Last week we did a video on the insane hype and success of Virgil Abloh's Off white brand, but some may not know that Off White is not Mr. Abloh's 1st venture into streetwear. In 2017 Virgil Abloh has worked with the likes of Travis scott for his Birds eye view tour merch, Lil Uzi Vert's Pain is love 2 album cover and all the way as high as Jordan Brand on the sneaker of the year winning Air Jordan 1 colab. But as we mentioned befor, this is not his 1st rodeo. A few years ago, 3 friends Virgil Abloh, Matthew Williams and Heron Preston introduced there brand Been Trill to the world of streetwear. Consisting of mainly if not mostly lo fi minimal designs, biased on hashtags a rocky horror fronted logo the brand received plenty of scrutiny in the beginning. With many sighting "dubious at best quality" and insanely over the top price tag which included $100 shoe laces. Despite the side eyes of many, Been trill managed to generate a monumental amount of hype by using the fact that were a trio of DJs, with cool celebrity friends that were willing to lend a helping hand in promotion. And by help I mean, how would you like Kanye West, Drake, Big Sean and Rhianna being seen rocking shirts and hats with your brand emblazoned across the chest and other areas? Huh- sounds pretty helpful right.
Well maybe not as much as you may think. I mean don't get me wrong, they had a hell of a run and when they were up they did bang up numbers and made meaningful moves such launching an app, introducing us to custom branded t shirts, they appeared in Kanye West’s debut A.P.C. collection and there were even rumors of adidas collaboration sneaker.
However like all vehicles driven by hype, what goes up must come down and by 2015 the brand suffered a significant fall from grace. So, what exactly caused this downfall? lets take a look. Consider a brand like Supreme for a second, although today it is extremely hyped and celebrity endorsed, that's not what won over the hearts and minds of consumers of the New York based skate brand. They built the house from the bottom up, focusing on high quality offerings in extremely limited quantity. And although the box logo tee has been a long time fav of fans, Supreme has offered plenty of un branded design pieces.
Been trill on the other hand at it's peak could be easily purchased anywhere including Pac Sun locations all around the country. If theirs one thing we know about hypebeast, that's if everyone can purchase a particular item, then at that point it becomes un cool. And so began the avalanche.
There was nothing to stop the repeated accusation that this was just a group of well-connected influences cashing in on the hype generated by their celebrity friends. It was at that point that we began to slowly wake up and go, hey are we being duped here? The official nail in the coffin came in 2014 when ASAP Rocky dropped his Multiply track, dissing brands like Been Trill and Hood by Air.
By 2015 they are at best minimally-relevant, and at worst roast worthy, and the original founding team had jumped ship for greener pastures. Heron Preston launched HPC Trading Co, an “art objects store” frequently sold through Instagram. And we all know what became of Virgil Abloh, he also landed on his feet as he became Kanye West's creative director and launched another brand, Pyrex.
Another brand based on graphic design, but this time to ensure better quality they were printed on household fashion name brand pieces such as Ralph Lauren and Champion sportswear. Featuring trademark white bars and Pyrex branding the name was eventually changed again and it evolved into what we now know as Off White.
To be fair the crew’s co-founder Matthew Williams did admit “it has always been about having fun with your friends…because of our social media presence we can amplify a small, spontaneous idea so it seems much bigger than it actually is.” So what I gather is that the founders never really expected the idea to blow up the way it did, and the fact it caught on was just a bonus.
So what did we learn here? Although hype can be great for business branding, sometimes it too can be not so great. And if done wrong it could tank your business. Two things are clear, over saturation kills hype and we hypebeast don't really appreciate poorly crafted merchandise sold at ridiculously high prices. Well I'm not so sure about the 2nd one. So rip Been trill apparently you won't be missed.