Friday, February 05, 2010
BAPE, Wangsters and Hypebeasts
A story was already forming in my mind as soon as I saw this Billionaire Boys Club shop in SoHo at 456 West Broadway. I was going to write how, in my experience, you can not manufacture or create a cachet, a sense of exclusivity, or a cult following. These things have to develop organically over time, with proven product or content.
The name of this store reminded me of Members Only jackets and the belief that the mere proclamation of exclusivity was enough to confer it. Ironically, I have learned that there is a cult following for Members Only jackets.
But perhaps the nature of time itself has changed, as well as the definition of natural evolution. There is a lot of talk online amongst marketers about creating BUZZ - i.e. the very thing that traditionally was something that came naturally as a product, service, or company proved itself over time. But no one has the time or patience for natural evolution. And there is the reality of an extremely dynamic world market with rapidly changing tastes, global competition, love of new things, and technologies to display everything instantaneously.
Can you brand, market, and, with enough muscle, jump start an image and reputation? It certainly has been tried, with varying degrees of success. One big key, of course, is the leverage applied using notable figures, either as customers or as the company ownership. Another technique is to limit quantities and sell at high prices. These ingredients obviously do not guarantee success, but as a business model, it makes more sense than a me-too approach and competing on price against established merchants.
Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream are two lines of high-end sportswear established in 2005 by Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes and Nigo, designer of the clothing line BAPE and founder of the company in 1993. So, to further complicate this story, we do have some legacy here, not just overnight buzz.
In reading reviews about the Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, I became lost in an endless chain of hypertext links of brands, products, stores, people, and words unknown to me. A review from Yelp.com:
Yes folks, this even outdoes the BAPE toilet paper as an all time low. ... A virtual ghost town of hypebeast products and overstaffed employees was all I witnessed.
So I need a new vocabulary. I learned that BAPE, A Bathing Ape, is a clothing line, SoHo store and an adjective, and I learned the meaning of hypebeast, but my education is far from complete. Looking up BAPE in the Urban Dictionary returns seven definitions, including:
A Played out Brand by Nigo from Japan, rocked by wangsters and hypebeast.
Now I had to learn what wangsters are. Fortunately, I have review sites, forums, blogs and the Urban Dictionary. I have a lot of reading to do :)
Note about the store: The ground floor features Ice Cream, and the second floor, which resembles the interior of a space ship, carries the Billionaire Boys Club line. The prices are extremely high - Tees for $80-$100, hoodies for over $200...