Remember those hypebeasts that made the decision to only buy knock-offs? Well, NTWRK is probably the antithesis of that mentality. Launched in late 2018 as the first live-stream shopping app made available on iPhones, NTWRK has made a name for itself in the world of sneakerheads. While there had been quite a few attempts at launching something like this previously, none of the other live-streaming apps truly achieved what NTWRK has.
Described by some as a blend of QVC, Twitter and Twitch, the app’s core experience lies in its live shows where guests can discuss products that then become available on the app as the show airs, functioning as a modern auction house. Will the thrill of live-stream buying drive us all towards a whole new way to shop?
NTWRK has a built-in opportunity to offer limited availability streetwear, collectibles and sneakers. With big investors such as Drake, Live Nation and its CEO Aaron Levant, who also started ComplexCon and Agenda, both streetwear and marketing shows—its market is expertly curated through experience and bound to continue doing well.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Levant explained that his transition towards building the app happened through a conversation that he had with the American entrepreneur Jimmy Iovine in 2017. He was introduced by a mutual friend, which led them to see their similar interests and Iovine “expressed his interest in starting a new company for him and his son.” Levant said that “the night that I met him, I went home, stayed up all night to 4 in the morning and wrote the entire business plan for NTWRK.”
Iovine ended up being an investor, along with Digital Networks, Warner Bros, LeBron James, Maverick Carter and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Iovine’s son Jamie is also a co-founder and Head of Fandom at NTWRK.
Levant realised that physical audiences were valuable, but digital media even more so as it is user-generated content that these lifestyle events are based on. Physical events hold capacity limits, whereas digital events do not until, of course, the stock runs out. There is one way to make the world believe that an item of clothing is worth having—produce only a few and add some time pressure to getting it.
We’ve all heard of someone somewhere pulling an all-nighter for Glastonbury tickets, and for the new generation of hypebeasts, this produces a similar desperation to reach the end goal of purchasing what thousands of other people want within seconds of availability. “There’s 50,000 people in the room but I think there’s probably a million people online who want to engage with those products and that content,” said Levant.
NTWRK is far ahead of competitors and has become a launching platform for a brand’s success. Other companies like Net-a-Porter have started holding clothing drops in Animal Crossing, as well as Fred Perry, which invited customers to go on a Google Street View scavenger hunt: “find and click the clothes, and they’re yours.”
It helps to have celebrity endorsements when it comes to gen Z-orientated businesses. In recent months, Drake sold some of his tour merch exclusively on NTWRK. Shopping on the platform almost feels like entertainment too, as NTWRK is a perfectly balanced mix of culture, music, money, rare goods and something to watch, with hosts. The app also allows for ‘winnings’ where the audience can enter draws to receive products, which inevitably builds consumer loyalty and interaction by creating a ‘hype’ surrounding NTWRK and its products.
What Levant believes matters most in creating NTWRK are these three principles: “People want collaborations, they want things that are exclusive, and they want things that are clever in terms of having an insider’s perspective; that sense of exclusivity created by people that really know their stuff. Think about hot pop culture topics with the key people plus a twist: think games selected by and discussed with the best players, hosted by an artist.”
Forbes pointed out that “Driving addiction via the power of spectacle (underscored by the added frisson of time-pressured buying) is a huge part of the NTWRK playbook.” Which brings us to question how long gen Z and the next generations will allow drop culture to last, given the recent, slow, transition fast fashion is taking on.
Drop culture has boomed over the past few years, but will the culture itself soon be dropped too or has it got a long life to live? As for the consumers who value sustainability and slow fashion, well, they aren’t likely to be excited about this model, but it will be interesting to see if the two polar opposite consumer habits ever overlap or collide. In the meantime, NTWRK’s upcoming event #TRANSFER on the 25 and 26 August is intriguing enough to tickle our interest. See you on the app?
Supreme, Off-White, Balenciaga, Palace, Nike—I could go on and on naming so many brands that have now become most known for their die-hard fans; hypebeasts. A hypebeast is defined by the slang dictionary as “someone who follows trends in fashion, particularly streetwear, for the purpose of making a social statement.” Originally introduced as a derogatory term, it is now a common way of describing this new kind of fashionista.
For most new gens, it’s all about wearing the latest garms, the latest collab—to cop or not? Whatever that means. But when you try to live up to the hype of the term ‘hypebeast’, especially when you’re a teenager, your budget can easily be spent on one pair of trainers. That’s where replicas come in to save the day. Also known as knock-offs or fakes, replicas have become another big part of the fashion industry, one that, until now, was taboo.
FashionReps is the subreddit that might change the way we perceive knock-offs. With 313k ‘RepFam’ worldwide (or members), the community based on the discussion of the replica culture and where to find the best fakes is big, to say the least. The forum contains everything you need to know before buying fakes, from a how-to guide on where to order replicas from, to members sharing videos and pictures of their latest purchases and how legit they look.
So, okay, going online to create a community around knock-offs is not that groundbreaking, but the fact that some of the FashionReps members are actually proud to say it out loud is something new. Screen Shot spoke to Quentin Caruso, one member of the subreddit also known as Tripping on Instagram and YouTube, about the perfect replicas and why there shouldn’t be any shame buying and wearing them.
“Replicas have gone a long way. With almost any products being released by a streetwear or designer brand, there will also be a spot-on replica out on the market about 4 months after. For example, Supreme released Bandana Box Logo hoodies at the beginning of December, and there are already near-perfect replicas out now. This doesn’t just stop with Supreme, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Balenciaga replicas will all be replicated to near perfection,” tells us Tripping.
In November 2019, Tripping posted a video on YouTube where he talked about his experience telling his fashion class he owns many fakes. According to Tripping, when he revealed that, his teacher asked him how that made him feel. “I’m fine with it,” he answered—and why shouldn’t he? Well, that’s where the catch is. As much as being honest about not spending ludicrous amounts of money on clothes and taking pride in it should be celebrated, replicas also come with problems of their own.
Counterfeit fashion is an industry that has to operate secretly because, obviously, it is illegal. This means that there’s a complete lack of transparency about the workers making those knock-offs. Are they being paid enough? Probably not. Are they working under good conditions? Most definitely not. Counterfeit fashion also contributes to climate change by using non-sustainable fabrics, but then again, so does Nike and other big fashion brands.
Talking about climate change, Tripping shares that “I’ve never put much thought about climate change when I buy clothes, be that replicas or not. I feel like there are bigger factors that affect climate change.” This is a contrasting answer to the one that Ariele Elia, an assistant curator at the Museum at FIT explained in a Complex documentary about the flourishing bootleg industry, where she said, “One of the worst stories I read was where they had raided an illegal factory and the children were actually handcuffed to the sewing machines.” In other words, yes, there are bigger factors that affect our environment, but counterfeit fashion still plays a big part in climate change.
Climate change and working conditions aside, the question is still here. Why are people buying replicas, and why are they more honest about it? It’s all about keeping your money, even when you’ve just missed the latest drop. “Replicas are cheaper but the same quality. There should be no shame in wearing replicas, people wear them to express their style without spending hundreds on one piece. The replica market and community is growing and growing with many people wanting to buy them. It is only going to get bigger over time,” predicts Tripping.
Whether his prediction will come true or not, we can’t be sure just yet, but the future of counterfeit looks bright. In the meantime, there’s one point everyone will agree on: people who sell replicas as authentics are the worst.