#eye #eye


A fresh wave of artists designing "merch" for a new generation



words by Olivia Kellerman
Since the 1980s merch has been a £10 shirt that was picked up outside a concert, just to prove to people that you were there. It was used to show some sort of band, but in the 21st Century all that has changed, now you don’t even have to go to the show to pick up a £70 hoodie, just hop onto your favourites website and you can buy anything you want. Given that it’s not sold out already.

Over the past couple of years, we have seen artists taking much greater creative control over their careers and brands. Finding their own collective of people to make their music the best it can be and surrounding themselves with people who understand them on both an artistic and business level. That’s how we got the ASAP Mob & Young Money, collaborations of artists coming together to create a successful business and producing a broader range of commercial products that they are personally involved with.

Earlier this year Kanye was seen sporting ‘90s vintage tour t-shirts which caught on fast in the streetwear community. Soon after Instagram stores were advertising countless Aaliyah and Lauren Hill T-shirts. Self-proclaimed Vintage t-shirt dealer, Patrick Matamoros explained to me that there are different types of people who buy these vintage tees “people who really care about the music or some people who don’t care about what’s on the shirt but care about the fashion of the way it looks on them.” Except, it’s not just the vintage t-shirts that are becoming a hit. Which, explains why back in June, Kanye’s “ye” merch sold $500,000 worth in 30 minutes. The hype is not just about the music but the artist's sense of fashion.

The label Golf Wang created by Tyler The Creator in 2011, is known for its pastel quirky nerdy geek boy style. Tyler noticed how many fans were inspired by his unique look and thought why not start his own label telling Vogue, “I put my personal life into my music, and I do it in my clothes, too.” Filled with big logo tees, stripped everything and bold colours put into playful (and strange) lookbooks they catch the attention of Tyler’s loyal followers. No surprise then, that his latest collection sold out within 20 minutes.

Back in August, Travis Scott dropped a merch capsule only available for 24 hours, to celebrate the release of his third studio album, Astroworld. Almost immediately Off-White founder, Virgil Abloh posted his new limited edition Astroworld t-shirt to his 3.3 million followers. A ploy to push album sales, the shirt was made to sell alongside a digital copy of Travis’ new album.

This hype on securing limited edition t-shirts and hoodies has created an indescribable excitement for fans as well as creating a new source of revenue for the artists.

One group using their voice is hip-hops new self-proclaimed boyband, Brockhampton, a 13 member group who have been producing their own music, videos and merch since 2016. Recently releasing a lookbook for their “Gay” merch collection. The effort put into creating t-shirts, jackets, tracksuits and even socks, shows the eclectic mix of creativity in the boy band. In 2016, the group spoke with Dazed about their mission as a rap collective, “Brockhampton is a group of individuals. We just respect each other’s own vibe and style.”

For some of these collectives, the merch is what identifies them. Like Places + Faces, who have been partying across the US and Europe alongside some of the biggest names in US hip-hop and UK Grime. Although, it’s not their DJ skills or massive parties that have caught the attention of young people. Streetwear enthusiasts have been paying out hundreds for t-shirts, hoodies and fanny packs from this group, and their latest collection of bold stripes in primary colours a collaboration with Guess Jeans, is about to put them firmly on the fashion map.

There’s a new wave of creativity for music artists, and yes bands have been sticking their names on t-shirts since the dawn of time but merch is now a form of fashion. The SS19 collections had Calvin Klein bringing back Jaws merch, R13 Jeans graphic tees galore and too many slogan t-shirts to count. No longer are artists searching for brand deals, designers are coming up with new imagery for them and reaching out to them.