Everyone in fashion seems to be operating in crisis mode right now; supply chains are disrupted, customers are not shopping. Stores (via their websites) are putting merchandise on sale way before the usual deadline and have cancelled or delayed roughly $3 billion worth of orders. June men's and couture fashion weeks are cancelled or postponed. The bonds for the parent companies of Versace, Michael Kors, and Coach were downgraded to junk, because of the incredible financial hit these brands were taking due to coronavirus.

Hype culture, however, seems to be alive and kicking. In the height of Covid-spurred social distancing, both Supreme and Palace are still doing drops, which increasingly look out of touch with reality. Granted, they were probably conceived before the pandemic hit, and yet these collabs now feel as tone-deaf as the Gal Gadot celebrity sing-along.

What is worth noting is not the fact that consumers stopped shopping for luxury fashion, but the awe-inspiring speed with which they did it. And not being able to go to brick-and-mortar stores isn’t the culprit. It’s as if overnight, we took a collective hard look at our closets and saw just how unnecessary it all is. Nothing like a crisis to make one prioritize canned beans over a twentieth pair of sneakers. Vanessa Friedman, the New York Times fashion critic, reasoned that "shopping during a pandemic seems just the other side of wrong." (She shopped online anyway.)

Your Highsnobiety privacy settings have blocked this Instagram post.

Amongst fashion insiders, the coronavirus crisis has also given rise to a lot of soul-searching and prognosticating, ranging from hopeful to preposterous. And, in this time of navel-gazing, it becomes fair to ask whether the coronavirus will — among its many casualties, human and corporate — also kill hype culture. Will people lining up in the wee hours of the morning for a Supreme drop or salivating over another meaningless collab realize just how daft it all is? The short answer is: probably not.

In 2008, the subprime mortgage crisis led to a broad financial crisis — with countless people losing homes and savings. Americans saw $9.8 trillion of wealth erased, consumer confidence crashed, and luxury shopping nosedived. But it wasn't just your average middle-class woman who could no longer buy her first Louis Vuitton speedy bag because she lost her job who stopped shopping, but also the very rich. Not because they didn't have the money — the rich always have money — but because they thought that buying a new fancy shirt while the middle class were losing theirs was in poor taste. No millionaire's wife gave up her spot in the line for the new Birkin bag; it was just stashed away in her closet for a while. Then, as now, prognosticators spelled the demise of luxury shopping, which seemed distasteful in its indulgence.

That sentiment lasted all of two years. What followed was a decade of unbridled consumerism that resulted in a roughly tenfold increase in LVMH's stock value and a billion-dollar valuation of Supreme, a brand that emblematized the value system of a next kind of luxury. The Western rich came back in force, followed by the rise of the newly minted aspirational consumer from China. It's also the period when hype culture truly kicked in, fueled by the Instagram-hip-hop industrial complex.

Some say that this time it will be different; that we did not suffer a health crisis that shuttered factories that produce clothes and stores that sell them. I beg to differ, for two simple reasons: people are resilient and their attention spans are short. If they weren't, people wouldn't continue to live on the sides of active volcanoes (or in San Francisco).

I exaggerate only to make a point — as a civilization, we are remarkably adept at both rebuilding and closing our eyes to potential disasters. Each and every time humanity gets from under a crisis and the question of satisfying basic needs becomes less immediate, the question of satisfying emotional needs grows in importance. And that's where fashion, along with hype culture, comes in — it speaks to human emotion, mostly that of satisfying desire or quenching aspirational thirst.

Fashion executives know this. In a recent Business of Fashion survey, two-thirds of them said they are not worried about the long-term impact of the virus. And the sneaker reseller marketplace StockX hasn't missed a beat.

In my quest to understand why people consume hype, I have yet to see a better theory than one of conspicuous consumption the sociologist Thorstein Veblen offered over 120 years ago. His basic postulate was that people consume in order to signal their status to the rest of society. Fashion executives may be wondering whether to produce anything for next season at all, but there is no shortage of luxury goods out there — according to the Economist, even in a good season, most luxury brands move just over half of their stock at regular price. After a season ends, the unsold stuff gets offloaded to outlets or discount retailers, or it's burned.

If all of this is making you sick right now, as you watch humanity's existential struggle and are wondering at the utter pointlessness of your overflowing, futile closet, don't worry — this feeling will pass, and you may find yourself salivating at the next Sacai x Nike sneaker sooner than you think. We've been here before.

We Recommend
  • ROA sneakers
    Your Feet Will Thank You for These Winter-Ready Sneakers
    • Sneakers
  • Image on Highsnobiety
    Carhartt, Hip-Hop & Why Fashion Will Always Be Obsessed With Workwear
    • Style
  • the north face jacket
    The North Face Jackets Will Always Be a Winter Essential
    • Style
  • Image on Highsnobiety
    Jonah Hill Is Officially in His Cool Dad Era
    • Culture
  • Image on Highsnobiety
    The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is Still a Fashion Icon in 2023
    • Style
  • Image on Highsnobiety
What To Read Next
  • Starcow Paris x Nike collection.
    Gorpheads Assemble! Nike’s New Collab Is Techy AF
    • Style
  • Kith Timberland Boots
    All I Want For Kithmas Is These Timberland Booties
    • Sneakers
  • reebok eames
    Eames Office x Reebok’s Final Collection Might Be Its Best
    • Sneakers
  • RGB By Creature World Fall/Winter 2023.
    Creature World Is Making Fashion Fun Again
    • Style
  • main image
    With All This Trompe L’Oeil, It’s Hard Knowing What Is Real
    • Style
  • Patta x Danner Light Boot collaboration Fall/Winter 2023.
    Patta's Danner Collab Proves It Can Do Anything
    • Sneakers
*If you submitted your e-mail address and placed an order, we may use your e-mail address to inform you regularly about similar products without prior explicit consent. You can object to the use of your e-mail address for this purpose at any time without incurring any costs other than the transmission costs according to the basic tariffs. Each newsletter contains an unsubscribe link. Alternatively, you can object to receiving the newsletter at any time by sending an e-mail to info@highsnobiety.com

Web Accessibility Statement

Titelmedia (Highsnobiety), is committed to facilitating and improving the accessibility and usability of its Website, www.highsnobiety.com. Titelmedia strives to ensure that its Website services and content are accessible to persons with disabilities including users of screen reader technology. To accomplish this, Titelmedia has engaged UsableNet Inc, a leading web accessibility consultant to help test, remediate and maintain our Website in-line with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which also bring the Website into conformance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.


Please be aware that our efforts to maintain accessibility and usability are ongoing. While we strive to make the Website as accessible as possible some issues can be encountered by different assistive technology as the range of assistive technology is wide and varied.

Contact Us

If, at any time, you have specific questions or concerns about the accessibility of any particular webpage on this Website, please contact us at accessibility@highsnobiety.com, +49 (0)30 235 908 500. If you do encounter an accessibility issue, please be sure to specify the web page and nature of the issue in your email and/or phone call, and we will make all reasonable efforts to make that page or the information contained therein accessible for you.