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The first time I really wanted a concert tee, I was at a Rolling Stones show in Columbus, Ohio. I was probably 14 years old. Looking into the sea of fans, I could see a plethora of designs that I knew would be a perfect combo with my Levi’s. So, I walked to the concession stand and bought one. I still wear it all the time.
Enter my young-adult angst obsession: hip hop. As I got into hip hop music, the tee’s I wanted became harder to track down, and the fans wearing them were more fashionable than at the rock concerts I’d been to as a kid. Even at shows, the clothing would be sold out before the set was over. Surfing through artists’ websites after their clothing releases, in some cases, wouldn’t do the trick, as they’d sell out within minutes. This craze came hand in hand with a revamped, more high-end concept of music merchandising.
The Music-Fashion Transition
High fashion collectors donned in clothing designed by iconic recording artists has become more of a commonality than ever before. That’s because their merchandise isn’t what it used to be — and more artists are making the push towards the fashion space. What started as a way for concert-goers and die-hard fans alike to pledge their allegiance to an artist has become somewhat of a street-wear staple. Icons are now teaming up with major fashion designers to create t-shirts, hoodies, and unique accessories that have become some of the most sought after pieces in the clothing industry.
And others have just created these fashion houses themselves.
It’s All About The Collab
In the past 10 years, high demand fashion designers like Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo and Louis Vuitton’s Virgil Abloh have intersected with the music culture space to create more avant garde artist merchandise. Kanye West is arguably the godfather of this movement, having recognized the power of merchandise early in his career.
Not only has the music mogul teamed up with Abloh to create his eye-catching tour-merch designs, but he’s also incorporated famed artists like Wes Lang to expand the images behind his brand. West has taken his role in the fashion space to the next level by teaming up with Nike and Adidas throughout his career, with his much anticipated Gap collaboration already flying off of the shelves.
Recently, more artists, predominantly in the Hip-Hop and R&B space, have recruited designers and fashion companies to boost their personal brands.
Travis Scott’s meteoric rise to fame has attracted the likes of Jordan brand, and now iconic fashion house Dior, to collaborate on clothing concepts that were once considered casualwear. Most Travis Scott drops sell out almost as soon as they’re released.
Ohio-based performer Kid Cudi has gone a similar route, collaborating with Cactus Plant Flea Market, an elusive brand that specializes in ransom letter-esque font and loud emblems, for his latest album Man on the Moon III and 2019 Coachella show. The collaboration sold out quickly.
Most of these collaborations do. For collectors, it’s all a part of the sport. And for their fans, it’s become a pastime.
Fashion Brands Of Their Own
Artists creating their own fashion brands apart from their music career is starting to become a commonality as well. Kanye West, for example, is a master of the combination. With his Yeezy brand, he’s become one of the prominent rapper/designers to date, with his innovative shoe concepts redefining athletic and leisurely footwear.
Artists like Tyler the Creator, Drake, and Pharrell Williams have done the same, creating their own fashion brands outside of their music, with Golf Wang, October’s Very Own, and Billionaire Boys Club. While they still work with designers to workshop concert t-shirt designs, they’re following Kanye’s footsteps in the fashion space. Even Justin Bieber has begun to throw his hat in the arena, with his drew house brand. While its smiley-face emblem is simple, it’s beginning to catch steam (its skateboarder-type clothing regularly flies off of the site).
The high demand of some of these pieces means they’ve been able to resell on second hand sites for, in some cases, hundreds of dollars more than the original asking price. They’re becoming collectors items that fashion aficionados and music lovers alike wear to areas outside of the music space, typically combining the pieces with highly fashionable clothing.
Clothing has less become an embodiment of the artists’ message and more an extension of their brand’s influence. And at this pace, the intersection of music and fashion is only getting started.
Here’s 5 of my favorite artist-fashion designer collaborations, as well as merch that’s proving that contemporary artist merchandise should be considered a staple in the fashion space:
The 2019 Kid Cudi, Cactus Plant Flea Market collaboration was rocked by celebrities and musicians alike. This sweatshirt would work as a perfect under-layer for a winter flannel.
The 2018 collaboration between Off-White founder Virgil Abloh and La Flame was for the rapper’s annual Astroworld fest. It pays homage to Travis’ 2015 album Rodeo.
This shirt is one of the signature pieces of Justin Bieber’s drew house brand, with the iconic smiley-face like logo front and center.
This lightweight hat by Drake’s clothing brand is perfect for a summer or fall outfit.
This hat by Tyler the Creator’s brand Golf Wang is a perfect addition to any skater fit. The rapper is known for wearing his own Golf Wang products regularly.
Keep your eyes open for that next big drop (and don’t worry -- we’re here to help with that). You never know… you might just discover your next best piece.