The Resale Culture of Grailed and What It Means For Us
Grailed has helped improve access to designer streetwear, but also encourages an inflated market for flipping coveted items.
There is no doubting how well Grailed has been received since its launch in 2014. An NYC based company built to connect ‘like-minded fashion-conscious individuals’ and to make ‘great clothing affordable and available for everyone’. But how is the resale culture impacting the accessibility and affordability of fashion and streetwear?
Grailed has reached one of these goals, to make great clothing available to everyone. With most sellers shipping anywhere in the world, high fashion and streetwear have finally become accessible to most of the countries who have always wanted it. This includes those of us here in Australia, who have low accessibility to high fashion and exclusives, those of us who almost never get product launches.
But the affordable part of their goal? Not so much. Grailed say that their prices are unbeatable because each piece listed is second hand, but as you scroll through the site, even though the gear is technically ‘second hand’, many items are listed as ‘unworn’ or ‘new with box’. This is ultimately because individuals will buy the item, knowing it will fetch a higher price once they flip it on Grailed.
People with access to the American and European markets buy the gear for retail price, for example: a pair of sneakers for somewhere around USD $200, and due to exclusive access in countries like America and low supply to Australia, they can reach up to AUD $1,000+ on resale. This is both a blessing and a curse, because we finally have access to the exclusives we’ve always wanted, but there is far more demand than supply and hence the prices sky rocket. (And that’s without including the AUD $40 shipping fee).
Last year vintage store owner Sean Wotherspoon won Nike’s Revolution Air design competition and started revealing his final design for his Air Max 97/1’s in October. Wotherspoon wants as many people as possible to have access to his shoe, and to get the ball rolling, he decided to leave pairs of his corduroy clad Nikes around Richmond, Virginia, as well as taking to the road to hand out free pairs of his shoes around America in a customised Kombi van. Sean Wotherspoon is a collector and seller of vintage streetwear, he is all about hunting down your sneakers, because if you’ve got a story behind your sneakers they become your own.
On November 21st 2017, Sean Wotherspoon was set to release a small drop of his Air Max 97/1’s ‘More Air’ at a small shop in Virginia. But 500 people turned up and the whole launch had to be cancelled. So now, they are listed for around $1,600 on Grailed. One user had originally listed a pair for $2,300, but has since brought that price down.
The shoes will be released globally on Air Max Day in March 2018 for a retail price of USD $160. In an instagram post from November 2017, Wotherspoon said “I did everything I could to make Nike produce as many as possible and make them available in every part of the world. Just know, I did my best!”.
So in this instance, a designer has tried to make the shoe accessible to everyone, and yet his shoes are being sold for 10 times their retail price. Even though accessibility has been pushed as far as possible by the designer, the affordability will probably not be as widespread as hoped. The world wide release will determine their ultimate accessibility, but until then we can all just look on in awe of a shoe we will probably never have, but will always want.
The reselling of streetwear and fashion pieces is a huge trade open to any item that has a higher demand than supply, just like the 2008 collaboration between Supreme and The North Face which resulted in The Day and Night Summit jackets. In 2015 one of these sold on ebay for USD $610 and today one is listed on Grailed for $7,500 - that’s more than 12 times the amount it sold for in 2015. This is probably the best possible outcome for the collaboration, whose pieces always increase in value.
As a designer, having your work become exclusive and highly regarded is a dream come true, and Grailed plays a large part in this trade. Without Grailed, buyers and sellers of this resale culture wouldn’t be able to contact each other as easily, and using sites such as Ebay can be stressful and high risk. It would also be more risky to buy and sell such expensive pieces because there is no way to monitor scammers, ensure the legitimacy of items or hedge risk.
With that in mind, we have to thank Grailed for increasing our accessibility to designer streetwear and high fashion pieces, and also curse them for creating a flipping platform where individuals are able to gauge supply and demand levels and sell their items. This whole resale culture isn’t a new thing at all, it’s just following in the footsteps of high art auctions. So really we should’ve seen Grailed coming, because a platform like this was inevitable.
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