much needed defibrillation. And then the hypebeast resellers really came in.

But this brand like many others, CPFM, Blonded, and even Chrome Hearts for example, has always kept this sense of elusiveness, as if it were just an entity floating in the streetwear space-time continuum. The only figures associated with them are the celebrities that show up in their clothing once or twice. There is no transparency or identity, if anything there is a deliberate obscurity of a face or mission attributable to the brand. They all kind of do the same things too. They have a similar goofiness and plainness, if one brand had designed and sold everything of theirs it would be of little surprise value.

Which begs the question why do celebrities go after it. The easy answer would be the thrill of “starting” something — of putting the world onto a brand that only they have the swagger to unapologetically wear despite the label’s lack of popularity and the potential for embarrassment.

Which is why these brands are perhaps best described as industry planted streetwear. There is an illusion going on in a way, of these designers being underground, unknown and “normal”, when in reality the they are constantly surrounded by a network of people to keep themselves in the right spotlight. And it’s an understood illusion —people know exactly what’s going on to some degree— it’s just getting a bit old.