INFO · Search
· Chinese version · Subscribe

Culture & Leisure

Beyond the flair of Hong Kong's streetwear

Extensive Publicity stocks up on everything related to streetwear culture. These include clothes, Bearbricks and various Supreme accessories

For student Nie Yu-heng, 20, his obsession with the world of streetwear all started with a simple scroll through Instagram. Famous celebrities like rapper Kanye West and fashion icon Virgil Abloh often appear in his Instagram feed. Baffled by how simple combinations of sneakers, sweatpants and logo tees could look so good, he decided to find out more.

Today, Mr. Nie frequently queues up as early as 7am when brands like A Bathing Ape release designs he likes and collects.

The exterior of popular Japanese streetwear brand "A Bathing Ape". Queues that snake across streets can be observed whenever popular collaborations with brands like Adidas are released. However, during normal releases or "drops", queues usually only extend till the end of the store.

Streetwear, which started with skateboarders and surfers in the United States, is embraced by locals, with many stores here ranging from big labels like Off-White to entire shopping complexes dedicated to selling streetwear such as Trendy Zone in Mong Kok. Fashion conglomerate I.T that distributes European and Japanese street labels across Asia is also based in Hong Kong.

Every Saturday, customers start queuing up as early as 9am, two hours before official opening hours. If extremely limited collections are dropping, they may start queueing overnight to secure their spot.

Expensive streetwear fashion has surged in popularity in Hong Kong in recent years, particularly among young people who do not mind paying top dollar because they feel a connection with brands and regard them as an extension of their personality.

"When I look at myself in the mirror every morning, I will always look lively in clothes that I like," said Mr. Nie. "It's not about how expensive or how rare my clothing is."

Samantha Setokusumo, 18, a freshman at the Savannah College of Art and Design Hong Kong, said that her streetwear collection allows her to showcase herself, regardless of how unique her style may be.

Streetwear is characterised by its simplicity and its ability to look stylish at the same time. Ms Samantha Setokusumo, 18, is wearing a classic streetwear essential, an oversized pullover from A Bathing Ape.

"Because my friends and I always like to joke about being 'hobo' or 'failing in life', we made that into a fashion statement," said Ms. Setokusumo. "It's just the freedom to express ourselves through streetwear."

In the streetwear world where the Supreme represents exclusivity and, many are satisfied with having the label on everything that they own.

However, buying clothes and accessories from renowned streetwear brands is not cheap. Prices are inflated as soon as they hit the resale market. A simple box logo sweatshirt from established streetwear brand Supreme costs a minimum of $7,850 on the Hong Kong resale market, in comparison to its $1,162 retail price.

People may not necessarily know the meaning behind of the brands that they like all the time but nevertheless, it does not stop them from simply buying clothes because they like it.

"If I happen to have savings while some nice pieces drop, sure I’ll buy it," said Mr. Nie. "But if I'm running low on cash, it's not a problem to just stop buying for that period, even though I really want it."

But Ms. Setokusumo said she is willing to spend less on daily necessities to meet her clothing needs.

"I always have to sacrifice something, so I sacrifice food," she said. "I can be eating real good food, or just okay food. I guess I prioritize having these outfits over other things," she said, adding that each piece of her clothing costs at least $500 on average.

Sneakers are an essential part of the streetwear culture, if not an entire culture of its own. Powered by “sneakerheads” who don’t mind paying more than two times retail price, the current sneaker resale market is valued at $1 billion USD, per Business Insider. A Jordan 2 Don C sneaker sells for $1,400 USD here at Extensive Publicity as compared to its retail price of $500.

Saving alone is still not enough for Ms. Setokusumo to sustain her love for streetwear. With help from her parents, she uses her monthly $6,000 allowance to shop at least once a month.

Her parents tend to be "neutral" with her shopping habits, she said.

"From when I was young, my mom has always taught me: If you are buying something because of the brand then you might as well not buy it, but if you're buying something because you like it, then get it," she said.

When it comes to streetwear labels, there is no question that Supreme is the most sought after and expensive brand of all. An American skateboard clothing brand, Supreme can be said to be one of the first brands to make use of limited and short runs of their products to generate immense hype around their brand.

Other than their love for particular designs or brands, some say they purchase rare pieces of clothing for the sole purpose of showing off. At the end of it all, the demand for exclusive clothing is what drives the resale market.

Lazy Chan, 26, store manager of local streetwear retailer Extensive Publicity, said that customers do not mind spending exorbitant amounts if it means that they can show off what they have.

Bearbrick collectors often look out for the most limited designs, especially some which were not meant for general purchase in the first place, making them even more valuable.
Also sold at the store are Bearbricks, usually stylised as BE@RBRICKS. These collectible toys are collaborative pieces with a wide range of brands and various artists. Some examples include artist KAWS and iconic television shows, such as Spongebob Squarepants and Doraemon.
Featured here are Bearbricks with the traditional maneki-neko or fortune cat design. The beauty of Bearbricks lies in the sheer amount of variety of designs that one can choose from, albeit at a higher price in most cases.

"I will say flexing is obviously one of the biggest reasons why people are willing to spend on streetwear brands or high-end fashion brands," she explained, "Those clothing provides them the feeling of superiority and makes them feel good about themselves."

Supreme’s iconic box logo or bogo for short is the brand’s most distinctive trait. Even today, Supreme’s most sought after and priciest items on the resale market are simple t-shirts and hoodies featuring its box logo.

With such high prices, however, working people feel the pinch.

Usually one of the first customers in queues, Mr. Alan Ng, 31, frequently looks out for exclusive collaborations between big brands like Carhartt and North Face.

Banking on its popularity, Supreme makes a huge range of accessories; anything from lighters to fire axes. As long as the Supreme name is present, there will be buyers.

Mr. Ng said he spends a significant amount of his income on streetwear every month but feels that the cost is worth it at the end of the day.

"I agree it's expensive, but it's a burden worth bearing," he said. "The clothes that these brands put out are always high-quality and everyone agrees that they look good."

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


Weekend Review: Handwritten signboards reveal Hong Kong's culture and history

Real-life Quidditch: More than Just a Harry Potter By-Product