What Becomes a Luxury Legend Most?

AUTHOR
Enrique Menendez
PUBLISHED
2021-12-02T12:40:31

In 2017, when Kim Jones for Louis Vuitton sent skate brand Supreme down the runway, something changed. Like when Coco Chanel stated that corseted silhouettes were lame, or when Yves Saint Laurent decided smoking jackets were also for women — each marking a shift in fashion, the end of one period and the start of something new, exciting, and provocative.

However, for decades, most of luxury’s iconic moments operated in a bubble. Yes, this bubble draws inspiration from the real world, but always at a comfortable distance. A club kid dressed to survive the streets of New York City is not the same as the club kid aesthetic that passes through fashion’s trillion-dollar everlasting gobstopper machine. 

And while luxury brands have spent decades fiddling with different silhouettes, perfecting how to win their predominantly white and rich client’s dollar, club kids were actually dancing, activists were actually protesting, and skaters were actually skating.  

Suddenly, when Supreme’s iconic box logo meshed with Louis Vuitton’s century old monogram, the conversation was no longer just about silhouettes. A logo that is synonymous with rebellion and subversion made its way to the most exclusive catwalk in the world. The line of separation between fashion’s luxury elite and the rest of us became thin to a breaking point. 

This collection questioned who and what luxury is for. By no means an isolated event, creators like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat planted the seeds for this thinking in the art world long before fashion caught up.

What do these movers and shakers have in common? They’re legends. But a legend then is different from a legend now. Fur line Blacklagama’s 1970s campaigns shot by Richard Avedon posed the question perfectly: “What becomes a Legend most?” 

Fifty years later, Jing Daily poses the same question to the luxury industry. Aside from fur being no more, the rules today are different. Luxury is no longer just luxury, it’s popular luxury, establishing that luxury is not just for a select few but for all people of the time. Today’s industry is dependent on its connection to wide audiences; inseparable from BIPOC culture, popular art, hip-hop, and the power of mass opinion fueled by the Internet. 

This new world requires new language and a new level of mindfulness from brands on how they create and market products. Instantaneously, Supreme x Louis Vuitton secured legendary status because it straddles this new world perfectly. It is not just a product but a collectible and more than that, it’s a modern collectible: an item that crosses genres of fashion and art and subverts traditional markets to earn high cultural and resale value. 

MODERN COLLECTIBLES KEY CRITERIA
Our criteria for determining what earns a product modern collectible status.

SUBVERTS TRADITION

Most modern collectibles subvert traditional models and institutions. This can take the form of products like sneakers earning a spot at an auction house or a hoodie making its way to a luxury runway. 

POPULAR CULTURE VALUE

Modern collectibles have high popular culture value – this can include newcomer brands but also long standing-legacy luxury brands. This takes the form of products that are at the intersection of fashion, art, and music. 

MASS APPEAL

Modern collectibles must have mass appeal – this means appeal to new audiences. Whereas traditional luxury and traditional art spaces were closed off from mast audiences – aside from spectatorship – modern collectibles are dependent on the approval of public opinion through channels like social media. 

HIGH DEMAND 

Modern collectibles are products that due to factors like popular culture and hype are of high demand the moment they release. Many of these products follow a drop model which was popularized by streetwear mainstays like Supreme. 

RESALE VALUE

Modern collectibles earn their value from cultural capital, mass appeal, and attracting instant demand. This results in products like sneakers, hoodies, and toys fetching instant resale value. These products find a home on sites like StockX and Grailed but have also made their way to auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

NON-TRADITIONAL COLLECTIBLE 

Modern collectibles include products like sneakers, handbags, streetwear, and toys.

TIMELESS

Modern collectibles do not build value over time but instead create almost instant value.

This new category of product – whether a handbag, sneaker, or toy – is contextualized in popular culture. While traditional collectibles are created and defined by institutions and find value in their historical staying power, modern collectibles are fueled by popular opinion and find value in demand and ingenuity.

Modern collectibles operate in a completely different playing field, where sneakers are not just something to run into the ground, but an investment. Modern collectibles deal with a new collector, who cares less about Old Masters and more about contemporary products with cultural capital. Notably, we are only at the beginning of this shift and could only dream of what following generations will deem worth collecting.

TRADITIONAL COLLECTIBLES VERSUS MODERN COLLECTIBLES
How modern collectibles compare to traditional collectibles.

TRADITIONAL COLLECTIBLES

MODERN COLLECTIBLES

Product builds value over time Product draws value from instant demand and cultural capital
Product dominated by traditional art – old masters, sculpture, modern art, contemporary art Product dominated by handbags, sneakers, collectible toys, watches/hard luxury, merch, streetwear, popular art
Collectibles validated by legacy institutions and auction markets Collectibles validated by popular culture approval
Key players include art institutions, galleries, auction houses, traditional collectors Key players include luxury brands, popular artists, hip-hop artists, fashion designers
Appeals to traditional markets Appeals to new markets including China, Millennial, Gen-Z
Coveted due to institutional approval, market demand, exclusionary practices Coveted due to popular opinion and mass audience demand
Ideals are created and maintained by institutions Ideals are created and maintained by the public through social media and digital platforms
Companies and institutions are tastemaker Creatives and audiences are tastemakers
Propagates economic status, social status, classism Highlights elements from subcultures, BIPOC culture, popular culture

The beauty of a modern collectible is its ability to subvert tradition and its range. On one hand, we have newcomers like Off-White and Telfar. Elsewhere, we have sportswear brands like Nike and Adidas that thanks to collaborations have earned modern collectibles status. And less often, we have legacy brands like Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga that are reinvigorated by designers such as Demna Gvasalia and the late Virgil Abloh, respectively.

In Jing Daily Modern Collectibles, we aim to develop a deeper understanding of how this new category lives, creating a handbook for both brands and consumers. Here, we analyze what drives value in a modern collectible, both quantitatively and qualitatively, starting with the Louis Vuitton x Supreme collection.

The lens through which we examine this collection today is not the same lens we adopted four years ago. The pace at which the industry shifts means a retrospective for a modern collectible is no longer warranted after decades but after years or even months. Legends are no longer set over decades, but created in seconds.

MODERN COLLECTIBLES EXAMPLES
Examples of top modern collectibles that meet key criteria.

BRAND* & Item

YEAR

RETAIL

RESALE

SUPREME
20TH ANNIVERSARY BOX LOGO TEE WHITE
2014 $32 $1470 / $5888
OFF-WHITE
AIR JORDAN 1 RETRO CHICAGO
2017 $190 $5292 / $7496
KAWS
COMPANION FLAYED OPEN EDITION VINYL FIGURE BLACK
2016 $200 $1225 / $1409
TELFAR
SHOPPING BAG LARGE PAINTERS TAPE
2021 $257 $421 / $800
NIKE
DUNK SB LOW MICHAEL GARDENER WOOD
2006 $250 $9,000 / $9,000
LOUIS VUITTON×SUPREME
SKATEBOARD DECK RED
2017 $935 $6077 / $9657
BEARBRICK SORAYAMA×DANIEL ARSHAM
1000% SILVER
2019 $810 $13232 / $14999
ADIDAS
YEEZY BOOST 350 V2 BELUGA
2017 $220 $665 / $750

*Prices reflect average and top sale price over a 12 month period on StockX.

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