Small Change

Flipping streetwear for a huge profit

There's money to be made from limited-edition attire, but beware risks

In the world of streetwear, scarcity is currency. Collecting and investing in limited-edition clothes and sneakers has become something of a cult, whipping up a retail feeding frenzy every time new merchandise "drops" at stores worldwide.

Sneaker-heads and hypebeasts - consumers who are obsessed with this kind of attire - gladly queue for days for a chance to cop the latest coveted items.

Products range from the practical to the whimsical, including T-shirts, hoodies, caps, wallets and even an actual red clay brick slapped with the famed Supreme box logo.

Astute buyers with an eye for "hyped" items can make a killing on the resale market.

Collector Selwyn Seah, who started buying and reselling street gear two years ago, has already reaped a cool "five-figure" profit.

Among his purchases was a pair of sneakers by Adidas and Japanese label A Bathing Ape that he bought for just $229 and resold for an eye-watering $1,200.


Fans queueing outside the LV store in Ion Orchard for the Supreme x Louis Vuitton collection launch on July 14. A raffle registration was held a day earlier; only those with a raffle ticket could make purchases. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

"I won't call it an investment. It's a hobby and I enjoy it... If you can cop the items at retail price from the store, there's a very high chance you can make money from them," noted Mr Seah, 20, who is about to enter university.

The "cop-and-flip" routine is backed by a healthy resale market for sought-after products. Hype drives demand and scarcity pushes prices up; it is basic economics at work.

In particular, fans of New York skate brand Supreme appear to be willing to part with their money bags to buy just about anything. The aforementioned brick was sold out in a day, retailing at US$30 (S$41) but later listed at US$1,000 each on eBay.

KNOW WHAT TO BUY

You need to know what to buy, and do your research. There are a few factors, such as whether there's celebrity endorsement, the number of the product being released - limited quantity will drive pricing - and brand collaborations.

SNEAKER HEAD DEXTER TAN, a 39-year-old civil servant who owns 160 pairs.

A friend recently bought a $650 parka - which looks like a flimsy raincoat - from the Supreme X Comme des Garcons collaboration range with the intention of reselling it online for about $1,000. There were inquiries but she would not back down from her asking price because "there's a market for it".

Streetwear, which is rooted in skate and hip-hop culture, has found its way onto fashion runways. Designer labels including Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Rick Owens and Raf Simons have all incorporated the look in their collections.

Social media has had a big hand in taking streetwear into the mainstream and raising collective consciousness about what's the coolest pair of sneakers or the hottest brand collaborations.

Word on the street is that Tommy Hilfiger is teaming up with luxury streetwear label Vetements, while Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy is partnering iconic fashion house Burberry on its spring/summer 2018 range.

It appears that certain collaborations command a huge following because there are potentially heaps of cash to be made from them on the secondary market.

French luxury brand Louis Vuitton's (LV's) collaboration with Supreme, one of the most highly anticipated brand tie-ups, was launched here on July 14, prompting hundreds of excited fans - mostly youth - to queue overnight outside the LV store in Ion Orchard.

Polytechnic student Jovan Chang bought a wallet through his friends who managed to get a raffle ticket to shop the collection in the store that Friday.

"I'm keeping the wallet for myself... But I helped a friend resell all the five items he bought," Jovan, 16, told The Sunday Times on Monday, three days after the product launch.

He declined to reveal the exact pricing, but the numbers are dizzying. A bum bag (more commonly known as a waist pouch) in Supreme's signature red fetched a cool $2,000 profit, while a long-sleeved crew-neck tee earned nearly $1,000.

Jovan, who paid $1,170 for a black wallet, added that he had learnt of the Supreme x LV drop several months ago, and had started saving for it, from his allowance and by selling his sneakers collection.

Many deals were done online, including on eBay and local virtual marketplace Carousell, which declined to comment on the trend of flipping branded apparel when contacted by The Sunday Times.

Indeed, resellers have drawn their fair share of criticism for snapping up new releases and depriving buyers of a chance to buy them in the store, thus forcing diehard fans to pay marked-up prices on the resale market.

It is not uncommon to make more than $1,000 in profit by reselling coveted sneakers such as Nike Air Foamposite and Air Jordan or the Yeezy Boost line created by American rapper Kanye West for adidas.

"You need to know what to buy, and do your research. There are a few factors, such as whether there's celebrity endorsement, the number of the product being released - limited quantity will drive pricing - and brand collaborations," said sneaker head Dexter Tan, who owns 160 pairs.

He started his collection about 14 years ago, reselling sneakers for about three years before quitting the market when it became too time consuming.

Mr Tan, 39, a civil servant, has instead channelled his passion into starting a sneaker and streetwear convention, Sole Superior, which is now into its fifth year.

The ticketed event, which will be held in November, is a platform for resellers, vendors and buyers to trade sneakers and get updates on the latest trends.

Truth be told, all forms of investments have their risks. Flipping streetwear may sound like a cinch but it has its perils, including being stuck with goods that are unpopular, or having to sell them at a loss to free up capital to be re-invested.

My friend, for instance, could be wearing a $650 raincoat during the monsoon season if she does not re-price it to sell.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 23, 2017, with the headline 'Flipping streetwear for a huge profit'. Print Edition | Subscribe