Shaming scenes this week on Britain’s high streets as violence erupted up and down the country. Never mind mitigating circumstances, this was the long-awaited arrival of H&M’s collaboration with luxury brand Balmain, and the culmination of months of hyping, Instagramming, celebrity product seeding and extravagant, champagne-fuelled launch parties filled with various members of the extended Kardashian klan.
Admittedly the situation wasn’t helped by the gangs who turn up to such events, buy up the most covetable pieces then mark them up on eBay. H&M could do something about this, but why should they? It only adds to the desirability of the product. The majority of shoppers though were girls in their late-teens, hoping to buy into the bacchanalian Balmain lifestyle.
Creative director Olivier Rousteing, taking time out from his busy selfie schedule, admitted in a moment of candour that the collection, mostly based on actual catwalk pieces, was aimed squarely at the next generation. The message? Hook them while they’re young.
Burberry is another brand which uses youth to stop the 159 year-old company from slipping into dusty dotage. A patron of new-but-suspiciously-old-sounding music, Burberry even sponsors a BAFTA award – the ‘Breakthrough Brit’, which allows them to pick and choose feted British faces for their celebrity-studded fashion show audience, before Hollywood, headlining movies, rehab and discovering mindfulness at a yoga retreat in Bali.
Recently, Burberry has used social media platform Snapchat (average age of user: 18) to share exclusive content, including previews of catwalk shows and upcoming campaigns, with its followers. They’re part of the gang, in on the secret, and there ain’t nobody fresher than their clique. As the brand folds its three lines (Prorsum, London and Brit) into one, the line between novice purchases and high-end product will become blurred, and every lipstick, perfume or purse will be a step nearer to the bright lights and big names in the Burberry family.
What Balmain and Burberry have both realised is that teenagers are inherently aspirational; they strive for the trappings of adulthood. They watch programmes like ‘The Only Way is Essex’ and ‘Made in Chelsea’, which elevated some fairly ordinary people to household names overnight. They follow their favourite stars on social media. They want to dress like them. They want to be like them. Instagram and the brand’s digital realm is the gateway drug for these fledgling fashion junkies, and they fall long and hard for the promises made by the heady, intoxicating images pushed to them.
It will be no surprise if, soon, teenagers start stealing to fund their luxury fashion habit, from Moschino iPhone cases and Saint Laurent grunge tiaras up. Whilst us seasoned pros will be checking inside those Burberry jackets for black or beige labels (catwalk collection or selling rail), it’s teenagers who are in danger of becoming the real fashion victims.
Article by Lee Clatworthy (@bombfashion) for www.katiechutzpah.com