Why canny fashion fans queued overnight for a pair of €220 Kanye West Yeezy runners
To the uninitiated, or indeed anyone over 30, Saturday's crush at Brown Thomas in advance of the 'drop' of the five-barrelled Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 sneakers, €220, might seem inexplicable.
Particularly given that Kanye West's Yeezy line's collaboration with Adidas, Adidas Yeezy, retails at between €199 and €299 in store. But online, third-party retailers' prices can reach twice that.
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After it was announced that the shoes would go on sale on Saturday morning, Brown Thomas requested that queuing start no earlier than 8am. Needless to say, the request was comprehensively ignored and queuing began the night before, as had been the case when a previous Yeezy release took place at JD Sports in 2017 and some expectant shoppers queued for days.
By Saturday morning the queue had swelled to over 100 resulting in chaos and crushing at the top of the line, forcing Brown Thomas to cancel the sale.
The store apologised but said that due to health and safety it could not go ahead.
We Irish are hardly unfamiliar with such phenomena - overnight queues were a hardy perennial of reporting which presaged the Next Christmas sale, and they appear to be making a return in the property market now that the economy is once again full-throated.
We, are however, less accustomed to the extreme of overnight queueing when the object of desire in question is runners (or trainers, or sneakers, depending on which YouTube channels you subscribe to).
But we underestimate the power of aspiration - where once a queue was a tedium to be persevered, the fashion queue is now an event in itself. Whether it's Yeezy X Adidas, iPhone for Apple, or Kate Moss for Topshop, nothing conveys scarcity and desirability like the fashion queue. And little delivers such easy opportunities for posts which portray exactly the right kind of taste.
When Virgil Abloh, the Kanye collaborator and head of menswear at Louis Vuitton, attended a signing in west London in 2017, the editor of the magazine he was fronting, System, told The Guardian that the event is part of the spectacle.
"Regardless of what people think of his ability as a designer, he's a huge people person. Build the queue, and they will come, connect, and hey, they'll whack the whole thing on Instagram," said Sara McAlpine.
Undoubtedly the same is true of this release.
Certainly Adidas spared no promotional firepower when they hyped the sneaker's arrival, describing it as "the world's most influential and sought-after shoe".
West has been working with Adidas since 2006 but the trainer they produced was not released. He subsequently signed a deal with Nike but the relationship foundered, West told an artist known as Charlamagne tha God, because of a quarrel over royalty rights and because, he believed, some people at Nike didn't understand the appeal of Yeezys.
He returned to Adidas in 2013.
The Adidas x Yeezy line has been a retail phenomenon that men's style blogger Damien Broderick, who blogs at damienbroderick.net, says "sets street style trends rather than follows".
"So many brands - big and small - try to imitate that silhouette of the Yeezy. They also play into that luxury market in that they're not just a trainer, they're a luxury piece of apparel. People want that stamp of approval," he adds.
"The demographic is really big. In terms of the hierarchy of trainers, I think only Balenciaga outrank Yeezy in terms of a luxury shoe.
"And Yeezy could charge crazy money and people would still want them. In fact, the more expensive they are, the more people would want them," Broderick adds.
There is little doubt that the hype machine has been used to full effect. And this generation has no problem in saying so.
"The trainers are in fashion, they're in trend," one 18-year-old would-be Yeezy shopper queueing outside JD Sports told The Irish Times in 2017.
"Kanye West is a big influencer, not only in music but in fashion as well. He has a big influence worldwide; on fashion in places like Brown Thomas. Big brand stores are going to bring them; the hype is there, he's built it up."
Another, when asked why he was queueing for so long, was unequivocal. "Because they're Kanye West runners," he said.
And while spending over €200 on a runner may seem to some the very apex of frippery, there is a secondary market in Yeezys that could net the enterprising a rather tidy sum.
"There is a huge market for reselling," says Broderick. "I know a lot of people that buy multiple pairs - ones to wear and ones to sell."
A cursory check on eBay reveals an enthusiastic market for the trainers, with prices of up to $750 (€663 at yesterday's exchange rates). Fetching those kind of prices at resale, those people queuing may just be cannier than they might appear.